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 18 Schedule: Games Played
3 Games: CHA, DEN, LAC
2 Games: ATL, BOS, BKN, CHI, CLE, DAL, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOR, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHX, POR, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS
Top Three Adds of The Week:
Dario Saric (64% owned)- The Homie was on this list last week, but he’s only gotten better and still isn’t owned in enough leagues. There is a report that Ben Simmons’ foot hasn’t fully healed (more on that later), so Saric could be locked into heavy minutes the rest of the way. He’s been stealing Ersan Ilyasova’s minutes lately and has scored 18+ points in five straight games, averaging 20.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks and 2.2 3-pointers in that span.
“We’re seeing the growth of Saric blossom before our eyes,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “He’s understanding NBA basketball quicker, better than I expected. I think initially the athleticism, the speed, the rules was something that caught him off guard. Even my language, NBA language, 76er language.” Add him and don’t think twice about it.
Terrence Ross (23% owned)- I absolutely love Ross in Orlando and think his fantasy value is going to get a massive bump with his new team. Ross has always had great upside, but he had a limited role off the Toronto bench and never scratched the surface of what he could become. Ross has per-36 minute averages of 16.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 2.9 triples, and given Orlando’s lack of talent, I’d pencil Ross in for 30+ minutes a night with the Magic. Coach Frank Vogel has been hesitant to play Mario Hezonja all season and Jeff Green is on the trade block, so Ross should get the first crack at the starting small forward job.
“This is a good opportunity,” Ross said. “It is a new fresh start for me. I’m looking forward to it. I embrace my role whatever it is. And just being really excited to play.”
Jusuf Nurkic (63% owned)- Nurk Alert! His ownership has skyrocketed since his trade to Portland, and they hype has only grown since his strong debut. He scored 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with seven rebounds, one assist, one block and three steals in just 21 minutes, and he did that against one of the toughest matchups in the NBA — the Jazz allow the second fewest fantasy points to centers this season.
"I think he showed a lot of what he can give us," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "He was effective finishing around the basket. I think he has a nice shooting touch [in the] midrange. He's a big body, sets good screens. Honestly, he did what we thought he could do. I thought what you saw tonight is the player that we traded for. He did a little bit of everything.” Stotts also said Nurkic will get a chance to start, so it’s time to pick him up.
Channing Frye (40% owned)- With Kevin Love (knee) out at least six weeks, Frye becomes a great add for any owner in need of triples. Frye is not a world beater by any means, but he has the green light from deep and we all know how well 3-point shooters do next to LeBron James. He admitted that he needs to get into better shape and he struggled in his last start with four points on 1-of-8 shooting. “The minutes, you’ve got to get used to that, just going with different groups and what my responsibilities are with each group, going out there, having fun and just making sure I’m being disciplined in just letting the game come to me,” Frye said.
Frye has averaged 11.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 0.6 steals and 2.0 triples in five starts this season, so while he’s not going to come close to matching Love’s production, those are still nice numbers with room to grow.
Kelly Olynyk (38% owned)- Olynyk has been on fire over his last five games with averages of 16.0 points, 7.0 boards, 2.6 assists, 0.6 steals and 2.2 treys on 64.6 percent from the field in 27.4 minutes per game. However, the return of Avery Bradley (Achilles) could be bad news for his value and he’s expected to play right away after the All-Star break. Olynyk is just a flier while he has the hot hand, so I’d rather own the four players listed above.
The Drop List:
Brandon Ingram- What a nightmare week for the rookie.
Joel Embiid hinted that he would like the 76ers to keep Jahlil Okafor around for next season. “We got a lot of talent, and I feel we can use everybody if we want to get to where we want to,” Embiid. “Obviously the playoffs are right there even if we don’t get the opportunity to make it this year. I think next year is our goal.” In case you missed it, Okafor rejoined the 76ers in Boston on Wednesday and made a surprise appearance in the lineup. The trade talk has cooled significantly and it doesn’t help that two of the teams that were linked to him in the Blazers and Nuggets already made their moves. The Pelicans and Bulls are still legitimate possibilities for Okafor, but the 76ers may have to lower their asking price if they want to get a deal done (h/t philly.com).
