The NBA In-Season Tournament has delivered in a big way, and the best is yet to come. Every team in the league -- the eight that made the knock-out round and the 22 that have been eliminated -- have now been scheduled their two official games to be played the week of Dec. 4.
Digging into the matchups to identify top streamers and ideal offensive climates will prove rewarding.
To open the tournament portion of the week, the Indiana Pacers will host the Boston Celtics the evening of Monday December 4, followed by the New Orleans Pelicans traveling to face the Sacramento Kings later that night. Tuesday will see a pair of group stage rematches, with the New York Knicks playing at the Milwaukee Bucks, followed by the visiting Phoenix Suns taking on the Los Angeles Lakers for the nightcap.
Tim Bontemps broke it down in his piece on the tournament's progression:
The winners of each of those quarterfinal games will advance to the semifinals on Dec. 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with the Eastern Conference teams squaring off at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the Western Conference teams playing at 9.
The tournament's title game -- with the winner getting to lift the NBA Cup for the first time and earning $500,000 for every player on its roster, takes place at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, airing on ABC.
A critical contextual consideration is the championship game will not count toward regular season totals; thus, it's not counted for fantasy purposes in ESPN men's basketball leagues.
The other 22 teams were each given one road game and one home game to be played on the Wednesday and Friday. The four teams knocked out of the In-Season Tournament on Monday and Tuesday will play their extra game on Friday. Once again, all of these contests count towards your fantasy results.
With a lens on making savvy fantasy decision, let's focus on five actionable strategies for the atypical week that lies ahead, starting on Monday, Dec. 4.
Start and stream those 76ers
We always want to start Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, the league's highest scoring duo, yet such a savory set of matchups this coming week establishes ideal streaming potential deeper in the rotation.
The team visits the capital to face the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. The Wizards, meanwhile, currently sit second in pace (possessions per 48 minutes) and 28th in defensive rating. Fast and bad at defense? Sounds good. The second matchup of the week is the Atlanta Hawks, a team that is third in pace and 25th in defense. Whew, this week sets up well for the Sixers' offense.
This means that shooting and steals should surface for De'Anthony Melton (36.8% rostered), while Nicolas Batum's (2.5%) revival with Nick Nurse could lead to production in multiple categories, including the scarcer defensive stats.
Run with the Bulls
So, the Chicago Bulls haven't had a great start to the season. Their big three has a negative net rating, which is, well, bad. That said, their schedule for this tourney-driven week is sweet; they host the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, the team with the worst defensive metrics in the league. The second game is in San Antonio to face a Spurs team that sits 27th in defensive rating.
Past that big three, we have Coby White (23.2%) in the top 10 over the past two weeks in added value on 3-point makes on ESPN's player rater. Backcourt peer Alex Caruso (15.1%) doesn't score or shoot at nearly the same clip, but he is averaging 2.2 combined blocks and steals and nets a meeting with two teams that are quite thin at point guard given LaMelo Ball's recent injury.
Injuries impact the Hornets, Heat and Timberwolves
Speaking of Ball, it's worth getting ahead of the waiver wire with some shares of Gordon Hayward (45.4%) and Brandon Miller (56.3%). Ball ranks eighth in the entire league in usage rate (a measure of offensive consumption), so it's natural that touches and creation work will filter to these two Charlotte wings if Ball's injury sidelines him.
Recent news of the Miami Heat's Tyler Herro missing at least another week due to an ankle injury spells continued interest in rising rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. (14.6%). The UCLA product is regularly tallying at least four dimes and over the past week is averaging around 17 PPG. Even shooting specialist Duncan Robinson (17.2%) is of interest given his rare blend of shooting volume and improved playmaking. The Heat don't have a soft schedule, but it helps that both Toronto and Cleveland sit outside the top 10 in defensive rating.
The Minnesota Timberwolves claim the combination of a nice schedule (the Spurs and depleted Memphis Grizzlies) an impact injury. Elite defensive wing Jaden McDaniels will miss multiple weeks due to an ankle ailment, propelling Kyle Anderson (22.1%) versatile potential and even adds to the two-way workload of Mike Conley Jr. (62.7%).
Fill up the Nets
The Brooklyn Nets face the Hawks, known for porous defense and rapid pace, and the Wizards in what is an exact inverse of the Sixers' setup. The impending return of Cam Thomas (77%) could influence streaming decisions, but it doesn't feel like this would change so much for Lonnie Walker IV (13.3%), who has assumed Thomas's role from last year as the resident bench microwave.
It's worth looking into Royce O'Neale (24.5%) amid a hot streak, especially has he's a gifted playmaker for a team missing a true point guard with Ben Simmons on the shelf. Even Dorian Finney-Smith's (7.1%) two-way production could swell in two inviting matchups.
Take a Maverick approach
The Dallas Mavericks made some noise this week for a shift in ownership structure, but we can also shift the roster percentage structure for their roster this week; the team faces the Utah Jazz, a team 26th in defensive efficiency, and the Portland Trail Blazers (15th in defense).
Past their tandem of superstar creators, it's worth pursuing Tim Hardaway Jr. (24.0%) and his incredible shooting volume. For context as to just how prolific the shooting has been, "THJ" is currently third in makes and fourth in takes from beyond the arc as of publishing. Those in truly deep formats might look to rookie center Dereck Lively II (12.0%) for a blend of blocks and boards.
The macro take for the entire week is that with such loaded slates on Wednesday and Friday, we'll need to care about matchups and make adjustments to account for this rare mix of a limited, but balanced schedule when it comes to maximizing fantasy outcomes.
Schedule could break Boston's way
We all know the Boston Celtics are true title contenders in both the In-Season Tournament and full season sense. The opening matchup against the pace-driven Pacers and a potential meeting with a porous Milwaukee Bucks defense drives predictive interest in this roster.
Even as Kristaps Porzingis looks good to go next week, Al Horford (16.5) is third on the roster in Player Rater value the past two weeks and could be busy in what are elevated contests with real stakes. When the stakes matter, Horford tends to rise. Even Sam Hauser (2.1%) surfaces as a reasonable streamer for those seeking to add games played on the lighter tournament slates.