Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 20
For most fantasy hoops players, this week marks the beginning of the head-to-head playoffs. Congratulations to those of you who are playing for your league's ultimate prize and better luck next year to those of you who didn't make it -- although, let's be honest, if you've been reading this all season, you're probably in!
In case you missed last week's installment, this is just a reminder that we've switched to a more traditional waiver wire format for this column, since most fantasy trade deadlines have passed and so few of you need the buy and sell advice. As always, the moves are listed in relative order of importance.
When it comes to schedules, every team plays four games this week with the exception of the Bulls, Rockets, Suns, and Lakers. Since each of those teams plays on at least one light schedule night (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), players from those squads shouldn't be slept on. In fact, the Rockets play on all three of those light nights, so adding a Rocket means picking up quality games on days when you won't have to bench anyone (as opposed to grabbing someone with a four-game week only to bench them on full-slate days like Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday).
In other words, everyone's more or less in play this week. Here's who we like out of the players that are still widely available.
Yes, the Knicks are still generally a fantasy mess, but Alexey Shved has emerged as a surprise source of value. Last week, during the Knicks five-game week, Shved put up mid-round value with averages of 17.2 points, 2.4 three-pointers, 6.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.8 turnovers, 43.5% shooting from the field, and 66.7% from the free throw line. He's starting for New York and playing a healthy 30.8 minutes per game, so it's hard to deny him as a top pickup while he's putting up those kinds of numbers, regardless of his uninspiring past. He's still 65% available in Yahoo leagues and it will be silly if that doesn't change soon now that the fantasy playoffs are upon us.
In his 10 games before going down with an ankle injury at the end of January, Jusuf Nurkic was putting up mid-round value in nine-category leagues as a starter for the Denver Nuggets, averaging 9.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.8 blocks, and a mere 1.1 turnovers per contest over that stretch. His minutes were relatively limited (24.2 per game), but the potential for big fantasy value was clearly there. Now, healthy again and with fewer players standing in his way on the depth chart (due to trades, other injuries, etc.), it looks like Nurkic could be a key cog on championship fantasy teams going forward. He's only owned in roughly 25% of Yahoo leagues and managers of playoff teams in the other 75% would be wise to do their part to bring that number up immediately.
Matt Barnes always manages to put up quietly effective fantasy value as the starting small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers, and this year is no exception, as he's posted top-80 value in nine-category leagues on the season as a whole. Over the past week, in particular, his value has been even more pronounced, as he's put up 17th-ranked value for his averages of 17.0 points, 4.3 triples, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.8 turnovers per contest, with a shooting split of 52.3% from the field and 71.4% at the line. Barnes -- a nine-category threat that helps you everywhere and hurts you nowhere -- should be more than 50% owned during the fantasy playoffs.
The Wolves' starting frontcourt of Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Garnett probably won't play a whole lot of games down the stretch of the season, due to nagging injuries and, in Garnett's case, an extreme case of old. This should help put Gorgui Dieng's value through the roof, but he's owned all over the place. In the meantime, you can probably still find Justin Hamilton on your waiver wire (he's only about 15% owned as of publishing). Over his last three games for the Wolves (the last of which he started), he's put up early-round value with averages of 13.7 points, 0.7 threes, 7.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.7 blocks, 2.0 turnovers, 54.8% shooting from the field, and a perfect 5 for 5 from the charity stripe in a healthy 33.0 minutes per contest. He's kind of come from out of nowhere, so it's hard to know if he'll sustain this recent production, but it's worth giving him a spin to see if he does.
The injury news out of Oklahoma City just keeps piling up, as it looks now like Serge Ibaka will miss the rest of the regular season to have a clean-out procedure performed on his knee. Enes Kanter is already widely owned (and if he's available in your league, he shouldn't be with this news), but Steven Adams only has a 10% ownership rate in Yahoo leagues and could make for an intriguing option moving forward. Adams moved back into the starting lineup in Ibaka's place on Sunday (his first start since Kanter came over at the trade deadline) and put up a full line with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in 32.5 minutes of work. If you need rebounds, blocks, or field goal percentage (54.5% on the season) and can take the hit at the free throw line (52.2%), then Adams will likely be worth a spot on your roster from here on out.