With the Feb. 23 deadline looming, Nick Young and Lou Williams are expected to draw a lot of interest in the coming days. Williams is on a bargain of contract through the 2017-18 season, while Young has a player option for the 2017-18 season that he will likely turn down. With the Lakers hoping to keep their top-3 protected lottery pick this summer, I would expect them to move either Young or Williams for a draft pick. Williams has been linked to the Wizards and Cavaliers, but it’s not clear which team(s) are eyeing Young. A move would surely hurt their fantasy value, but it would be great news for the value of Jordan Clarkson.
The Pacers are looking to bring in some help for Paul George and they have made their 2017 first-round pick available in a trade according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes. That should put an end to the George to Boston rumors, as it sounds like the Pacers aren’t ready to give up their goal to make some noise in the postseason despite a six-game losing streak. George can opt out of his contract at the end of the 2017-18 season, so the Pacers will have to convince him that they can build a contender around PG-13.
The Pistons have discussed a trade with Orlando that would send PG Reggie Jackson to the Magic in exchange for a package that would include D.J. Augustin and Jeff Green according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. R-Jax hasn’t been the same since his knee injury and the Pistons seem to play better when Ish Smith is running the offense. Jackson has also been linked to the Pelicans and Wolves this season, so the Pistons are probably regretting signing him to that massive extension. Augustin would be interesting in Detroit and played well under Stan Van Gundy in his previous stint with the franchise, but Smith will probably be the favorite to start.
According to Ian Begley of ESPN, multiple teams view Derrick Rose “as a potential trade target.” Rose is making $23 million this season and is an impending free agent, so the Knicks can’t possibly expect to get anything in return for him expect maybe a second-round pick. If I’m the Knicks, I call the Magic’s front office…
Despite the Pelicans’ struggles this season, Anthony Davis reiterated his desire to stay in New Orleans. "Look, I'm here. If I was thinking about leaving, I'd never re-sign [last summer], Davis said to ESPN. “I’m here to stay.” There was a rumor floating around the internet that Davis was hoping to pair up with Russell Westbrook on the Lakers one day, but that’s just clickbait.
Suns GM Ryan McDonough said this week that it’s highly unlikely that Eric Bledsoe will be traded. "We never say 'never,' but I think he's one of the least likely guys on the roster to get traded,'' McDonough said in an interview with AZ Central. "He's under contract for a couple more years after this year. More likely, we'd try to add guys in that 27-and-under age group to play with Eric and [guard] Devin [Booker] and our young core and build that way.” P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight are going to be popular names at the deadline, but Bledsoe probably isn’t going anywhere.
Coach Kenny Atkinson said he expects Jeremy Lin (hamstring) to play in the Nets first game following the All-Star break on Feb. 24 against the Nuggets. You better believe Lin will have restrictions right out of the gate, but he’s worth picking up everywhere with season averages of 13.9 points, 5.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 triples.
Avery Bradley (Achilles) said he's targeting a return on Feb. 24 against the Raptors, the first game after the All-Star break. The Celtics have been overly cautious with Bradley, but he should be ready to roll the rest of the way. Marcus Smart is the biggest loser with Bradley on the way back, while Kelly Olynyk loses some appeal too.
Kevin Love will undergo a scope on his left knee that is expected to sideline him for six weeks, meaning we won’t see him until late March at the earliest. The fantasy playoffs will be over at that point for a lot of leagues, so Love is just a luxury stash if you have an IR spot. Channing Frye is the big winner and Derrick Williams should get a small bump.
Joel Embiid (knee) said he thinks he can "probably" play in the first game after the All-Star break. It’s not up to him, so take this report with a grain of salt. He is dealing with a "very minor" tear in his meniscus in his left knee, but regardless of how the 76ers proceed, the good news is that this shouldn’t be a long-term concern for one of the most promising young bigs in the NBA.
A foot scan for Ben Simmons (foot) on Jan. 23 showed that his foot was not fully healed, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. This is alarming because Simmons had surgery back on Oct. 4 and he was expected to be fully healed after three months. Simmons will have another CT scan on Feb. 23, but the chances of him playing this season aren’t looking good. Coach Brett Brown said earlier this week that he’s still expecting Simmons to play this season, so I don’t know what’s going on in Philly. They are easily the least transparent team in the NBA.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said on Wednesday that he expects Pau Gasol (hand) to be cleared to return to action after the All-Star break. Go pick him up and feel free to drop Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee as previously mentioned.