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Fantasy Basketball 2014: Week 9 Forecaster

Adam Pfeifer breaks down the best fantasy basketball matchups of the week, key injuries, good fantasy plays, and sleepers.

Rajon Rondo

Four percent.

During Week 9 of the fantasy hoops campaign, just four percent of the NBA plays a full schedule. There are still plenty of games to be played, however. In Chris Towers’ CBS Fantasy Basketball Planner, he points out that there are still 100 games, which is two more than the previous two weeks. You can see who he likes and dislikes for Week 9 here. Many folks will be transitioning to the hardwood with football almost done. So, per usual, I’m here to help preview the week ahead. But first, let’s take a look at some happenings from around the league, because there sure are a lot.

Rookie Ruin

After second overall pick Jabari Parker suffered a torn ACL last week, ending his season, he now only adds to the insane list of top rookies being sidelined due to injury. It was horrible timing for the Bucks forward, as he was starting to get it together, averaging 12.3 points, 1.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and over a steal per game on the season. He was starting to take higher-percentage shots, a good sign for his progression. Look for Khris Middleton to serve as the biggest beneficiary, but Giannis Antetokounmpo will play seemingly every position, but especially more power forward. The 6-foot-11 freak posted 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and two steals in 38 minutes on Saturday. Over his last five outings, Giannis is logging just under 30 minutes per contest for Milwaukee. Jared Dudley is also seeing an uptick in playing time, and has been hot, scoring 35 points over his last two games. But, man, this rookie class has been plagued by injury this year.

Rookies

*Red indicates potentially season-ending.

The Rich Get Richer

It finally happened.

After months years of speculation and rumors, the Boston Celtics finally pulled the trigger and dealt All-Star guard Rajon Rondo— for absolutely nothing. The already 20-8 Dallas Mavericks acquired Rondo for Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder and a first round draft pick. This could get scary for Rondo fantasy owners– scary good, that is. He was already leading the NBA in assists per game (10.8) on a Boston offense with inconsistency everywhere. Now he joins a Dallas offense that is leading the entire league in points per game (109.7). Meanwhile, only Ty Lawson is averaging more points created off assists per game than Rondo, so the Dallas starters should all see an uptick in fantasy value. He also leads the league in total passes per game, which means Monta Ellis can keep taking around 18 shots per game the rest of the way, but a larger percentage of those shots will be higher percentage ones with Rondo on the floor. He had 38 points during Rondo’s first game in the lineup, by the way. Meanwhile, with the way Rondo has been shooting the basketball (.398), look for Tyson Chandler to maybe see some more rebounding opportunities, though, he’s already fifth in the NBA in that category (18.1).

For the Celtics, the big winner is another rookie in Marcus Smart, who just returned from an Achilles injury. On Sunday, Brad Stevens gave him the start, where he logged 28 minutes. He didn’t do a ton, scoring three points, adding four boards, and four helpers. Boston isn’t a serious title contender, so it makes sense for the Celtics to see what they have in their rookie guard. It’s a good fit in Boston, too, as they have surprisingly jumped to second in the NBA in pace on the year, so the athletic Smart can get out and run in this system. An aggressive defender, Smart should give you at least a steal per game on top of some rebounds and assists. He’s the big winner here, as Avery Bradley and Evan Turner should see an uptick in usage, too.

Week 9 Schedule

*Games go from December 22-28

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

 

Again, only 12 clubs suit up the full four times in Week 9, but luckily, only two teams (Detroit and Utah) play two contests. And consider both teams are bad and not exactly fantasy powerhouses, we’ve lucked out a bit in that regard. And, of course, with Christmas being on Thursday, the NBA will have a pretty appetizing slate of games to tune into. You daily degenerates will be playing DFS that day, I presume. Anyway, speaking of, I hope everyone has a terrific holiday with their friends and family.

And hope your fantasy rosters give you gifts. Lots and lots of gifts.

Teams I Like

Golden State Warriors (vs SAC, @LAL, @LAC, vs MIN)

-Sure, it’s really difficult to like the best team in the NBA. But I do, so back off. Golden State gets arguably the most favorable schedule of the week, playing four games, all against high-paced, weaker defensive units. Are you starting Stephen Curry? Only if you like winning. Curry, a top-five player in fantasy, should thrive against the Lakers, Clippers, and T-Wolves, who are all inside the bottom-five in terms of assists allowed per game on the season. Over his last five games, Steph is doing it all, averaging 27.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 2.2 steals, and 3.6 triples per game. Just… wow. Meanwhile, the Lakers are allowing 27.3 points per game from beyond the arc, the second-most in basketball. The Clippers also really struggle at defending the perimeter, but this is an elite player, so let’s just shut up and start him, okay?

-Marreese Speights, sixth man of the year? He’s sure playing like it, averaging 12.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and just under a block per game in just 17.3 minutes per game. He’s been super, super efficient this year, and when he gets the ball, he’s doing something productive with it. Very quietly, Speights is inside the top-20 in usage rate in basketball right now (26.6). With Andrew Bogut sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, look for Speights to see more than enough run to keep him fantasy relevant, as he’s playing almost 21 minutes per game over his last five outings. The Lakers and Kings are both allowing over 24 points per game to opposing power forwards this year, and in this offense, Speights has proved he has upside, posting five games with at least 15 points this year– all off the bench. He’s in a terrific spot this week, as the Lakers and Wolves are allowing the first and second-most total points per game to this point.

