In-Season Strategy: Week 20 Schedule Considerations

In-Season Strategy: Week 20 Schedule Considerations

This article is part of our In-Season Strategy series.

Welcome to Week 20, which after the trade deadline and then the All-Star weeks, just oozes normalcy. There's no more aberrant number of games this week, no risk of a player missing games due to a deal. There's still "workload management" issues, as we saw with Anthony Davis on Saturday night against the Lakers, and that's going to only accelerate as we get closer to the playoffs. Remember, the All-Star break is *not* the midway point in the season - we're well past that now. The season ends on April 10th, giving us six more weeks and change to our fantasy season.

Number of Games:

Four Games: ATL, BKN, BOS, CHA, CHI, CLE, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOR, OKC, ORL, POR

Three Games: DAL, DEN, NYK, PHI, PHO, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS

Because we don't have and five-game or two-game weeks, let's instead start off with the issue mentioned with Anthony Davis above - tanking teams resting their starters. Who is at risk of losing playing time that you might not expect? The Pelicans didn't trade Davis before the deadline, and then he returned to action, playing the next five games before sitting out against his desired future team Saturday. It was the second game of a back-to-back, but the timing certainly seemed a little suspicious. Ironically, though, the Pelicans still thumped the Lakers, who were coming off of an emotional win over Houston earlier in the week. The Pels have four games

Welcome to Week 20, which after the trade deadline and then the All-Star weeks, just oozes normalcy. There's no more aberrant number of games this week, no risk of a player missing games due to a deal. There's still "workload management" issues, as we saw with Anthony Davis on Saturday night against the Lakers, and that's going to only accelerate as we get closer to the playoffs. Remember, the All-Star break is *not* the midway point in the season - we're well past that now. The season ends on April 10th, giving us six more weeks and change to our fantasy season.

Number of Games:

Four Games: ATL, BKN, BOS, CHA, CHI, CLE, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOR, OKC, ORL, POR

Three Games: DAL, DEN, NYK, PHI, PHO, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS

Because we don't have and five-game or two-game weeks, let's instead start off with the issue mentioned with Anthony Davis above - tanking teams resting their starters. Who is at risk of losing playing time that you might not expect? The Pelicans didn't trade Davis before the deadline, and then he returned to action, playing the next five games before sitting out against his desired future team Saturday. It was the second game of a back-to-back, but the timing certainly seemed a little suspicious. Ironically, though, the Pelicans still thumped the Lakers, who were coming off of an emotional win over Houston earlier in the week. The Pels have four games this week, the last three coming on the road, including Wednesday's game against the Lakers again. Will Davis suit up for that game? They play back-to-back over the weekend, at Phoenix and Denver, and with both of those games at some amount of altitude, one of them could be a good candidate for Davis or even Jrue Holiday to manage their workload. Look for Elfrid Paytonto continue to get heavy minutes now that he's back from a nine-game absence with an ankle injury. In his first two games back he's averaged 30 Yahoo fantasy points per game.

Memphis traded away many of their veterans before the deadline, but Mike Conley remained behind. The Grizzlies are racing to the bottom, having lost four in a row, but still have a long way to go to "catch" the bottom teams that are leaders in the race to get a top-3 lottery pick, with 23 wins. Still, look for Conley to play reduced minutes as he did on Saturday, when he played just 30 minutes in a close game against the Cavs. Wednesday and Saturday are big games for their tanking purposes, as they host the Bulls on Wednesday and travel to Dallas on Saturday. Meanwhile, Jaren Jackson has missed the last two games with a deep thigh bruise, opening up a little more time for Jonas Valanciunas. Finally, Chandler Parsons is back after an extended absence due to a knee injury. While he hasn't done much in his first two games back, he's gobbling up around 20 minutes of playing time that can't go elsewhere and the Grizzlies are going to want to try to pump up his value down the stretch.

The Bulls are going about this whole tanking thing wrong, having won the last three in a row and going 5-5 in their last 10. But it's hard to tell players to back off, especially if they're young and still making their mark in the league, as is the case with Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine, both of whom had monster games Saturday against the Celtics. With four games, Robin Lopez could be a sneaky start this week too. He's back in the team's playing time rotation, averaging 30 minutes over his last four games. Right now the Bulls are two games out from participating in the Zion Williamson lottery, having the fourth-worst record in the NBA behind the Suns, Knicks and the Cavaliers.

