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 12 Schedule: Games Played
5 Games: CHI
4 Games: BKN, DET, HOU, LAL, MIN, NYK, OKC
3 Games: ATL, BOS, CLE, DAL, MEM, MIL, NOR, ORL, PHI, POR, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS
2 Games: CHA, GSW, LAC, MIA, PHO
1 Game: IND
Notes: With just one game on the schedule, owners in weekly leagues should not be starting any Nuggets and that includes fantasy superstar Nikola Jokic. As for the teams with two games, the only players I would start are Kemba Walker, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside and Eric Bledsoe.
If you’re looking to take advantage of a five-game week for the Bulls, Michael Carter-Williams, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic should still be available in a lot of leagues. In case it's not obvious, Jimmy Butler is by far the top play of the week in all formats.
Top 3 Adds of the Week:
T.J. McConnell (15% owned)- I just don’t see him losing his starting job when Sergio Rodriguez (ankle) is able to return. The 76ers are 3-1 when McConnell starts this season, and the PG is averaging 11.0 points, 10.5 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 0.8 3-pointers in that span on 52.8 percent shooting. He obviously won’t be playing 36 minutes a night when Rodriguez returns, but a 30-minute role with the way he’s been playing can’t be ruled out. Just add him and see what happens.
Malcolm Brogdon (52% owned)- He’s been the second best rookie this season behind The Process and similar to T.J. McConnell, Brogdon is running away with the starting PG role with Matthew Dellavedova on the shelf with a hamstring issue. Brogdon has made five starts this season and is averaging 12.0 points, 6.8 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 0.6 triples on 41.1 percent shooting, and the numbers show that he’s a much better fit next to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
James Johnson (49% owned)- It’s tough to pick him up with only two games on the schedule, but Johnson should be owned everywhere with the big picture in mind. Justise Winslow (shoulder) is out for the season, meaning Johnson is locked into a role with minutes in the 30s the rest of the way, barring a trade of course. He's averaging 19.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.8 blocks, 1.3 steals and 3.5 triples over his last four games and not many players can fill up a box score quite like he can. Just keep in mind that these numbers will take a small hit when Hassan Whiteside (eye) returns.
The Drop List:
Justise Winslow- He’s not coming back this season.
Rajon Rondo- It’s possible the Bulls trade or waive him, but what team would take a chance on him?
Monta Ellis- The Pacers are going to bring him off the bench for the foreseeable future.
Chandler Parsons- He’s still limited to 37 seconds per game.
Brandon Jennings- Ron Baker took his backup PG minutes on Friday. Ron Baker…
Matthew Dellavedova- This is Brogdon’s job now.
Jodie Meeks- Evan Fournier is back.
Jahlil Okafor- It’s now obvious. Nerlens Noel is a much better fit in Philly than Okafor. The Joel Embiid and Noel lineup combo has a net rating of 33.1 this season, while the Okafor-Embiid combo has a -21.5 net rating. Okafor picked up a DNP-CD on Friday, so he needs a trade in the worst way.
Quote of the Week:
“If your big guys don’t dominate, you have to go small,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “I tell Jonas Valanciunas: ‘Oh you want to play more? Then Dominate. I don’t want to see fadeaways over 6-8 guys. Get to the rim. Get every offensive rebound. If not, you’re coming out.’” J-Val responded with 18 points and 13 rebounds against the Jazz, so hopefully he got the message.
The Kyle Korver trade is now complete, but the Hawks aren’t done yet. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical said the Hawks are actively shopping Paul Millsap and expects a deal to be reached “sooner rather than later.” Five teams have been linked to Millsap in the Pelicans, 76ers, Kings, Raptors and Nuggets, but Millsap’s value would be safe anywhere he lands. If Millsap is traded and the Hawks don’t bring in another PF, Mike Muscala would be an intriguing pickup. The forward has been impressive all season as the first big off the bench and has per-36 minute averages of 13.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.4 triples on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 75.0 percent from the line. For what it’s worth, the Hawks are asking for at least a quality first-round pick in exchange for Millsap.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Nuggets are now actively shopping Jusuf Nurkic. The Nuggets have been able to showcase Nurkic over the past three games with Kenneth Faried (back) on the shelf, and he looked great with averages of 12.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.7 blocks in 20.0 minutes per game in that span. He’s not going to break out in Denver because this is Nikola Jokic’s team, so Nurkic’s owners should be rooting for a trade. This certainly increases his stash appeal and there are a lot of teams that could use a two-way big in Nurk Alert.
