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Fantasy Basketball 2014: Week 3 Forecaster

Adam Pfeifer

Adam Pfeifer is a fantasy sports writer for ProjectRoto and XN Sports. He covers the NFL, NBA and MLB. You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.

Real or fake?

We’re three weeks into the NBA campaign, and fantasy owners are beginning to determine which trends and numbers are actually accurate, and which are more smoke and mirrors. When looking at some of the top-scoring fantasy players this early in the season, more often than not, you’ll see some surprising names towards the top of the list. So I figured before we look ahead to Week 3 in fantasy land, it might be worth looking at some of the top players in fantasy hoops thus far, using ESPN’s Player Rater. The casual fantasy player may be a bit shocked by some of the names hovering inside the top-20.

Top-20 Fantasy Players

Top-20 NBA

*Via ESPN’s Player Rater.

-Seriously? A member of the Milwaukee Bucks inside the top-five? It’s a shocker, but Brandon Knight has been stellar this season, averaging over 17 points, 7.3 assists, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. Providing a presence in the peripherals department has been great for Knight, who is thriving alongside Jason Kidd in Milwaukee. Of course, it’s probably wise to consider selling him high, as the odds of him finishing as a top-10 fantasy option, let alone top-five, are slim. Sure, Knight is a good player. But a good player on a bad team in the Bucks that should be behind in plenty of games, somewhat limiting his minutes. Also, Knight is averaging under a steal per game for his career, and has never been a big producer in the department, so don’t assume he is going to keep this going defensively.

Tony Wroten is a good NBA player. And, when he’s the focal point of an offense, Wroten can clearly be a very good fantasy player, ranking 14th on the Player Rater to this point. But it’s been based off of volume. He’s averaging just under 34 minutes per game to this point, and only three players in the NBA have a higher usage rate than Wroten’s 31.8 thus far. He attacks the rim at will, and is also fourth in the league in offensive touches per game. It will be interesting to see his role once Michael Carter-Williams returns from his shoulder injury, which is expected to happen around November 13. Wroten should see time at both point and shooting guard, but Carter-Williams will be very ball-dominant for this club, so Wroten’s volume will decrease. He’s an ideal sell-high, but someone that needs to still be owned in all leagues. Only Ty Lawson and Reggie Jackson are driving to the rim more often per game than Wroten this year, and as a result, he’s averaging 8.5 free-throw attempts per game, good for a top-10 rank in basketball.

-Finally, to me, it doesn’t come as a surprise to see Chris Bosh as a top-10 fantasy asset through two weeks. With LeBron James gone, Bosh now ranks 11th in the league in shot attempts and is averaging a strong 74 touches per game. The offense runs through him in Miami, and I’m not selling him, I’m buying. He’s also averaging over nine rebounds per game, as he’s getting more rebounding chances with James out of the mix, going from 10.7 rebounding chances per game to almost 15 per contest this year. Bosh could very well be a top-10 fantasy asset in 2014.

Okay, okay. Time is of the essence, so let’s look ahead towards Week 3.

Week 3 Schedule

*Games go from Nov. 10th-16th

Team Games Opponents
ATL 4 @NY, vs UTA, vs MIA, vs CLE
BOS 2 vs OKC, vs CLE
BKN 3 @PHX, @GS, @POR
CHA 3 @POR, @PHX, @GS
CHI 3 vs DET, @TOR, vs IND
CLE 3 vs NO, @BOS, vs ATL
DAL 3 vs SAC, vs PHI, vs MIN
DEN 3 vs POR, @IND, @NY
DET 4 @CHI, @WAS, @OKC, @MEM
GS 4 vs SA, vs BKN, vs CHA, @LAL
HOU 3 @MIN, vs PHI, @OKC
IND 4 vs UTA, @MIA, vs DEN, @CHI
LAC 2 vs SA, vs PHX
LAL 4 @MEM, @NO, vs SA, vs GS
MEM 3 vs LAL, vs SAC, vs DET
MIA 3 vs IND, @ATL, @MIL
MIL 3 vs OKC, @ORL, @MIA
MIN 3 vs HOU, @NO, @DAL
NO 3 @CLE, vs LAL, vs MIN
NY 4 vs ATL, vs ORL, vs UTA, vs DEN
OKC 4 @MIL, @BOS, vs DET, vs HOU
ORL 4 @TOR, @NY, vs MIL, @WAS
PHI 2 @DAL, @HOU
PHX 3 vs BKN, vs CHA, @LAC
POR 3 vs CHA, @DEN, vs BKN
SAC 3 @DAL, @MEM, vs SA
SA 4 @LAC, vs GS, @LAL, @SAC
TOR 3 vs ORL, vs CHI, vs UTA
UTA 4 @IND, @ATL, @NY, @TOR
WAS 2 vs DET, vs ORL

