With head-to-head league playoffs starting in many ESPN.com leagues, this edition of the NBA Fantasy Forecaster again will look beyond the next seven days. With this playoff format, matchups extend over a two-week period in each round.
What's nice about this is that it evens things out as far as the schedule. Consider that in the next two weeks, 21 of the 30 NBA teams play seven or eight games. Eight teams play six games, while one team -- the Los Angeles Clippers -- has a league-low five games.
Here's a quick primer covering the 11 teams that play eight times in Weeks 20-21:
It's a stretch to say Harris is viable in any fantasy format, but he is averaging 1.7 3-pointers -- along with 11.7 points, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals -- since the All-Star break.
Yes, really, Mike James. Well, perhaps James. The 37-year-old made his first NBA start in almost four years this week, essentially splitting playing time with Darren Collison. James finished with eight points, six assists and a pair of 3s in 25 minutes against the Houston Rockets on March 6. Will he keep getting minutes? It's possible, if only because Mavs coach Rick Carlisle seems perpetually perturbed with Collison.
Zach Randolph has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle, and he seems iffy for this weekend. It's possible he'll sit out into next week.
Since the break, Battier is actually making more 3s -- 2.8 per game -- than Ray Allen (2.3). Who knew if you put LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the same team, other guys would get never-ending uncontested looks from the perimeter?
Even with J.J. Redick on board, Dunleavy is somehow managing to find minutes. In his past six games, he's averaging 10.3 points and 1.8 3s. Mavs, Heat and (of late) Orlando Magic opponents all pile up the triples, so Dunleavy could contribute in a deep league of at least 14 teams.
The latest word is that Kevin Love has a ways to go in his recovery. The target for his return is now late March. That takes him out of consideration for Weeks 20-21.
Schedule: @GS, @DEN, @POR, @LAC, @UTA, ORL, @TOR, TOR
Potential help: Jason Kidd (rostered in 44.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
To me, Kidd is over-owned in ESPN.com leagues. In a head-to-head matchup, he doesn't excel in any category other than steals.
What I said about Kidd also applies to Sefolosha.
Schedule: DEN, @HOU, @ATL, @WSH, LAL, WSH, MIN, BKN
Potential help: Jermaine O'Neal (rostered in 12.7 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
Again, you'll have to check for weekend updates on O'Neal. Thankfully, his daughter's surgery apparently went well, but O'Neal will remain away from the team at least through this weekend. Obviously with the Marcin Gortat injury, O'Neal could have broad fantasy value upon his return.
Schedule: MEM, NY, DET, @PHI, @MIL, @CHI, @ATL, @OKC
Potential help: None
Five of these eight games come in Week 21 (March 18-24). We'll discuss the Blazers next week.
Bradley Beal's injured ankle is reportedly improving. Be sure to monitor his status this weekend.
Week 20 at a Glance
"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").
Honing in on Week 20, the schedule options aren't nearly as robust. Three NBA teams -- the Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings and Clippers -- play just twice, while 14 others have only three games. That leaves a mere 13 teams with four-game sets.
Players to Watch
Avery Bradley, PG/SG, Boston Celtics (@CHA, TOR, CHA): While Bradley will never have across-the-board fantasy value, he has been coming on since the break, averaging 13.1 points, 1.4 steals and 1.0 3s while shooting 50 percent from the field. I find it almost hilarious that a player is facing the Charlotte Bobcats twice in a week and I have to call this a bad schedule for him. But if you add Bradley for his steals, you might be disappointed. Bobcats opponents rank only 28th in steals, while Toronto Raptors opponents rank 29th. Of course, Bobcats opponents are tops in 3s, but Raptors opponents rank just 24th in that regard. Still, Bradley is a starting point guard on a winning team, and in leagues of at least 12 teams, I believe he's a good add. I certainly consider him a superior option to, say, Kidd or Sefolosha.
Alec Burks, SG, Utah Jazz (DET, @OKC, MEM): I find it surprising that Burks is almost completely unrostered in ESPN.com leagues. His minutes have been climbing the past few weeks, and even with Mo Williams' return, he logged 27 minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 6. Similarly to Bradley, Burks is worth adding in deep leagues, particularly if you need steals -- he's averaging 1.4 since the break to go with 11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 47 percent field goal shooting. In contrast to Bradley, this schedule appears to be helpful. Thunder and Detroit Pistons opponents rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in steals.
Lance Stephenson, SG, Indiana Pacers (MIN, LAL, @PHI): With Danny Granger struggling in his return from injury, Stephenson's place in the starting lineup seems secure for the time being. Here's another virtually unowned player who can provide steals and 3s. With that in mind, Los Angeles Lakers opponents rank second in steals.
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.