Speaking of the Cavs, they're winning at the wrong time, having won three of the last four, with those wins coming against fellow lottery candidates New York, Phoenix and Memphis. Kevin Love is back and is coming off of his best game of the year Saturday, tallying 50.4 Yahoo points in the win over the Grizzlies. He played 26 minutes in that game, the most he's played since returning. The Cavs don't anticipate giving Love any more rest days in the near future, but you have to think that one of the two games over the weekend for him could be a restricted minutes day, especially as they'll be playing three games in four days. You might want to watch what the Cavs do with Larry Nance - he was on a good roll until they curiously benched him in favor of Ante Zizic on Wednesday. Prior to that he was a great source of rebounds. Love's return probably also hurts Nance's production.

The Heat aren't tanking, but they are fading hard, having lost eight of their last 10 to fall 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East and 10th overall in the conference. Let's face it, the seventh and eighth spots in the conference are going to be sacrificial lambs to the Bucks and Raptors anyway, and for the Heat it's no great prize to just make the playoffs - unlike Charlotte or Detroit, or even Brooklyn, there's no "happy to be there" factor. Under this backdrop you should exercise caution before inserting Goran Tragic back in your lineup. Dragic played only 16 minutes in his first game back on Saturday, a critical loss to the Pistons, and he'll probably be under a minutes restriction for the next few games. Thus, his four-game week this week isn't as promising as it might appear. There are other injury issues for the Heat this week - Justise Winslow (knee) is doubtful, as are James Johnson (shoulder) and Rodney McGruder (knee). That could mean that Dwyane Wade, Derrick Jones and Kelly Olynyk all play heavy minutes to start the week.

Staying in Orlando, the Magic are one of the teams jockeying for that final playoff spot, and it might mean a little more to them after they held on to their key players at the trade deadline. Still, youth is being served there, with Jonathan Isaac continuing to earn around 30 minutes per game. The second-year forward out of Florida State had a bad game Saturday against the Bulls, but otherwise had steadily produced around 30 Yahoo fantasy points per game in his last 10 games. I still think that there's another level remaining for him, and it's only a question of whether the Magic prioritize getting him the ball more often this year or that change happens next year.

The Pacers were supposed to drop off following Victor Oladipo's season-ending injury, but that hasn't happened yet, as they've won 8 of 10 to remain the three-seed in the Eastern Conference. A quick look at the schedule demonstrates how that's happened - they caught the Pelicans, Lakers and Clippers all at the perfect time within the trade deadline throes, and have also beaten the Hornets, Pelicans again, Cavaliers and the Wizards. Their four-game schedule this week isn't too arduous either - they have games against the Pistons, Mavericks, Timberwolves and Magic. Three of the four teams are on the edge of playoff contention, though the T'Wolves are starting to fade out of it. One change for the Pacers is the increased minutes for Wesley Matthews, who has played 30+ minutes for them after getting released by the Knicks. That playing time has come at the expense of Cory Joseph, who has seen his playing time drop from 30 minutes to 20 minutes per game. Make sure to check the status of Myles Turner before you set your lineups Monday, as Turner has missed the last two games with a hip injury. If Turner sits again, Domantas Sabonisshould get more playing time and touches.

Reggie Bullockhas settled into a significant role with the Lakers after arriving from Detroit, having played 32 minutes per game in his four games with his new team. The Lakers lacked good shooters from behind the arc before the deal, and Bullock fits that role ably. He hit a couple of huge shots in their win over Houston on Thursday. But his overall fantasy upside is limited because he doesn't do much in the non-scoring categories. If you need 3's in your roti-style league, however, he's a good fit.

Clint Capela is back for the Rockets after missing a little more than a month due to a thumb injury. The Rockets threw him right back into the fire, playing him 28 and 31 minutes respectively in his first two games back. He was playing at such a high level before the injury, and might not be all the way back, but he's already had double-digit rebounds in both games back. Kenneth Faried might take a little away from his overall production, but I don't think it'll be long before we see Capela tallying in the high 30's and low 40's in Yahoo fantasy points. The Rockets have four games this week, all against Eastern Conference teams in a quest to improve their playoff position.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Erickson
Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).
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