Fantasy basketball: taking advantage of the remaining NBA schedule

Dillon Brooks is one of several Memphis Grizzlies available on the waiver wire and with plenty of games left on the schedule. AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

A few months ago, I wrote a column on a sneaky-important COVID-related fantasy issue: the NBA-wide disparity in games remaining by team.

NBA teams have shown remarkable resilience this season. Basketball, like all sports, is predicated on finding an internal rhythm. The historical challenges of 2020-21 make finding and sustaining that rhythm difficult

Random cancellations. Quarantines. An overabundance of games packed into tight windows. Extra wear and tear. Through it all, the NBA has persevered. However, there's about three weeks left in the regular season and the disparity in games remaining isn't going away. As of today, teams have anywhere between eight and eleven games left to play.

A three-game difference may not sound like much. But the difference between eight and 11 is nearly 32 percent. Nine and 11: 20 percent. So if you're looking for a way to prioritize players to pick up for the duration? Or streamers that are playing a little more? Looking at games remaining is an excellent place to start.

We have one eight-game team: the Clippers.

There are five nine-game teams: the Celtics, Hawks, Heat, Timberwolves, and Knicks.

Conversely, we have five eleven-game teams: the Grizzlies, Mavericks, Bucks, Pacers, and Spurs.

Let's take a quick look at three of the five eleven-game teams. These are three I feel bear close watching over the next week. These three squads have a decent amount of standard-league-sized talent sitting on the wire. So let's identify which of those players stand the best chance of garnering a fantasy-friendly amount of playing time.

(By the way, a quick shout-out to Tankathon. As a Wizards fan, I'm on their site a lot. It's a great resource for tracking games remaining and strength of schedule.)


Players rostered more than 75 percent: Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr.

(I started this off by listing which names to just cross off your list. But Memphis definitely has some value sitting on the wire.)

Memphis' rotation is at the Magic-8-Ball level of reliability. But that lack of cohesion could play to your advantage. Because we're looking for players that could receive sudden production opportunities.

Think about Memphis' endgame situation. They're in the thick of the playoff race. But as their position solidifies, and their ticket to the tournament is punched, the Grizzlies could engage in some load management over the final week. Then factor in a comparatively easy schedule (in terms of strength of opponents). And because it's Memphis -- a developing roster in a smaller market -- they have young upside that's flown a little under the collective radar.

Whom do I like here? Start with Dillon Brooks (SG/SF). Over the past three games, he's averaged 27 minutes, 17.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 3s, 1.0 steals, and 0.8 blocks. He's also getting decent Usage (25.0).

Brooks' box scores are historically a little too point-heavy for my tastes. And he's not an efficient shooter (51.7 TS%). But Brooks adds decent upside in steals and 3s. So if you're in need of a player who qualifies at multiple positions, who seems to have secured 25-30 minutes per game for the duration? Brooks is a solid add.

With Jaren Jackson Jr. and Valanciunas returning to the rotation, Brandon Clarke (PF) isn't cracking 20 MPG. But he's packing in decent blocks and steals into a small window. And if Memphis ends up locked into the tournament, you could see a bump up in his minutes in the final week.

Are you feeling lucky? Grayson Allen could be in line for one more little hot streak before the season ends. Yes, he's been disappointing the past few games. But he's still in the starting mix and getting around 25 MPG. And his 11-game stretch from April 2 to April 19 was impressive (16.5 points, 3.5 3s).


Players rostered above 75 percent: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis

That's right. Dallas has only two players that I'd consider completely untouchable in standard-sized leagues.

Dorian Finney-Smith (SF/PF) is sitting on many waiver wires. He's been playing through an injury. Finney-Smith is perpetually "questionable." But since his value is linked to Porzingis' availability, he's been gutting it out over 30 minutes a night... and producing.

Finney-Smith is more than a streamer at this compacted point in the campaign. He shouldn't be on the wire for 12-team leagues. He's supplying steady, diversified numbers (the past week: 13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 3s, 1.8 steals).

If Dallas looks to rest Doncic and Porzingis, Trey Burke (PG) could sustain his sudden spike in value. He just got a start against Golden State, and over his past two games posted 13.5 points, 2.0 3s, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals.

A frontcourt player who could spike: Willie Cauley-Stein (C). Injuries have opened a path to extended minutes for Cauley-Stein. At present, he's more of a blocks streamer. But regular playing time could re-open his double-double potential.


Players rostered about 75 percent: Giannis Antetokoumpo, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton

Since All-Star Weekend, Brooks Lopez has resembled more of his normal, stable self. You know the drill: 3s, blocks, and always on the edge between streamer and roster-worthy.

Bobby Portis' high usage guarantees a high chance of packing productivity into limited minutes. But the low mileage means he runs hot and cold. If the Bucks end up limiting some starters' minutes down the stretch, Portis could step into an expanded role. He gets a lot of touches, so he bears watching.

The bigger issue for the Bucks' rotation: the return of P.J. Tucker (SF/PF). It's hard to envision Tucker doing enough to become more than a low-end, deep-league streaming option. But he will get minutes. And that means volatility Portis and Pat Connaughton (SG/SF.)

But I've got a feeling Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG) could be in line for a few serviceable games. DiVincenzo's across-the-board, under-the-radar box scores tend to make him eternally available. But he can fill it up in a lot of subtle little ways, gets minutes, and could get a few more touches over the final week.