Fantasy basketball forecaster: March 12-18

Montrezl Harrell could be a difference-maker in fantasy next week, partly due to a promising schedule. Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Forecaster is very good at estimating the fantasy value for a given team in a given week, utilizing factors such as team offense quality, opposing defense quality, and various other scheduling factors that help estimate how difficult the schedule is. The Forecaster can then be very helpful in helping managers in weekly transaction leagues decide who among similar caliber players to start, thus identifying prime stream or fade candidates.

However, one element the Forecaster doesn't include in the analysis is lineup changes. This becomes important at this time of year, especially because the finish line to the season is so close that lineup changes are more rampant. Veteran players could be getting more rest, young players could be getting more run, and every injury is potentially season-ending ... or at the very least, could cause a player to miss key parts of a fantasy playoff run. Thus, lineup changes can change the value of a player for the upcoming week in large ways, completely orthogonal to scheduling considerations.

This distinction plays out dramatically this week. As you'll seen below, the Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns have three of the lowest team rankings in the Forecaster this week. However, the Suns are dealing with injuries to TJ Warren and Josh Jackson, in addition to the regular experimenting that their coach does with his rotations. The Magic are dealing with injuries to Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and possibly D.J. Augustin, and the Grizzlies are dealing with injuries to ... pretty much everyone, actually.

Thus, even though their Forecaster ratings are low, it's still possible to find some streamable value from these teams for this week. Here are a few examples:

JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies (59.3 percent available): Green has been a nightly double-double waiting to happen for weeks now. He is averaging 13.3 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 blocks, 0.9 3-pointers and 0.6 steals while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 78.9 percent from the line during his past seven games.

Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic (83.3 percent available): Hezonja played very well earlier in the season when Gordon was on an extended absence. With Gordon in the concussion protocol and Fournier nursing a sprained knee, Hezonja has the opportunity to start putting up impact numbers again.

Marquese Chriss, Phoenix Suns (89.6 percent available): Chriss was starting to put up impact numbers during stretches in December and January but struggled mightily and fell out of the rotation for much of February. He has started getting minutes again and has the ability to pick up the scoring and rebounding if Warren and Jackson are out for extended periods.

Dillon Brooks (93.7 percent available) and/or Ben McLemore (95.0 percent available), Memphis Grizzlies: Brooks and McLemore are the current wings getting the most time and responsibility with the entire Grizzlies team (sans Marc Gasol) out because of injury. Brooks has scored 50 points with seven 3-pointers during his past two games, and McLemore has averaged 16.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.3 3-pointers during his past three outings.

Matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup). These 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 left lists the team's total number of games scheduled, as well as home games, and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule.

The week ahead

This is the rare week when every team plays either three (22 teams) or four (eight teams) games, but since so many squads play thrice, it really gives the four-game teams a chance to stand out.

This is also a week when the Forecaster especially matters, because without much separation in team games played, it really helps to differentiate the quality of team offenses and circumstances to flesh out players with upside. It's especially timely, because for many of you the fantasy playoffs begin this week. Let's see if we can find some streaming options to help you get to the next round.

The Hornets ('2'), Grizzlies ('2'), Magic ('1') and Suns ('1') have the lowest team rankings on the Forecaster, indicating a combination of weak team offense, tough scheduling considerations and tough opposing teams. However, because each of these teams plays three games, I wouldn't necessarily put them into the "definite fade" category, the way that teams with only two games (or fewer) in a given week tend to fall -- especially in the case of lineup changes, as detailed above.

With that said, if you have to choose between a player on one of these teams and a similar-caliber player on one of the teams with a higher ranking, the Forecaster can help make that decision.

At the other extreme, there are six teams with very high Forecaster scores: Golden State Warriors ('10'), San Antonio Spurs ('4'), Houston Rockets ('9'), LA Clippers ('9'), Oklahoma City Thunder ('9)' and Toronto Raptors ('8'). The Warriors have only three games this week, while the other teams on this list all have four games. As usual, here are a few streaming options from these teams that are highly rated on this week's Forecaster:

  • Austin Rivers, LA Clippers (67.6 percent available): Rivers is a scoring guard who has the green light for the Clippers. During his past three games, he has averaged 19.0 points (52.4 FG percentage, 75.0 FT percentage), 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 3-pointers and 2.7 assists per game.

  • Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers (76.9 percent available): Harrell started putting up good hustle numbers long ago -- before the Blake Griffin trade, but when Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were both dealing with injuries. In the new Clippers pecking order, Harrell has become an outright impact player. During his past four games, Harrell has averaged 19.5 points (72.1 FG percentage, 72.7 FT percentage), 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks in only 22.5 minutes.

  • Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors (94.5 percent available): VanVleet is the backup point guard for the Raptors, and with Delon Wright out, he's getting reasonable minutes. He's not a huge production guy, but he's a garbage man-type who can help across the board. During his past five games, VanVleet has averaged 9.2 points, 3.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.2 3-pointers and 0.8 blocks per game.