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 during the coming days. If you guys have any questions or just need some advice, be sure to follow me on Twitter!
Week 8 Schedule
4 Games: ATL, BRK, CHI, DEN, HOU, IND, LAC, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOP, ORL, PHI, PHX, POR, TOR
3 Games: BOS, CHA, CLE, DAL, DET, LAL, NYK, OKC, SAC, SAS, UTA, WAS
2 Games: GSW
Things to look for this week:
Will Alec Burks continue to start at point guard?
Jazz coach Quin Snyder made me a very happy man on Sunday when he replaced Raul Neto in the starting lineup with Burks, but there still hasn’t been any confirmation that this will be a permanent move. Snyder knew that he couldn’t let Russell Westbrook eat Neto alive, so it’s possible that he went with Burks to better match up with Westbrook’s size. However, Burks responded with one of his best games of the season with 21 points, five boards, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers, and he also had a 30.3 usage rate in 37 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Neto didn’t even touch the floor for the first time this season. Snyder’s a smart coach, so I don’t see how he goes away from Burks at the point moving forward. The Jazz are back in action on Monday vs. the Spurs, so I guess we’ll find out soon enough. As me and my Rotoworld colleagues have been preaching all season, Burks needs to be owned in standard leagues and his fantasy arrow is pointing up.
Will Kyrie Irving (knee) return this week?
It sure sounds like it. There was a report that Irving had a shot to play on the Cavs’ current road trip, but the head coach David Blatt unfortunately ruled him out for Tuesday’s game vs. the Celtics. It’s possible that Irving could return on Thursday vs. the Thunder, but most of the Cavs’ beat writers think that it’s more likely he will return in a cupcake matchup vs. the 76ers on Dec. 20. For what it’s worth, it sounds like Irving will definitely be ready in time for the showdown against the Warriors on Christmas. If you haven’t traded Mo Williams already, it’s probably too late.
How much time will Bradley Beal (leg) miss?
This is the fourth time in Beal’s career that he has been diagnosed with an injury to his right fibula, and he has now dealt with this issue in each of his four seasons in the NBA. Stress reactions can sometimes be a precursor to a stress fracture which is a more serious injury, so at least the Wizards found it pretty early. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post believes that Beal could be out until January, but he also notes that he will have playing time restrictions when he does return. Beal was playing a ridiculous 39.5 minutes per game in December before going down, so it’s very odd that the Wizards gave him such a massive workload given his injury history. For a player that’s hoping for a max deal this summer, this latest setback could be a major roadblock in contract negotiations. In the meantime, John Wall and Otto Porter will have to step up, while Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple and Gary Neal will all see more minutes in Beal’s absence.
Jrue Holiday is cleared for back-to-back sets?
New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry confirmed that Holiday will no longer have to sit out during back-to-back sets, and even though it was frustrating for his owners to see him play such low minutes early on in the season, the Pelicans absolutely did the right thing. Holiday has a similar injury history to Bradley Beal, but the Pelicans’ cautious approach has allowed him to get his legs back under him and it’s obvious by his recent play that he’s ready to start rewarding his owners. Holiday is averaging 15.3 points, 5.7 assists, 3.0 boards, 2.0 steals and 2.3 treys in 24.7 minutes per game over his last three, and his playing time should continue to trend up as we approach the new year. It’s probably too late to buy low, but it won’t be long before I’ll consider Holiday as a must-start player.
Memphis to play more small ball?
Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger inserted Matt Barnes into the starting lineup on Sunday vs. the Heat in place of Zach Randolph, and even though they still lost, Joerger confirmed that he would stick with this lineup for “a while”. The NBA game is quickly changing and stretch fours are becoming a lot more valuable, so this doesn’t bode well for the outlook of Randolph. He still played decent with 12 points, six boards and four assists in 26 minutes off the bench, but Barnes outplayed him with 13 points, 13 boards, four assists, two steals, one block and three treys in 37 minutes. If Barnes is available in your league, it’s time to go grab him.
Mike Scott (left knee contusion) has missed the past three games for the Hawks, but an MRI came back clean which means he should be considered day-to-day. Tiago Splitter and Mike Muscala will continue to see a few extra minutes if Scott misses more time.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson underwent successful surgery to repair the fractured posterior talus in his right ankle on Dec. 9, and he’s expected to miss around 8-10 weeks. This means we likely we won’t see the rookie return until March, so he’s safe to drop in all leagues. Bojan Bogdanovic will benefit the most in his absence.
