Week 25 Schedule Considerations

Week 25 Schedule Considerations

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

In terms of how it winds down its regular season, the NBA is more like Major League Baseball than it is the NFL, in that the wave of players sitting out for rest purposes and other players getting shut down for injuries that they might otherwise play through or just miss a couple of games lasts for a full month, maybe longer. However, this week is more analogous to Week 17 of the NFL - full shutdowns are in place everywhere, and it's more difficult to find teams with something to play for than ever. You have to hope to catch lightning in a bottle and get the next Devin Booker, looking to pursue a personal milestone.

We're treating Week 25 like we did the All-Star break week, adding three two days from the following week to finish the season. Also like last time, we'll list out the number of games just for Week 25 separately, but our analysis will include the three extra days.

Week 25-26 Number of Games:

Six Games: CHA, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, MIA, MIN, NYK, PHI, POR, UTA

Five Games: ATL, BOS, BKN, CHI, CLE, HOU, IND, LAL, MEM, MIL, NOR, OKC, ORL, PHO, SAC, SAS, TOR

Four Games: LAC, WAS

Separate list just for Week 25:

Four Games: ATL, BKN, BOS, CHA, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAL, MIA, MIL, MIN, NYK, ORL, PHI, PHX, POR, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA

Three Games: CHI, LAC, MEM, NOR, OKC, WAS

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In terms of how it winds down its regular season, the NBA is more like Major League Baseball than it is the NFL, in that the wave of players sitting out for rest purposes and other players getting shut down for injuries that they might otherwise play through or just miss a couple of games lasts for a full month, maybe longer. However, this week is more analogous to Week 17 of the NFL - full shutdowns are in place everywhere, and it's more difficult to find teams with something to play for than ever. You have to hope to catch lightning in a bottle and get the next Devin Booker, looking to pursue a personal milestone.

We're treating Week 25 like we did the All-Star break week, adding three two days from the following week to finish the season. Also like last time, we'll list out the number of games just for Week 25 separately, but our analysis will include the three extra days.

Week 25-26 Number of Games:

Six Games: CHA, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, MIA, MIN, NYK, PHI, POR, UTA

Five Games: ATL, BOS, BKN, CHI, CLE, HOU, IND, LAL, MEM, MIL, NOR, OKC, ORL, PHO, SAC, SAS, TOR

Four Games: LAC, WAS

Separate list just for Week 25:

Four Games: ATL, BKN, BOS, CHA, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAL, MIA, MIL, MIN, NYK, ORL, PHI, PHX, POR, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA

Three Games: CHI, LAC, MEM, NOR, OKC, WAS

One of two teams that really gets hurt by the change to merge Weeks 25-26 is the Clippers. Let's take a moment to appreciate what Doc Rivers and crew have done this season. Without a clear star to begin with, they traded away their best player in Tobias Harris at the deadline, yet not only have they stayed in the playoffs, but they are still in the sixth spot in the west, a half-game behind the Jazz, who have a game in hand over them. They've won eight of their last 10, and 12 of their last 15 games. They've taken advantage of a schedule that's seen them play a number of non-playoff teams in that stretch, but they do have wins over Indiana, Brooklyn, Boston and Oklahoma City in that span.

It's pretty easy to bench your Clippers for this final period, though. Lou Williams sat out Thursday's loss to the Bucks on a rest day, Danilo Gallinari has been tending to a minor ankle injury, and both Patrick Beverly and Landry Shamet have missed time recently due to minor injuries. The Clippers regularly spread their playing time and production out among eight to 10 players in any given night, too, so the chances of you missing out on three monster games from any one of them seems remote.

The Wizards are the other team with only four games over the scoring period. Bradley Beal remains a must-start even with the four games, as he's averaging 46 Yahoo points per game over his last 15 games - you'd need a solid 32-33 points per game guy over six games to match that sort of production, and the Wizards have nothing to play for but to get their guys production, so it's unlikely that Beal will rest. Because of their respective high ceilings, I might also be inclined to roster Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. I'd draw the line at teammates Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant, even if Trevor Ariza continues to be shut down.

