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Fantasy Basketball Playoffs: Matchups to Exploit | Be Wary of Resting Players

Brandon C. Williams Staff Writer March 26, 2017 9:08AM EST

Most leagues, especially those of the head-to-head variety, are in the penultimate week of Fantasy Basketball playoffs. Chances are, unless you have a durable workhorse like James Harden or Russell Westbrook, you have — or will — feel the impact of having key players “rested” over the next two weeks.

I could go off on an “Old Man Yells At Cloud” rant about how the players of my youth (Magic, MJ, Bird, Dream, Mo, The Mailman, etc.) didn’t need a stinking rest. So you’re welcome from having to endure an Abe Simpson-like harangue about the good old days.

Real talk, though: resting players at this point is becoming a major issue that Fantasy leagues will have to confront in the future. I can attest that one owner I know was eliminated from the playoffs after LeBron James was sat out of the March 18 game at the Clippers. While James put up 54 points the following night against the Lakers, the goose egg of production from the previous night sent him into the Consolation Round, while another team made the playoffs.

James Harden will carry your team as long as he isn't rested. Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Pool/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

James Harden will carry your team as long as he isn’t rested. Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Pool/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

He won’t be the last to experience postseason aspirations being greatly altered. The Knicks announced early last week that Carmelo Anthony’s minutes would be reduced the rest of the season and further punctuated that point by completely sitting him out at the Trail Blazers this past Thursday. Rest (pun intended) assured that James and Kyrie Irving will be in either a GQ-caliber suit or in warmup suits with no plans to hit the court. We all know the Spurs — the Christopher Columbus of resting — will be doing the same with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Making the problem more vexing is the fact that it’s done all season long. If it were like Fantasy Football, in which some players are rested or played sparingly in Weeks 16-17, the solution would be simple. Instead, a Fantasy cornerstone is sitting at least once a week, with the frequency only dialed up after the All-Star Break.

Look at how both the Warriors and Spurs turned a nationally-televised Saturday night game into a game filled with role players. If your league locks your lineup on Monday, you felt the pain of seeing zeros dancing in the windmills of your Fantasy mind with no remedy in sight.

Leagues that are able to set lineups on a nightly basis fare somewhat better. But even if you know Steph Curry is sitting out a game, there’s little prospect of Ian Clark giving you numbers on the same level. This is not to pick on Clark, yet he wasn’t placed on CBSSports.com’s 50 greatest NBA players of all-time last month. It’s like having your heart set on Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse only to be told you’re bound to Wendy’s and can only order off the value menu.

One league I’m in suggested ending the regular season two weeks earlier with the intent of having the championship week conclude on the first Sunday in April. While I can’t say I’m in love with the idea, it is at the very least a reasonable thought. Doing so would eliminate the stretch of the regular season when resting reaches “Outbreak” level and also give those of us who hop right into baseball season a bit of mental redemption. Opening Day of baseball season offers a clear mind and a pure heart to focus on the sport without pondering whether Klay Thompson will sit out a Wednesday night game at the Kings.

I don’t think there will be a one size fits all solution for the issue. It will continue to happen despite how Commissioner Adam Silver plans to approach matters this summer. While I would expect the association to conjure up some kind of resolution, I don’t think the decision will have Fantasy owners in mind. In the meantime, your team will never be at its best when your best Fantasy player is at rest.

Most Fantasy-Friendly Games This Week

*Warriors at Rockets, Tuesday, Rockets at Warriors Friday: Curry vs. Harden (more on them in a few hundred words) is the main dish, yet the sides are pretty tasty. Rockets center Clint Capela averages nearly 28 Fantasy Points per game this month and averages 16 points, 8.5 boards and 1.5 blocks in two previous games against the Warriors this season. Eric Gordon and Lou Williams are three-point outbursts waiting to happen for Houston, as well. Thompson puts up 40 FPPG per in his last five, while Draymond Green’s stat-stuffing ways have been good for 36.4 FP in the same span.

*Clippers at Suns, Thursday: DeAndre Jordan averages nearly 38 FPPG in his last five, tops on a team that also has Blake Griffin and Chris Paul hitting above 35 Fantasy points in the same span. J.J. Redick’s long-range game fits in well against a Phoenix team ranked 29th in points allowed per game. Devin Booker’s 70-point explosion at the Celtics this past Friday was only a loud statement of just how loaded the Suns are Fantasy-wise. Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis and T.J. Warren are each averaging 35 Fantasy points in the last five games, while Alan Williams and Alex Len have become viable options, as well. The Suns’ starting lineup at Boston was younger than the lineup Gonzaga fielded in their Elite Eight game against Xavier on Saturday. That’s a scary thought.

*Rockets at Suns, Sunday: Oh, this game will decide the fate of many a Fantasy team. Houston has averaged a staggering 129.6 points per game in three wins against Phoenix while the Suns have scored 109.3. This game is also a strong stack play for DFS players.

Best Matchups to Exploit

*Karl-Anthony Towns at Pacers, Tuesday: Indiana is sixth in opponents rebounds allowed per game, a number that plays into the massive mitts of Towns, who has averaged 12.1 boards a night this month. It also doesn’t hurt that KAT is also scoring 27.5 points and shooting nearly 59 percent from the field in March.

*Redick at Suns, Thursday: No team is more 3-point friendly than the Suns, who allow opponents to shoot more than 38 percent from beyond the arc. This plays well into the special skills of Redick, who’s shooting nearly 48 percent from 3-point range this season.

*Dennis Schroder at Nets, Sunday: The Hawks are fourth in the league in steals per game and face a team that allow an association-worst 9.6 swipes per night. Schroder has averaged 2.5 steals in two previous games against Brooklyn while also scoring 19.5 points per contest.

Best One-on-One Matchups This Week

*Curry vs. Harden (Warriors at Rockets, Tuesday, Rockets at Warriors, Friday): Oh, this is nothing more than your usual two-part romp involving the winner of the past two MVPs and the favorite to claim the honors this season. Curry has averaged 25.1 points, 5.1 and 7.4 assists this month entering Saturday’s play. However, he has been overshadowed by the likes of Harden’s 33.6-7.6-11.3 March line (while also shooting nearly 50 percent from the field). If there is such as a deity of hoops, they’d assure us seven games between these two in the playoffs.

*John Wall vs. Paul (Wizards at Clippers, Wednesday): This is one hell of an undercard behind the Curry-Harden saga. Wall has averaged 45.8 FP in his last five games prior to Saturday, even with a reduction in his usage rate. Paul’s 38 FPPG in the same span isn’t slouchy at all, yet his numbers have dipped due in part to the steady play of Griffin and Jordan.

*Harden vs. Damian Lillard (Rockets at Trail Blazers, Thursday): This is going to be a fun week if you’re a Harden owner. Not like the others aren’t, but the potential of three games filled with full-frontal offensive fireworks in the midst of the Fantasy playoffs smells of championship game appearance if you’ve driven Harden this far. He’s averaging 72.2 FPPG in his last five contests entering Sunday’s main event caliber tilt against Westbrook and the Thunder. Keep in mind that Lillard has brought it over the past five games as well, racking up 52.2 Fantasy points per night.

TEAMS PLAYING FOUR GAMES:

Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Pelicans, Knicks, Thunder, Magic, 76ers, Suns, Kings, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards

TEAMS PLAYING THREE GAMES:

Celtics, Bulls, Nuggets, Clippers, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers

 

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