It's playoff time (in default leagues)
Twenty weeks of fantasy basketball have led us to this point: the start of the playoffs in Yahoo default leagues. Managers shouldn't lack options in Week 21, as only three teams are looking at two-game slates. While the play-in tournament has ensured that some teams who would have shut things down in the past will continue to compete, the "silly season" moniker exists for a reason. Detroit, Houston, San Antonio, and Charlotte are well off the pace in their respective conferences, and things aren't looking good for Orlando, either. Let's take a look ahead at Week 21 and some of the key storylines.
Week 21 Schedule: Games Played
4 Games: BOS, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, ORL, PHO, SAC, SAS, TOR
3 Games: ATL, BKN, CHI, CLE, DAL, IND, LAC, NOP, OKC, PHI, POR, WAS
2 Games: CHA, NYK, UTA
Top Storylines of Week 21
-- Are any fringe Hornets, Knicks, or Jazz players worth holding onto?
Charlotte, New York, and Utah are the only three teams that will play two games in Week 21, which will for some interesting decisions from a fantasy standpoint. Nick Richards (26% rostered) and Talen Horton-Tucker (35%) are two players rostered in less than 40% of Yahoo leagues, but injuries have thrust both into positions of greater importance. Is either worth holding onto despite the lack of games, or are both automatic "drops" before the game week begins?
Richards' fantasy prospects hinge upon the availability of rookie Mark Williams, who is dealing with a thumb injury that kept him out of Saturday's loss to the Jazz. As for Horton-Tucker, the hamstring injury suffered by Collin Sexton before the All-Star break pushed him into the starting lineup. Sexton is due to be re-evaluated on Monday, with Utah visiting the Heat that night. And with Utah's final game of the week not until Saturday vs. Boston, managers may be in a spot where it makes more sense to find alternatives to THT than hold onto him. For the Knicks, Immanuel Quickley is a player fantasy managers should hold onto, even if Jalen Brunson (foot) is able to return during Week 21.
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-- Wiggins' unknown return date keeps DiVincenzo alive as a fantasy option
Due to personal reasons, the Warriors have been without Andrew Wiggins for the last 11 games, including Saturday's overtime win over Milwaukee. And with Steve Kerr saying before the game that he "hoped" Wiggins would be back with the team before the end of the regular season, there is no concrete timeline for a return. This unfortunate situation means that Donte DiVincenzo, who's rostered in 39% of Yahoo leagues, will remain a key player for the Warriors.
He finished Saturday's win with a line of 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals, one blocked shot, and six 3-pointers. In addition to being more impactful defensively than Jordan Poole, DiVincenzo has also been a more efficient offensive player, hence his remaining in the starting lineup. With the Warriors playing four games in Week 21, this would be a good time to add DiVincenzo if he's available.
-- How many games will managers get out of Clippers' Leonard, George?
At first glance, the Clippers' three-game week would be adequate for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. However, included in that is a Saturday/Sunday back-to-back against the Magic (home) and Trail Blazers (road). George should be fine, as he played both ends of the Clippers' most recent back-to-back (March 2-3), and he hasn't missed a game since January 29. But what about Leonard? He's yet to play both ends of a back-to-back this season, so there's a good chance we're looking at a two-game week for him, even with the Clippers locked in a tight battle to avoid the play-in tournament.
Norman Powell (shoulder) remains sidelined, but he was able to play some 1-on-1 with a member of the coaching staff before Saturday's win over the Knicks. Eric Gordon, who played both ends of the Clippers' last back-to-back, and Terance Mann are two players who could be of increased value if Leonard were to be rested for either of the team's last two games of Week 21.
-- Suns' Okogie and Ross are worth a look ahead of the 4-game week
Phoenix may not get Kevin Durant (ankle) back before the end of the regular season, and even if they do, it may be too late for him to impact fantasy playoffs. So, we're back to where we were before Durant was cleared to make his Suns debut, with Josh Okogie and Torrey Craig both in the starting lineup. Okogie has been a starter since February 10, and over the last month, he's provided 9th-round value in 9-cat formats. That's been good enough to keep him rostered in 25% of Yahoo leagues. As for Craig, his fantasy value slipped even before Durant was cleared to return from the sprained MCL.
Could a return to the starting lineup give him a needed boost? If his play in Saturday's loss to the Kings is any indication, the answer is an emphatic "no." Shooting 1-of-5 from the field, Craig finished with four points, seven rebounds, one assist, and two steals in 28 minutes. A better option, for both Week 21 and the weeks after, is Terrence Ross. He scored 18 points on Saturday, making four 3-pointers, and is ranked just outside the top 100 in 9-cat value over the last two weeks. And Ross is only rostered in 7% of Yahoo leagues, one point higher than Craig. With Phoenix going 4-3-4-4 over the last four weeks of the regular season, he could have some value in deeper leagues.
-- How will Lowry's return impact the Heat moving forward?
Heat point guard Kyle Lowry made his return to game action on Saturday in an overtime loss to the Magic. While Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the team that the team would monitor Lowry's workload, he wasn't on a specific minutes restriction and ultimately played 36 minutes (which wasn't the plan). Will Lowry, who came off the bench Saturday, return to the starting lineup for Monday's game against the Jazz, or will Gabe Vincent retain that role? And does it even matter?
Vincent's numbers as a starter have been better than when he was brought off the bench this season, but the production hasn't been there recently. He's rostered in 6% of Yahoo leagues, but how that percentage shifts will depend on the role Lowry is asked to play. Before his knee issue, Lowry was an effective fantasy option, hence his still being a top-100 player in 9-cat formats. Can he reach those levels coming off the bench if need be? Miami plays four games in Week 21 with a back-to-back (Saturday/Sunday in Chicago and Detroit), and this may "protect" Vincent to an extent. But, as noted above, the fantasy production hasn't been there over the last month or so.
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-- Making sense of the Pistons and Spurs rotations in "silly season"
While the Spurs have gotten healthier over the last week, the same can't be said for the Pistons. Detroit's injury report is loaded with names, with the most recent malady being Marvin Bagley's sore right ankle. Dwane Casey's team will play four games in Week 21, beginning with a Monday/Tuesday back-to-back against the Pacers (home) and Wizards (road). In addition to Bagley, there's Jaden Ivey (protocols), while Hamidou Diallo (ankle) is done for the season, and that could also be the case for Isaiah Stewart (hip). Bojan Bogdanović (Achilles) and Alec Burks (foot) are also out, and given the team's record, there's no incentive to rush back veterans who really don't need to be evaluated on the court.
James Wiseman, Jalen Duren, Killian Hayes, and Isaiah Livers are among those who stand to play more down the stretch, provided they remain healthy themselves. San Antonio's situation is interesting in that there could be some injury management opportunities baked into the upcoming schedule. The Spurs will play four games in weeks 21 and 22, but there's a back-to-back in each. Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, and Jeremy Sochan are among those who have missed time recently due to injury, and like the Pistons, they're playing more for development and draft lottery odds reasons than competing for a play-in tournament spot.
Light Game Days
Thursday: 5 Games
DEN vs. DET
SAC vs. BKN
OKC vs. TOR
IND vs. MIL
ORL vs. PHO
Week 21 Back-to-backs
Monday-Tuesday: DET, MIL, PHO
Tuesday-Wednesday: CLE, LAL
Friday-Saturday: BOS, CHI, GSW, MEM, MIN, PHI, WAS
Saturday-Sunday: DEN, LAC, MIA, ORL, TOR