Hello and welcome back to the Week Ahead! Every Saturday I’m going to be right here breaking down the weekly schedule and the latest injury report, and I’ll also include some hot pickups for your fantasy team. The fantasy playoffs end this weekend for the vast majority of owners, but for those of you who are still going, hopefully this article will be useful. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter by clicking here!
Week 24 Schedule: Games Played
5 Games: MIN
4 Games: CLE, DAL, DEN, MEM, NYK, OKC, POR, SAS, TOR
3 Games: ATL, BKN, BOS, CHA, CHI, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAL, MIA, MIL, NOR, ORL, PHI, PHX, SAC, UTA, WAS
2 Games: LAC
With five games on the schedule for the Wolves, the owners of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio and Gorgui Dieng should be sitting pretty. Kris Dunn also looks like an intriguing pickup.
Top Pickups of the Week:
Kris Dunn- What’s not to love? While the five games are obviously awesome, Dunn’s minutes are way up because the Wolves are using more two-PG lineups. They tried to do that earlier in the season but it didn’t work out because there was no floor spacing, but Ricky Rubio’s recent improvement from 3-point range may have solved that. “You just play a lot quicker,” Dunn said of the two-point-guard look. “It’s a lot more decision-making. Everybody can make plays for others. We’re a lot faster, we can get out in transition, and on the defensive end we can fly around a little bit. I’m not saying gambling [on defense], but there might be a little bit of that.”
Dunn is averaging 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.8 steals, 1.0 blocks and 0.6 3-pointers in 28.8 minutes per game over his last five outings, and coach Tom Thibodeau hinted pretty strongly that the Wolves will continue to deploy more two-PG lineups. “I like having the second point guard on the floor,” Thibodeau said. “I like the way Kris is playing with Ricky, and I like the way Kris is playing with Tyus [Jones]. It gives you a second pick-and-roll player.” (h/t Pioneer Press)
Justin Anderson- Robert Covington’s owners just lost a player that has been a top-12 asset for the past couple months, so Anderson has some big shoes to fill. The good news is that he’s absolutely loaded with upside and he shares a lot of similarities with RoCo for his ability to rack up triples, steals and blocks. He’s coming off a big game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one block and two triples vs. the Cavaliers, and the fact that the 76ers trusted him against LeBron James speaks volumes. With career per-36 minute averages of 14.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.5 3-pointers, it’s not easy to find a player with his kind of upside this late in the season.
Meyers Leonard- With Jusuf Nurkic (leg) joining Ed Davis (shoulder) and Festus Ezeli (knee) on the shelf, that means Meyers Leonard is the last man standing at center. Sure he’s been a bust for the last two seasons, but he may not get another opportunity like this for a long time because of how good Nurkic has looked on his new team. According to my colleague Mike Gallagher, here are the non-Nurkic center minutes since Ed Davis went down on Feb. 26:
Noah Vonleh: 93
Al-Farouq Aminu: 8
It’s obvious that Leonard is looking at a huge workload the rest of the way and it’s worth noting that the Blazers are one of just 10 teams with at least four games next week. He’s a career 37.9 percent shooter from deep and he’s hitting 86.1 percent of his free throws this season, but don’t expect him to rack up a lot of defensive stats. He has per-36 minute averages of 12.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 blocks and 2.2 3-pointers, and a workload of 28+ minutes is very realistic.
On the Radar:
Taurean Prince- I would like him better if the Hawks had more than three games, but if you find yourself needing steals, blocks and 3-pointers during your matchup, Prince should be on your radar. The Hawks play on Thursday, Friday and Sunday next week, so you can wait a few days before looking his way. His minutes haven gone way up recently, but with Kent Bazemore back in the lineup and Thabo Sefolosha’s status up in the air, It’s tough to project what his workload will look like.
He’s averaging 11.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 triples in his last 10 games, but even if he slows down moving forward, Prince has become one of my favorite sleepers for next year’s fantasy drafts — he could be the starting small forward with Sefolosha hitting free agency.
Jamal Murray- Jameer Nelson suffered a right calf strain on Friday and didn’t return to the game, so Murray is the next man up in Denver. Like most rookies, Murray has struggled with consistency, shooting just 39.8 percent from the field on the season. He’s also averaging just 1.8 assists and 0.6 steals with 1.3 turnovers per game. However, if Nelson were to miss time, Murray could realistically play 36 minutes when you also factor in Will Barton’s injury. He’s not a league winner by any means, but if you find yourself in need of 3-pointers, Murray could be a nice option with four games on the schedule.
Larry Nance- Ivica Zubac’s season is over due to an ankle injury, meaning Nance, Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson will have to pick up the slack in his absence. Nance is going to move into the starting lineup and will likely close a lot of games next to Julius Randle. He has the highest upside out of all three players with per-36 minute averages of 11.0 points, 8.8. rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks, and he’s also shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 72.1 percent from the line. The Lakers play on Saturday vs. the Clippers, so we’ll have a better idea of what their rotation will look like sans Zubac soon enough.
