Key returns on the horizon in Week 22
Week 22 stands to be a big week in fantasy basketball. Head-to-head leagues are in the thick of their postseasons, and this is also the stretch run for roto formats. With half of the league's teams playing four games in Week 22, there will be a lot of options available to fantasy managers. And that includes some key stars possibly returning to action after missing time due either to injury or suspension. Let's take a look ahead at Week 22, which kicks off with a six-game slate on Monday.
Week 22 Schedule: Games Played
4 Games: ATL, BKN, CHA, CHI, DAL, GSW, HOU, IND, MEM, OKC, PHI, SAC, SAS, UTA, WAS
3 Games: BOS, CLE, LAC, LAL, MIL, MIN, NOP, NYK, ORL, PHO, POR, TOR
2 Games: DEN, DET, MIA
Top Storylines of Week 22
-- The return of the Time Lord
Celtics center Robert Williams has been out since March 3 with a hamstring injury, but a return to action could be on the horizon. Joe Mazzulla said before Saturday's loss to the Jazz that the Time Lord could be back for Tuesday's game against the Kings in Sacramento, which is also the final game of the Celtics' road trip. Boston plays three games in Week 22 without a back-to-back, so it's possible Williams will be available for all three. Of course, fantasy managers will have to play for the likelihood of a minutes cap, and the absence of back-to-backs doesn't guarantee that there won't be an injury management day thrown in at some point.
The last time Williams returned after a lengthy absence was when he made his season debut in mid-December after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Boston brought him off the bench for his first nine appearances, playing no more than 22 minutes in any of them. The Celtics will be more worried about the long game here, doing all they can to make sure Williams is at his physical peak when the playoffs begin. Does that mean he'll be kept at 25 minutes or less? Even if the answer to that question is "yes," that's more than enough time for the Time Lord to provide quality fantasy value. Also of note for the Celtics, Payton Pritchard (heel) rejoined the team ahead of Saturday's game. While he's without a timeline for return, the guard appears to be getting closer.
-- How many games will managers get out of Grizzlies' Morant?
Saturday's win over the Warriors was the last of Ja Morant's eight-game suspension, meaning he'll be eligible to return on Monday. However, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said last week that the All-Star point guard is unlikely to play against the Mavericks, as there's still the ramping-up process to go through. That would leave three games on the table for the remainder of Week 22 at the most for Morant. Obviously, this keeps Tyus Jones in the starting point guard role. Still, Morant's absence has also meant more scoring opportunities for Jaren Jackson Jr. How will his production (22.0 points per game over the last eight) be impacted by Morant's return? JJJ is still going to provide rebounds, 3-pointers, and elite defensive production, so there isn't much to be concerned about here.
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-- Timberwolves could be without their All-Star guard
Anthony Edwards badly sprained his right ankle during Friday's double-overtime loss in Chicago, which led to him being sidelined for Saturday's loss to the Raptors. He's without a timeline for return heading into Minnesota's three-game Week 22, but it was reported on Sunday that Edwards was moving around without a protective boot on his foot. Two of Minnesota's three games will be played in the first three days of Week 22, as they visit the Knicks on Monday and then host the Hawks two nights later. But the final game of the week isn't until Sunday, as the Timberwolves play the first game of a road back-to-back against the Warriors (at Sacramento on March 27).
Edwards will be evaluated daily, but there could be a chance of him playing at some point in Week 22. One game wouldn't be enough to justify slotting him into weekly lineups, however. Taurean Prince started Saturday's game but didn't do much offensively, but Edwards' absence could be another way in which Naz Reid provided greater value. The Timberwolves have been lacking bench scorers, and losing their top offensive weapon brings that into greater focus. Reid only needed 20 minutes to score 22 points on Saturday. Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be someone else to watch, as Austin Rivers has been limited recently by back spasms.
-- Time to drop fringe Pistons, Heat, and Nuggets players
Denver, Detroit, and Miami are the three teams that will only play twice in Week 22, meaning it's time to free up some roster space. While there may be a desire to hold onto a player like Jalen Duren, the same can't be said for Rodney McGruder, despite him being a top-30 player over the last week. In Miami, there isn't anyone worth holding onto other than Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro. Kyle Lowry is a tricky case in that he's been coming off the bench since returning from knee soreness and was held out of Saturday's loss to the Bulls. He was available for Miami's game in Detroit the following night. In Denver, Bruce Brown could be on the "chopping block" in shallow leagues, but holding onto him wouldn't be the worst decision, either.
-- How much will Bulls' Caruso be able to play?
Speaking of Saturday's game between Miami and Chicago, Alex Caruso had to exit early after aggravating a left mid-foot sprain that has been an issue for a little while now. Following the win, Bulls coach Billy Donovan said that the foot issue is something Caruso will have to manage for the remainder of the season. He should be considered day-to-day moving forward. Chicago plays four games without a back-to-back in Week 22. How many games will Caruso play? Patrick Williams started the third quarter of Saturday's game, while Coby White had his best game since before the All-Star break, scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Those two would be in line for increased opportunities should Caruso's foot injury become too much of an issue for him to play through.
-- Will fantasy managers be able to count on Cavaliers' Allen?
Jarrett Allen has missed Cleveland's last four games with a right eye injury, and the Cavaliers are heading into a three-game Week 22 slate that begins Tuesday in Brooklyn. Lamar Stevens started each of the four games Allen missed, averaging 8.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.0 3-pointers in 22.2 minutes, while Cedi Osman has been the more effective option despite coming off the bench. Also impacted by Allen's absence has been Evan Mobley, who's moved into the starting center role. His offensive output has increased, but the second-year big man isn't spending as much time on the perimeter as he does when Allen is available (obviously).
-- LeBron, Haliburton, Zion, and Sexton are all due to be re-evaluated
Last but not least, in Week 22 are some key injury updates. LeBron James, Tyrese Haliburton, Zion Williamson, and Collin Sexton are all due to having their statuses updated at some point during the week, and where their respective teams sit in the standings could have an impact on the decisions made. In the case of Sexton, his absence has opened things up for Talen Horton-Tucker and Kris Dunn, with the former moving into the starting lineup. Haliburton's absence has increased the value of T.J. McConnell, Andrew Nembhard, and Jordan Nwora, while Troy Brown Jr. hasn't done much as a spot starter with the Lakers. Austin Reaves has been a better fantasy option than TBJ with LeBron sidelined. Williamson's continued absence has protected Trey Murphy's fantasy value to the point where he'll have to figure prominently in the Pelicans' rotation even if Zion is cleared to play.
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Light Game Days
Thursday: 4 Games
NYK vs. ORL
CLE vs. BKN
CHA vs. NOP
OKC vs. LAC
Tuesday-Wednesday: ATL, SAS, WAS
Thursday-Friday: CHA, OKC
Friday-Saturday: IND, MIL, PHI, PHO, SAC, UTA
Saturday-Sunday: ATL, BKN