Because there are so many players getting shut down and so many teams with little to play for this week, let's try to find some gems in that sweet spot between teams with five or six games and teams with something left to play for. That eliminates a few surprising teams. For instance, the Celtics are tied with the Pacers for fourth in the Eastern Conference and are all but assured to match up against them in the first round of the playoffs, yet they still rested Kyrie Irving and Al Horford on Saturday against the Nets, and also rested Irving earlier in the week against the Cavs. You have to think that both players are at risk of missing at least one more game for load management purposes as well anyone else on the roster. Perhaps they think that they'll be able to clinch home court against the Pacers regardless after beating them on Friday night.

Heading into Sunday's games, Denver and Golden State are improbably tied for first in the Western Conference. Is this a function of Denver closing the gap, or is it more a reflection about the Warriors not caring about the regular season? It's pretty clear that winning home court advantage means a lot to the Nuggets, as they're just two games over .500 on the road. Other than Malik Beasley missing a game Tuesday due to a personal matter, all their top players have been active and getting near full minutes lately. They have a loaded schedule over these last 10 days, including a big head-to-head game against the Warriors on the road this upcoming Tuesday. Unless a gap opens up between the two teams, look for the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap and Will Barton to all be good plays.

It's not as certain that home court means as much to the Warriors. Stephen Curry and DeMarcus Cousins each missed a game for rest reasons last weekend. However their top six players all played their full share of minutes the subsequent two games this week. But this isn't their first rodeo - they might decide it's prudent to rest or limit their starters either on Thursday against the LeBron James-free Lakers, or against the Cavs at home on Friday. They also play back-to-back games the following Tuesday and Wednesday, on the road against non-contenders New Orleans and Memphis. It wouldn't be a shock to see rest invoked for either of those games.

The Pistons are a problem for us this week, with Blake Griffin already declared out for Monday's game against the Pacers with a knee issue. The Pistons are hanging on for dear life as the six seed in the East, only a 1.5 games ahead of the ninth place Magic. Andre Drummond as always remains an automatic start, but the tough call is the Sybil-like production of Reggie Jackson, who is coming off of a 43.0 Yahoo fantasy points game Saturday, but had a mere 13.2-point game against the Magic on Thursday. After that, the fantasy production is too spread out and sparse to take advantage of the Pistons' six games over the scoring period.

The Heat are a half-game ahead of the Magic for the final playoff spot in the East, and a half-game behind the Nets for the seventh seed. They've won two in a row and seven of their last 10 despite missing two key players, Josh Richardson (heel) and Justise Winslow. There's no timetable for either player's return - Richardson's injury seems less defined, and Winslow will definitely miss Miami's road game against the Celtics. It's been different players each night carrying the Heat lately, rather than one star carrying the load. Bam Adebayo has surpassed Hassan Whiteside in the Heat's rotation, though not always in production. Still, he's your best bet to produce, having tallied at least 21.2 Yahoo fantasy points in every game since March 13, though his ceiling is lower than teammates Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, who have each put together huge games in the last two games.

The devastating injury suffered by Jusuf Nurkic (please, don't watch it if you haven't seen it yet) has opened the door for Portland's Enes Kanter, who had a 20-point, 15-rebound game against the Pistons on Saturday. C.J. McCollum remains out until at least the end of the Blazers' road trip that ends after Monday's game in Minnesota, but his void hasn't been as readily filled by one player, instead with the likes of Maurice Harkless, Jake Layman and Al-Farouq Aminu all having modest increases, but none being able to regularly repeat that during McCollum's absence.

Finally, Utah continues to fight tooth-and-nail for positioning in the West, winning nine of their last 10 to climb to fifth in the West, two games behind Portland and 2.5 behind Houston. With six games remaining, they have a chance to climb all the way to third in the West, which could prove ideal if the Warriors win home court advantage in the conference. Derrick Favors will miss at least Monday's game, which should mean more minutes for at least Joe Ingles and probably Jae Crowder. You already have green lights to start Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell every week, but Ingles, Crowder and Ricky Rubio can all give you a games edge this scoring period.

If you're still playing this week, ask your commissioner to consider changing the rules for next year first, but secondly, go out and take down your championships. Watch out for teams with injured stars on winning teams like Joel Embiid, who will miss at least two more games. Stay on top your news feeds if you have daily moves and know what your pivots are in case of late scratches. The good news is that most if not all of your league has checked out, so the competition for those remaining key free agents should be less active. Hopefully the luck falls your way and you bring home the bacon!

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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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