-Finally, Draymond Green might be one of the most underrated players in basketball. The dude is like a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard, as he contributes in seemingly every fantasy category. Green is averaging a strong 13.1 points, 3.3 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 triples per game over the course of the season, providing Golden State with everything. With the Warriors having a banged up frontcourt, Green is logging heavy minutes as of late, playing 39.8 per game over his last five contests. He is a must-play once again, as he’ll play some small and power forward for Golden State. Meanwhile, Minnesota is allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing small forwards on the year, while surrendering the most blocks (1.36) and 8th-most steals (1.68) to the position as well. Fire him up, folks.

Atlanta Hawks (@DAL, vs LAC, vs MIL, @MIL)

-The Hawks are a really good team. They are incredibly well-rounded, serving as the only team in the Eastern Conference to rank inside the top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Atlanta has won 10 of their last 11 games, and at 19-7, are the number-two seed in the East. Wait, what’s that? Oh, you don’t care about real basketball? Well, alrighty then.

-Now, this is all contingent on the status of Jeff Teague, but if Teague (hamstring) remains sidelined, Dennis Schroeder makes for a good option in fantasy circles. Starting at point on Wednesday against the Cavaliers, Schroeder recorded a double-double, and on Saturday against the Rockets, followed it with a solid outing of eight points, six rebounds, and six helpers. He’s played 52 minutes as the starting point guard over the last two games, and if Teague isn’t ready to return to the lineup, Schroeder will continue to be a strong fantasy option, as Atlanta probably has the second-most appealing schedule in basketball this week.

-When you hear Kyle Korver‘s name, you think of only a deadly three-point shooter. However, in addition to averaging 13.2 points and 2.9 triples per game, Korver is providing fantasy owners with three assists and four rebounds per contest. And, of course, when he’s hot from beyond the arc, he’s impossible to stop. He’s playing heavy minutes for Atlanta, playing 34 minutes per game over his last five. I like his matchups this week, facing a Dallas defense that is allowing the most points per game from three-point land this season (28.2). A league-leading 27.5 percent of total points allowed by the Mavericks this season have come from beyond the arc, too. And over the last seven games, no team in basketball has allowed more points per game than the Mavericks (107.6). Korver is also averaging 8.9 catch-and-shoot points per game on the year, the second-most in the NBA. He’s in a good spot this week.

Oklahoma City Thunder (vs POR, @SA, vs CHA, @DAL)

Russell Westbrook may be the MVP of the NBA. Sure, Anthony Davis and Steph Curry are in the conversation, too, but man, Westbrook has been stupid good. He’s averaging 27.2 points, 7.2 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game for the Thunder this year, making him one of the best players in fantasy. Again, another obvious start, but it’s fun to talk about really good players. With Kevin Durant now dealing with an ankle injury, Westbrook should get all of the offensive touches. He’s already averaging a healthy 83 offensive touches per game on the year, and, according to Rotoworld, during Friday night’s game against Golden State, Westbrook had a usage rate of 46.5– in the second half. He leads all of basketball in usage rate (38.5), over four points higher than the next closest player, Kobe Bryant. Oklahoma City have a back-t0-back this week, and they surely won’t rush Durant back, so look for Russ to get plenty of run, plenty of touches, and plenty of fantasy points this week. In other words, same old, same old.

-If Durant misses some time this week, backup point guard Reggie Jackson will be very, very viable in fantasy land. With Durant out against the Lakers on Friday, Jackson came off the bench, but played 36 minutes, often sharing the floor with Westbrook and Andre Roberson. Jackson scored 25 points, adding five assists, a block, and three rebounds. A talented player, Jackson usually takes advantage during the instances where he gets extended run. On the year, he’s averaging a healthy 16 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.4 rebounds, largely due to the absence of Westbrook a few weeks ago. But again, there’s proof that he makes for a top fantasy option when given 30-plus minutes. I’d be shocked if Durant played all four games this week, making Jackson someone to keep an eye on. Dallas, even though they have Rondo now, struggle against point guards this year, while Damian Lillard and the Blazers aren’t the best defensive unit, either.

Sleepers

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers- Thompson is one of the more underrated players in the league, if you ask me. When given a larger amount of minutes, he produces, especially on the glass. And if you need someone for rebounding this week, give Thompson a look. On the year, he’s averaging a respectable nine points and seven rebounds in about 25 minutes of play, despite sporting a career-low in usage rate. He’s also sixth in the entire NBA in terms of offensive rebounding, which has translated to higher percentage looks at the basket. With four games on schedule for the Cavs, Thompson could be a supreme rebound producer, as he’s recorded eight double-digit rebound performances in limited action. And we all know that Anderson Varejao isn’t sipping out of the fountain of health, and Cleveland is not afraid to plug Thompson into the starting lineup. He could have a big game this week against the Pistons, who are allowing 53.6 total rebounds per game on the year, the fourth-most in the NBA.

Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers- Covington continues to simply score points. He’s averaging just under 12 points per game on the year, but over the last five games, he’s averaging 17.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. During that span, he’s knocking down 3.6 triples per game, and in Philadelphia’s fantasy friendly offense, he’s hoisting up an insane 8.4 shots per game from beyond the arc. The 76ers are third in pace, and Covington is playing just under 35 minutes per game as of late, so the volume will be there. Meanwhile, he gets the Heat to open the week, a team that is allowing opponents to shoot 44.8 percent from three-point land over the last 10 games, the highest percentage in basketball. Also, 25.8 percent of points allowed per game by Miami this year have come from beyond the arc, good for the fifth-most in the league. Covington also faces a bad Utah defense, surrendering 101.5 points per game on the year.

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