Hello and welcome back to the Week Ahead. Every Saturday I’m going to be right here breaking down the weekly schedule and the latest injury report, and I’ll also include some hot pickups for your fantasy team and some players you should consider dropping. Everyone loves rumors, so I’ll also provide some insight on some of the trending topics around the league. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter by clicking here!
Week 15 Schedule: Games Played
4 Games: BKN, BOS, DEN, DET, MEM, MIN, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHO, SAC, TOR
3 Games: ATL, CHA, CLE, DAL, GSW, HOU, IND, LAC, LAL, MIA, MIL, NOR, NYK, POR, SAS, WAS
2 Games: CHI, UTA
With two games on the schedule for the Bulls and Jazz, the only three players you can safely start in weekly leagues are Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. Dwyane Wade and George Hill are also options if you’re desperate.
Top 3 Adds of the Week:
Brandon Jennings (16% owned)- Derrick Rose sprained his left ankle on Friday and wasn’t able to return to the game. X-rays were negative, and while coach Jeff Hornacek said the injury is “nothing major,” he wouldn’t put a timetable on his return. "He’ll be back whenever sprained ankles heal. Could be the next game, could be two, three games,” Hornacek said. This is Derrick Rose we are talking about, so expect him to miss some time. Jennings looked great in 31 minutes on Friday with 15 points, three assists, one steal, one block and two triples, and he averaged 17.5 points, 5.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 1.7 triples and 2.8 turnovers on 45.7 percent shooting in six previous starts this season.
Lucas Nogueira (23% owned)- Don’t look now, but Bebe has played 24+ minutes in four straight games and is averaging 9.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.0 steal in that span. He’s shooting 67.5 percent from the field and 64.0 percent from the line on the season, but more importantly, Jared Sullinger was a DNP-CD on Friday. Bebe has been unleashed and the Raptors would be foolish not to stick with him.
Ivica Zubac (19% owned)- Is he more of a stash? Sure… But I’m ready to pick him up in most leagues because of his obvious upside and promising outlook. The Lakers are tanking fast, so their only priority is player development from here on out. Zubac has posted two solid double-doubles in a row with averages of 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks in that span. He’s shooting an impressive 85.7 percent from the free throw line, so he has the potential to be a fantasy stud. If he can get 24-26 minutes a night moving forward, that will make him a must-own player. Like most rookies, expect the occasional dud and don’t be discouraged if his minutes fluctuate for the next few weeks. He should be a monster after the All-Star break.
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Willie Reed (7% owned)- Hassan Whiteside (ankle) was held out of Friday’s game vs. the Bulls and could miss more time because the Heat have every reason to be cautious — Whiteside admitted he made a mistake by playing through the injury earlier in the week. Willie Reed thrived as a fill-in starter on Friday vs. the Bulls with 20 points (9-of-11 FGs), five rebounds, one assist and one steal, and he now has averages of 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.6 blocks on 68.6 percent shooting in five starts this season. He’s a career 55.5 percent shooter from the free throw line, but he doesn’t go to the line enough to hurt his owners. It’s unclear if Whiteside will miss additional time, but Reed is an obvious add if he does.
The Drop List:
Enes Kanter- If you don’t have an IR slot, Kanter is an obvious drop candidate because he’s expected to miss 6-8 weeks after breaking his forearm. Kids, be safe out there and don’t go punching chairs.
Emmanuel Mudiay- No reason to stash an injured player with very little standard-league upside.
According to CSNNE.com, the Celtics have held talks with the Magic regarding Nikola Vucevic. Boston is loaded with an awesome blend of draft picks and young talent, something the Magic should target at the deadline. Their front office is a little delusional right now and they are still hoping to make the playoffs, but once that dream is dead they will shift their focus towards yet another rebuild. While no deal is imminent, we already know that the Magic are actively shopping Vooch because they tried to trade him to the Heat earlier this season in exchange for Goran Dragic. While Vucevic’s value would be safe in Boston, his move could open the door for Bismack Biyombo to return to the starting lineup in Orlando. This is my speculation, but Amir Johnson would likely have to be in the deal to make the trade work financially.
ESPN reported on Friday that the Clippers and Knicks are searching for a third team to help them facilitate a deal for Carmelo Anthony. As is stands right now, it sounds like any potential deal for Melo would include Austin Rivers, while Jamal Crawford would be moved to a third team because the Knicks don’t want his contract. Melo still holds all the cards with his no-trade clause, but Phil Jackson is “determined” to run him out of town. Rivers would be a stud in New York, and while Melo would see a reduced role on the Clippers, at least the shut-down risk would no longer be a concern. If you’re in a deep league, be ready to stash Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez because a Melo trade means the Knicks will finally rebuild the right way.