ESPN’s Stein adds that the Nuggets are also shopping Faried, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, but you likely already knew that. The Nuggets certainly have the assets to trade for Paul Millsap, but they also might be looking to open up minutes on the wings for Jamal Murray and Juancho Hernangomez. Faried would likely gain value in a trade since he’s in the doghouse in Denver, while Chandler and Gallinari would take a hit in a new city because they are in an ideal situation as it is.
The Heat’s asking price for Goran Dragic is still too high according to Stein, but he hints that that could change as we approach the deadline. In case it’s not obvious, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson should be owned everywhere and their ceilings will increase significantly if Dragic is moved. As for the Dragon himself, his owners should be hoping for a trade because owning veterans on tanking teams is always a risk during the fantasy playoffs.
The Nets’ asking price for Brook Lopez is two first-round picks according to Stein, but they aren’t in any hurry to move him. The Nets are rebuilding the right way this time and they will let the market come to them. Now that Lopez is a reliable 3-point weapon, that price isn’t unrealistic. Justin Hamilton would be a pickup in all formats if the Nets find a new home for Lopez.
Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report said this week that the Bulls were open to dealing Jimmy Butler, but Bucher isn’t the most reliable source and Marc Stein of ESPN refuted those reports. Butler is the type of player you build around, so moving him with the way he’s been playing would be insane. He’s the best shooting guard in the NBA, assuming James Harden is considered a PG now.
Portland has been “tracking” Tyson Chandler according to Stein, but that wouldn’t be a great spot for his value with Mason Plumlee locked into the starting center role. The big takeaway here is that the Suns are more than likely going to find a new home for Chandler, so that increases the stash appeal of both Alex Len and even Alan Williams. We’ve seen what Len can do in an expanded role, but Williams could also become a sneaky source of value. Williams has impressive per-36 minute averages of 14.6 points, 15.9 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.6 blocks.
We already know that the Mavs are going to shop their veterans at the deadline including Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams, but Stein is hearing that they’re not looking to deal Wesley Matthews for now. Matthews couldn’t be in a better spot for value, so this is wonderful news for his owners and a slight buzzkill for the outlooks of Seth Curry and Justin Anderson.
Injury Report: Accurate as of Saturday at 2:00 ET
Jeremy Lin (hamstring) still has no timetable to return. However, the hamstring issue is a “different area,” so his recovery won’t be as long as his first extended absence. “Yeah, I can definitely say that. It’s a different area, the other side, and it hurt a lot less when it happened,’’ Lin said. “Everything’s progressing better than the previous one, so I’m definitely very encouraged. Yeah, definitely if it was the same exact spot, it’d be a different tune.”
The Hornets confirmed that Nicolas Batum hyperextended his right knee and that he will not play Saturday against the Spurs. An MRI showed no structural damage, but most reports indicate that he will miss 1-2 weeks. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marco Belinelli and Jeremy Lamb all get a boost with this report, but Lamb might be the most intriguing if coach Steve Clifford finally gives him an extended look — Lamb has per-36 minute averages of 19.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.2 triples.
Cody Zeller (concussion) could return any day now and is considered questionable for Saturday’s game vs. the Spurs.
J.J. Barea (leg) will return from injury on Saturday vs. the Hawks, but his minutes are going to be limited for a while. His return lowers the ceiling of both Seth Curry and Deron Williams, and it may push Devin Harris out of the rotation.
Nikola Jokic (illness) is questionable for Saturday’s game vs. the Thunder, while Kenneth Faried (back) is returning from a three-game absence. Look for Faried to split the center minutes with Jusuf Nurkic in a “showcase game” if Jokic is held out.
Blake Griffin (knee) had a routine follow-up examination on Thursday and coach Doc Rivers said he "looked great” and that he is making progress. He had surgery back on Dec. 20 and was given a 4-6 week timetable, meaning we could see him return at some point in January. Like we saw on Friday night, Austin Rivers will be relevant until Griffin returns to the lineup.
Hassan Whiteside (eye) has rejoined the Heat in Los Angeles and is hopeful to return to the lineup for Sunday's game vs. the Clippers. Whiteside was seen working out on Friday night before the Heat took on the Lakers and his eye looked so much better. If he’s able to give it a go Sunday, Willie Reed will lose most of his value. With the Heat tanking, it’s still not a bad idea for Whiteside’s owners to handcuff him with Reed down the stretch.
Matthew Dellavedova’s (hamstring) return date is still up in the air. See Brogdon.
Sergio Rodriguez (ankle) is "hopeful" he will be ready to play Sunday in Brooklyn, but it’s too late. T.J. McConnell has stolen his job.
George Hill (concussion) is listed as out for Saturday’s game vs. the Wolves because he has not cleared the concussion protocol yet.