By Armando Marsal
Special to Yahoo Sports
I am incredibly pumped to be writing my first article for Yahoo Fantasy and look forward to providing readers with some enjoyable, informative, and helpful content.
Here I will highlight some sleepers and busts for the upcoming week so that fantasy owners can prepare and gain an edge on their opponents.
Sleepers can be categorized as players who are seeing an increased role due to an injury and/or rotation change, as well as under-the-radar players who may have a favorable schedule with a reasonable amount of games for the week.
On the other hand, busts will focus on notable players — who you will most likely have to start in your lineups anyway — but may have fewer games for the week and/or potentially tougher matchups. Tempering your expectations for their production this week is the best way to go about it.
Basketball changes daily. With so many games being played each week, injuries arise on a regular basis and players are often rested. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on daily news, changes in rotation, confirmed lineups, and minutes that are played.
Typically, I like to spend the final hour before lock (usually between 6-7pm ET) reading news and keeping an eye out for confirmed lineups. Another thing to look at when preparing for the week are teams playing on back-to-backs and how often coaches rest some of their players in situations like these.
Now that we have that all covered, we can jump right into it and go over some sleepers and busts for this week.
Ante Zizic, C, Cleveland Cavaliers
With Tristan Thompson on the shelf for at least another two weeks, Zizic should continue to log big minutes. Since January 18, Zizic is averaging 30.6 minutes, 16.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks, while shooting 60 percent from the field. The big man has averaged a 20.4 usage percentage over that span.
He does just get two matchups this week, but neither are all that difficult. The Wizards rank 23rd in defensive rating and play up in pace, while yielding over 50 Yahoo fantasy points per game to opposing centers.
The other matchup is against the Mavericks, who rank 13th in defensive rating and surrender nearly 15 boards per game to the position. Zizic should continue to produce quality numbers this week and provide fantasy owners with points, rebounds, and good field goal percentage.
Shabazz Napier, G, Brooklyn Nets
Spencer Dinwiddie is expected to undergo thumb surgery and miss 3-6 weeks. During that stretch, Napier is expected to see a boost in playing time. In fact, Coach Kenny Atkins said that Napier would assume the Dinwiddie role, and it appears that indeed is the case. On Saturday, Napier played 28 minutes, scoring 18 points with two dimes, two boards, and a steal.
The Nets play four times this week, which is helpful for those in need of guard production. They draw matchups against the Celtics, Bulls, Spurs, and Magic. Aside from Boston, all of the other defenses rank 14th or worst in defensive rating, surrender over 22 points per game to opposing point guards, as well as over 43 Yahoo fantasy points per game.
Napier can also make for a value DFS option so long as his price remains cheap, as it has been so far. From a season-long standpoint, he should be able to contribute in multiple categories, but can hurt you at field goal percentage. With four games on the board however, he certainly makes for a nice option this week.
Bobby Portis, PF/C, Chicago Bulls
Portis has seen an uptick in playing time with Wendell Carter Jr. sidelined. During that stretch, he has been in and out of the starting lineup, averaging 27.6 minutes, 14.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 0.4 steals per game. He is shooting 44.8 from the field, 85.7 from the free throw line, and 38.9 from beyond the arc.
Portis has seen a 1.4 percent bump in usage with Carter Jr. out and he has now played 30+ minutes in each of his last two games, which is encouraging heading into this week.
The Bulls play three games this week and draw some favorable matchups against the Nets, Heat, and Hornets. Both the Hornets and Nets rank 20th or worse in defensive rating and are generous to opposing bigs, yielding over 22 points and 16 rebounds per game to the position, as well as more than 52 Yahoo fantasy points. Portis should continue to log significant minutes and help fantasy owners in multiple categories.
Kenneth Faried PF/C, Houston Rockets
Faried has established himself nicely in Houston and is doing a nice job filling in for Clint Capela. In three games with the Rockets, Faried is averaging 29 minutes, 15 points, 9.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.7 blocks, while shooting a healthy 62 percent from the field. He is averaging close to a 20 percent usage rating during this stretch and should continue to be a contributor on this offense for the foreseeable future.