The Cavaliers are still in search of a reliable point guard and Marc Stein of ESPN is reporting that Shelvin Mack and Jameer Nelson are targets. A Mack trade wouldn’t open any fantasy value in Utah, but the same can’t be said for Denver. Rookie Jamal Murray would get a considerable boost in minutes if Nelson is moved, as he could log minutes at both PG and SG moving forward as a combo guard off the bench. To be clear, Murray is just a stash in 14-team leagues and deeper.
Larry Sanders confirmed on Twitter that he’s actively looking to return to the NBA. He’s 28 years old and has career averages of 6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in under 20 minutes per game, but despite his upside in blocks, he’s going to be rusty and he’s probably out of shape too. He had a workout with the Celtics on Saturday, but he was reportedly underwhelming. There are several contenders in need of a rim protector and Sanders would probably sign a deal for the minimum at this point, so I’d still expect him to get another chance. There’s no reason to stash him for now.
Injury news: Accurate as of Jan. 28 at 2:00 ET
Jeremy Lin will miss another 3-5 weeks after aggravating his strained left hamstring, so stashing him if you don't have an IR slot is too risky at this point in the season. Isaiah Whitehead is improving, but Sean Kilpatrick is the obvious pickup here. SKP is averaging 14.0 points, 4.3 boards, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.3 3-pointers in his last five games and his usage rate climbs from 18.9 to 25.0 when Lin is off the court.
Al Horford (groin) did not play on Friday vs. the Magic, but is probable for Saturday's game vs. the Bucks. Based on coach Brad Stevens' comments, it sounds like the Celtics were just being cautious on the front end of a back-to-back set.
Avery Bradley (Achilles) has been limited to pool conditioning and anti-gravity work, and he's expected to miss another week of action. He should be stashed in all leagues considering he has top-40 value in standard leagues on a per-game basis. Marcus Smart is worth owning if you're punting your field goal percentage, but keep an eye on Jaylen Brown. The rookie is coming off a 20-point effort on Friday and can play multiple positions.
Cody Zeller remains day-to-day with a quad contusion and has missed two games in a row. Zeller is a hold in standard leagues unless you're desperate, and there are no pickups in his absence. Roy Hibbert is a joke.
Deron Williams (toe) has already been ruled out for Sunday's game vs. the Spurs which is very worrying. He's a shut-down candidate with the Mavs tanking. Seth Curry is a must-own player going forward.
Wesley Matthews (hip) is questionable for Sunday's game vs. the Spurs and is closer to a return that D-Will. Justin Anderson is averaging 15.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 3-pointers over his last three games and will continue to benefit if Matthews misses more time.
Nikola Jokic has a left hip flexor strain and is listed as day-to-day, though he has already been ruled out for Saturday's game vs. the Suns and Tuesday's game vs. the Lakers. It's possible we could see him on Wednesday vs. the Grizzlies when the Nuggets return from their road trip, but he's a risky start in weekly leagues because of the uncertainty. If you need a short-term boost in rebounds and blocks, Jusuf Nurkic is the pickup because the Nuggets will use this chance to showcase him for a possible trade.
Emmanuel Mudiay (back) will also miss the next two games for the Nuggets, so Jameer Nelson is the player you want to target in Week 15. Nelson is averaging 15.0 points and 8.0 assists over his last two games, while Jamal Murray played just six minutes on Thursday vs. the Suns.
Stephen Curry (left lateral quad soreness) is questionable for Saturday night's game against the Clippers. This sounds minor, but the Warriors play again on Sunday vs. the Blazers so they might hold him for one game as a precaution. There are no pickups for now because Shaun Livingston's upside is low.
D'Angelo Russell (knee, calf) will meet with team doctors in Los Angeles to hopefully get cleared to practice and play on Tuesday, but with three games on the schedule in Week 15, Russell is too risky to deploy in weekly leagues. Expect the Lakers to be cautious with his workload in the short term. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams take a slight hit with this report.
Eric Gordon (back) has missed two games in a row, but his injury is not believed to be serious. He's questionable for Sunday's game vs. the Pacers, but look for Sam Dekker to benefit the most if Gordon is held out. Dekker is really trending up and has fifth-round value in standard leagues over his last five games.
Joel Embiid (rest) will miss Sunday's game vs. the Bulls, but that means he will play on Monday vs. the Kings. The 76ers play four times in Week 15, but they do have a back-to-back set on Feb. 1 vs. the Mavericks and Feb. 2 vs. the Spurs, so Embiid's owners can pencil him in for three games.
DeMar DeRozan (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday's game vs. the Magic, but beat reporter Ryan Wolstat said he's still considered "doubtful." Norman Powell should get another start and is averaging 18.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.3 triples in his last three starts.