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Fantasy Basketball 2014: Week 5 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.

I couldn’t breathe.

It was 2:30 in the morning, and I woke up in a panic. Sweating, difficulty breathing and hot flashes in my chest and back, something wasn’t right. Sure, I was healthy. No pains, no illness, nothing.

My mind, however, was not.

I’ve talked about it on Twitter a bit, but for those who aren’t aware, I have a rather serious case of anxiety. My dad has it, I have it. It all started around 11th grade. We were watching some movie, I forget the name. But it starred Angelina Jolie, and a psychic informed her that she would die in a week or so. And while watching that movie, I thought nothing of it. But a day or two later, out of absolutely nowhere, it hit me like a train. Those who don’t suffer from anxiety often have difficulty understanding how serious a battle it is. Believe me, we try to just “not think about it.” But the thing is, there’s no magic button or pill that can make intrusive thoughts go away. You need to use coping skills, such as relaxation techniques, self-affirmation, or, and this may be the best option, staying busy. Anything to keep your mind focused on something else.

Sports are my something else.

Of course, I’ve always loved sports, but it wasn’t until I began writing that I started to understand that I need sports. When I’m indulging into fantasy sports, numbers, analytics, film, you name it, I feel as safe as possible. I can literally get lost in fantasy sports for hours on end, and the more I do so, the less anxious I feel. It’s the best medicine — you know, other than taking your prescribed medication every day (idiot). And while many people may think I’m writing this to receive sympathy or anything, you couldn’t be more wrong. Over the last few years, I’m beginning to understand that millions of people are impacted by anxiety, but not everyone is as open about it. For instance, I prefer talking about any problems I have because I feel like if I keep it inside, I’ll eventually explode. After seeing a therapist for almost two years, I fully understand how crucial it is to talk about this stuff.

So before we get into Week 5 of the fantasy hoops campaign, after the rough week I had with anxiety, I really felt I needed to open up and discuss what it’s like. When you have panic attacks, you can’t breathe, you’re sweating profusely and your mind instantly thinks of the worst possible scenario. It’s uncomfortable, it’s frustrating, but more than anything, it’s downright scary. So, while my anxiety won’t ever go away, here I’ll stay. Still plugging along, still talking.

Still writing.

Week 5 Schedule

*Games go from Nov.24th-30th

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

 

53 percent of teams in the NBA see a four-game slate this week, while four ball clubs only suit up twice during Week 5. Of course, no one will be playing on Thursday, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, but seeing as Thursday’s are always the smallest slates of the week, it really isn’t a big issue. Meanwhile, the remaining 10 teams in the league play three games this week. And before we get started, during Week 3’s Forecaster, we looked at the top-20 players on ESPN’s Player Rater. There were a few surprise names, but through four weeks of the season, numbers are and trends are way, way more viable. Entering Week 5, only three teams in the NBA have two players ranked inside the top-20 of ESPN’s Player Rater– the Magic, Kings and Mavericks. Nikola Vucevic is quietly a top-10 player in all of fantasy, averaging 19.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and over a block per game. He’s posted a double-double in five-straight contests and now has seven on the season. And how about the play from Tobias Harris? The 22-year old is averaging nearly 19 points per game, adding 8.8 boards and over a steal per game.

Meanwhile, DeMarcus Cousins is probably the best center in basketball, while Rudy Gay has played well, too. Finally, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler have thrived for Dallas this year. Chandler, in particular, has been a top-20 fantasy asset because of his presence double-double average of 10.6 points and 10.4 rebounds.

