We're entering the stage of the fantasy hoops season when strategy can become more important than stars. These final weeks of the season often include a sizable uptick in the resting of prominent players, marking the part of the season that rewards proactive managers most.
Many popular fantasy basketball formats, such as weekly head-to-head competitions, value volume most. Even if your opponent in a given week has a more talented roster, you can still win by maximizing minutes and games, leveraging free agency and the waiver wire.
The motivation to track injury reports and rotational changes becomes vital. The greatest analytical assets the next four weeks might just be the league's official injury report landing page and Twitter. Official injury reports offer you some lead time to replace key rotation contributors whenever players are doubtful or ruled out the day before a game, while following beat writers and daily fantasy feeds on Twitter affords you real-time updates for murkier scenarios.
Let's use the Toronto Raptors as an example. The team submitted its official injury report on Thursday evening and ruled out OG Anunoby, Kyle Lowry, and Pascal Siakam for scheduled rest for Friday's matchup with the Orlando Magic. The team also lists Gary Trent Jr. as doubtful due to an ankle ailment, signaling the team will be without at least four starters.
With Toronto running out a skeleton crew to face Orlando, all signs point to a big game from Malachi Flynn. The rookie point guard has scored at least 16 points in three of his past four games and has produced at least seven dimes in three of his past five outings. While statistical stars such as Lowry helped position your fantasy team to contend, it might just be emergent talents and spot starters such as Flynn who complete the journey.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks: 15 points (3-17 FG), 2 rebounds, 9 assists, 6 TO
• Brown became the first Celtics player with at least 40 points on 85% shooting in a game in franchise history, while also posting the highest field goal efficiency by any player in a Celtics-Lakers game, including the playoff in the shot-clock era (min. 15 attempts). Brown has emerged as an undeniable statistical star this season. It will be interesting to see how closely he and Jayson Tatum are drafted in fantasy leagues next fall.
Brooklyn's LaMarcus Aldridge retired from the NBA on Wednesday after experiencing an irregular heartbeat during his final appearance with the team. Aldridge wasn't helping fantasy managers much this season with the Spurs but did show some productive flashes with the Nets. In his prime with the Trail Blazers, Aldridge was one the steadiest and safest high-end fantasy investments in the league. There isn't much fantasy fallout from Aldridge's departure for the Nets, as some blend of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Nicolas Claxton will handle duties at center.
Atlanta's Young shot just 17.6% from the floor last night in a loss to Milwaukee, marking his worst field goal percentage in a game in his career. While Young has struggled a bit of late, backcourt mate Bogdanovic is on a career-best bender. After last night's strong line, Bogdanovic ranks second behind only Stephen Curry on the Player Rater during the past 15 days. I've mentioned Bogdanovic often in this column the past several weeks because it's not very often that we find a player rise from fringe rotation player to fantasy superstar over a sizable sample. Somehow, Bogdanovic is still a free agent in nearly a quarter of ESPN leagues.
Injuries of note
Philadelphia lists Tobias Harris as questionable to face his former team due to right knee soreness.
The Hornets will be without Devonte' Graham, Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball, and Malik Monk for tonight's matchup with the Nets. P.J. Washington is listed as doubtful to play for Charlotte. Tonight looks like a good window to stream Jalen McDaniels.
Analytics advantage for Friday
Sticking with the theme of leveraging injury reports into helpful fantasy transactions, we find the Detroit Pistons visit Oklahoma City tonight to face the Thunder. The Pistons have ruled out Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, and Cory Joseph for tonight's game.
Top players to watch on Friday
I'll be watching the LA Clippers' frontcourt this evening to see how they handle the Sixers' size in the paint. According to Second Spectrum, the Sixers are averaging a league-high 15.1 post-ups per 100 possessions this season. Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid are three of the nine most efficient players in the NBA on post-ups this season.