Welcome back to The Week Ahead! Every Monday I’ll touch on some of the major storylines across the NBA and will take a brief look at what’s in store for during the coming days. If you guys have any questions or just need some advice, be sure to follow me on Twitter!
4 Games: DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, LAL, MIL, PHX, POR, SAC, SAS, WAS
3 Games: ATL, BOS, BRK, CHI, CLE, IND, LAC, MEM, MIA, NOP, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHI, TOR, UTA
2 Games: CHA, MIN
Things to look for this week:
Head coach Jason Kidd was clearly irked while addressing reporters about the Bucks’ recent struggles, and he suggested that he was looking to bring some competitiveness and floor spacing to the first unit. Jerryd Bayless and O.J. Mayo started over Michael Carter-Williams and Jabari Parker on Sunday in Charlotte, and while the Bucks still lost, they did outscore the Hornets in three out of four quarters. MCW has been terrible lately and is turning the ball over 3.6 times per game over his last five compared to just 3.8 assists, so a change was long overdue. Bayless is a decent fit in the first unit and has scored in double digits in each of his last four games, so he will likely stick in the starting lineup for a while.
The Bucks were without Greivis Vasquez (ankle) on Sunday, but I would bet that he would’ve started over O.J. Mayo if he was available to play. Mayo played 44 minutes in the loss with 12 points and two treys, but I’d much rather take a flier on Bayless. It was a little surprising that Kidd benched Parker, but it probably has a lot to do with his inability to be a shooting threat from the outside. Jason Kidd has shown in the past that he isn’t afraid to shake up his lineups, so it’s anybody’s guess as to what he will do on Monday vs. the Nuggets.
The end for Kobe Bryant?
The Black Mamba announced on Sunday that he will walk away from the NBA at the end of the season, but what does that mean for his role moving forward? He implied after Sunday’s loss to the Pacers that he intends to see out the rest of the season, but it’s a shame that he will have nothing to play for in his final campaign. The struggle has been real for Bryant with averages of 15.5 points, 4.1 boards, 3.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.4 3-pointers so far this season, but the worst part is that he is shooting a woeful 30.5 percent from the field and I can’t even count how many airballs he has thrown up. He’s still my favorite player and will go down as one of the all-time greats, but fantasy owners need to know that he won’t be a reliable asset moving forward. The Lakers want to keep their top-3 protected lottery pick and want Bryant to stay healthy for his farewell tour, so his role should start to decline. Thanks for the memories, Mamba.
Dwight Howard will be rested again this week?
Howard will play in the second game of a back-to-back set for the first time this season on Monday against the Pistons, but the Houston Chronicle reported on Sunday that he will sit out one game later in the week. This means that he will miss either Wednesday’s game vs. the Pelicans, Thursday’s vs. the Mavericks or Saturday’s vs. the Kings. It’s obvious that the Rockets are taking steps to keep him healthy after he made it through just 41 games last season, so it sounds like he will have plenty more DNP-CDs coming his way this season. Howard is averaging 13.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 blocks in 32.8 minutes per game.
Jahlil Okafor did what?
After it was revealed that Okafor had two different altercations outside of nightclubs since joining the 76ers, sources of the Philadelphia Inquirer learned that the rookie was stopped by police for driving 108 MPH on the Ben Franklin Bridge just three weeks ago. The normal speed limit is 45 MPH, so it’s pretty bizarre that we are just hearing about this now. Head coach Brett Brown admitted that he was very concerned about Okafor considering he is basically the face of the franchise, but he said that he would deal with the issue internally. However, there have been some rumblings around the league that the NBA could issue a suspension, and Brown even acknowledged that it was a possibility. Okafor clearly has some growing up to do, but it certainly doesn’t help that the 76ers are 0-18 this season which will only lead to increased frustrations.
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Marcus Smart (leg) isn’t expected to play in the Celtics’ four remaining away games, but it sounds like he won’t be ready to play when they return home on Dec. 9 against the Bulls. He does have some upside for his ability to produce treys and steals, but you might as well leave him on waivers for another week unless you have an IR spot available. Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas are locked and loaded for heavy roles this week.
Al Jefferson suffered a left calf strain on Sunday vs. the Bucks and wasn’t able to return, and he is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday. It sounds like he could miss some time, but the good news is that the Hornets don’t play until Wednesday vs. the Warriors. If Big Al is unable to play, expect the Hornets to use a committee approach with Cody Zeller, Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky getting an uptick in minutes. Personally, I don’t trust any of those guys in fantasy.
Mike Dunleavy is experiencing some soreness in his back and will visit a doctor on Monday, so this doesn’t sound good. He has been sidelined for nine weeks now and
his timetable is as murky as ever, but we should get a firm update on Monday afternoon. Doug McDermott and Tony Snell have been filling in at the three, but both players are underwhelming fantasy assets.