Teams I Like

Chicago Bulls (@UTA, @DEN, @BOS, @BKN)

-They don’t call him “Jimmy Minutes” for nothing. With the Bulls ailing, Jimmy Butler has been absolutely outstanding for Chicago during his contract year, averaging 20.4 points, 3.5 assists, 6.2 boards and a steal and a half per game on the young season. Over his last five games, he’s logging 38 minutes per game, posting three games with at least 40 minutes. During that span, he’s also scored over 20 points four times. Derrick Rose is still banged up, and the odds of him playing all games in a given week appear to be slimmer and slimmer, especially with the Bulls opening the week with a back-to-back on the west coast. And when Rose is sidelined, Butler becomes a workhorse and focal point for the Chicago offense, as Rose currently sports the third-highest usage rate in the NBA, so that usage has to go somewhere, and for the most part, it’s Butler reaping the benefits. Meanwhile, Chicago’s schedule is awesome, playing four games against four of the worst defenses in basketball. Utah, Denver, Boston and Brooklyn all rank inside the bottom-10 in points allowed per game, while Utah and Boston both also rank inside the bottom-10 in defensive efficiency against the shooting guard position this year. Below is what Butler has done in games where Rose has sat thus far.

Jimmy  Butler

-Meanwhile, if Rose continues to miss games, Aaron Brooks will remain fantasy relevant, especially with Kirk Hinrich now also dealing with an injury to his ribs. Brooks was already playing 20 minutes per game on the season, but if he draws a few starts, he’ll obviously be worth a pickup, at least for the short-term. Both the Nets and Celtics are inside the bottom-five in fantasy points allowed to the point guard position this season, while only the Lakers are allowing point guards to find the basket more often than Brooklyn. Both teams are also allowing around 23 assists per game, so there’s serious opportunity for Brooks, especially with a nice four-game slate incoming.

Toronto Raptors (vs PHX, @ATL, vs DAL, vs LAL)

-Other than the Bulls, Toronto has the best schedule for Week 5 in all of basketball. Four games is always good, but look at some of their opponents. They’ll face a Lakers unit that is allowing more points per game than any team in the league (111.6), while the Hawks are coughing up the 7th-most points per game in the NBA. You’re obviously starting guys like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, but don’t sleep on a talented scorer who is starting to get going.

-Lou Williams appears to be back to his pre-injury form. Of course, he had that monster game against the Cavaliers on Saturday night, dropping 36 points, while adding four rebounds and three steals. We always knew that Williams was a talented scorer, but he’s been a bit of an inconsistent shooter over the course of his career. These season, however, he’s shooting an improved 43 percent from the field, compared to his career percentage of 41 percent. Williams has been a key component off the bench for the Raptors, and has now scored over 20 points in two straight games, totaling double-digit points in four straight. Head coach Dwane Casey also stated that Williams has taken a new approach defensively, and because of his success, that will lead to more playing time. As for his matchups, the Suns have struggled against shooting guards, allowing the position to average 27 points per game, while the Hawks have been worse, surrendering 28 points to the position. Oh, and there’s the whole revenge game factor, too. And the added pace in those three Western Conference games can’t hurt, either.

-It’s been a bit annoying watching Jonas Valanciunas play, mainly because he’s so inconsistent. One night, he’ll have a nice double-double, something around 16 points and 13 boards, but the next, owners will be looking at a rather pedestrian stat line of eight and five. But it’s important to remember that he’s still just 22-years old and developing. I’d gamble on him this week with four games and a friendly slate of games. The Lakers and Mavericks both don’t have great rebounding frontcourts, and with the added pace against both teams (as well as Phoenix), more shots will be fired up, presenting more rebounding chances for Valanciunas. Hopefully that will help him add towards his poor 12.8 rebounding opportunities per game this year.

Phoenix Suns (@TOR, vs DEN, @DEN, vs ORL)

-Many people wanted to anoint Isaiah Thomas “dead” in fantasy after signing with the Suns and their crowded backcourt, but it’s really been Goran Dragic who has seen his fantasy value suffer. Thomas actually leads the NBA in bench scoring this year, averaging 15.4 points to go with 4.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.3 triples per game. He’s been a great addition to the Suns roster. Thomas ranks second on the Suns team in terms of usage rate (27.1), and despite playing under 24 minutes per game, he’s still proven to be extremely fantasy relevant. He’s still touching the basketball about 57 times per game, a fair number for a 6th man. I’d keep rolling him out there, especially this week, facing Denver and their bottom-five ranked defense twice. The Nuggets are allowing 105 points per game this year, while point guards are sinking 2.62 three-pointers per game against Denver this year, good for top-seven in the league.

