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The Week Ahead: Week 6
Two Games: DAL, DEN
Three Games: BKN, CLE, GSW, HOU, LAC, MIA, NYK, OKC, PHI, POR, SAS, TOR
Four Games: ATL, BOS, CHA, CHI, DET, IND, LAL, MEM, MIL, MIN, NOP, ORL, PHX, SAC, UTA, WAS
The Weird Thanksgiving Week
This week is always a weird one, as we won’t have any games played on Thursday, which translates to insane days on Wednesday (13 games) and Friday (12 games), and for some reason, the NBA always schedules one day game the day after Thanksgiving. This year, it’ll be a 3:30 pm ET matchup between the Pistons and Clippers, so make sure you get your lineups set early on Friday this week.
Also, with just two games on the schedule for Dallas and Denver, managers in weekly settings may want to consider leaving studs from either team on their bench. Nikola Jokic is a particularly risky play this week, as he’s missed the past two games with a sprained right wrist, and as I’m writing this column, I have no idea if he’ll be available for Tuesday’s game in Portland. He was a game-time call on Sunday, which suggests he’s close, but if Denver decides to err on the side of caution and hold him out of one more game that would give him a maximum of just one game this week and it’s a tough matchup with Milwaukee.
Luka Doncic has missed the past three games with a left ankle/knee injury, although Jason Kidd did say after Sunday’s game that he hoped to have Doncic back at practice on Monday. If we get word that Doncic was a full participant in Monday’s practice, then I’d probably roll him out there for the two-game week, but if he’s a limited participant, then managers will need to consider benching him.
Michael Porter Jr. trying to avoid back surgery
Late, Sunday night, Mike Singer of the Denver Post, reported a story explaining why Michael Porter Jr. has been out so long – he’s currently in Florida seeking second opinions on his troublesome back as he tries to avoid another surgery. According to sources of Singer, MPJ is dealing with a nerve issue in his back, and if he’s not able to treat the pain through rest and rehab, the 23-year-old budding star may be forced to undergo his third back procedure. Brutal.
I wish MPJ the best and have always been a fan of his because he played for one of my favorite former players, Trail Blazers’ legend Brandon Roy, during his High School days, but there was a reason this kid fell all the way to the No. 14 pick in the 2018 draft – back issues. Porter Jr. only made it through four games at Missouri before requiring his first back procedure that ended his one-and-done season with the Tigers, and his second one came just after the Nuggets drafted him, which cost him his entire rookie season. That’s two back surgeries before he could legally drink, and he might be headed for his third.
Singer’s reporting did not provide specifics on the nerve issues that MPJ is dealing with, but the fact that he’s seeking a second opinion means that the first doctor recommended he go under the knife. Now, it’s still possible Porter Jr. will be able to find a non-surgical solution to his back issues, so he’s not a guy I would cut right now, but there’s no denying that his current rest-of-season outlook appears bleak.
Fantasy-wise, I’d say that Will Barton and Aaron Gordon will be the primary beneficiaries while MPJ is out, and Jeff Green should continue to start – although he’s been hit-or-miss. Through eight games as a starter this season, Green has registered averages of 10.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist and not much else on 44.8% shooting from the field and 83.3% at the stripe.
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Here Comes Cade
2021’s No. 1 overall selection, Cade Cunningham, got off to a rough start in his rookie season, as he missed most of training camp, the entire preseason, and the first four games of the 2021-22 season while recovering from an ankle sprain – and then he shot just 1-of-8 from the field across 19 minutes in his regular-season debut.
However, he’s turned the corner in November, posting top-50 numbers over his past nine games behind averages of 16.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.3 triples, 1.7 steals, 0.6 swats and 3.4 turnovers per contest on 38.3% shooting from the field and 90% at the stripe. Like most rookie guards, Cade will likely struggle with percentages and turnovers, but he’s showing that he’s capable of putting up some fun counting stats. He recorded the first triple-double of his career on Sunday with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists plus a triple, two steals and three turnovers across 38 minutes, and I see plenty of big stat lines in this young man’s future.
After all, he’s a 6-foot-8 point guard and while he’s currently only converting 25.3% of his long-balls, I’d expect that number to get closer to his college average (40%) as we progress through the season.
Tuesday – Four Games
MIA vs. DET
LAL vs. NYK
DEN vs. POR
DAL vs. LAC
Thursday (Thanksgiving) – No Games
Sunday – Five Games
GSW vs. LAC
MIL vs. IND
BOS vs. TOR
SAC vs. MEM
DET vs. LAL
Streamers: Cory Joseph (pending Killian Hayes), P.J. Tucker, Talen Horton-Tucker, Alec Burks, Jeff Green, JaMychal Green (pending Jokic), Luke Kennard, Isaiah Hartenstein, Gary Payton II, Justin Holiday, Grant Williams (pending Robert Williams), Khem Birch (pending OG Anunoby)