Welcome back to The Week Ahead! Every weekend 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. Additionally, I’ll have a complete report on the latest injury news and trade rumors. If you guys have any questions or just need some advice, be sure to follow me on Twitter or just shoot me an email!
Week 10 Schedule
5 Games: PHX
4 Games: CHA, CHI, DAL, DEN, GSW, IND, LAL, LAC, MIA, MIN, MIL, ORL, PHI, TOR, UTA, WAS
3 Games: ATL, BKN, CLE, DET, HOU, NOP, NYK, OKC, POR, SAS, SAC
2 Games: BOS, MEM
Things to look for this week:
Ish Smith worth a pickup?
According to sources of John Reid of the Times-Picayune, new 76ers assistant coach Mike D’Antoni pushed for the trade to acquire Smith from the Pelicans. Smith has career shooting percentages of 39.8 percent from the field and 62.7 percent from the free throw line, but he has improved a ton over the course of a year and posted averages of 8.9 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 boards, 0.9 steals and 1.7 turnovers in 22.9 minutes per game in New Orleans this season. 76ers head coach Brett Brown wouldn’t commit to Smith as his permanent starter, but he got the nod in the first unit in his debut on Saturday vs. the Suns and scored 14 points with two rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer in 31 minutes. Kendall Marshall has not played well and T.J. McConnell is nothing more than a backup, so I would bet that Smith is locked in as the starter unless the 76ers make additional moves. He probably won’t be too efficient in Philly because he won’t have much talent to work with, but Smith should contribute enough assists and steals to help your team. His ceiling is a lot higher in points leagues, though.
Eric Bledsoe (knee) looking at a lengthy absence?
Bledsoe will undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair his torn left meniscus, and he is expected to miss about six weeks of action. This is his first significant injury to his left knee, but it should be noted that he had his previously-repaired right meniscus removed back in 2014. It’s a tough blow for both Bledsoe and the Suns, and this will now force Brandon Knight to shift over to point guard. Impressive rookie Devin Booker could get a look in the starting lineup next to Knight, and considering the Suns play five times this week, he is worth a serious look if you need 3-pointers. For what it’s worth, Booker is shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season and is coming off a career-high 19 point performance against the 76ers. Stash Bledsoe if you can, but it’s understandable to move on if you don’t have an IR spot in your league.
Alec Burks diagnosed with a broken left ankle
The last thing the Jazz need is another injury, and they got some rough news on Sunday when Yahoo Sports reported that Burks sustained a fractured left ankle and will miss a minimum of six weeks. Burks was averaging 27.1 minutes per game and served as the team’s sixth man, but the Jazz will now have to rely on guys like Rodney Hood, Trey Burke and Joe Ingles a lot more. Hood is the clear winner here, and while he is inconsistent and very injury prone, he needs to be owned in all leagues right now. As for Burks, he can be cut outside of the deepest of leagues.
Blake Griffin will miss at least two weeks due to a partially torn left quad
He won’t be re-evaluated for two full weeks, so it’s possible that he could miss additional time. The Clippers are sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference with an 18-13 record, but they really can’t afford to lose any ground with teams such as the Mavericks (17-13), Grizzlies (17-16) and Rockets (16-16) right on their heels. Josh Smith started on Saturday vs. the Jazz, but he played a total of five minutes before Paul Pierce replaced him in the starting lineup for the second half. Pierce scored 20 points with five treys in the win, but I would need to see him do that again before I could add him in most formats. Smith should be left on the wire, but Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan will all benefit with Griffin on the shelf as they will have no choice but to be more aggressive on offense.
Matt Barnes suspended for two games
Matt Barnes will be suspended by the NBA for two games for his off-court incident with Knicks head coach Derek Fisher. Memphis coach Dave Joerger has already contemplated making another lineup change because he said the team lacks an identity without Zach Randolph on the floor beside Marc Gasol, so we could see Z-Bo back in the starting lineup. Barnes' owners should stick with him if possible.
Trade talk and rumors around the league
David Lee is reportedly available in a trade, but this isn’t that surprising because his role has been very limited in Boston and he has said several times that he wants more playing time. The 32-year-old forward is averaging 7.4 points, 4.4 boards and 1.9 assists in just 15.9 minutes per game, and he is currently the fourth big in the rotation behind Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Lee has just one year remaining on his contract which is around $15.5 million, so the Celtics would get next to nothing in return for the former All-Star. Unless he somehow lands in an ideal situation, he belongs on the waiver wire in all leagues.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Bulls are looking to add a “talented wing player” and they are reportedly willing to give up Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson (or both) in a trade. The trade rumors will likely quiet down for a little bit due to Noah’s shoulder injury, but this could be a sign that the Bulls are looking to free up some more minutes for impressive rookie Bobby Portis. The Bulls don’t appear to be a legitimate contender in the East, so they could be one of the most active teams on the phones as we approach the Feb. 18 trade deadline. To be clear, nothing is imminent.
Zach Lowe of ESPN is hearing that teams are asking for an asset in return before considering trading for Markieff Morris. The Suns are a mess right now and Morris is causing nothing but trouble, and he still has one game left of his suspension for throwing a towel at his head coach. Teams like the Rockets and Pelicans have a little bit of interest, but Lowe is speculating that the Suns would have to throw in a guy like Archie Goodwin in order to make a deal work. Until his scenery changes, Morris belongs on the wire.