 

Bad news, as the Philadelphia 76ers play just twice this week, meaning that you should stack up on all of your Mavericks and Rockets for Week 3. DFS players will be keying in on those two games, but hey, at least the Lakers go from two games in Week 2 to four games this time around. Let’s take a gander.

Teams I Like

New Orleans Pelicans (@CLE, vs LAL, vs MIN)

-It won’t surprise anyone, obviously, to see that The Brow, Anthony Davis, is currently a top-three fantasy player. Averaging 24.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and an unheard of 4.4 blocks per game, it’s no wonder why everyone was salivating at this kid’s potential. He’s going to be the league’s next big star, if he isn’t already, of course. You’re starting him every single day of the year, but you should be extra excited to roll him out there in Week 3. The Pelicans play three times, facing the Lakers and Timberwolves who are allowing 44.8 and 43.7 points per game in the paint, respectively. About 43 percent of the total points per game Minnesota is allowing this season have come from the painted area. Both teams also play at a top-12 pace in the league, so expect Davis to get plenty of possessions. Meanwhile, I like the Cleveland matchup, too, as opponents are averaging a healthy 6.4 blocks per game this year, good for the 5th-most in the league.

-Meanwhile, Omer Asik, who, according to Chris Towers, is only being started in 62 percent of CBS leagues thus far, also draws the same good matchups. Both Minnesota and Los Angeles also rank inside the bottom-10 in defensive rebounds allowed per game to this point (32.8 each), and Asik is hauling in 10.4 boards per game so far, ranking 12th in the league. Centers are also averaging a healthy 13.80 rebounds per game against the Lakers vastly undersized frontcourt, so standing at 7-feet and 255 pounds, Asik should practically walk into a double-double. You know, because he sure as hell isn’t running. I’ll see myself out.

-Finally, Jrue Holiday should also be in a good spot this week. He’ll face three point guards who aren’t known for their defense whatsoever in Kyrie Irving, Jeremy Lin and, after the injury to Ricky Rubio, veteran Mo Williams. He is playing large minutes for the Pelicans this year, just under 35 per game to open the season, and the Lakers are surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing point guards on the young season. It was also good to see him play 36 and 35 minutes during the Pelicans’ first back-to-back of the year, making me think Holiday is over that stress fracture from a year ago.

Indiana Pacers (vs UTA, @MIA, vs DEN, @CHI)

-The Pacers look as bad as we thought they’d be, but I’ve been pretty impressed with the play of Donald Sloan, as Indiana is forced to lean on him with half of their roster banged up. Sloan is playing 35 minutes per game for the Pacers, and with George Hill and C.J. Watson still ailing, that playing time will remain. He’s been providing nice all-around production, averaging a strong 15.1 points, 5.4 assists, five rebounds and almost two triples per game. The Pacers, meanwhile, are one of only ten teams to suit up four times this week, giving him even more volume for fantasy owners. And as I eluded to earlier, Sloan ranks third in all of basketball in offensive touches per game to this point of the year. He’ll draw two of the worst defensive units in basketball in Utah and Denver, as well as the Bulls, who are allowing the most fantasy points per game to the point guard position at the moment.

