Last week, in examining the Los Angeles Lakers and their five games in Week 19, I mentioned that it's not uncommon for struggling NBA teams to be fairly compelling from a fantasy standpoint. Of course this isn't always the case; some teams are just bad in terms of both reality and fantasy. Which brings me to the Milwaukee Bucks, our schedule stars for the week ahead. The Bucks, who as of Friday own the league's worst record at 12-48, have a five-game set of their own in Week 20.
In contrast to the Lakers, the Bucks give fantasy owners only a few options for profiting from their dysfunction. Yes, Khris Middleton, who's available in nearly 80 percent of leagues, is worth adding for Week 20. According to the ESPN.com NBA Player Rater, Middleton is actually the most valuable Buck (at No. 86, four spots ahead of Brandon Knight), but we're still talking about someone who's averaging just 13.0 points, 1.6 3-pointers and 1.1 steals per game since the All-Star break. I'm not that excited about Ersan Ilyasova, whose own post-break numbers (14.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 53.2 percent shooting) are radically skewed by monster outings against the Utah Jazz (31 points on 13-of-14 shooting) and Philadelphia 76ers (20 points on 7-of-9 shooting). At this point, it's also tough to gamble on John Henson -- who recently endured a stretch where he missed 22 of 25 free throws -- turning it around. While I could see adding Ramon Sessions in leagues of at least 12 teams (especially if free throw percentage is a need), owners in standard formats can be excused for ignoring all available Bucks players.
Now, if you're looking to match up against the Bucks, the picture is a bit brighter. However, the Bucks are not the Sixers. They may be similar in results, but not in style. Milwaukee is only 26th in pace, and Bucks opponents do well -- though not exceptionally well -- in only a few categories: total rebounds (third), steals (sixth) and buckets from downtown (eighth).
However, as a general trend, the Bucks have been steamrolled by opposing bigs. Check out these recent examples:
• March 3 versus the Jazz: 27 points and 14 rebounds for Enes Kanter.
Applying this to the week ahead, owners in standard formats don't have a lot to go on. But in deeper leagues, particularly those that allow daily roster moves, you could consider all these available bigs who will draw the Bucks: Kyle O'Quinn, Elton Brand, Pero Antic, Josh McRoberts and even Cody Zeller (who, despite playing no more than 20 minutes, is averaging 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game over his past four contests).
Then there's my favorite free-agent add for Week 20: Amar'e Stoudemire. I'll elaborate on this choice in a bit.
Week 20 at a Glance
This represents another week where you won't have much trouble finding games. In addition to the Bucks and their set of five, 15 other teams play four times in Week 20. In addition, 13 teams take the court three times, while only the Lakers, fresh off their own five-game run, are limited to two games.
"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
Matt Barnes, SF, and Darren Collison, PG, Los Angeles Clippers (PHX, GS, @UTA, CLE): Barnes is playing like a man who doesn't plan on losing his starting spot to the newly arrived Danny Granger. In his past seven, Barnes is averaging 17.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 3s and 1.3 steals. It will be interesting to see if Barnes -- who's 23-of-46 from downtown during this span -- can keep it going with this schedule, as Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Jazz opponents all rank in the bottom eight in treys. (Cleveland Cavaliers opponents, however, are second in this regard.) As for Collison, his recent success from 3-point land seems even less sustainable: He's 9-for-16 over his past five. Despite the caveats with this schedule, Barnes and Collison -- both of whom are available in more than 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues -- look as good as any fantasy free agents at the moment.
Vince Carter, SG/SF, Dallas Mavericks (@GS, @UTA, @OKC): V.C. is another veteran who's on a good run. Since the break, he's averaging 16.6 points and 2.9 3s (while shooting 46.0 percent from downtown). While Oklahoma City Thunder opponents rank fifth in 3s, this three-game set makes Carter an iffy option in head-to-head formats.
Terrence Ross, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors (@BKN, DET, MEM, PHX): Ross should return to action this weekend after he missed the Raptors' previous game with an ankle problem. The youngster was in fine form prior to his injury, as he'd knocked down 13 3s over 3 1/2 games before going down against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 27. This schedule provides minimal guidance; Detroit Pistons opponents rank seventh in 3s while Suns opponents are only 26th, but with the four games, Ross is a sneaky start in leagues of at least 12 teams. He's available in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Amar'e Stoudemire, PF/C, New York Knicks (PHI, @BOS, MIL): These days, Stoudemire's fantasy prospects come down to how his knees are feeling, as opposed to how the immediate schedule lines up. But the chance to face both the Sixers and Bucks makes Stoudemire -- who's available in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues -- a very intriguing consideration for deeper formats. Of course we've discussed the Bucks, but if you need a reminder, Sixers opponents rank first in blocks (and by a substantial margin) and fourth in rebound differential. Though doctors have advised him not to play on consecutive nights, Stoudemire took the court three times in four nights earlier this week, reaching double figures in each contest. The Knicks have a back-to-back pair coming up, so you'll want to see how Stoudemire fares this weekend; if he stays healthy, this is about as desirable a three-game set as you'll find.
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.