Suns coach Jeff Hornacek is on the hot seat after watching his team lose 15 of their last 20 games, and things aren’t going to get any easier with Eric Bledsoe (knee) expected to miss around six weeks. Saturday’s embarrassing loss to the 76ers set things in motion for the Suns’ front office, and they responded by firing assistant coaches Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting and promoting Nate Bjorgken and Earl Watson. Hornacek’s job appears to be safe for now, but the team lacks a clear direction and it will be interesting to see if they start rebuilding for next year. If the Suns decide to pull the plug on the season, guys like Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Alex Len will get a lot more burn in the second half of the season.
Tiago Splitter (calf) will miss at least two games, meaning the earliest he will be back on the court would be on Jan. 3 vs. the Knicks. Given his injury history, that sounds too optimistic. Mike Scott and Mike Muscala will pick up a few extra minutes in his absence.
David Lee has missed two games in a row with a sore lower back, but he is currently listed as day-to-day, He is only averaging 15.9 minutes per game this season, but his absence has opened up a few more minutes for Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko off the bench.
Nicolas Batum (right hand contusion) and Marvin Williams (neck strain) both popped up on the injury report on Sunday, but they are listed as probable to play on Monday vs. the Lakers. To be clear, the injuries are very minor and they should be good to go. Spencer Hawes (back) is listed as doubtful and will likely miss his second straight game.
Joakim Noah is expected to miss 2-4 weeks due to a left shoulder sprain, meaning Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol will have to log heavy minutes in the frontcourt. Nikola Mirotic is starting at small forward now, so Bobby Portis should continue to be the first big off the bench moving forward.
Kyrie Irving was rested for Saturday’s game vs. the Blazers because it was the second night of a back-to-back set, so he will be ready to go for Monday’s game vs. the Suns. The Cavs have lost two straight, so I’d like to see Irving log close to 30 minutes in this one.
Deron Williams has missed two consecutive games due to a hamstring strain, but Mavs coach Rick Carlisle believes that it isn’t too serious. Considering how slow Williams has recovered from injuries in the past, I’m not counting on him playing vs. the Bucks on Monday. The J.J. Barea show lives on.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone doesn't expect Danilo Gallinari (ankle) tor Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle) to return before next Saturday's game vs. the Warriors, so their owners should have a backup plan ready. The Nuggets are falling out of the playoff hunt, so they have no incentive to rush them back into action. Jameer Nelson and Kostas Papanikolaou will continue to start in their place.
Harrison Barnes (left ankle) is doubtful to play on Monday vs. the Kings, but he is nearing a return. Barnes was posting mid-round value before going down, so his owners might as well stick with him since they’ve made it this far.
Rodney Stuckey (right ankle) went through a full practice on Sunday after tweaking his ankle in Saturday’s game vs. the Wolves, so it sounds like he is good to go for Monday’s game vs. the Hawks.
Austin Rivers (right ankle) said that he's hopeful to play on Monday vs. the Wizards, but he is currently listed as doubtful. If Rivers is unable to play, Pablo Prigioni will see minutes in the low teens as the backup point guard.
Kobe Bryant (sore right knee) said that he "should be ready to go" vs. the Hornets on Monday, and it should help that he only logged 24 minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Grizzlies. If the Black Mamba changes his mind, Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams and D’Angelo Russell will all benefit.
Jerryd Bayless (ankle) made it through the Bucks’ practice on Sunday, and he is currently traveling with the team on their four-game road trip. His status for Monday’s game vs. the Mavs is up in the air, but Michael Carter-Williams’ owners should be a little concerned with this report as Bayless was playing really well prior to going down.
Hassan Whiteside (illness) will be a game-time decision on Monday vs. Brooklyn. The Heat are already missing Josh McRoberts (knee), so Chris Bosh would slide to center if Whiteside can’t give it a go.
Jahlil Okafor (knee soreness) is in danger of missing his second straight game, as he is listed as doubtful to play against the Jazz on Monday. If he’s out, Nerlens Noel and Jerami Grant will start in the frontcourt. Okafor should be considered day-to-day, but the 76ers won’t bring him back until he is 100 percent.
Ed Davis sat out of Sunday’s game vs. the Kings due to a left ankle bone bruise, but he is hopeful that it will only force him to miss a couple of days. The Blazers are off until Wednesday’s game vs. the Nuggets, so Davis might actually have a chance to play in that one.
Damian Lillard (plantar fasciitis) has now missed four straight games, but he has hinted that he is targeting a return on Wednesday vs. the Nuggets. If the All-Star point guard needs to miss any additional time, C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe will continue to start in the backcourt.
Jonas Valanciunas (hand) will return to action on Monday vs. the Bulls, but it’s important to note that coach Dwane Casey said that his minutes will be limited early on. If he is somehow available in your league, he needs to be picked up immediately. Bismack Biyombo’s window for fantasy value is just about shut.
Derrick Favors (back spasms) is listed as questionable for Monday's game against the 76ers, but the Jazz may opt to be cautious here considering the opposition. If he sits, expect Jeff Withey to draw another start at center with Trevor Booker getting some extra run off the bench.
Bradley Beal (leg) will start non-contact activities in the next couple of days according to coach Randy Wittman. He has been out since Dec. 9 and was initially given a two-week timetable, but the Wizards are wisely being cautious with him and there is still no clear return date in sight. Beal still needs to be stashed in standard leagues, but his upside could be limited by a strict minutes cap when he returns.
Pacers vs. Hawks (Dec. 28)
Raptors vs. Bulls (Dec. 28)
Hawks vs. Rockets (Dec. 29)
Heat vs. Grizzlies (Dec. 29)
Clippers vs. Hornets (Dec. 30)
Mavericks vs. Warriors (Dec. 30)
Warriors vs. Rockets (Dec. 31)
Knicks vs. Bulls (Jan. 1)
Spurs vs. Rockets (Jan. 2)
Bulls vs. Raptors (Jan. 3)