Markieff Morris was one of my breakout candidates heading into the season, and thus far, he hasn’t really disappointed. So far he’s averaging about 15 points and six rebounds per game, while adding 1.5 steals, too. Trying to decipher who will play how many minutes in the Suns rotation is tough, but Morris’ playing time has been pretty consistent, logging 30 minutes per game on the year and over 27 per game over his last five. Look for him to do big things this week, facing that bad Denver defense that has been bad against opposing power forwards dating back to last season. And, according to Chris Towers of CBS, Morris loves playing the Nuggets, as he’s averaging his 5th-highest points per game against any team in the league. Meanwhile, only the 76ers are coughing up more total rebounds per game than the Nuggets this year (54.7).

Teams I Don’t Like

Boston Celtics (vs CHI, vs SA)

-Pretty obvious, but any team that plays just twice won’t be thought very highly of, but especially if those two games are against two of the toughest teams in basketball in the Bulls and Spurs. This could be sneaky good news for a guy like Rajon Rondo, however, as he won’t play in back-to-backs and the two-game slate will allow him to stay fresh for the course of the year. Rondo is averaging over 10 points, 10 assists and is three rebounds away from a triple-double, some awesome numbers. The volume has been there for Rondo, too, playing 32.7 minutes per game, and only Chris Paul and Reggie Jackson are averaging more offensive touches per game than him on the season. You probably keep him in your lineup this week, but other than that, it’s tough to get excited about anyone on Boston.

Miami Heat (vs GS, @NY)

-Again, another two-game slate, but let’s talk about Dwyane Wade for a minute. We knew he was going to miss time eventually, and it appears that time is now. Dealing with a nagging hamstring, Wade missed his sixth-consecutive game on Sunday night against the Hornets. When healthy, he’s been a strong fantasy option, averaging nearly 20 points, 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and over a steal per game. However, this two-game slate comes at an opportune time for Wade to rest up and get closer to 100 percent. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he just rested during these two contests as he prepares for Week 6, so I personally wouldn’t roll him out there, despite his all-around production in fantasy. Wade is attacking the rim quite a bit this year, averaging 8.5 drives per game, good for the 15th-most in the NBA, so it’s good to see him still trying to get good looks at the basket.

-Also, how about Mario Chalmers lately? Ever since seeing an uptick in minutes, the Heat sidekick has been on a tear, averaging 20 points, three rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.2 triples and 1.6 steals per game over his last five contests. He’s also benefited from the absence of both Wade and Norris Cole, but as long as those two remain sidelined, Chalmers makes for a strong play in most situations. Maybe not during a two-game week, but in terms of DFS, Chalmers will continue to provide value.

Sleepers

J.J. Barea, Dallas Mavericks- Barea is an overlooked name in terms of fantasy, but he’s played strongly with the Mavericks once again. He won a championship with Rick Carlisle and company a few years back, so he’s familiar with the offense and system. And with Devin Harris nursing a leg injury, Barea should still see some run, especially with Dallas’ four-game slate in which all but that Toronto game could be blowouts. If that’s the case, Barea will see enough minutes to matter in fantasy, and in this high-paced, high-scoring offense (no one in basketball averages more points per game), Barea should rack up plenty of assists. He’s accumulated 29 over his last four games (over seven per game), and two of his opponents in Philadelphia and Toronto, are inside the bottom-10 in assists allowed per game on the season. Barea has been efficient, posting a career-high in assists per-36 minutes, and, according to Garion Thorne, is averaging a 38 percent assist rate, quietly the 9th-highest rate in the league. And, via NBA.com, you can see how truly efficient he’s been with the minutes he’s been given.

JJ Barea

Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors- You really never know what you’re going to get with Ross, who is a very streaky player. Just look at his five-game log, posting point totals of 2, 13, 16, 4 and 12. Still, he seems to have one or two monster performances every year, and the matchups are strong this week, getting a Lakers team that struggles against opposing shooting guards, as well as the aforementioned Mavericks, who are allowing 9.9 triples per contest this year, behind only… the Lakers, of course. Don’t be surprised if Ross has a few 20-point outings this week.