Statistically, John Wall is enjoying the best season of his NBA career. The fourth-year pro is headed for personal bests in points (19.6 per game), assists (9.1), steals (2.2), free throws (83.5 percent) and 3-pointers made (1.2). Using per-game stats, Wall is currently 10th on the ESPN Player Rater.
Of course you don't need me to tell you that Wall is an elite player. But this being the NBA Fantasy Forecaster, I will inform that about the only thing working against Wall owners thus far has been the schedule. And that's about to change.
Over the first nine weeks of the 2013-14 NBA season, Wall's Washington Wizards played the fewest games: 27. The schedule always evens out, though, and it will in short order for the Wizards, who have the most games from now through late February. Starting with Week 10 (Dec. 30 to Jan. 5) and continuing through the weeks that sandwich the NBA All-Star break (Feb. 10-23, or Weeks 16-17 in ESPN.com fantasy basketball leagues), the Wizards will lace it up 29 times.
Fantasy owners can help themselves by considering the NBA schedule over the long term. Not that it's easy or automatic -- obviously if you didn't draft Wall you'd have to pay big to land him in a trade. But when it comes to assessing free-agent options, it's worth recognizing, for instance, that over the next two months, the Wizards play almost a third more games than the Utah Jazz, who take the court just 22 times in this eight-week span.
Here's a quick breakdown of the schedule from Weeks 10 through 17:
Notable schedules (ranked from most games to fewest)
Washington Wizards, 29 games (16 home, 13 away)
Available players: Nene (unrostered in 21.0 percent of leagues as of Friday)
Outlook: The Wizards are a pretty stable group from a fantasy standpoint. Nene, who just returned to action after missing four games because of an Achilles injury, has already been snapped up in most leagues. But if the Wizards encounter more injuries, owners should quickly grab Trevor Booker or Martell Webster.
Orlando Magic, 28 games (13 home, 15 away)
Outlook: The Magic don't seem inclined to move Arron Afflalo, which is good news for Afflalo owners since it's tough to imagine him in a better situation than he is at the moment. Like many fantasy owners, I'm not a huge fan of Davis' spotty percentages and lack of blocks, but with this volume of games, he's an appealing free-agent add for those in need of rebounds and/or steals.
Toronto Raptors: 28 games (14 home, 14 away)
Available players: Terrence Ross (unrostered in 97.9 percent of leagues)
Outlook: The Kyle Lowry trade rumors seem to have cooled, but if he were to be moved sooner rather than later, the schedule would immerse Greivis Vasquez in its warm glow of games. Since the Rudy Gay deal, Ross has seen steady minutes but provided highly erratic production. However, he is averaging 13.4 points and 2.4 treys over his past eight games. In leagues of at least 12 teams, it might be worth stashing Ross on your bench just to see if he finds some consistency during this stretch.
• 26 games: Charlotte Bobcats; Denver Nuggets; Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers; Memphis Grizzlies; Minnesota Timberwolves; New York Knicks; Philadelphia 76ers; Phoenix Suns; Portland Trail Blazers
• 23 games: Houston Rockets
• 22 games: Utah Jazz
Note: The Blazers have five games in Week 13.
Week 10 at a Glance
As for the week ahead, the schedule returns to post-holiday norms. Sixteen NBA teams have four games -- that's the most 4s we've seen since Week 7 -- while 12 teams play three times. The only two-game sets belong to the Pistons and Rockets (although Houston is just coming off a five-game week).
One team I'll be watching in Week 10 is the Bucks. Not that their schedule -- games at the Lakers, Jazz and Suns -- offers much intrigue, but their lineups should. Larry Sanders (thumb) and Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) are expected to play this weekend. Sanders is a popular get in ESPN.com leagues, but both he and Ily can be had in about half the leagues at the moment. Ilyasova will start right away, so Khris Middleton's run of monster minutes (20.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 3s and 1.5 steals in his past four games) is likely to end. But it will be interesting to see if John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo maintain their minutes going forward.
"R" matchup ratings are based on a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics; their opponents' numbers in those categories; and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the right lists the team's total number of games scheduled (G) as well as home games (H), and lists the overall rating from 1 to 10 for that team's weekly schedule (R).
Players to Watch
Mario Chalmers, PG, Miami Heat (@DEN, GS, @ORL, TOR): Chalmers is taking fewer 3s this season, but his current assist (4.8) and steal (1.9) rates are up. In fact, both numbers approach what Chalmers did in his rookie season in 2008-09. (That's two years before LeBron James joined the Heat, by the way.) Though Chalmers has had multiple steals in eight of his past nine games, the schedule suggests he'll have a tough time keeping that going. While Warriors opponents are seventh in thefts, Raptors and Nuggets opponents are only 24th and 26th, respectively. in this regard. The schedule seems neutral from an assists standpoint, with Raptors opponents eighth in assists and Warriors opponents 26th.
Gerald Green, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (@LAC, MEM, MIL): Eric Bledsoe's return to the lineup seemed to spell the end of Green's fantasy relevance. But in his past three games Green has averaged 28 minutes off the bench while scoring 21.0 points and going better than break-even (16-of-31) from downtown. With Bucks, Grizzlies and Clippers opponents ranked 14th, 17th and 26th, respectively, in makes from beyond the arc, odds are Green's hot streak will be short-lived.
Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (@IND, ORL, @BKN, IND): After missing three games with a wrist injury, Waiters played 42 minutes and dropped 20 points on the Hawks on Dec. 26. Waiters, who's availability is pushing 60 percent in ESPN.com leagues, is of course worth adding, but with the Pacers looming in two of these four games, he's a less-than-appealing play in the week ahead. Pacers opponents are last in both shooting (just 41.1 percent) and 3s.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.