Week 22 Schedule Considerations

Week 22 Schedule Considerations

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

In many leagues, including my home league, Week 22 is the final week of the regular season before we have our fantasy playoffs. I play in a head-to-head points league that dates back to 1994, so it's a very simple league - we have only five scoring categories and just six starters each week. I've played in many deeper leagues, many of them roto style, but I prefer this one for it's simplicity and because I hate how a poor FT% can kill a player's value (Shaq and Dwight Howard back when Howard was otherwise dominant come to mind). Then again, I'm the same guy that geeks out on super-deep baseball leagues and loves playing in QB-flex football leagues, so I get that I lack consistency with that preference. Maybe it's because the league has been around for a long time and has kept me in touch with some of my old friends. Anyhow, in this final regular season week, again we have two teams with only two games, and at least this time it's one of the more relevant teams this week.

Number of Games:

Four Games: BKN, CLE, DET, HOU, LAC, LAL, OKC, SAC, UTA, WAS

Three Games: ATL, BOS, CHA, CHI, DAL, DEN, IND, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOR, NYK, ORL, PHI, PHO, POR, SAS, TOR

Two Games: GSW, MEM

Let's start with the Warriors. The good news is that we're unlikely to see any of the top players held out with rest days. They play this Sunday,

In many leagues, including my home league, Week 22 is the final week of the regular season before we have our fantasy playoffs. I play in a head-to-head points league that dates back to 1994, so it's a very simple league - we have only five scoring categories and just six starters each week. I've played in many deeper leagues, many of them roto style, but I prefer this one for it's simplicity and because I hate how a poor FT% can kill a player's value (Shaq and Dwight Howard back when Howard was otherwise dominant come to mind). Then again, I'm the same guy that geeks out on super-deep baseball leagues and loves playing in QB-flex football leagues, so I get that I lack consistency with that preference. Maybe it's because the league has been around for a long time and has kept me in touch with some of my old friends. Anyhow, in this final regular season week, again we have two teams with only two games, and at least this time it's one of the more relevant teams this week.

Number of Games:

Four Games: BKN, CLE, DET, HOU, LAC, LAL, OKC, SAC, UTA, WAS

Three Games: ATL, BOS, CHA, CHI, DAL, DEN, IND, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOR, NYK, ORL, PHI, PHO, POR, SAS, TOR

Two Games: GSW, MEM

Let's start with the Warriors. The good news is that we're unlikely to see any of the top players held out with rest days. They play this Sunday, then their next game is on the road at Houston on Wednesday, followed by a Saturday road game at Oklahoma City. The spacing of the games plus the quality of the opponents should ensure that everyone plays. I'd forge ahead for sure with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. The borderline calls are Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Thompson recently missed two games this week with knee soreness, but then returned Friday to have a huge game against the Nuggets. Green's production has been down recently, perhaps in conjunction with the rise of Cousins. He is averaging 27 Yahoo fantasy points over his last 15 games, having reached 30 points just twice in his last six games.

Pivoting over to Memphis, the calculus is fairly similar, minus the obvious star power of Golden State. They have the same spacing in their schedule, with road games at Atlanta on Wednesday and Washington on Saturday. The Hawks game will be a battle of paces, with Atlanta being the fastest paced team in the NBA and Memphis being the slowest. That gap has narrowed a little bit over the last 15 games, but there's still about a seven-possession gap per game between the two teams over that span. Mike Conley is a pretty reliable start, though Memphis did sit him three games ago for maintenance purposes. I also like using Jonas Valanciunas, who has been averaging 34 Yahoo fantasy points per game over his last 15, especially because it's unlikely you have a better alternative to slot in at center. The borderline players in this group are Avery Bradley and Joakim Noah, who both have a 40+ Yahoo point game in their last three and a sub-20 point game in that span. For thrill-seekers only.