Houston draws matchups against New Orleans, Denver, and Utah this week. The Pelicans are dealing with injuries in their front court, so Faried should be able to eat in this matchup. As it stands, they have been generous to opposing bigs this year, allowing 22.4 points, 16.7 rebounds, and 52.9 Yahoo fantasy points per game to the position.
The Jazz have also been surprisingly generous, yielding 54.2 Yahoo fantasy points per game. Faried can stuff the stat sheet any given night and with three games on the board this week, he should be strongly considered by fantasy owners, despite some difficult and slow-paced situations. His price in DFS has been on the rise, but there is still some wiggle room for value here, so keep an eye on that.
Jahlil Okafor, C, New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans front court is plagued with injuries and this has provided Okafor with plenty of minutes. In his four starts with Anthony Davis on the shelf, Okafor has averaged 31.8 minutes, 19.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and 0.5 steals per game, with three double-doubles in that stretch.
Julius Randle missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury and Nicola Mirotic is dealing with a calf injury that could keep him sidelined for an extended amount of time, so Okafor should continue to see big minutes for New Orleans.
This week he will play three games, so fantasy owners should get plenty of production out of him. One matchup is against the Rockets, who have been vulnerable against bigs with Clint Capela sidelined. The other two matchups are against the Nuggets and Spurs, both of which are subpar matchups, but not so much that Okafor can’t find success in.
As a matter of fact, he dropped 24 points and grabbed 15 boards against the Spurs on Saturday. He also remains far too cheap in DFS, so make sure to take advantage of the mis-price until it adjusts.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets play four times this week, which is always good news for a player. That said, there are a couple of tough matchups for Walker on the schedule this week and he is also dealing with a mild neck sprain.
Charlotte faces off against the Knicks, Bulls, Celtics, and Grizzlies. Two of these teams rank in the top eight as far as defensive rating is concerned, and the Grizzlies play at the slowest pace in the NBA, limiting Walker’s potential opportunity.
Memphis, New York, and Boston are all in the top 12 as far as points per game allowed to opposing point guards. The Grizzlies and Bulls allow the fourth and fifth fewest dimes per game to the position, while the Celtics allow the eighth fewest. You’re obviously not benching Walker if you own him this week, but you should be tempering expectations considering some of the matchups and his aforementioned neck issue.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards
Beal is playing at a very high level right now and benching him is not an option. That said, he plays three games this week and two of those contests come against the top two defenses in the league. The Bucks and Pacers come in at one and two in defensive rating and both teams play at a very slow pace, limiting possessions and opportunities to opposing players.
In December, Beal struggled against the Pacers in one of their meetings, shooting 2-of-11 from the court and scoring single digit points (the only game this season that this occurred). I am not expecting that poor of a performance out of him this time around, but it does shed some light as to how difficult of a matchup this is and how he could struggle in this situation.
Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat
Whiteside’s minutes are all over the place, which is already a frustrating situation for fantasy owners. To top it off, the Heat have multiple tough matchups on their schedule this week.
They face off against Indiana, Oklahoma City, and Chicago. The Pacers rank second in defensive rating, while the Thunder rank third. The Thunder also allow the fifth fewest rebounds and fourth fewest Yahoo fantasy points per game to opposing centers.
Whiteside should smash in his meeting against the Bulls, so fantasy owners should at least get one strong game out of him. He has also been solid in his two meetings against the Pacers this year, but that was back in November and he played at least 29 minutes in each of those games.
He has topped 26 minutes just twice in the month of January. It is difficult to bench a player with the upside that Whiteside has, so I would not recommend it. That said, I would not be at all shocked if he disappointed this week.
That’s it for this week, feel free to reach out to me with any questions on the Twitter machine @Armando_Marsal. Good luck to everyone this week!