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The Week Ahead

Week 20 (but 19 in Yahoo)

by Jared Johnson
Updated On: March 1, 2022, 2:21 am ET

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Week 20 Schedule: Games Played

5 Games: TOR

4 Games: BKN, CLE, HOU, IND, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, OKC, ORL, SAC

3 Games: ATL, BOS, CHA, CHI, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, LAC, LAL, NOP, NYK, PHI, PHX, SAS, UTA, WAS

2 Games: POR

 

Kevin Durant on the cusp of a return

Kevin Durant, who has been out since Jan. 15 due to an MCL sprain in his left knee, is expected to return within the next week, although he’s already been ruled out for Monday’s game and he’s not expected to play on Tuesday in Toronto, either.

“Every day [he gets] closer," Steve Nash said of KD on Saturday. “We'll see. I expect in the next week he'll be back for sure.”

While Durant will likely miss the first two games of Week 20 (which Yahoo is calling Week 19 since Week 18 ran two weeks long during the All-Star break), it does sound like there’s a reasonable chance he could return to the floor for either Thursday’s home game against the Heat or Sunday’s road game in Boston.

“He doesn’t look hurt to me,” Bruce Brown proclaimed on Monday.

Brooklyn sure could use KD back in action, as they’ve spiraled all the way down to the No. 8 seed out East with The Durantuala on the sidelines, going 5-14 in his absence which included an 11-game losing streak, and the good news is that Brooklyn doesn’t have another back-to-back set until Week 22. So, assuming KD does return sometime this week, he should be available for all three games during Week 21, and it’s possible he could be cleared for back-to-back sets by Week 22.

Once he does return, there will be fewer minutes available for guys like James Johnson, Kessler Edwards, Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Cam Thomas’ usage. Seth Curry may see fewer shots falling his way upon KD’s return, although he’ll be getting tons of wide-open looks when both Kyrie Irving and Durant are on the floor, so I think he should be able to maintain his value with some solid efficiency.

 

Ben Simmons still has an unclear timetable

While we got amazing news on KD last week, Ben Simmons’ potential return date remains murky, as he’s still being considered “week-to-week.”

"He's not gone to high intensity yet, just ramping him up still,” said Nash when asked about when Simmons is expected to make his Brooklyn/season debut. He also added that Simmons has felt some soreness in his back as he works himself back into basketball shape, but maintained that it’s not an actual injury or a long-term thing, just “part of the process” when going from sitting on a couch to preparing for NBA play.

Simmons will likely be eased back into things once he is eventually cleared, so at this point in the fantasy season, with an unclear timetable and what will likely be a slow ramp-up process, he's a tough guy to hold in head-to-head settings if he’s clogging up an IL+ spot that could be used by another player on your roster. I do think he’s worth hanging onto in roto settings, though.

 

New York will loosen vaccine mandate by March 7

New York’s mayor, Eric Adams, announced this past week that he’ll be loosening the Keys2NYC vaccine mandate on March 7, thus giving the private sector the ability to impose those vaccine restrictions as they see fit. While this is a step in the right direction for Kyrie Irving getting clearance to play in home games, ultimately, the decision will come down to Nets and Barclays Center owner, Joe Tsai, and current reporting indicates that Tsai is not interested in giving special treatment to Irving.

Mayor Adams was interviewed by CNBC on Monday morning, and he said that he’s spoken with Tsai, and Tsai was taking a “hardline” approach on the matter, not wanting to make an exception for one player, which he believes would “send the wrong message.”

So, while Irving will be allowed to enter Barclays Center as a spectator by March 7, it doesn’t sound like he’ll immediately be cleared for home games. If Tsai chooses to keep the vaccine mandates in place for the remainder of the regular season, that would mean Irving will only be available for another seven games this season, so he’s still a tough guy to roster in head-to-head settings.

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Michael Porter Jr. (back) expected to return in March

On Sunday, Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a Woj Bomb with a report that Michael Porter Jr. is in the final stages of his recovery from back surgery, and he’s progressing to getting cleared for on-court work within the next week with the goal of returning to the floor “sometime in March.”

MPJ is reportedly “pain-free,” so now it’ll be just a matter of getting his conditioning where it needs to be and feeling comfortable taking contact again. Considering he hasn’t played since Nov. 6, I’d anticipate him to be brought back slowly when he is eventually cleared, so he’s still a bit of a luxury stash at this point.

However, I’m hopeful that this back procedure will have him looking more like the player he was last year once he does get fully up to speed, rather than the guy we saw through the first nine games of the 2021-22 season, and I think he presents enough upside to warrant a stash if you’ve got an IL+ spot available – particularly in roto leagues. Once he does get back, I’d expect guys like Will Barton, Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green to take a bit of a hit.

Light Games Days

Tuesday – Six Games

DET vs. WAS
ATL vs. BOS
BKN vs. TOR
LAC vs. HOU
GSW vs. MIN
DAL vs. LAL

Saturday – Six Games

SAC vs. DAL
SAS vs. CHA
PHI vs. MIA
ORL vs. MEM
POR vs. MIN
GSW vs. LAL

Week 20 Back-to-Backs:

Sunday (Feb. 27th)-Monday: CHA, IND

Monday-Tuesday: BKN, MIN, TOR

Tuesday-Wednesday: HOU

Wednesday-Thursday: MIA, SAC

Thursday-Friday: ATL, CHI, DET, TOR

Friday-Saturday: MIN, ORL, PHI

Saturday-Sunday: MEM

Jared Johnson

A hoops fanatic, Jared Johnson has been a member of the NBC Sports Edge team since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Jae_Tha_Truth, and feel free to send him your questions regarding trades, draft strategies and all things fantasy basketball.