The good news is that Week 21 features the third and final Wonderful Calendar Coincidence (WCC) of this NBA season. That the Portland Trail Blazers are the recipient of this WCC is the bad news. The Blazers of course have fantasy studs like LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard, but their woeful bench leaves no real opportunity to exploit the schedule. Even though Eric Maynor has been playing well of late -- and even seeing time alongside Lillard -- it's tough to justify adding him in any format, even with the five-game week ahead.
On the other end of the schedule scale, the Los Angeles Lakers play just twice in Week 21. The Lakers play twice this weekend before facing the Phoenix Suns on Monday. Then they get three days off, which will be a welcome break in light of Kobe Bryant's ankle injury.
In addition to the Blazers' packed week, 19 other NBA teams play four times in Week 21. Finding games shouldn't be a problem.
Week 21 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").
Players to Watch
Ben Gordon, SG, Charlotte Bobcats (WSH, TOR, DET, @MIA): Just a month ago, the Bobcats couldn't give away Gordon to another NBA team, a reality that probably disappointed him as much as it did his current employer. But with Ramon Sessions sidelined, Gordon is back in the rotation, averaging 16.3 points and 2.3 3-pointers over his past four games -- though he's shooting just 39.3 percent (22-for-56) in that span. That's probably what you can expect going forward: points and 3s for which you'll have to sacrifice field goal percentage. The best matchup here is probably the Detroit Pistons, who have yielded 66 triples during their seven-game losing streak. Gordon also could fare well against the Miami Heat. The Heat may win every game, but they remain vulnerable to the trey. Miami opponents rank ninth in 3s.
Wesley Johnson, SG/SF, and Jermaine O'Neal, C, Phoenix Suns (LAL, WSH, MIN, BKN): As the Suns wrap up a lost season, it seems like they're ready to see what they have in Johnson. The fourth pick of the 2010 draft has started the past four games, and has played at least 30 minutes in six of his past eight outings. Based on the fact that he's virtually unrostered in ESPN.com leagues, I can categorically state that Johnson is underused in fantasy. However, as a Minnesota Timberwolves fan who watched Johnson struggle through two seasons, I can certainly understand the reluctance of fantasy owners, even those in deep leagues, to pounce. We are talking about a player with career averages of 7.2 points and 39.8 percent shooting. So take his recent numbers -- 12.4 points, 1.6 3s and 1.0 steals, with 44.7 percent shooting -- for what they're worth. But if you are willing to put aside Johnson's past, you could be rewarded. While each of these opponents is average to below average in 3s, Wolves and Brooklyn Nets opponents rank seventh and ninth, respectively, in field goal percentage.
As for O'Neal, he has returned to the Suns. The big story is that O'Neal's 13-year-old daughter, Asjia, is doing well following her heart surgery. But the fantasy story is worth noting. With Marcin Gortat sidelined for possibility the rest of the season, O'Neal and the recently acquired Hamed Haddadi are the team's only options to play the post. At 34 years of age, J.O. certainly won't see huge minutes, but keep in mind the numbers he was producing in limited action in February (with Gortat still active): 11.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. O'Neal really could average close to a double-double the rest of the way, yet he's still available in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues. If you talk about underused players at this moment, I think you have to start with O'Neal.
Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, Detroit Pistons (BKN, @MIA, @CHA): Brandon Knight is expected to miss several games with a severe ankle sprain, so Stuckey should stickey -- err, sticky -- I mean, stick -- in the starting lineup for the time being. I have fun with his name to mask the pain of misguidedly calling Stuckey a fantasy sleeper in October. He and the Pistons have disappointed this season, but don't let that dissuade you. Starting in place of Knight against the Golden State Warriors on March 13, Stuckey went for 22 points and five assists. He should contribute points, assists and free throw percentage while Knight is out. With that in mind, the Nets rate as a tough matchup, since Brooklyn opponents rank dead last in trips to the line. But of course the presence of the Bobcats -- Charlotte opponents rank first in 3s, second in shooting and third in points -- makes up for it.
Martell Webster, SG/SF, Washington Wizards (@CHA, @PHX, @LAL, @GS): With Bradley Beal still sidelined and Trevor Ariza limited by a sore left knee, Webster has turned in three excellent games in a row, posting a total of 57 points and 13 3s in that span. While you shouldn't count on him to keep up the scoring, he should maintain his success from downtown; since the All-Star break, Webster has averaged 2.6 triples per game. He's worth using here, not only because of the Bobcats, but because Warriors opponents rank fourth in buckets from downtown.
Brandan Wright, PF/C, Dallas Mavericks (@ATL, BKN, BOS, UTA): Though used sparingly for most of the season, Wright has finally become a factor, averaging 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and -- here's the biggie -- 1.6 blocks over his past five games. Those rejections make him worth adding in leagues of at least 12 teams, even if this schedule doesn't appear to offer much help. Of these opponents, only the Utah Jazz are above average in blocks.
Dorell Wright, SF, Philadelphia 76ers (POR, @LAC, @DEN, @SAC): Though the Sixers have actually started journeyman Damian Wilkins for past three games, Wright continues to put up decent numbers in a reserve role -- in March he's averaging 13.6 points, 2.5 3s and 1.3 steals per contest. This is a nice set of games, as Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings opponents all rank in the top third in 3s (Nuggets opponents rank second in this regard). If you're really brave and/or desperate, Nick Young is a tempting add for Week 21. Young had been starting, but an ankle injury caused him to miss seven games. He returned against the Heat on March 13, but played just six ineffective minutes. As Young shakes off the rust, you'd think he'd assume most of the minutes currently being given to Wilkins.
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.