I'm writing this while watching the final seconds of Duke beating Michigan State in the NCAA Sweet 16. Thursday, I drafted my big fantasy baseball league team, an AL-only auction that lasts well over 7 hours (and puts me in the dog house with my wife). Every day on SportsCenter I hear about another NFL prospect doing their pro day, trying to impress one last time before the upcoming NFL draft. I've seen Brittney Griner dunking all over everyone in the women's game. I've seen Justin Verlander sign a record contract extension this week in the MLB, and hear that Aaron Rogers is about to do the same in the NFL. The US soccer team is competing for a spot in the World Cup next year. I even heard an interview on the radio with former Ohio State running back (and former penitentiary inmate) Maurice Clarrett saying that he hoped to make the next Olympics team to play rugby.
There's just an overall sports bonanza going on right now. But what about the NBA? Where are they on the national radar? The Heat's win streak captured the airwaves for a while before they lost, but outside of that, what have you really heard about the Association on a national scale over the last week? Maybe a story or two about whether the Lakers can hold on to the last playoff spot, and Pat Riley telling Danny Ainge to shut up about LeBron James' complaining, and it's been crickets outside of that.
This is the time of year in which only the true NBA-heads are still paying attention to the best league in the world. The writing is deeply etched into the wall about the fate of the vast majority of teams, and outside of the Lakers/Jazz/Mavs fight for eighth place, the playoffs are essentially set, outside of minor positioning. And unlike the NFL, MLB, or NHL, nobody expects teams fighting to get into the postseason to really compete for the title. So there's no wall-to-wall coverage about who gets that last playoff spot, the way it is in other sports.
My point is, if you're reading this article then you are among the most dedicated NBA fans that are left. Realistically speaking, you not only care enough to PLAY fantasy basketball, but you're also really good at it because you're likely still alive with a chance to win your league if you're in here. As the semi-finals wind down in H2H leagues and the roto leagues congeal into their final standings, if you're still alive enough to care about fantasy advice then you must be battling to finish at the top.
And if that's the case, then you likely already know all of the general tips that I could offer. You already know to choose production over potential … Kevin Love just hasn't walked through that door as a super-weapon, so pick up Maurice Harkless instead of continuing to take a zero for that roster spot. You already know to watch injuries to starters like a hawk, because if a starter drops then someone is going to get the chance to fill those stats, and whoever grabs that someone first just added another fantasy starter for free. You already know to scour the box scores nightly, looking for that name that you never heard of that snuck into the rotation and dropped a double-double that you can be the first to pick up. In most H2H leagues the playoffs are at least as much about quantity of games played as it is about quality of players, perhaps more so. But again, by this point you already know this.
And because you know it, I'm going to modify the structure of this week's Hoops Lab. Instead of going Around the League looking at big stories like I usually do, instead I'm going to really beef up the "New Additions" section. Give you some names to look at as potentially productive guys that you should be able to pick up in most leagues. Let's keep it very practical this week, and I wish you the very best in taking home the title as your league winds down.
Mario Chalmers (53% owned in Yahoo! leagues): A couple of weeks ago I pointed out that The Streak was great for owners of Heat superstars because it pushed them to play more minutes at a higher level in order to win every game. Now that the streak is over and the Heat have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the East, I expect the streak to have a push-back effect with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh getting more rest down the stretch. This is especially true for Wade and Ray Allen, who are nursing injuries. Chalmers likely gets a boost as the most productive player on the team that isn't in the "must rest" category.
Brandon Bass (51% owned) and Shavlik Randolph (0% owned): Kevin Garnett is expected to miss at least another week with a foot/ankle inflammation injury. This has opened the door for Bass, Jeff Green, and now Randolph to play a much larger role on the Celtics frontline. Bass is the starter and has had some big scoring and rebounding games this week, but the Celtics played a bigger lineup on Friday with Chris Wilcox as the starting center and this opened up some minutes for Randolph who responded with a near double-double in more than 20 minutes off the bench.