Rodney Hood has started the last two games for the Utah Jazz and he's been a top-50 fantasy option in nine-category leagues over his last three for averages of 16.3 points, 2.7 threes, 2.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and a negligible 0.3 turnovers per contest, while shooting 45.2% from the field and 75.0% from the charity stripe. Owners in need of threes, points, and some turnover relief could do a lot worse than picking up Hood in his new starter role to see just how big his impact will be going forward.
Brandan Wright / Marcus Morris
Whenever Alex Len misses time for the Suns, Brandan Wright becomes a must-start option. Considering the report that Len's ankle sprain is worse this time than it was last week, Wright might be in line to put up some huge numbers over his next few games. He's always been a solid per-minute performer, so the 18 points (on 7 for 8 shooting from the field and 4 for 5 from the line), 11 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal he put up in 37 minutes on Sunday should make him plenty enticing for a flier. While we're talking Suns, Marcus Morris has performed admirably in his last three starts in place of the injured Brandon Knight as well, averaging 15.3 points, 2.3 triples, 6.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.3 turnovers per contest, while shooting 43.2% from the field. The 1 for 6 free throw shooting is a drag, but he shoots a somewhat more respectable 61.3% on the season, if that's stopping you from picking him up. Just watch out for Len or Knight's return if you give Wright or Marcus an add.
Cody Zeller's bad shoulder might keep him sidelined a while, so Marvin Williams will be someone to keep an eye on if you're an owner looking for some help from long range. Over Williams' last two games (both starts), he's been a mid-round value in nine-category leagues, averaging 12.5 points, 3.5 threes, 7.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, and only 0.5 turnovers per contest. He's had an inconsistent season, but he might now have a clear path to establishing some standard league value late in the season for as long as Zeller is out.
Zaza Pachulia has been making a fantasy impact over his last three games, posting mid-round value in nine-category leagues for averages of 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 2.3 turnovers per contest over that span, while shooting 51.9% from the field and a perfect 12 for 12 from the charity stripe. When he's healthy and getting a full complement of starter's minutes, Zaza tends to be a useful fantasy asset and both of those things are true as of this moment. Add him and ride him until the wheels fall off (if they do).
The frontcourt in Boston has been crowded all season long and several players have traded off value at different points during the year. Brandon Bass currently has the fantasy value conch, so to speak, as he's posting early-round value in nine-category leagues over his last six games for averages of 14.3 points, 0.3 triples, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.3 turnovers in a healthy 34.1 minutes per contest, while shooting 59.4% from the field and 88.9% from the free throw line. He's been starting for the Celtics for almost two whole months, so he should continue to be on standard league radars as long as he manages to keep his minute allotment and put up these kinds of numbers.
Dennis Schroder / Shelvin Mack / Kent Bazemore
The Atlanta Hawks are safely the top team in the Eastern Conference, and they'll likely sit their starters quite a bit down the stretch of the season (considering they've already started doing so). Dennis Schroder (15.4 points, 1.0 three, 2.8 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 84.6% free throw shooting over his last eight games) becomes a must-start option whenever Jeff Teague sits, and even puts up decent value when he plays (as evidenced by the fact that Teague played in six of those aforementioned eight games in which Schroder posted top-100 value in nine-category leagues). Shelvin Mack has a clear path to some value while Kyle Korver is recovering from a broken nose. Mack played 35 minutes on Sunday (starting the second half for the injured Korver) and put up 18 points with 3 triples. Finally, Kent Bazemore will be a good play whenever he starts in place of a sitting DeMarre Carroll. On Sunday, Bazemore put up 13 points, 1 three, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in a robust 38 minutes of action while Carroll received a DNP-rest. Schroder is the only clear rest-of-season value of the bunch, but they all represent good spot start options, depending on Atlanta's game-to-game injury report.
Corey Brewer has been a big factor for the Rockets lately (last game's dud notwithstanding) and that should put him on standard league fantasy radars during a week in which the Rockets play three games on light schedule nights (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, as mentioned in the intro). Over his last five, Brewer's been a mid-round play in nine-category leagues for his averages of 18.8 points, 1.2 threes, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.6 turnovers, and 55.1% shooting from the field. He could cool down at any moment (perhaps the last 7-point game on 3 for 10 shooting was the start of a slump), but for now he could make for an interesting add from Tuesday to Saturday if you're looking for a potential spark.