You didn’t get this far with the intent of being known as the first overall loser in your league, so let’s make damned well sure that title isn’t added on your Fantasy resume. As usual, Fantasy Basketball Championship Week is filled with enough twists and turns to fill an episode of Homeland, so consider these things in mind when filling out your lineups.
If your league is allowing daily transactions, add Trail Blazers big man Noah Vonleh. With Jusuf Nurkic (fractured fibula of the non-displaced variety) likely out the remainder of the season, Vonleh staked his claim for Nurkic’s minutes with 12 points and 13 rebounds in Saturday’s win over the Suns. The game also marked the second time in five Vonleh pulled down double-digit rebounds, and with Portland having four games this week, he could be a great stealth-like play when it comes to finding rebounds. Per 36 minutes, Vonleh averages 11.1 boards and also can supply a three-pointer or two as well.
While he has been a source of disappointment in his brief career, keep in mind Vonleh is only 21. This isn’t the big break he needs, but Vonleh has a chance to make us remember he was once the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Ask Nikola Jokic what it’s like to see that potential up close and personal.
More Sweet Lou, Please
James Harden missed Sunday’s game at the Suns with flu-like symptoms and with the Rockets entrenched into the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs, Lou Williams’ value should see a sharp increase. While the Rockets aren’t truly open to the prospects of giving Harden time off the rest of the way, the hunch here is that’s going to happen.
Entering Sunday night, Williams averaged 25.6 Fantasy points in his last five and had seen his usage rate drop from 29.3 to 23.9 in the same span. As his 44.8 FP explosion versus the Thunder on March 26 displayed, Williams can instantly dial it up. The Rockets have three very Fantasy-friendly matchups (home against the Nuggets and Pistons and a roadie to the Kings) this week, and while Williams belongs in your lineup at all times, you really have to love his potential if he’s in the starting lineup.
The Timberwolves have five games this week. No one has to tell you to play Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, yet owners of Gorgui Dieng will benefit from his recent run of stat-stuffing in the box score.
Dieng has averaged 36.6 FP per game in his last five, putting up 13.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.2 blocks a night. He put up 46.3 FP on the Lakers last Thursday and is enhancing those numbers with a surprising 57 percent accuracy from beyond the arc. Dieng’s usage rate of 14.2 over the past five makes his numbers more impressive considering he is no better than the third option on the floor most times. Yet the bang for the buck makes Dieng a possible difference maker for his owners seeking title glory.
Big Willie Style
Willie Cauley-Stein is having a strong close to the season, averaging 30 FP in his last five for a Kings team still grasping in the dark when it comes to reliable Fantasy options. Cauley-Stein had consecutive double-doubles on Friday and Saturday and is pulling down 11 boards per in his last five. His 52.6 percent field goal percentage is still a tad below average for someone who does most of his offensive work at close range, but Cauley-Stein is continuing to improve his overall game, so we’ll cut him some slack here.
The Kings will likely add a player or two this offseason to improve their sluggish offense, but I like Cauley-Stein to be emerge as a solid performer capable of 12 points, 10 rebounds and a block or two per night. It’s not Nikola Jokic or Towns level, but WC-S is a name to watch next October.
…and so it ends….
We’ll take next week to look back at the season, with the April 17 edition looking ahead to 2017-18 before calling it a season. This is extended spring training for me, as we are currently in the process of figuring out how to best use my position eligibility for Fantasy Baseball coverage. It’s been a blast, but the time is coming for me to trade in my basketball shoes for spikes. I’ll still wear the headband, though.
Most Fantasy Friendly Games This Week:
*Nuggets at Rockets, Wednesday: Jokic is averaging 46.2 FP in his last five, but with their playoff hopes beginning to slip away like Quint from Chief Brody before becoming a mid-afternoon snack, this is a game where the Nuggets could see a return to the explosive attack they displayed until a three-game losing streak prior to Sunday’s game at the Heat. That means some combination of Wil Barton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Gary Harris must get back to form. While we’ve touched on Harden and Williams earlier, the Rockets should have Trevor Ariza back into the lineup after he missed Sunday’s game due to a death in the family. Clint Capela remains a strong option for rebounds and a strong shooting percentage.
*Warriors at Suns, Wednesday: Please, Steve Kerr. Don’t make me regret choosing this game. If Kerr lets everyone play, this should be a treasure trove of production for Steph Curry, who has averaged 29.7 points in three previous games against Phoenix this season. Devin Booker is averaging 58.5 FP in his last five and T.J. Warren is putting in 39.3 FP in the same span. I love Tyler Ulis at the point, but it will remain to be seen whether his late season run carries over into 2017-18.
*Timberwolves at Lakers, Sunday: Because we need something besides my birthday to highlight Sunday. Minnesota entered the week having lost seven of their last 10, yet have Towns and Ricky Rubio averaging at least 45 FP per game in their last five while the aforementioned Dieng and Wiggins are putting up 36.6 and 37 FP in the same span. Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell are a solid backcourt throwing up top-end production while Julius Randle has become a steady source of at least 30 FP on a nightly basis.
Best Matchups to Exploit:
*Curry/Thompson vs. Suns, Wednesday: The league’s highest scoring team facing the league’s worst in points allowed doesn’t need much explanation. Curry and Thompson could team up for 70 points if both get going early.
*DeAndre Jordan vs. Mavericks, Wednesday: Dallas is the only team in the league that doesn’t average at least 40 total rebounds per night. Only Hassan Whiteside has averaged more boards per game (14.5) over the last 10 games than Jordan’s 14.3. Mavs center Nerlens Noel is going to school.
*Westbrook vs. Suns, Friday: No team has felt the wrath of Westbrook’s record-setting season than Phoenix, who has been crucified to the tune of 41.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 13.7 assists in three meetings. During his spare time, Westbrook has also recorded 2.3 steals on the Suns.
Best One-on-One Matchups This Week:
*Jokic vs. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins (Nuggets at Pelicans, Tuesday, Pelicans at Nuggets, Friday): Jokic has been the only reliable Nuggets player in the past five and goes up against a duo that appears to have found their stride. Davis has averaged a beastly 61.2 FP in his last five, yet trails the equally devastating Cousins, who’s given his owners 62.3 FP in the same span. On paper, this looks like a handicap match, meaning Jokic needs a tag partner before taking on the NBA’s version of The Skyscrapers. Oh, if you think the big mean ass redhead resembles The Undertaker, it’s because it is.
*Kyrie Irving vs. Isaiah Thomas (Cavaliers at Celtics, Wednesday): The Cavs don’t intend on playing a potential game seven of the Eastern Conference finals in Boston, so expect Irving to be in the lineup. Irving is averaging just 33.8 FP in his last five, yet has put up 27.7 points and 6.3 assists in three previous meetings against the Celts this season. The King of the Fourth has brought his A-game versus the Cavaliers, averaging 30.7 points and 6.7 assists against Cleveland this year.
*Klay Thompson vs. Devin Booker (Warriors at Suns, Wednesday): Just roll out the ball and let both of them rain hell from above. Thompson is shooting 49.5 percent from three-point range in his last 10 games, while Booker is averaging a league-best 39.3 points per game in his last five. This should be a fun one to watch, Steve Kerr pending.
TEAMS PLAYING FIVE GAMES:
TEAMS PLAYING FOUR GAMES:
Cavaliers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Knicks, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Raptors, Spurs
TEAMS PLAYING THREE GAMES:
Hawks, Nets, Celtics, Hornets, Bulls, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Heat, Bucks, Pelicans, Magic, 76ers, Suns, Kings, Jazz, Wizards
TEAMS PLAYING TWO GAMES: