Schedule Observations and Quirks:
The Cavaliers, Nuggets and Kings play two games this week, while the Hawks, Nets, Mavericks, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Pelicans and Magic play three times. The other 19 teams are slated for four contests this week.
Three of the Thunder’s four games occur on nights with fewer than seven scheduled. This advantage only helps if you’re willing to stream Dion Waiters this week. Five teams are gifted two such games, and the rest of the league claims one or zero games on those quieter nights.
The Timberwolves play four times, three of which occur against bottom-five defenses (over the past 10 games), all yielding over 106 points per 100 possessions. They refrain from playing in back-to-backs, improving the odds of Ricky Rubio starting all four.
The Nets play three games, all at home, where they are 4-3 this season. They are 1-11 on the road.
The Clippers and Lakers were evicted from Staples Center this week, both playing four road games on account of Disney on Ice: FROZEN. Neither team returns until Dec. 15.
The Raptors’ six-game home stand culminates with four home games this week.
Beginning Monday, the Kings play a league-low three games in 11 days. 26 other teams play at least five games in that span, diminishing the immediate fantasy potency of Omri Casspi and Kosta Koufos in the wake of Willie Cauley-Stein’s dislocated right index finger.
Cause for Concern:
The Spurs play the Lakers and Sixers this week. Coach Gregg Popovich already rested Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili at the end of November, so it may be Tony Parker’s turn to take a seat on the bench.
The Cavaliers play six games between Dec. 6 and Christmas. Every other team plays at least eight games, and 23 teams play nine or more. It’s time to discard Mo Williams. You also have to make a decision on Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith if you’re struggling in a head-to-head league. They’re valuable players, but the schedule over the next 19 days prohibits their usefulness.
The Lakers and Wizards both began December with eight games over the first 12 days. Kobe Bryant has played at least 32 minutes in five straight games, and the Lakers have another five road games over the next week. I don’t think his body can withstand the onslaught of games, and I also don’t think he wants to disappoint road crowds by resting. Concurrently, Bradley Beal has played at least 33 minutes in the last seven games, averaging 37.7 minutes per game in that span. His history of stress reactions in his right leg coincides with coach Randy Wittman playing him heavy minutes in a condensed timeframe. Both Bryant and Beal require observation this week, because the past three seasons foretell imminent fatigue-related injury.
Arbitrary Suggestion Thresholds:
Yahoo - less than 40 percent owned
ESPN - less than 43 percent owned
T.J. Warren (SG)
(Ownership percentages: Yahoo - 34; ESPN - 31.4)
Warren typically has his best performances when P.J. Tucker commits two first-quarter fouls; he certainly benefits in the minutes department. They’ve played 75 minutes together all season, 15 of which occurred in the Suns’ overtime loss to the Pistons last week. Warren generally subs for Tucker and vice versa. Injuries have forced coach Jeff Hornacek to rejigger the lineup, and Warren has taken advantage by averaging 15.1 points over the last seven games. The rest of his stat line is hollow, percentages not included. Warren is one of the most efficient scorers in the league, and he does so attempting close to one three-pointer and free-throw per game. The second unit is filled with floor spacers like Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic, the perfect complements for Warren’s unorthodox floaters and jumpers in the paint.
Trevor Booker (PF)
(Ownership percentages: Yahoo - 11; ESPN - 6.8)
Rudy Gobert is out indefinitely with a sprained left MCL. Following Saturday’s overtime win, coach Quin Snyder said, "There are no clear answers for our team right now as far as rotations and substitutions go. It's all uncharted waters." Booker started the first game without Gobert and was limited to 15 minutes because of the matchup. He then came off the bench Saturday because he was battling an illness and procured a team-high 14 rebounds in 23 minutes. With two days off before their next game, Booker should be ready to handle an expanded role sans Gobert. He’ll compete with rookie Trey Lyles and Jeff Withey for minutes until Gobert returns, branding Booker a risky recommendation on an individual game basis, but one that should return bountiful rebounds by week’s end.
Jose Calderon (PG)
(Ownership percentages: Yahoo - 40; ESPN - 8.4)
Calderon was a perennial challenger for league-leader in assists until he joined the Mavericks and coach Rick Carlisle converted him into a spot-up shooter. Upon joining the equal-opportunity triangle offense, Calderon averaged a pedestrian 4.4 assists in his first 63 games with the Knicks and a career-low 3.8 assists in 27 minutes per game this season. He’s become an unspectacular fantasy option toward the tail end of his career, but he’s recorded at least four assists in seven of the past nine games, averaging 5.0 per game in that time. With Jerian Grant unfit to play large minutes, and the Knicks showcasing Calderon for a trade that will never transpire, the Knicks’ four-game week offers a bit of security if you’re looking for assists and want to roll the dice on Calderon. Consult the waiver wire for Darren Collison first, who can provide comparable assists and better overall value the rest of the season.
Patrick Beverley (PG)
(Ownership percentages: Yahoo - 38; ESPN - 9.6)
Since displacing Ty Lawson from the starting lineup six games ago, Beverley is converting 57 percent of his three-pointers and averaging 10.0 points, 2.0 steals and 1.0 block in 30 minutes per game. Beverley averages an obscene 5.3 fouls per 36 minutes, a consequence of his overzealous defensive tactics. However, the aggressive nature with which he hounds ball handlers has generated elite steals and quality blocks for a point guard. Beverley was standard league relevant each of the previous two seasons in close to 30 minutes per night. The only thing that held him back was injury, restricting him to 56 games both times.
Jerami Grant (SF)
(Ownership percentages: Yahoo - 33; ESPN - 24)
Grant is the consensus target if you desire blocks. I profiled him two weeks ago, and since then, he’s averaged 2.4 blocks in 28 minutes per game, tied for fifth most in the NBA since Nov. 22. Grant has blocked at least one shot in 10 straight games, recording multiple blocks eight times in that span. Coach Brett Brown prefers splitting up Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, allowing Grant to play sustainable minutes at power forward, a suitable position given his shooting deficiencies. He’s also notched a steal in six straight games, buffering his fantasy value for the upcoming four-game week.
Isaiah Canaan (PG)
(Ownership percentages: Yahoo - 25; ESPN - 21.4)
Canaan serves one purpose: shooting. Three-point attempts encompass nearly 70 percent of his shots this year. His 2.6 three-pointers and 7.0 three-point attempts per contest are both tied for ninth-most in the league, and he recently shifted from starting point guard to starting shooting guard in Tony Wroten’s season debut. Over the past eight games, Canaan has made 3.6 threes per game and attempted 12.6 shots per game, second most on the Sixers. He’ll get one solid week before Kendall Marshall (knee) returns and Wroten’s minutes start to impact his playing time, so obtain Canaan if you’re desperate for a sizable boost in three-pointers.