This article is part of our Centers of Attention series.
The NBA schedule brings some pretty significant swings in Weeks 15 and 16 with teams playing anywhere from eight to five combined games during that stretch. Injuries also continue to mount across the league, including the Rockets losing star center Clint Capela (thumb) for at least four weeks.
Let's dive into the next two weeks and highlight the impact the schedule could have on five big men across the league.
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers: Nurkic continues to be a nightly double-double threat with averages of 14.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for the season. He remains very efficient, shooting 50.9 percent from the field, and he's made strides by shooting a career-high 74.5 percent from the charity stripe. To top it all off, he's also averaging career-highs in assists (3.2), steals (1.1) and blocks (1.4) per contest.
Look for Nurkic to dominate in Week 15 with the Blazers playing four games. Two of his opponents are the Suns and Hawks, both of which struggle to defend opposing centers. Looking ahead, however, as good as he's been this season, it might actually be the wise move to bench Nurkic in Week 16, when the Blazers play just once. That game comes against a strong Utah defense, and even if Nurkic plays well, his single-game production is unlikely to be better than three or four games from another big man.
Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers: It doesn't matter that Harrell isn't starting for the Clippers. He's averaging 26 minutes per game this year, compared to 17 per night for regular starter Marcin Gortat. Boban Marjanovic has barely touched the floor the last couple of weeks. With how well Harrell is playing, there's no reason for the Clippers to move him into the starting five. He's averaging 15.9 points per game and shooting a stellar 62.5 percent from the field. Being an efficient scorer isn't exactly anything new for Harrell since he's shooting 63.7 percent from the field for his career. His 6.8 rebounds per game for the season, overall, aren't exactly overwhelming, but he's bumped that number up to 8.1 rebounds across his last eight games.
The Clippers are going to be extremely busy with four games each in both Weeks 15 and 16. They are one of only three teams to play four games in each of those weeks, so Harrell is going to provide a significant edge to those who roster him in fantasy. Sit back and enjoy the production.
Thomas Bryant, Washington Wizards: Entering Thursday, Bryant has had to face the Thunder, Sixers (twice), Bucks and Raptors across his last five games. That's a brutal stretch of opponents, but he held his own by averaging 12.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and one block. His playing time is secure with Dwight Howard (back) and Markieff Morris (neck) out indefinitely, and his improved play since both players went down has propelled him to be ranked 118th for the season on Yahoo, overall.
With the Wizards playing in London on Thursday, they only take the floor one time in Week 14. The good news is they are dealing with a ton of injuries and need the rest. The bad news is a one-game week renders everyone on the roster un-startable in most leagues. Luckily, the schedule normalizes going forward, with the Wizards playing four times in Week 15 and three times in Week 16. Bryant is still available in 47 percent of Yahoo leagues, so pick him back up while you can.
JaVale McGee, Los Angeles Lakers: It's hard to complain about McGee's overall production this season. After barely playing for the Warriors the last couple of years, he's averaging 11 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game with the Lakers. However, with the Lakers struggling right now, they decided to move McGee to the bench Tuesday against the Bulls and insert Tyson Chandler into the starting five.
If McGee continues to come off of the bench, his upside is going to be limited. He only logged 14 minutes Tuesday against Chicago, finishing with nine points and four rebounds. He did record three blocks, though, and could still be an asset in that category. Some Lakers players have received a boost in value due to the absences of LeBron James (groin) and Rajon Rondo (hand), but that pair being out actually hurts McGee. His offensive game is extremely limited, so he needs those two excellent playmakers to set him up with easy scoring opportunities. Don't cut bait on him just yet. There's a chance he gets his starting job back and thrives once James and Rondo are healthy. However, it might be a good idea to at least bench him for Week 15 with the Lakers playing just three games.
Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Hornets: The Willy Hernangomez: Starting Center experiment sure didn't last long. After Cody Zeller (hand) went down, Hernangomez started the next game against the Mavericks. The Hornets lost by a whopping 38 points, so they quickly decided to shift gears and insert Biyombo into the starting five.
The Hornets haven't played much better with Biyombo starting, but he's at least held onto the role across their last six games. While not overly productive, he did average 7.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks during that stretch. The Hornets only play twice in Week 15, so stay far, far away from Biyombo. However, with four games on the docket for Week 16, Biyombo has some upside if you're desperate at center. He's still available in 90 percent of Yahoo leagues.