It's shutdown season in the NBA, as teams that are out of the playoff race will begin to use every ounce of caution with their injured players and play their stars with limited minutes. Contending teams too will start invoking maintenance reasons for resting their stars for a given game or two, as the Warriors recently did with Kevin Durant. But the big news this week was the final capitulation by the Lakers, who have now dropped five games in a row to drop to 30-36, seven games behind the Spurs for the final playoff spot. After they lost a critical game to the Clippers on Monday, they conceded it was time to start limiting LeBron James's minutes, and he played 31 and 28 minutes respectively in his next two games. Of course, all he did in his 28-minute game against the Celtics was go 30-12-10, illustrating that reduced minutes doesn't necessarily equate to sitting out. But it does raise the specter of him sitting out whenever the Lakers want to give him a day off, particularly if they don't care about the opponent. They embark on a road trip this week, with all four games coming against Eastern Conference foes, including back-to-back games Thursday and Friday against the Raptors and Pistons. Meanwhile, both Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball have been ruled out for the season, and Kyle Kuzma has missed the last two games with an ankle injury.

So who benefits with the extra playing time? It's not necessarily who you think.Yes, Josh Hart has seen an uptick in playing time and probably will continue to do so, and Rajon Rondo will continue to start in place of Ball and be a viable option. But veterans Reggie Bullock and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did not get that jump - in fact, KCP is getting even less time lately, playing just seven minutes against Denver on Wednesday. Instead, the Lakers are playing the kids, in first-rounder Moritz Wagner and G-League refugees Johnathan Williams and Alex Caruso. It makes a lot of sense with Mo Wagner - someday they hope he's part of the rotation, but they couldn't afford substantial time when they were vying for a playoff spot. Both Williams and Wagner topped the 30-Yahoo point plateau Saturday against the Celtics. The risk of all these guys is pretty obvious - they're untested, and if there's a game where LeBron is sitting out, the entire offense could suffer.

Have we complained yet about what a joke the Anthony Davis situation is in New Orleans yet? Yes, we have? Ok, let's still do that. I'm not sure how serious the back injury is that made him a late scratch Friday, but between that and his late availability on Monday, it continues to be a nightmare to own him. Meanwhile, Jrue Holiday is out for another week to 10 days with a lower abdominal strain. In Holiday's absence, Frank Jackson started Friday night and played 37 minutes, tallying 20 points and six rebounds. The Pelicans have just three games this week, but Jackson should get similar playing time this week.

The next team at risk of benching their starters could be the Timberwolves, who at 31-35 sit six games behind the Spurs for the final playoff spot in the West. They already have nagging injuries to a couple of their stars, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Towns left Saturday's game against the Wizards with a knee injury, but the team is optimistic about the results of his MRI. But it doesn't take much to foresee them shutting him down if there's any risk at all. As for Wiggins, he sat out Saturday with a thigh injury but the team was hopeful he could return Sunday. With Robert Covington and Luol Deng also out, rookie Keita Bates-Diop played a career-high 37 minutes, chipping in with a 12-point, 5-rebound and 2-assist effort. It may not be much now, but I suspect the rookie is going to get more playing time down the stretch.

Aside from the Rockets, the hottest team in the NBA right now might be the Detroit Pistons, winners of eight of their last 10 games. In the process they've tied Brooklyn for the sixth seed in the East. That's a pretty big difference to take the sixth seed over the seventh, as the winner gets to avoid Toronto in the first round and could possibly face an injury-weakened Pacers team in the first round. Behind the top two of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, the Pistons have been getting balanced production from the likes of Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard and Ish Smith. Jackson had a monster game against Atlanta on Feb. 22, but otherwise the upside of these three are limited, but they have a solid 20-25 point floor in a four-game week. Their four games this week are perfectly spaced, and include a game against the faltering Lakers at home on Friday night.

We'll finish off with the Utah Jazz, who are scrambling to hold off the Clippers and Spurs for the sixth seed, but more importantly trying to stay out of the eighth seed and facing the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. Kyle Korver is fairly one dimensional, but it's a pretty sweet dimension when he's going well. He's averaging 14.4 points, four rebounds, 3.4 three's and a steal per game over his last five games. If you're in a categorical league, his four games make Korver a really nice play this week. You're obviously already starting Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert this week if you own them, but you might also look to Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder this week as well. Stay away from Ricky Rubio, who has already been ruled out for Monday's game against the Thunder with a hip injury.

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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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