March 20, 2016, 11:52 am
In the week ahead, we will analyze the weekly schedule and offer a full primer on players that can help you win your week. Your focus should be on week-to-week matchups come playoff time and we are here to help.
18 teams with four games (ranked by ease of schedule)
IND, LAL, CLE, SAC, PHO, DET, WAS, CHI, ATL, MIN, GSW, PHI, DEN, CHA, SAS, MIL, ORL, HOU
The Pacers’ four-game week features games against the Sixers, Pelicans, Nets and Rockets which are all plus matchups. Aside from the Raptors’ five-game schedule last week, this is the best week for any team in terms of matchups. This is music to the ears of owners of Paul George and Monta Ellis, while Ian Mahinmi becomes an intriguing add for owners in need of boards, blocks and FG%. He is a top-100 play the last two weeks and that trend should continue as long as his back holds up.
George Hill has been terrible over the last month while barely holding onto late-round value, and he only climbed that high because of last night’s big game. Hopefully this is a sign the injuries are in the rear view mirror and that he can be a valuable starter this week. If last night’s game doesn’t happen, he’d be hard to pull the trigger on.
If there is an influx of Lakers on the wire due to their two-game week it shouldn’t be surprising. They should all be reviewed at the very least as speculative adds. D’Angelo Russell is still producing top 70-80 value (8/9 cat) over the last two weeks and should not be floating on any wires. Julius Randle had a cold week but is still worth adding due to his top-90 upside in a plus week. Ditto with Jordan Clarkson.
Lou Williams returned from his hamstring injury and is coming off a big 30-point game versus the Suns on Friday where he played nearly 30 minutes. He is a must-add player this week for owners looking for help in FT%, 3s and points as Sweet Lou looks to have his role back already.
Brandon Bass is also producing at a top 75-100 (9/8 cat) level over the last two weeks, although that comes with a 25 minute-per-game average. He can be viewed as a low-end asset with good percentages (61.8 FG%, 92.3% FT%) and about one block per game over that span.
Tristan Thompson had a big game on Friday night, posting 11 points with 15 boards, four steals and two blocks and then he had a stinker on Saturday with just two points and two boards in 18 minutes. You know what the deal is with TT; you use him for a consistent source of FG% and boards and hope he chips in with some defensive stats. Just make sure the Cavs aren’t moving to a small ball lineup and realize that he has a chance of disappearing like he did on Saturday.
Channing Frye has looked revitalized in Cleveland and he is posting top-90 value over the last two weeks. He is taking advantage of his open looks draining 19 treys over his last six games shooting a blistering 63% from downtown. Frye’s not contributing much else and he had a 16-minute, three-point dud in Miami on Saturday, but as long as he’s this hot he will be worth a look in standard leagues.
Willie Cauley-Stein is slowly being freed as he has played nearly 30 minutes per game over his last three games. If the minutes become consistent, Trill has a shot at must-own status especially with the lack of blocks available on the wire. However these are the Kings we’re talking about so they will probably find a way to mess this up. He’s available in over 80% of Yahoo! Leagues so George Karl, please #FreeWillie.
In the desert, owners are hoping Brandon Knight continues to be a warrior and log heavy minutes, while trying to find his way into a shooting groove. He is currently shooting his worst FG% since his days as a Piston at 41.7%, although he is still a must-start player due to his across-the-board contributions.
Alex Len has strictly been a points/boards guy over the last two weeks. Although he is averaging a double-double over that span, he can barely sustain late-round value. This is due to poor shooting from the floor (under 40% which is unacceptable for any big) and a disappearance of any counting stats. In this four-game week he remains a hold until further notice. That said, he is not a must-start player until he starts taking more shots at the rim where he converts 57% compared to an ugly 31% elsewhere.
Mirza Teletovic has been ice cold lately not even cracking top-200 value over the last two weeks and is an inferior add to someone like Channing Frye if you’re looking looking for 3s.
Otto Porter finally resembles the Porter of the first few months of the season as he has posted top-65 value over the last two weeks. His lines are filled with counting stats (over one 3, 1.7 steals) and he has once again become a must-start player who should be scooped off wires immediately. He is still only 67% owned in Yahoo! leagues.
The Bulls resemble an infirmary right now and it could not come at a worse time for fantasy owners. Pau Gasol was a top-5 player in fantasy leagues in the two weeks prior to his knee flaring up and he should return for at least 2 games next week. This has led to a short-term increase in minutes and usage for Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. Gibson is playing on a balky hamstring but at least he provides some defensive juice (one steal and one block over the last two weeks) — and can contribute top-100 value in the short term. Mirotic has the higher upside and is worth an add, but you have to accept what he is right now and that is a 3-and-D style producer with a positive FT% contribution
The Hawks drew the short end of the stick with a horrible playoff schedule, as this is their only week with four games. Kent Bazemore is showing some signs of life again after being in Coach Bud’s doghouse. Or at least he was prior to this knee issue. His Saturday dud makes him a tough start this week, as he has seen his minutes per game drop to under 25 in the last week. He is a hold in standard leagues as he does have the potential to bounce back to top-80 value. However, like Mirotic, he is little more than a 3-and-d specialist right now.
Dennis Schroder is another Hawk who has seen his minutes take a dive as he has averaged just over 15 in his last four games. During that time he has returned top 100-150 value (8/9 cat). We can expect that to creep back up closer to 20 but he is playing a little too recklessly to produce any bankable value in standard leagues outside of assists. He is more of a deep league guy and a drop candidate at that.
The injury mess for the Sixers has not sorted itself out and no one has done much to warrant must-add status in standard leagues. Isaiah Canaan has gone on a patented hot-streak but he is too risky to trust, especially with Robert Covington nearing a return.
The nagging back injury to Kenneth Faried has just further muddled the Nuggets’ frontcourt situation. Until we get a concrete update on Faried’s status, you will be playing a maddening nightly game wondering whether he can be started. He is a hold candidate in a four-game week where Denver plays no back-to-back sets. But if you need the man-games, he has become a bubble cut candidate.
Nikola Jokic is safe as an early-round stud, however Darrell Arthur, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Jusuf Nurkic will take up each others’ minutes and none are a preferred add in Faried’s absence.
Gary Harris is criminally under-owned as he is rostered in only 49% of Yahoo! leagues. He has been putting up mid-round value over the last month and his mid-30 minutes per game are safe in Mike Malone’s rotation. Will Barton on the other hand has been a cut candidate for a month and his usage rate in the second unit has steadily decreased since the Nuggets’ acquisition of DJ Augustin. If you are rostering Barton you are hoping for more ball-handling duties, but expectations must be tempered as he is not the same stud pick-up he was at the start of the season.
Victor Oladipo has been a monster since Elfrid Payton went down, producing at a top-5 level the last two weeks. The only thing stopping him is Coach Skiles. Evan Fournier is not a sexy start, but he has been consistently putting up mid-round value scoring 18.7 points (49% FGs, 82.8% FTs) with 1.9 treys and a steal per game over the last two weeks.
Owners of Magic players need to be most worried about their highlight machine Aaron Gordon. He has been struggling at the line over the last two weeks, shooting a measly 47.8%. Owners need some more category juice (one assist and under one steal and block per-game) to go with his 53.8 FG% and 7.1 rebounds. His minutes are slowly trending down, and although he is loaded with upside he is not a must-hold guy at this stage of the season.