Tips to win a fantasy basketball championship in Week 23
The fantasy basketball playoffs are nearly over, so it's past time to start thinking about matchups and strategizing how to maximize your roster moves for a final championship run.
No matter when your playoffs started, I'll lay out the teams you'll want to avoid and exploit each week with player recommendations and some look-ahead planning if you're moving onto the next round.
I've been fading the teams with two games on the docket for the past three weeks. However, that's not the case for Week 23 because no teams play two games (18 teams play four games and 12 teams play three games).
Fantasy managers must be more strategic and opportunistic to fit streamers into their lineups on the lighter slates instead of the massive ones.
For a quick reminder of the landscape for Week 23, check out my fantasy playoffs cheatsheet: For the TLDR crowd, the table below is the quick and dirty schedule of Championship week, broken down by games played:
TEAMS TO AVOID
New York Knicks
The Knicks play four games on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, so you'll have to make some start/sit decisions for three days out of the week. Excluding Julius Randle or Jalen Brunson in this conversation, RJ Barrett is definitely a drop after Monday's game versus the Rockets.
Immanuel Quickley is the player giving me pause because while he's one of the leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year, he is not nearly as impactful for fantasy managers with Brunson back in the lineup (he finished Week 22 outside the top 250 in per-game value). Fantasy managers might also have to move on from Josh Hart, with the Knicks facing the Heat, Cavs and Wizards on larger slates to close out the week.
The Pacers are in a weird spot because while T.J. McConnell (39%) and Andrew Nembhard (24%) have been productive streaming options with Tyrese Haliburton out of the lineup, there isn't much room for them after Monday's contest against the Mavericks. They play the Bucks on Wednesday, the Thunder on Friday and the Cavs on Sunday. Keep an eye on the injury report, but if Haliburton returns over the weekend, neither are good streaming options next week with packed slates against unfavorable teams (Mavs, Bucks and Cavs). Bennedict Mathurin and Aaron Nesmith are two other players who likely won't carry much weight in Week 23 either.
I'm putting the Celtics on the avoid list primarily because they're the only team that doesn't play games after Friday night. So if you're rostering Celtics players, I'd save at least a couple of transactions for the end of the week to be able to pick up players for Saturday's two-game slate or look to exploit some injuries or load management scenarios ahead of Sunday's matchups.
Players like Al Horford, Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams should be on the chopping block ahead of Friday's contest if you cannot fit them into your lineups.
The counterpoint to this suggestion is that the Celtics are one of two teams that play on Tuesday and Thursday. So I'd hold all Celtics until after Thursday and then ditch the players you won't be using from Friday onward.
The Nuggets face the 76ers on Monday, the Pelicans on Thursday, the Suns on Friday and the Warriors on Sunday. Fringe-streamable fantasy players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (51%) and Bruce Brown (44%) will likely only be helpful for Monday and Thursday's games. The Nuggets are sitting comfortably atop the Western Conference, with a three-game edge in the loss column over the Memphis Grizzlies, so keep an eye out for potential rest days for players like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. (Nikola Jokić is a beast who rarely takes games off).
TEAMS TO EXPLOIT
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have the best schedule in the NBA in fantasy terms, playing on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They avoid all of the bigger slates, so if Trey Murphy III (71%) is available in shallow leagues, pick him up ahead of Monday.
For the deeper leagues, this makes fringe assets like Josh Richardson (16%), Naji Marshall (6%) and if you need steals, Larry Nance Jr. (12%), streamable options because just one transaction could yield four days' worth of production to help those counting stats in 9-cat leagues.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder play three games in four nights from Tuesday-Friday, but it's more about their opponents, as they'll face the Hornets, Pistons and Pacers, respectively. Luguentz Dort (55%) is a player who becomes a solid streaming option down the stretch because Shai Gilegous-Alexander could be rested in one of the two games on their Tuesday/Wednesday back-to-back. Also, Dort's been a top-90 player over the past two weeks. Give him a look if he's on waivers by Monday.
Looking to the back end of Week 23, the Mavs are the only team to play a Saturday/Sunday back-to-back. With Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving battling through their injuries, there could be an opportunity for players like Josh Green (14%) or Jaden Hardy (8%) to get additional minutes and production if one of those superstars sits for rest purposes.
The Pistons' inconsistent rotation and injury reports have been challenging to figure out over the past few weeks, but with four games (with three favorable opponents) and no back-to-backs, there are a few players who have the potential to go off — James Wiseman (59%) if he can stay out of foul trouble), Marvin Bagley III (40%) and Killian Hayes (50%).
They've been the most productive Pistons over the past week and facing opponents like the Thunder, Rockets and Magic offers some upside for fantasy managers. I'd wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to pick them up because Monday's meeting against the Bucks is not ideal, especially for Hayes, who struggles with efficiency and turnovers. Still, he's averaging 15 points, 2 rebounds, 8 assists with almost 2 stocks over the past 7 days.
Other streamable players ahead of Week 23
Clippers: Terence Mann, Eric Gordon
Bulls: Patrick Williams (if DeMar DeRozan misses time with his recent quad injury)
Trail Blazers: Trendon Watford, Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle
Warriors: Jonathan Kuminga, Donte DiVincenzo
Jazz: Ochai Agbaji, Kris Dunn
Grizzlies: Tyus Jones, Luke Kennard
Rockets: Kenyon Martin Jr., Tari Eason
Wizards: Deni Avdija