Injury Report: Accurate as of Apr. 1 at 2:00 ET
Thabo Sefolosha (groin) has been ruled out of Saturday's game vs. the Bulls, his fourth game in a row on the shelf. As previously mentioned, Taurean Prince is the big winner every time Sefolosha misses a game.
Paul Millsap (left knee) participated in about 70 percent of practice on Friday in Chicago, but will not play vs. the Bulls on Saturday. He’s missed eight games in a row and needed a non-surgical procedure earlier this week after he was diagnosed with left knee synovitis. He hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday’s game vs. the Nets yet, but with the Hawks off for three straight days after that one, there’s a good chance he makes his return on Apr. 6 vs. the Celtics. Ersan Ilyasova is worth deploying until Millsap returns to the lineup.
Avery Bradley (illness) will not travel with the team to New York and has been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Knicks. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens called Bradley’s issue a "recurrence" of a stomach bug, but he will have a few days to rest up for Wednesday’s massive showdown with the Cavaliers — the Celtics have a 0.5 game advantage over Cleveland for the top seed in the East. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will both see a bump in minutes on Sunday, but both players are shaky options next week if Bradley is good to go.
Amir Johnson (ankle) said he'd be "fine," but his status for Sunday’s game vs. the Knicks is up in the air. Johnson has a long history with ankle issues, and considering Boston’s opponent is tanking, at least one rest day seems likely. If you need to stream someone this Sunday, Kelly Olynyk is intriguing.
Dwyane Wade (elbow) has been shooting and going through non-contact drills with the hope of returning if the Bulls make the postseason. Chicago is only 0.5 games behind the No. 7 seed (Heat) and No. 8 seed (Pacers), so expect the Bulls to ramp up Wade’s activity in the coming weeks.
Kyle Korver (foot) went through a workout on Friday and is hopeful to return on Sunday vs. the Pacers. This is the second time this season that his foot has flared up on him, and with the postseason looming, Korver is probably closer to doubtful.
Seth Curry re-injured his left shoulder on Friday and he has already been ruled out for Sunday's game vs. the Bucks. The Mavs have basically given up on the season at this point because they are going to rest their veterans during an upcoming back-to-back set, so expect them to be cautious with Curry. If you need a low-end point guard, Yogi Ferrell should get a lot of burn this week. In 22 starts this season, Ferrell has posted averages of 11.7 points, 4.6 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.7 triples.
Jameer Nelson (calf) said he hopes he will be able to play Sunday vs. Miami, but we won’t know his status until Sunday’s morning shootaround. Jamal Murray will see a heavy workload if Nelson can’t go.
Will Barton (foot soreness) sat out of Friday’s game vs. the Hornets and his status for Sunday’s game is up in the air. The Nuggets moved Kenneth Faried into the starting five which pushed Wilson Chandler to the bench on Friday, so we should see more of the same on Sunday if Barton sits again.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said he hasn’t decided if Reggie Jackson (knee) will play again this season. Ish Smith is worth owning, but keep in mind that the Pistons are off until Wednesday.
Kevin Durant (knee) will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, his “window” to return is for the final three home games from Apr. 8 to Apr. 12.
The Rockets are hopeful that Ryan Anderson (ankle) will return before the end of the regular season, but based on his timetable, he’s expected to miss at least another week of action.
Austin Rivers (hamstring) is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season, but with only two games on the schedule next week, Jamal Crawford isn’t worth picking up.
Ivica Zubac suffered a high ankle sprain and he will be out for the remainder of the season. As mentioned earlier, Larry Nance is the best speculative pickup, but Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson should benefit as well.
Marc Gasol (left foot strain) has missed four games in a row and the Grizzlies haven’t given us any indication on when he will return. Zach Randolph and Brandan Wright have both seen a bump in value in Gasol’s absence, but Wright isn't capable of playing more than 25 minutes.
Malcolm Brogdon (back soreness) did not play on Friday and his status for Sunday’s game vs. Dallas is not known. He missed two games earlier this month due to back issues, so it sounds like he aggravated a previous issue. Matthew Dellavedova will keep starting if Brogdon misses more time, but he’s not a great pickup.
Carmelo Anthony (sore lower back) and Derrick Rose (knee) are on shut-down watch and should see plenty of DNPs with the Knicks in tank mode. Don’t believe me? They gave Sasha Vujacic 36 minutes on Friday…
Robert Covington (right knee) will miss the rest of the season after an MRI revealed a slight tear of lateral meniscus, while Jahlil Okafor has been shut down for the season due to right knee soreness. Justin Anderson is the player you want to pick up in Covington’s absence, while Richaun Holmes should already be owned. Holmes should be a monster the rest of the way.
Jusuf Nurkic has a non-displaced right leg fibular fracture and he will be sidelined for at least two weeks. He’s hopeful to return to play in the postseason, but that doesn’t help fantasy owners. Meyers Leonard is the clear pickup here. I'll miss you, Nurk Alert.
George Hill (groin) has missed two games in a row and is considered day-to-day, but he’s now on my “never again” list. Shelvin Mack is a DFS option while Hill is out.