Week 21 Matchup Rankings
This weekly ranking is based on opponents’ points given up per possession based on pace.
This period of time in the season is always strange, and provides the greatest variance in results. Which makes playoff series and last minute runs in Roto leagues all the more volatile. Perhaps it was the awe of witnessing Z-Bo’s first triple-double live over the weekend. Maybe it was the admiration in the standing ovation and chants of “Z-BO! Z-BO!” from the fiercely loyal Memphis crowd as they clung to the last throes of the grit and grind era. Or maybe it was the immense amount of BBQ and absinthe consumed in the last 72 hours that has thrown me into a real confusion on what to make of the next four weeks of the fantasy basketball landscape? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was the absinthe. Since anything is likely to happen after a few of those drinks, and anything is likely to happen in the next month, I’ll be referring to this period as the Green Month.
The Green Month has started off with a shock of result-changing magnitude: Anthony Davis out for the year. The shutting down of AD could not have come at a worse time for anyone anchoring their team around his production. When there is injury, there is opportunity. Ryan Anderson becomes more valuable when he returns, along with the increased production from Jrue Holiday. Center minutes have to go somewhere, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca have both provided a specific type of value when getting starter’s minutes.
Another symptom of the Green Month is the sudden appearance of things you have never seen before. The emergence of bench players who have been on the waivers all year. Shelvin Mack having confidence in his game. Bojan Bogdanovic scoring 40 points. Scott Skiles giving 40 minutes to Oladipo. David Lee returning from the dead. Michael Beasley returning from China. Literally anything can happen over the last month of the season. You can swing a week, a series, or a whole season by just pay attention to Bismack Biymobo’s minutes.
The tanking teams will start to play their young rotations, and the good teams will look to rest their superstars against week opponents. I’m looking at your track record Lebron. Luckily for East Coast teams, there will be something to play for between the Cavs and Toronto at the top. 3-6 are all two games away from each other, and four other teams are battling for the 7 and 8 seeds.
What to Watch This Week
Orlando vs Boston
Oladipo is hitting his stride at the right time for head-to-head playoff leagues. Injuries to other Magic players have helped in getting him more touches, but he is obviously playing to the level that many thought he could reach this pre-season. His 2.3 blocks over the last week are an outlier but he is obviously capable of being a nine-category superstar. Watch to see how many minutes Payton starts to get as he returns from his injury. Jennings should see a reduction before Oladipo, but Skiles will be Skiles. With Crowder out for the next few weeks, look for Jerebko/Sullinger/Johnson to play the rebounding under-sized big man role. Just don’t expect there to be any consistent rotations.
Memphis vs Lakers
They look pretty destined to make the playoffs with a group of D-League players filling in all the holes. Ray McCallum had a nice start against the Clippers, and it will be interesting to see if Memphis continues to give him the playtime. He could sneak into standard league rosters before the year’s end. Lance will also see heavy minutes, and if Tony Allen can keep his shot going, he will produce enough to stream in for steals. The Lakers are doing Byron things. Clarkson’s shot is in free-fall and I’m not sure he’ll get it back before it matters.
Utah vs Houston
Mack has finally gotten comfortable in the starting role for the Jazz. Mack being your best point guard is probably not great news for Jazz fans, but fantasy owners should always jump at a confident starter. He is a great source of assists right now, and it’s safe to bet that he will continue to start for the rest of the season. You are going to have to pay me a lot of money to get onto the Mike Beasley bandwagon, but in the “we don’t play defense” squad the Rockets roll out every night, he actually fits pretty well in limited minutes. He’s scoring big off the bench and points are usually hard to come by this late in the year.
Chicago vs Knicks
I can’t tell if Butler is playing his way back into shape or if he just has a lingering issue. Either way, I haven’t liked the inconsistency from his first four games back. Butler is too good to not start if he is playing, so you might just have to trust the basketball gods. The Bulls have someone injured every night for the last five years, so you should be able to play each game based on the starting lineup announcements pre-game. I am ready to jump on the Dougie McBucket’s bandwagon, mostly out of hope. (Disclaimer: Chicago Bulls fan). The Knicks are one of those teams with no incentive to win. We could start to see the slow shutdown of Melo. That should mean more production for Porzingis. Maybe they’ll even considered freeing Jerian Grant down the stretch.
Bucks vs Hawks
Greek Freak alert! Giannis is reaching top tier much watch levels of crazy right now. The removal of MCW has finally allowed him to the ball-centric point-forward that his freakish genetics always wanted him to be. Now someone just needs to teach him to shoot threes. Put Jabari in that class too. With Bazemore falling out of favor and Kirk Hinrich getting old, Thabo Sefolosha has reemerged as a steals specialist worth streaming or owning depending on your needs. I don’t believe the Tim Hardaway Jr hype but this is the Green Month, so who knows.
Toronto vs Pelicans
BISMACK! Biyombo has always been on the radar of fantasy players due to his dominance in blocks per minute. During his starting stretch in December, Biyombo became a must-own fantasy player. With very little specifics on the Jonas Valanciunas hand injury coming out of the Raptor’s camp, the smart move was to pick up Biyombo as quickly as possible. For those who did, you probably won your block category for the week. He doesn’t do much else, but high end rebounds and elite blocks makes him a must-owned player while Valanciunas sits. DeMarre Carroll is due back in the next few weeks. I’m not sure he would be worth owning or stashing as they might not want to mess with their rotations too much. He will probably come off the bench with limited-minutes to start his return. He’s worth taking a chance on if you are in deeper leagues or desperate, but I doubt there will be a rush to pick him up. (see above for AD injury advice).
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