Marcus Smart (leg) won’t be re-evaluated until the end of the week, but at this point I would be surprised if he returned before Christmas. Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas will log heavy minutes in the backcourt until Smart can return, while Evan Turner will play more as well.
Al Jefferson was suspended for five games by the NBA for violating the anti-drug program, but he won’t be able to serve his suspension until he returns from his calf injury. This means we won’t see Big Al until January, meaning Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky will continue to see an uptick in minutes.
J.R. Smith (illness) rejoined the Cavaliers in Orlando on Sunday after missing Friday’s game vs. the Magic, and he’s all set for Tuesday’s game vs. the Celtics. His minutes should take a hit with Iman Shumpert back in the mix, but I’m still holding onto Smith in all leagues for now.
Deron Williams (illness) didn’t play against the Wizards on Saturday, but I’d be pretty surprised if he isn’t good to go for Monday’s game vs. the Suns. If not, Raymond Felton is coming off a triple-double and is starting to make some noise in fantasy leagues.
Emmanuel Mudiay (right ankle sprain) is listed as out for Monday’s game vs. the Rockets, opening up the door for Jameer Nelson to start. The Nuggets ruled Mudiay out pretty quickly, so he could be looking at some decent time on the shelf. He’s a major liability in standard leagues, but those of you in points leagues should just bench him for now.
Darrell Arthur is day-to-day with knee soreness, but he’s the type of guy that would miss two weeks if he bit his tongue while eating cereal. Arthur is not on the fantasy radar and the Nuggets won’t rush him back.
Harrison Barnes (ankle) has missed eight games in a row, but the Warriors are off until Wednesday when they return home to face the Suns. Barnes was jogging at practice earlier in the week and several reports have indicated that he’s making progress, so now is the time to grab him if he’s available in your league. Barnes was posting mid-round value before going down with averages of 13.4 points, 5.0 boards, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.2 3-pointers per game.
Myles Turner (thumb) will have x-rays at the end of December and is reportedly targeting a return in early January, but he’s only on the radar in deeper leagues for now because Ian Mahinmi is playing well. Turner has some scary potential, so he should already be owned in dynasty leagues.
Jordan Clarkson (ankle) has missed the past two games, and he’s currently listed as doubtful for Tuesday’s contest vs. the Bucks. Clarkson has arguably been the best player on the Lakers this season, so stick with him. D’Angelo Russell will draw another start if Clarkson is out.
Tyler Johnson (shoulder) and Josh McRoberts (knee) have both missed the Heat’s last two games, but the good news is that they are listed as day-to-day. The Heat will update their status after the morning shootaround for Monday’s game vs. the Hawks.
Ryan Anderson has missed two games in a row due to an illness, and as far as I know it has absolutely nothing to do with the recent trade rumors involving his name. His status is still up in the air for Monday’s game vs. the Blazers, meaning we could see more Alexis Ajinca and Dante Cunningham.
Tobias Harris did not practice on Sunday due to a lower leg contusion, but he is traveling with the Magic for their game against Brooklyn on Monday. He’s expected to play, but Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja could get a few extra minutes if Harris isn’t 100 percent.
Nerlens Noel suffered a corneal abrasion in Sunday’s game vs. the Raptors and wasn’t able to return, and he checked into a hospital later that evening. The 76ers aren’t sure if he will be able to join the team in Chicago for Monday’s game vs. the Bulls, but they may decide to play it safe with the big man. If Noel is unable to go, Jerami Grant and Richaun Holmes should benefit the most.
Key games this week:
Raptors vs. Pacers (Dec. 14)
Heat vs. Hawks (Dec. 14)
Spurs vs. Jazz (Dec. 14)
Cavs vs. Celtics (Dec. 15)
Suns vs. Warriors (Dec. 16)
Grizzlies vs. Bulls (Dec. 16)
Cavs vs. Thunder (Dec. 17)
Raptors vs. Hornets (Dec. 17)
Hawks vs. Celtics (Dec. 18)
Clippers vs. Spurs (Dec. 18)
Rockets vs. Clippers (Dec. 19)