Chris Copeland has also been a sneaky good fantasy contributor, sinking 2.6 triples per game this year. Incredibly, however, he is attempting 8.1 threes per game, which easily leads the NBA. He’s been a consistent source of points, averaging 18 per game over his last five contests. Again, the Pacers have good matchups, especially against the Jazz, who are surrendering nine triples per game (6th-most) and 104.5 points per game (5th-most). Again, because of the injury bug surrounding Indiana, Copeland also is forced to log heavy minutes for the Pacers. Meanwhile, only the lowly Lakers are coughing up more points per game than the Nuggets this season (106.4). Copeland’s presence from beyond the arc is the reason he is currently a top-24 small forward on the Player Rater, and he should produce well again in Week 3.

Teams I Don’t Like

-Obviously, any team that plays just twice won’t be thought very highly of. Having said that, the 76ers, Celtics, Clippers, and Wizards play just twice this week, so it’s difficult to be very excited about their fantasy prospects for Week 3. Wroten is almost done being a must-start option in fantasy circles, as Carter-Williams is set to return for the 76ers. But again, Wroten has proven that he can be an elite fantasy guard when given the necessary workload, so please, do not drop him. That would be unwise.

Chicago Bulls (vs DET, @TOR, vs IND)

Derrick Rose has fantasy owners panicking every time he gets up in less than rapid fashion. He’s missed the last two games for Chicago, dealing with a pair of sprains to his ankle. Rose is already listed questionable for Monday night’s meeting with the Pistons, and if he can’t go, Kirk Hinrich will get the start, with Aaron Brooks getting some very meaningful minutes off the bench. It’s a tough, three-game slate for Rose, though. All three of his opponents this week rank inside the top-12 in terms of points allowed per game, and the Pistons actually allow the fewest fantasy points per game to point guards right now. It seems like each week, fantasy owners will have to monitor Rose’s status, more-so than most other guys in the league.

Los Angeles Lakers (@MEM, @NO, vs SA, vs GS)

-The Lakers play four games this week, but the matchups are pretty tough. First of all, the Grizzlies are a team you always want to avoid, if possible. They play at a very gross pace, the 6th-lowest in basketball, which will be a change of pace for the Lakers and their 99.9 pace that ranks third in basketball. Pun not intended, which usually means it was. It’s difficult to bench a guy like Kobe Bryant, who is playing just under 35 minutes per game and on pace to easily lead the NBA in shot attempts for the year. He’s currently averaging just under 25 shot attempts per game to this point. However, I would temper expectations with this Lakers offense this week, facing the Grizzlies’ stout defensive unit that is the only one in basketball allowing less than 90 points per game. They’ll also get the Pelicans (allowing the 6th-fewest points per game), the Warriors (3rd-fewest), and Spurs (10th-fewest).

Sleepers

Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves (6%)- With Rubio going down with a badly sprained ankle, both Mo Williams and the high-flying rookie LaVine will get plenty of run for the Wolves. However, in a surprising move, LaVine actually drew the start on Saturday night against the Heat, playing 26 minutes, resulting in five points, six rebounds, four assists, and a steal. The kid played just 13 minutes for his NBA career entering this game, but Minnesota is rolling with him. He won’t play heavy minutes, but appears to be starting games, making him fantasy relevant. Minnesota plays three games this week, all of which could be high-scoring games in the Western Conference against Houston, New Orleans, and Dallas. Only two teams in basketball are surrendering more fantasy points per game to point guards than the Mavericks this year. LaVine, standing at 6-foot-5, has an instant advantage against most point guards in the league, too.

Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic (18%)- Fournier is seeing strong minutes (over 30 per game) to start the season, Victor Oladipo is still banged up, and Elfrid Payton is still an unproven rookie guard. He’s averaging over 15 points and nearly two triples per contest for the Magic this season, and Orlando is one of the 10 lucky teams to play four times this week. He’ll face the Knicks and Wizards, who both rank inside the bottom-10 in three-pointers allowed per game this season. Toronto is also right behind the Wizards, allowing eight triples per contest. Oladipo, meanwhile, still isn’t quite ready yet, and will probably be back in the lineup by the end of November.