The final weekend of the 2016 calendar year finds a high-value Fantasy point guard continuing to nurse an injury, and he is a question mark heading into 2017.
Portland Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard (ankle) is considered doubtful for Sunday’s game against Minnesota, as he continues to deal with a sprained left ankle. With a three-game schedule on tap, and no games beforehand to prove his health, Dame is a huge risk for Fantasy owners into the new week. If you have healthier alternatives, use them.
With Lillard on the shelf lately, SG Allen Crabbe has posted double-digit point totals in four of his past five games, and he is averaging 11.2 points per game (PPG) with 3.4 rebounds per game (RPG) in 15 games in the month of December. Swingman Evan Turner has also re-emerged as a useful option for head coach Terry Stotts. After riding the pine for three games from Dec. 20-23, E.T. is averaging 9.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 4.0 assists per game (APG) with 1.3 steals per game (SPG). Turner is more of a short-term Fantasy option. Crabbe has a lot more staying power for Fantasy purposes.
Lastly, thank you for your readership over the past six-plus years. This is my final column with RotoExperts.com, as I’ll be moving on in 2017. I appreciate the following over the years, and you’re in tremendous shape with the outstanding crew at RotoExperts going forward. Happy New Year, everyone!
TEAM WITH FIVE GAMES
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES
Brooklyn, Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, Golden State, Houston, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, Toronto, Washington
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES
Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Indiana, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland, San Antonio
WEEK 11 SCHEDULE ANALYSIS
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: The best four-game schedule for Fantasy purposes will be for the defending champs. All four opponents allow at least 100 points, and Brooklyn and Phoenix have the two worst scoring defenses in the NBA. SF LeBron James, assuming he is not rested for some reason, is going to have a monster week, even more so than usual.
INDIANA PACERS: The Pacers have a three-game schedule, but the two games are very favorable with the defensively-challenge Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks visiting Indianapolis. Both of those teams allow at least 107.6 PPG, so it will almost seem like a four-game week for Fantasy owners of SF Paul George, PG Jeff Teague, etc. in cumulative formats.
UTAH JAZZ: With a five-game schedule, Fantasy owners in cumulative formats have a big advantage. Fantasy owners of SF Gordon Hayward and C Rudy Gobert are about to have a giant week of statistics. One of the five games also comes against the Nets, the NBA’s worst defensive team with 114.4 PPG allowed.
CHICAGO BULLS: The schedule maker was certainly unkind to the Bulls, as they have three games with top-tier Eastern Conference opponents this week. The Bulls will struggle this week. In addition, head coach Fred Hoiberg is confusing Fantasy owners with his movements at the point guard spot. Rajon Rondo is back on the bench, and his role is unclear. Michael Carter-Williams is the starter – for now – and either Rondo or Jerian Grant will be the primary backup, although ‘The Mayor’ has been mum on his plans, which is maddening to Fantasy owners getting ready for the new week.
TORONTO RAPTORS: The Raptors have a four-game schedule, but two of the teams on their schedule rank first and third in the NBA in scoring defense. You start SG DeMar DeRozan regardless of the matchups, as the same holds true for PG Kyle Lowry. With a four-game week, C Jonas Valanciunas is a good play even with the big defense on the other side, but all others are risky plays.
— Cleveland Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving (hamstring) was battling cramps in his hamstring Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, and he is an uncertainty for the new week. He was unable to play Saturday night against the Charlotte Hornets, as the Cavs have been very careful in resting their stars and making sure everyone is preserved for the stretch run. G Jordan McRae is worth a look in deeper Fantasy formats, especially if he draws additional starts and the team takes it easy with K.I.
— Los Angeles Clippers PG Chris Paul (hamstring) was a question mark heading into Saturday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder after missing the past four games. Unless CP3 plays a full game Saturday night, and is explosive in doing so, he is a major risk for Fantasy owners into the first week of 2017. Gs Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton would continue to benefit if Paul is on the shelf.
— Miami Heat C Hassan Whiteside (eye) went for an MRI on his right eye after being poked in a game Friday. The center posted an Instagram photo showing his eye bandaged like Carl from The Walking Dead. If the damage to his eye is more severe than just your garden variety poke, he could be forced to miss time. Still, Miami has a four-game schedule, so Whiteside is worth a roll of the dice in most Fantasy leagues.
— Sacramento Kings F Rudy Gay (hip) will miss another game Saturday, and he has been sidelined for eight of the past nine games due to a hip injury. With swingman Arron Afflalo (elbow) dealing with an injury, the trio of Matt Barnes, Omri Casspi and Garrett Temple will see the biggest bump in Fantasy appeal this weekend and into the new week.
— Charlotte Hornets SG Marco Belinelli (ankle) has been hot lately, but he missed a fourth straight game Saturday due to an ankle injury. Over his past seven games he has 12.6 PPG with 15 3-pointers, so if you have the roster flexibility he isn’t a bad guy to stash away on your bench for when he is healthy again.
— Speaking of 3-pointers, if you need help from beyond the arc, New Orleans Pelicans rookie SG Buddy Hield is back in the rotation and playing heavy minutes, too. He has averaged 11.3 PPG with 2.8 RPG and 25 3-pointers over his past 12 games, as perhaps his earlier demotion served to light a fire under the first-year player.
— With Los Angeles Clippers PF Blake Griffin on the mend, PF Thomas Robinson has been gathering plenty of rebounds lately. T-Rob has 7.9 RPG over his past seven games while averaging 6.4 PPG. If you need frontcourt assistance in deeper Fantasy leagues, Robinson can help.