Fantasy Basketball: Russell Westbrook and The Curse Of Playoff Rest

Russell Westbrook
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Thunder coach Scott Brooks dropped a major bombshell today: Russell Westbrook, who has been one of fantasy basketball’s best performers, will sit out certain upcoming back-to-backs. That’s certainly not good for his owners who might be shortchanged a handful of games going forward. The next six for OKC, for example, consist of the dreaded back-to-backs.

The news comes as a revelation that not all injuries or Did Not Plays (DNPs) are created equal. There’s a grouping of players who, like Westbrook, aren’t exactly injured but who could see their time cut in the waning weeks of the season. The rest comes as a strategic ploy to keep those players healthy and operational come playoff time. But it also makes fantasy owners break out in hives as no blueprint exists to predict when those players will sit and when they’ll play.

XN Sports predicts just what fantasy basketball playoff time might look for the guys cursed with playoff rest.

Russell Westbrook – Six back-to-backs separate Westbrook from the NBA Playoffs. As noted earlier, he’ll likely be sitting out about half of those back-to-backs as OKC have a good playoff standing and have proven winners even without him on the court. The tricky part comes in knowing which games he’ll sit, however.

For starters, the Thunder have a back-to-back starting today. They play against Dallas Sunday and at Chicago Monday. With the news coming on the opening of their first back-t0-back it seems likely that Westbrook sits against an Eastern opponent in the Bulls. His next back-to-back comes later in the coming week as the Thunder take on the Cavs followed by the Raptors. Toronto is the better team, which means the Thunder will have to be at full strength to stand against them, so RW likely sits out Thursday in Cleveland.

From there, another back-to-back arrives on Monday, March 24 and Tuesday, March 25. The first game is against Denver and the second against Dallas. Westbrook should again split this one, with Dallas being the more likely candidate for a game as they could be a first-round matchup for OKC.

The next back-to-back will likely see Westbrook playing both contests as they’ll be against San Antonio and Houston—two top Western Conference rivals. The only thing that might keep him out in Houston is the Rocket’s chippy play, which has cost Westbrook his health in the past. Following that back-t0-back is another against Sacramento and the Clippers. He’ll play against the Clips but should sit against the Boogie-led Kings.

Lastly, the final back-t0-back will be against the Pacers and the Pelicans. The Pacers are a potential championship matchup for the Thunder so he’ll probably suit up there. The game in New Orleans is trickier as they’re not a team worth playing against if Westbrook is trying to conserve his health, but is also only one game removed from the regular season’s end. Westbrook will want to be in some sort of groove for the postseason and having missed a basket-full of games will probably also play in NOLA.

In any event, this all raises the stock of Reggie Jackson.

Dwyane Wade – The Heat are in a precarious position as they’ve started to lose aplenty lately.  With enough standing cushion, Wade would probably see rest in about 30 percent of the Heat’s remaining games. But if Miami continues to free fall, resting Wade becomes a harder point of resort for coach Erik Spoelstra. Still, despite a hardening schedule, there’s some moments of respite for the Heat in the form of subpar competition. So, win or lose, Wade will probably sit out as early as this coming week’s back-t0-back with Cleveland and Boston. At the end of March, the Heat play Detroit and Milwaukee back-to-back which will mean at least one lost game for the shooting guard. The final eight games of the season for the Heat are harder to predict as most of them will be against strong opponents, many of which are Eastern Conference rivals. With money on the line, XN sees him missing out the game in Atlanta on April 12 and the one against Philly on April 14. All in all, Wade could miss anything from 4-8 games before the fantasy playoffs end.

Tony Parker/Tim Duncan/Manu Ginobili – The trickiest of the bunch are the ageless Spurs. Timmy, Tony, and Manu are at it again, holding the season’s best record when, for the umpteenth time, people swore they were past their success mark. Still, they’re not spring chickens and will most likely see some rest down the stretch.

But their sitting time has a few things working against it: the Western Conference, reduced season minutes, a healthy OKC, and Game 7 of last year’s finals. Pop knows that resting his trio will guarantee playoff success but he also doesn’t want to do it at the expense of playoff standing given how last year’s trophy was decided in Miami. To make matters worse, OKC is a year older, Durant is playing like this year’s MVP, Westbrook will be rested for the postseason, and they’re a game behind the Spurs. The Spurs aren’t in a position to take much breathing room.

With the said, they have enough gutter teams in their schedule to get some time off for the triumvirate without jeopardizing their standing. Four games stand out: Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, Friday’s game against the Kings, March 24’s game against Philly, and the last game of the season against Philly. There’s also the chance that the Big Three play in all games with the likelihood of a blowout serving as the possibility of rest. In any case, expect the three to miss 2-3 games each.

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