Fantasy Basketball schedule preview for title week

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4660/" data-ylk="slk:Patty Mills">Patty Mills</a> could be a solid contributor with San Antonio likely to rest players down the stretch. (AP)
Patty Mills could be a solid contributor with San Antonio likely to rest players down the stretch. (AP)

Fantasy fringe players of interest in Week 23 (April 3 through April 12)

By Alex Rikleen
Special to Yahoo Sports

Patty Mills, SA, PG (6 games, 32 percent owned): As I describe in more detail below, the Spurs seem likely to rest several of their starters down the stretch, including point guard Tony Parker. When Parker missed four games earlier in March, Mills stepped in and produced 13.5 points, 4.8 assists, 3.0 threes, and 1.0 steals in 29.3 minutes per game. Though his numbers predictably fell, Mills remained productive even after Parker returned, maintaining 9.1 points, 4.4 assists, 1.9 threes, and 0.9 steals in 21.6 minutes. Between the extra games and the probability that Parker misses a game (or many), Mills could easily reach 135 minutes in Week 23, the equivalent of averaging 27.0 per game over five games.

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Yogi Ferrell, Dal, PG (six games, 22 percent owned): The Mavericks are on the brink of playoff elimination – 5.5 games out of the last spot, with three teams ahead of them, and only eight games remaining. Elimination is good for the fantasy prospects of Ferrell and Seth Curry, as it will encourage the Mavericks to give them more court time, over the aging Devin Harris and JJ Barea. Not only are the Mavericks one of just six teams to play six games in Week 23, but they also face a lot of bad defenses. The Kings, Clippers, Suns, Nuggets, and Grizzlies have all spent lengthy stints ranked among the bottom third in per-possession defense, even if some of them have elevated into “average” territory over their past 10 games. Ferrell has scored in double-digits in three straight, ending a mid-month scoring slump that sent him back to waiver wires in many leagues.

JR Smith, Cle, SG/SF (6 games, 44 percent owned): Richard Jefferson (knee), Kyle Korver (foot), and Iman Shumpert (knee) are all struggling with injuries. Their poor health will force the Cavaliers to rely heavily on Smith. Smith hasn’t looked great since returning from his own thumb injury, but the Cavaliers play six games, and he should see tons of minutes.

Tarik Black, LAL, PF/C (5 games, 4 percent owned): Ivica Zubac (ankle) is out for the rest of the season after spraining his ankle early Thursday. This opens up the starting center job for the Lakers. Black is the logical replacement, and he did well after Zubac went down, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Black is a very good rebounder, a good shot-blocker, and a good-enough scorer. Assuming he takes the starting job, he will be worth adding in medium and deep leagues.

Down and Out: Players to avoid in Week 23

Carmelo Anthony, NY, SF/PF (5 games): Anthony missed two games last week due to “knee soreness”, and is questionable for Friday with an unspecified back issue. Before the two vague injuries, the Knicks announced that they would be limiting Anthony’s minutes for the remainder of the season – but he has still averaged 33.3 minutes when active since that statement. It seems as if they are using games off as the method of minutes limitation, and it seems unlikely that Anthony will play in all of the team’s last five games. In daily lineup leagues, Mindaugus Kuzminskas is worth starting whenever Anthony sits, but in weekly leagues, it’s hard to trust either with the championship on the line.

LaMarcus Aldridge, SA, PF/C (6 games): I’m picking on Aldridge here, but a similar argument applies to Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and even Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs are one win away from clinching at least the two seed. They are 3.5 back of first with eight to play, and the Warriors have a favorable remaining schedule, so the Spurs are essentially locked in as the two seed.

The Spurs also locked into the two-spot early last season, and Aldridge rested two of the last four games, and three of the final 10 (Parker sat two of the final four, and four of the last 10; Leonard sat two of the final four, and five of the last 11; Ginobili sat three of the last four and five of the last 10; Gasol was still a Bull). The Spurs have two back-to-back sets next week, and managers should probably assume that Aldridge (and Gasol, Parker, and Ginobili) will miss at least one, if not two, of those four games.

Alan Williams, Pho, PF/C (4 games): Williams entered March like a lion, springing onto the fantasy scene with five straight double-doubles to start the month. But he is ending the month with a whimper (I guess technically lambs bleat), averaging only 6.8 points and 9.4 rebounds in 20.0 minutes over his last five. On top of that, the Suns are one of only two teams to play just four games in the last “week” of the fantasy season. Two of the matchups are against the Warriors and Thunder, two of the best rebounding teams in the league, and two are against the Mavericks and Kings, who are two of the worst.

Note: The Clippers play only four games in Week 23 and some tough opponents. They are in a tight battle for seeding, so they seem unlikely to rest their stars, and the rest of their roster is not on the fantasy radar for most settings.

Notable Injuries

Ivica Zubac, LAL, C (5 games – ankle): Zubac is out for the season after suffering an ankle sprain Thursday. He has some value in keeper leagues, but should be dropped instantly in redraft formats. Tarik Black is the player most likely to see a big boost, but Larry Nance could also see a big jump in value. Thomas Robinson is, technically, a third possibility, but that would be a very surprising development.

Kevin Durant, GS, SF/PF (5 games – knee): Durant has been seen participating in non-contact drills and increasing his level of activity, but it is still not clear whether he will return for the end of the regular season. He is set for his next re-evaluation between April 5-8, at which point more information will be made public. In leagues with weekly lineups, he should be ignored and dropped or left on waivers. For daily lineups settings, he may end up playing a few games at the very end of the season.

Ownership and stats accurate as of Friday morning.

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