On the surface, a team playing a five-game schedule indicates ample opportunity for solid production across the board. Imagine the Warriors, Rockets or Raptors in that scenario; an outbreak of carpal tunnel syndrome would break out in a 28 Days Later fashion as owners crush their fingertips plugging Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyle Lowry into their lineups.
And then, there are the Nuggets.
Giddy, happy, joyful optimism after their 140-point explosion on the Pacers in London on Thursday will be dampened. Even with five games on tap, the combination of an unfriendly host of characters and the uncertainty of the lineup is a combustive mix of disappointment this week. Even as the fifth-highest scoring team in the Association, I’ll explain why stacking Nuggets into your lineup will amount to fool’s gold.
TEAMS WITH FIVE GAMES:
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES:
Hawks, Hornets, Mavericks, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Bucks, Knicks, Magic, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Raptors, Wizards
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES
Nets, Celtics, Bulls, Cavaliers, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Jazz
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES
WEEK 13 SCHEDULE ANALYSIS
Raptors: Oh, to own Kyle Lowry and/or DeMar DeRozan this week.Both have averaged over 45 Fantasy points per game over their last 10 outings and face three of the 10 worst defenses in the Association as part of a festive four-game slate. The Raptors will enjoy a tasty meal beginning at the Nets (30th) on Monday before sampling the 76ers’ 21st ranked defense on Wednesday. While the Hornets (14th) might present a case of heartburn on Friday, dessert will be awaiting Toronto in the form of the Suns (29th) on Sunday.
Warriors: KD, Steph and Friends open the week with the earth-shattering showdown against the visiting Cavaliers on Monday and are then assured of two shootouts as they host the Thunder on Wednesday before visiting James Harden and Co. in H-Town on Friday night. A Sunday afternoon date at the Magic close out the week. In short, the team that leads the NBA in points per game both at home (120.3) and on the road (113.7) will continue to roll it up.
Clippers: As long as Chris Paul is healthy, this week should see Lob City assaulting rims at breakneck speed. The Clips open the week at home against the Thunder before welcoming the Timberwolves to Staples Center. The highlight of their three-game slate is a roadie to face a Nuggets team allowing 111 points per night.
Rockets: Blasphemy! Yes, I know, so before you curse the ground I walk on, consider that Houston each of the four teams the Rockets play (at Heat, vs. Bucks, vs. Warriors, at Grizzlies) rank among the top 15 in defensive efficiency. I’m just as curious to see if the Bucks place Giannis Antetokounmpo on James Harden on Wednesday night. While Harden and Russell Westbrook has consumed much of the oxygen when it comes to MVP conversations, the Greek Freak (sixth in Fantasy points per game) deserves his share of air.
Nuggets: Here’s what bothers me about Denver despite the high volume of games this week– For starters, the Nuggets play two of the top six teams in defensive rating, traveling to the Spurs (second) before hosting the sixth-ranked Clippers. Other than Danilo Gallinari and Nikola Jokic, who on that roster can be considered reliable Fantasy starters? Emmanuel Mudiay is one of the worst point guards in the game (if that 10.0 PER doesn’t convince you, nothing will), while he and the aforementioned duo are the only players on the roster that have started more than 20 games this season.
Games against at the Lakers and Timberwolves and a home date against the Magic offer potential, yet it’s not enough to give me confidence in stacking Nuggets despite the five-gamer.
Nets: Trust me, we’re not picking on the Nets, but still….the league’s worst team in offensive rating won’t get much of a break as they visit the Pelicans and Hornets, both are in the Top 10 in defensive field goal percentage. While the Raptors rank 17th in that category, Toronto’s high-scoring attack more than makes up for that slight.
DOs AND DON’TS
DO: Buy into the refined game of Bucks PF Jabari Parker, who is having a breakout season. The first overall pick of the 2014 Draft has finally honed his outside shooting, knocking down 42 percent of his threepointers, eclipsing last year’s futile 26 percent accuracy from long range. Considered something of an afterthought in most drafts, Parker has become one of the best value picks this season, as his 34.6 Fantasy points per game will attest.
DON’T: Invest in Magic SG Evan Fournier this week. A heel injury is now followed by a foot problem that may keep him limited. In his five previous games before Saturday’s contest at the Jazz, Fournier was shooting just over 35 percent from the field while averaging just 11.1 points per game. Mario Hezonja fans can rejoice, as Fournier’s absence will increase Hezonja’s minutes off the bench.
DO: Hope and pray Joel Embiid can play beyond the 28-minute limit the 76ers have tagged him with. On a 36-minute per night basis, The Process is averaging 28 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks while also shooting 79 percent from the free throw line. Embiid averages 37.9 Fantasy points per game, a total that will climb well into the 40s once he’s fully cleared to go.
DON’T: Sleep on Hawks PG Malcolm Delaney, who is a Dennis Schroeder injury away from being a bigger Fantasy factor. Delaney, a pro hoops journeyman in his first full season in the Association, scored a career-best 17 points and added six assists and four rebounds in Friday’s loss to the Celtics. He has seen his minutes rise to just over 21 per game and has just nearly 56 percent from the field in his five outings. Delaney is a deeper league darling who may become likeable in more standard leagues in the near future.
*Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup after missing the last two contests with an illness. Ranked 11th in Fantasy points per game according to our friends at DailyRoto.com, Butler will be a full go this week as the Bulls host the Mavericks and Kings sandwiched between a roadie to the Hawks. Teammate Nikola Mirotic, also battling an illness, missed his third straight game on Saturday. Cautious optimism would be the best way to describe our hope on his return this week.
*Rockets PF/C Clint Capela (leg) has begun some on-court running, and while the Rockets believe he will be ready to return by month’s end, it’s hard to imagine the team shaving significant minutes from Montrezl Harrell, who is averaging 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this month.
*While the Clippers are saying Blake Griffin (knee) in on course for a return no later than early February, expect him to remain sidelined until after the All-Star Break. Now would be a good time to start floating offers to acquire him, especially since the Clips will be in full Finals or Bust mode.
*The Timberwolves may like sit PG Zach LaVine (hip) for Sunday’s game at the Mavericks. LaVine missed wins over the Rockets and Thunder this week and should be marked out of your lineup since Minnesota has a challenging two-game slate with trips to the Spurs and Clippers.
*Owners of Kristaps Porzingis can officially count this week as a mission failure, as the Knicks PF will miss Sunday’s game at the Raptors with a lingering Achilles issue. Porzingis shot 6 of 23 from the field (26 percent) while managing a paltry 16 points and seven rebounds in his two previous games this week. New York’s four-game agenda starts at Atlanta on Monday, so owners will have to decide if plugging Porzingis into the lineup is a worthy gamble.