Dorell Wright (45% owned) and Damien Wilkins (7% owned): Wright and Wilkins have both been getting plenty of minutes and shots for the 76ers. Wright is obviously the bigger upside play due to his ability to knock down the trey, but both are productive at the right time.
Randy Foye (33% owned): Foye does one thing … he makes the 3-pointer. That's it. But when he's making them, he can be worth a roster spot as a role player. He's been making them of late, so if you need someone to knock down 6-10 treys in a given week Foye could be your man.
Andre Drummond (21% owned): Drummond returned from injury and made his long-awaited debut start Friday night, scoring 17 points in 19 minutes to go with four combined blocks and steals. I've been talking about Drummond all season, and how his per-36 minute stats suggested huge things if he ever played starter's minutes. The Pistons have nothing left to play for except perhaps letting their young core play, so look for big things from the rookie down the stretch.
Al-Farouq Aminu (21% owned): I've written about Aminu a few times in this space as well. He's not a flashy player, and he's not going to score very much. He's a garbage man. But he can hang a crooked number in both blocks and steals on a given night, and he's also a consistent threat for double-digit boards from the wing.
Bismack Biyombo (19% owned): Biyombo has played 30 or more minutes in four straight games, and has responded with two double-digit rebounding efforts and an 11 combined blocks and steals over that stretch. He's a defensive role player, but when he's playing 35 minutes a night, he's worth a roster spot.
Jimmy Butler (14% owned): Butler showed that he could be a productive starter when given minutes earlier this season when Luol Deng went down for a few games. He has gotten another opportunity this week with Marco Belinelli (abdomen) out, and he's responded by averaging 18.5 points, 6.5 boards, 3.5 assists, 2.5 steals, and 2.0 treys in 44 minutes per game over two starts. Belinelli is day-to-day with the injury, but as long as he is out, Butler is worth owning.
C.J. Miles (14% owned), Shaun Livingston (14% owned), Tyler Zeller (7% owned), Wayne Ellington (5% owned): Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Cleveland Cavaliers (while Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are out). Miles, Livingston, and Ellington are essentially splitting the backcourt minutes and each are productive enough to warrant some attention. Zeller flirts with a double-double every night.
Wesley Johnson (13% owned): Johnson was a top-five pick in the 2010 draft for the Timberwolves, and recently he has been showing that he still has scoring skills. He has averaged 19 points and four made treys this week, and is playing 37 minutes a night for the Suns.
Jodie Meeks (13% owned): Everyone has been tabbing Meeks as the potential beneficiary of Metta World Peace's knee injury, and now with Kobe Bryant limping as well, it appears certain that Meeks will have a large role at least in the short term. Meeks is another player like Randy Foye, in that his only skill is knocking down the long ball. But he's attempted 22 treys in his last four games, and if he's playing 37 minutes per (like in the last two outings), he's liable to take and make a lot of them over the next few games.
Alan Anderson (9% owned): Rudy Gay has been battling back troubles that are serious enough that Raptors coach Dwane Case has publicly flirted with the idea of shutting him down for the year. Gay is back on the court after missing a game-and-a-half with the injury, but in his absence, Anderson exploded for a 35-point outing in which he knocked down six treys. Thus, Anderson has obvious upside if Gay is shut down. But even in the last couple of games with Gay in the lineup, Anderson has still been good for 13 points and 1.5 treys in 31 minutes. Not huge numbers, but productive enough considering the upside.
Kyle O'Quinn (8% owned) and E'Tuwan Moore (6% owned): These are two of the lesser known Magic producers, which is saying something on a team where all of the producers are little-known. O'Quinn had topped off a four-game stretch where he averaged a double-double with a 23-point/11-rebound outing against the Bobcats on Tuesday. He came back to earth on Friday with a game of four points, four rebounds, and four assists, but he's still getting major minutes and for the most part doing something with them. Moore is getting extra minutes with Jameer Nelson (ankle) out, and he responded with 15 points, four boards, and five assists on Friday. In 18 previous starts he had averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 assists.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 87, Sirius 210.