Iman Shumpert has progressed to short-range form shooting with his surgically-repaired right wrist and has also been converting layups, and he is said to be targeting a return around the middle of December. Shumpert could end up taking his starting spot back from J.R. Smith, but his minutes will be somewhat low and Smith is still the obvious way to go for fantasy purposes. Shumpert is more of a defensive specialist anyways.
Kyrie Irving (knee) is reportedly expected to play on Christmas day vs. the Warriors, and it’s rumored that he could return before that game as well. There have been nothing but positive reports regarding Irving lately, but keep in mind that he will likely have some restrictions upon his return. The time to buy low is now.
Gary Harris is dealing with a concussion and missed Saturday’s game vs. the Mavericks, but head coach Michael Malone said that the guard is officially day-to-day. If Harris misses more time, Randy Foye will likely draw another start, but Will Barton should benefit the most.
Jusuf Nurkic (left knee surgery) is still 3-4 weeks away from returning to the court, so hopefully we will see him sometime in late December. Nurkic does have a lot of upside, but he should be eased back into the rotation and it’s unclear what kind of role he will have with Nikola Jokic playing well. That being said, I still think Nurkic is an excellent stash for the second half of the season.
Harrison Barnes (ankle) will miss at least three more games, but tests confirmed that he is simply dealing with a sprain. The Warriors are 18-0 and can afford to be cautious, so I’d expect him to miss more than just three more games. Brandon Rush will likely continue to start, but I’m only giving him a look in very deep leagues.
Donatas Motiejunas (back) is hoping to be cleared to return to practice this week, but I’m not holding my breath considering he has been sidelined since April. He will be returning to a crowded frontcourt rotation and will likely have some restrictions, so I’m more than OK with watching him from the waiver wire.
Lou Williams has missed the past two games due to the passing of his grandfather, but head coach Byron Scott believes he will be available for Tuesday’s game vs. Philly. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Williams’ family.
Luol Deng (hamstring) has missed two games in a row and is doubtful for Monday’s game vs. the Celtics, but he is targeting a return to the lineup against the Thunder on Thursday. Additionally, Deng was able to get in a limited practice on Sunday. Expect Gerald Green to draw another start if Deng continues to sit.
Ricky Rubio (ankle) wanted to play on Sunday vs. the Clippers, but the Wolves held him out for the second straight game as a precaution. This means that he should be good to go for Tuesday’s game vs. the Magic, so those of you with weekly lineups can go ahead and pencil him in as active.
Tyreke Evans (knee) is getting painfully close to a return to action and his next chance to play will be on Tuesday vs. the Grizzlies. He will have a Jrue Holiday-like minutes limit right out of the gate, but he needs to be owned in all leagues going forward.
Carmelo Anthony was sent home prior to Sunday’s game vs. the Rockets due to an illness, but he will have three days to rest up before the Knicks take on the winless 76ers on Wednesday. Melo is day-to-day.
Nerlens Noel is currently battling a sore right knee and flu symptoms and has missed two games in a row, but he will have another day to rest before they take on the Lakers on Tuesday. If Noel is unable to play, look for Jerami Grant to pick up the slack. In case you’re wondering, there may not be a better time to buy low on Noel this season.
Tyson Chandler (hamstring) was unable to play on Sunday vs. the Raptors and Alex Len drew the start in his place, but his status for Tuesday’s game vs. the Nets is still up in the air. Chandler has been horrible this season anyways, so feel free to cut him loose if you see a hot free agent.
DeMarcus Cousins (back) is questionable for Monday's game vs. the Mavericks after missing the Kings’ last three games, and it should be noted that he didn’t even travel with the team on Saturday. Cousins is battling through several ailments right now and clearly isn’t 100 percent, but he would still be a must-start option if he is able to give it a go on Monday. If he doesn’t, look for Kosta Koufos and Omri Casspi to benefit the most.
Exciting matchups to look for:
Celtics vs. Heat (Nov. 30)
Spurs vs. Bulls (Nov. 30)
Hawks vs. Thunder (Nov. 30)
76ers vs. Lakers (Dec. 1) The battle for Ben Simmons?
Warriors vs. Hornets (Dec. 2)
Raptors vs. Hawks (Dec. 2)
Clippers vs. Pacers (Dec. 2)
Thunder vs. Heat (Dec. 3)
Spurs vs. Grizzlies (Dec. 3)
Rockets vs. Mavericks (Dec. 4)
Warriors vs. Raptors (Dec. 5)
Cavaliers vs. Heat (Dec. 5)