This nation may be run by conservatives, yet Trump and Co. can’t stop the mindset of Fantasy owners, who can liberally set a winning lineup with all but two teams playing at least three games in Week 14.
Keep an eye on the Clippers and Kings, as both must deal with the long-term absence of key players. Chris Paul (thumb) is at least a month and change away from returning, leaving Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers vying for minutes at point. Based on Thursday’s loss to the Timberwolves, both will split time, yet I’d play Rivers. SOD (Son of Doc) is averaging 31 Fantasy points per game over his last five and his usage rate of 20.3 is slightly better than Felton’s 17.8 mark. While Felton’s assist and rebound rates are slightly better over the same span, Rivers offers more scoring potential, an asset that is need with DeAndre Jordan the only reliable scoring option.
The Clips have a favorable schedule that sees them visit the Hawks and 76ers before a lights, camera, action (!) tilt at the Warriors on the national stage Saturday night. This week may also be a good time to play J.J. Redick, whose 32.2 FPPG over the last five is belied by his near 44 percent mark from three-point range.
For the Kings, the loss to the Grizzlies on Friday illustrated how valuable and unappreciated Rudy Gay is. Lost for the season with a torn Achilles, Gay was simply being Gay, quietly averaging 32 FPPG over his last ten before watching his season end Wednesday night. You don’t miss Rudy Gay until Rudy Gay is gone; and gone are the steady 35.2 Fantasy points that you could set your clock to each night.
Aside from DeMarcus Cousins, where the offense will come from is anyone’s guess. If I had to choose someone to gamble on, I’d try Garrett Temple, who showed a flash of scoring potential when he averaged 17.2 points per game over a three-game stretch in mid-December. Unless you’re in a deep league, Cousins is the sole King to reign supreme in lineups this week, as Sacramento visits three of the Association’s toughest defenses in the Bulls (11th in defensive rating), Pistons (ninth) and Cavaliers (14th).
With Ryan Anderson (stomach virus) out for up to two weeks, Rockets SF Sam Dekker presents a nice sleeper play in a fairly favorable four-game slate that sees Houston travel to the Bucks, Celtics, 76ers and Pacers. Dekker scored a career-high 17 points and added seven rebounds, a pair of assists and a block in Friday’s loss to the Warriors and has played at least 25 minutes in each of his last three games. Dekker’s game is similar to Anderson’s. When you consider he’s shooting 45.5 percent from beyond the arc in his last five games entering Saturday’s game at the Grizzlies, Dekker is a low-risk source that can help in scoring and three-point categories.
Caris LeVert is owned in just 17 percent of polled leagues entering this week. I’ll bet it doubles (at the very least) within the next two. The rookie sniper from Michigan had his “you’d better start paying attention” game on Friday, when he racked up 36.3 Fantasy points in the Nets’ surprising rout of the Pelicans, a solid follow-up to a 28.3 FP night in a loss to the Raptors.
LeVert isn’t a score-only asset, as he added five rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block on Friday. His usage rate is only 16.5, but it’s starting to climb. Another reason to go in on LeVert – he is already eligible to play SG and SF, and will soon reach PG status. Once his three-point shooting comes into focus (he’s only hitting 30 percent in his last five), LeVert will be a good post-All Star break performer.
Best Fantasy Matchups of the Week
*Spurs at Raptors (Tuesday): Some may call this a potential Finals preview, but call this an all-hands on deck kind of game. Toronto is third in offensive rating, while San Antonio is fourth. Obviously, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (Raptors) are in all lineups, but keep Spurs Dejounte Murray in mind. Murray scored a career-best 24 points in Thursday’s win over the Nuggets while filling in for Tony Parker. His usage rate and player ownership in standard leagues are both on the upswing. Regardless of whether Parker is back in the lineup, Murray, the Spurs’ first round pick this past June, is pushing his way towards becoming a Fantasy factor. Keeper leaguers should jump on him now.
*Suns at Nuggets (Thursday): Track meet. Don’t be shocked if someone hits 130 points. Denver is dead last in defensive rating, making the Suns’ 26th ranked unit look like the mid-1990s Knicks. Keep an eye on Suns SF P.J. Tucker, who will likely be changing his address by the trade deadline. This would be a great night to showcase him to potential suitors.
Matchups to Exploit
*Paul George (Pacers) vs. Kings (Friday): Whoever Sacramento coach Dave Joerger places at the three will be in for a long night. George is averaging 23 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals in 16 home games this season, translating into a potential for a monster night.
*Rudy Gobert (Jazz) vs. Lakers (Thursday): Utah is second in defensive rating. The Lakers are 29th. In three games against LA, the Stifle Tower has averaged 13 points, 13.7 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per contest.
*James Harden (Rockets) vs. 76ers (Friday): Unless the 1983 version of Mo Cheeks is suiting up at point guard for the Sixers….
Best One-on-One Matchup to Watch
Please, please, please let Joel Embiid be healthy for Tuesday’s game against the Clippers. The Process left Friday’s win against the Trail Blazers with a knee injury in third quarter. However, it was later learned the team (wisely) used precautionary measures with Embiid, who is averaging 42.4 Fantasy points per game over his last five outings. He will pair up against DeAndre Jordan, who has six games of at least 20 rebounds and eight double-doubles in his last 11 games.This is why NBA League Pass pays for itself, folks….
Clearing the Bench
Suppose every player in NBA history was available for a Fantasy draft. How would a first round in a 12-team league look? Is it a lock that Wilt Chamberlain goes first, or would you take Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Where do today’s Fantasy stars fit into all this? Maybe LeBron is a lock in the first, but what about a Kevin Durant?
Hit me up at BCWilliams71@gmail.com if you’d like to share your thoughts. At some point this season, I do plan on doing the first 4-5 rounds of the Ultimate Fantasy Basketball Draft and I may ask for volunteers to take part.
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES
Hawks, Nets, Celtics, Hornets, Bulls, Cavaliers, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Heat, Bucks, Pelicans, Knicks, Thunder, 76ers, Kings, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES
Mavericks, Nuggets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Magic, Suns, Trail Blazers
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES