By Jeff Erickson, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
On its face, Week 17 appears to be a normal scheduling week. Nine teams play four games and only the Jazz are limited to two games. However, the NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3:00 pm ET, which will create a lot of playing time chaos.
We saw that just last week, between the Knicks and Mavericks after the Kristaps Porzingis trade. Players need time to report to their new location, and then work their way into the playing time rotation in many cases.
In other cases, as was with Carmelo Anthony and the Bulls, they never even report. We will almost certainly see a lot of that occurring before Thursday. Nonetheless, here’s the full game grid:
Four Games: ATL, IND, MIL, NOP, ORL, PHO, SAC, SAS, WAS
Three Games: BKN, BOS, CHA, CHI, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIN, NYK, OKC, PHI, POR, TOR
Two Games: UTA
Before we start speculating about potential trades, let’s look at the playing time results of those dealt in the Knicks-Mavs blockbuster. There was some speculation that the Knicks might just release new acquisitions DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews for cap relief, but that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, Jordan (and fellow former Maverick, Dennis Smith Jr.) started Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies, and Matthews was in the rotation, playing 13 minutes in the first half.
Now that doesn’t preclude the Knicks from still releasing the pair for future cap relief, and playing them now might better enable them to subsequently deal them again before Thursday’s deadline. But for now, Jordan’s arrival hurts Luke Kornet’s playing time, though Kornet is just coming back from an ankle injury and might have been limited anyhow.
If Jordan sticks around, you can safely drop Enes Kanter. Smith Jr. should get 30+ minutes every night, though it remains to be seen how they’ll handle him and Emmanuel Mudiay playing at the same time. Mudiay’s shoulder injury should probably keep him out again this week.
As for the Mavericks …
… Their new additions didn’t play, with the team holding off on giving physicals to Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke until Saturday. They’ve already said that Porzingis is unlikely to play this season, but Hardaway and Burke should get heavy minutes beginning Wednesday, with Hardaway a better bet to play regularly and even start than Burke. Devin Harris and Jalen Brunson could be hurt by both.
The big news in the NBA last week …
… was that Anthony Davis announced through his agent that he will not sign a contract extension with the Pelicans and wishes to be traded to a contender. The problem for us is that the Pelicans have him under contract through next season and thus don’t have to trade him now. They’re considering holding him out the rest of the season if they don’t trade him before Thursday, which is the nightmare scenario for his fantasy owners.
The Lakers are in the mix for Davis, purportedly offering the likes of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo and more. My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that a deal doesn’t happen before Thursday, if for no other reason than the Pelicans will want to bring in the Celtics to the auction for Davis.
At any rate, Pelicans and Lakers players are at risk of missing time this week due to trades. It doesn’t just end with Davis — others could be included in a deal for him, and other veterans, most notably Nikola Mirotic, could be targets in separate trades.
Another team subject to rampant trade speculation is Memphis, who have three games this week. The Grizzlies have collapsed spectacularly out of the Western Conference playoff race and sit at 20-33 heading into Sunday’s game against the Knicks.
It’s likely time to do a full reboot, which means trading Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Conley missed Saturday’s loss to the Hornets with a sore knee, but he’s back in action Sunday against the Knicks. They play next on Tuesday at home against the Timberwolves, which could be a farewell game for both. They then hit the road Thursday against the Thunder, a game that’s obviously at risk for them to miss.
At 33-19 and tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics have been a low-grade disappointment. Now there’s some speculation that Kyrie Irving is wavering on his commitment to remain with the Celtics after his contract runs out this season.
I haven’t seen too many credible trade rumors involving him, but (a) I’m nowhere near an insider and (b) many trades can materialize out of seemingly nothing. It’s worth noting that he might be in play, and if he does get dealt — pending what the return is — that likely means more playing time for Terry Rozier.
The Magic play four games this week …
… but those might be at risk for Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, with the Magic sitting at 22-31, three games out of the last playoff spot in the East. It remains uncertain whether the Magic consider themselves sellers in a conference where the barrier to make the playoffs is really low.
One player on the Magic likely to get the full benefit of their four games is second-year forward Jonathan Isaac, who has had back-to-back double-doubles and four consecutive games with 26+ Yahoo fantasy points. Any trade of Vucevic, Ross or even Aaron Gordon can only help with his usage. He’s averaging 28 minutes per game over his last 15 games, up from his season-long average of 25.7 minutes.
The Pacers have lost four of five …
… since Victor Oladipo’s devastating season-ending injury. Might they consider adding reinforcements for a playoff run? The East is winnable, though the Bucks and Raptors look pretty imposing and could run away in the second half, especially if they add players in their own right. If so, the playing time for Darren Collison, Cory Joseph and maybe even Bojan Bogdanovic could decline.
It’s less dangerous to play your top Utah players …
… amongst all this trade speculation, despite them having just two games this week — at least if you own Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert. Both are averaging over 40 Yahoo fantasy points per game over their last 15 games.
The Jazz have two home games this week, against Phoenix and San Antonio. The game against the Spurs isn’t as bad as it might have been in previous years. They allow 110.1 points per game; around the middle of the pack.
Malik Beasley has thrived for the Nuggets …
… while Jamal Murray has been out with an ankle injury, highlighted by Friday’s scoring burst against the Rockets. Murray’s absence remains indefinite, and coach Mike Malone has been steadfast that Murray won’t play until he “… can play effectively … .” The Nuggets have three games this week, putting Beasley and Monte Morris in play for another week.
Jerryd Bayless might have Wally Pipp’d …
… the injured Jeff Teague with his recent play at point guard for the Timberwolves. As with Jamal Murray, Teague is out indefinitely with an ankle injury, though Teague is less of an obstruction to Bayless in the first place.
The downside to Bayless is that he’s hardly some young up-and-comer. This is his 11th season in the league, and it took injuries to Teague, Tyus Jones and Derrick Rose for him to get his chance. But the 6’3” point guard out of Arizona is averaging 16.0 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 threes in his last five games.
The Bulls’ playing time picture could shift …
… quite a bit this week with the trade deadline, but both Bobby Portis and Wayne Selden have stepped into starting jobs recently — Portis ahead of Robin Lopez by merit, and Selden as a result of Chandler Hutchison’s toe injury.
Selden is a riskier play because his production has been more volatile, as has his playing time, and because he has dealt with back and knee injuries of his own lately.
Next week will feature the NBA All-Star break, where games will be scarce, and we’ll have plenty of reactions to completed trades. Meanwhile, hopefully you can navigate this tricky week successfully.