The best NBA teams aren't always the most interesting teams from a fantasy perspective. In fact, the opposite is often the case. Of course you know that the Philadelphia 76ers -- even before they were stripped for parts at the trade deadline -- are fantasy's most desirable matchup. Moreover, their thin roster and league-leading pace has made fantasy stars of Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and since-departed Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.
Another example is the Los Angeles Lakers. Sure, they've plunged to the bottom of the Western Conference standings, ceded L.A. to the Los Angeles Clippers and proved that Dwight Howard actually does know what's best for his career, but the numerous byproducts of this chaos have bolstered many a fantasy roster this season. For instance, Jodie Meeks, who was featured in last week's Forecaster, has shown that he can do more than chuck 3-pointers. Since the beginning of January, he has averaged 17.6 points, 2.3 3s and 1.7 steals while shooting a stellar 87.9 percent (80 of 91) from the stripe. The Lakers' unceasing run of injuries also has opened the door for Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall and Jordan Hill, all of whom have held mainstream fantasy value at different points of this season.
Now there's another name to add to this purple and gold-clad list of fantasy finds: Kent Bazemore. Acquired when the luxury-tax-conscious Lakers sent Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors ahead of the deadline, the second-year pro immediately saw ample playing time. Based on his first four games with the Lakers, in which he has averaged 17.3 points, 2.0 steals and 1.5 treys per game, Bazemore is one of the most popular adds in ESPN.com leagues. Although there's reason to question his long-term potential -- at least, I will do so in a bit -- Bazemore's short-term prospects couldn't be much better. That's because the Lakers have five games in the week ahead.
Week 19 at a Glance
Week 19 offers a healthy amount of action. Not only do the Lakers have their five games, but 17 other NBA teams hit the court four times. The catch is that three teams play only twice: the Orlando Magic, the Sixers and the Toronto Raptors.
Toronto's short set diminishes the allure of Greivis Vasquez, improving Terrence Ross (who had nailed 12 3s over his past 3 1/2 games before leaving with an ankle injury Thursday against the Washington Wizards) and resurgent Amir Johnson (10.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals over his past six). Vasquez could make a start or two in place of Kyle Lowry, who turned his ankle at the end of regulation of that marathon with the Wizards. Although he stayed in until fouling out in the third overtime, Lowry is considered iffy Sunday against the Warriors.
"R" matchup ratings are based upon 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 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
Players to Watch
Kent Bazemore, SG, Los Angeles Lakers (@POR, NO, LAC, @DEN, OKC): One thing that makes Bazemore an appealing add -- and as of Friday's he's available in 73.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues -- is that his steal numbers likely aren't a fluke. The Old Dominion product was named college basketball's top defensive player in 2011. The downside with Bazemore could be his percentages -- for his brief career, he's shooting just 38.6 percent from the field and 59.4 percent from the line (in his four-game tenure with the Lakers, those numbers are 45.1 and 65.4 percent, respectively). Also, given that he was one Pau Gasol's targets in his rant about the Lakers' lack of discipline this week, Bazemore might not stay so aggressive offensively. After scoring a career-best 23 points while putting up 19 shots in the blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 25, Bazemore dialed it back to just nine attempts the next night against the Memphis Grizzlies. As noted though, with five games that include a couple of appealing matchups -- Denver Nuggets opponents rank third in points, and New Orleans Pelicans opponents rank sixth in shooting -- Bazemore is a viable option in all formats for Week 19.
Elton Brand, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks (@POR, @GS, @LAC): We're probably a week late on this one, but let's talk about the veteran, whose averages of 9.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over his past five have gotten him grabbed in a handful of deep leagues. The Hawks have been waylaid by injuries on the front line. Not only is Paul Millsap (knee) expected to miss a third straight game on Sunday but the team is also still without backup center Pero Antic (ankle) and Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) is done for the season. However, Millsap isn't expected to miss much more time, and the Hawks recently brought in their second-round pick, Mike Muscala, who had been playing well in Spain and is expected to contribute in Atlanta. So don't look for soon to be 35-year-old Brand, who has played at least 34 minutes in four of his past five games, to continue to log heavy minutes. On top of that, Portland Trail Blazers and Clippers opponents both rank in the bottom four in rejections. Leave Brand on the wire.
Brian Roberts, PG, New Orleans Pelicans (@SAC, @LAL, MIL, DEN): Interest is increasing in Roberts, who was also cited here last week, but he remains available in nearly 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Again, there's no indication that the Pellies will get Jrue Holiday back anytime soon, so Roberts will remain at the point in New Orleans. After two games of poor shooting, Roberts bounced back with 17 points and three triples against the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 26. With Lakers opponents ranking second in assists -- and Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings opponents ranking fourth and fifth in buckets from downtown, respectively -- Roberts figures to do well with this schedule.
Ramon Sessions, PG, Milwaukee Bucks (UTA, SAC, @NO, WSH): It appears that Sessions will see plenty of playing time with the Bucks alongside Brandon Knight. At least, he has seen 27 and 28 minutes in his past two games while averaging 14.5 points and 5.0 assists. The most notable thing about this schedule -- and it isn't all that notable -- is that Kings opponents rank seventh in assists. Again, though, early indications are that his move from the Charlotte Bobcats to the Bucks will net Sessions more minutes.
Kyle Singler, SG/SF, Detroit Pistons (NY, CHI, @MIN, @BOS): Singler's minutes have spiked in February, and he has taken advantage to average 12.6 points, 1.9 3s and 1.6 steals this month. With New York Knicks opponents ranking second in 3s, and Minnesota Timberwolves and Knicks opponents both in the top five in shooting, Singler is another consideration in leagues of at least 12 teams. While we're on the Pistons, those in leagues of at least 14 teams might want to take a look at Will Bynum, who has become fantasy-relevant under interim coach John Hoyer. Bynum is averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 assists since the break, and he could have broader fantasy appeal if Brandon Jennings' toe injury lingers.
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.