At this point in the fantasy basketball season, few things are more important than the schedule.
Last week, the Golden State Warriors were one of only two teams with two games, while 10 teams played four games.
For example, if you spent early-round picks on both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in an attempt to secure a chokehold on 3-pointers, your season may have come to a premature end largely because of the Dubs’ light schedule.
This week, the Warriors are the only team with a five-game slate, though it’s difficult to imagine Curry, Thompson and Golden State’s other key pieces will play in both back-to-back sets. Head coach Steve Kerr figures to buy his stars a game or two of rest whenever possible—Tuesday’s game against Minnesota or Saturday’s game against Dallas look like the two best opportunities to do so—which means you aren’t necessarily screwed if you’re facing Curry or Thompson in a playoff matchup.
There’s only so much you can do about a player’s schedule at this time of year, but it’s especially important for owners in leagues with weekly lineup locks to keep in mind.
While it may sound like heresy to suggest benching Russell Westbrook this week, he’s facing a one-game suspension after picking up his 16th technical foul Saturday, and he was already heading into a three-game week as is. He’s now set to join players from the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic as the only ones guaranteed to play no more than two games this week.
ESPN’s schedule grid can help you break close calls if you’re torn between which two players to start in a weekly league. Those in daily leagues can swap players out more readily, but you’ll still be at a disadvantage if your primary stars are heading into three-game weeks while your opponents’ top producers have four-game slates.
Keep the schedule in mind for waiver-wire pickups, too. It could be the difference between you advancing or going home early.
Jae Crowder, SF/PF, Utah Jazz (19.6% owned): Crowder is still coming off the bench for the Jazz, but head coach Quin Synder continues to lean upon him heavily. Over his past seven games, Crowder has poured in 13.7 points on 44.9 percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 triples, 1.7 assists and 0.9 steals in 29.1 minutes, good for top-100 value during that span. With the Jazz still jostling for playoff seeding, Crowder figures to maintain his grasp on a significant role during the coming weeks.
Jalen Brunson, PG, Dallas Mavericks (14.2% owned): Brunson has been starting in Dallas since the Mavericks traded Dennis Smith Jr. to the New York Knicks, but he’s only recently hit his stride. Over his past six games, the rookie has averaged 19.5 points on 57.9 percent shooting, 6.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 triples in 33.9 minutes, putting up top-30 value over that span. As the Mavs attempt to tank their way past the Memphis Grizzlies—thus boosting their chances of keeping their own top-five-protected first-round pick—Brunson should continue seeing major minutes down the stretch.
Damyean Dotson, SG/SF, New York Knicks (7.6% owned): With the Knicks barreling straight toward the top of the lottery, they’ve been giving heavy minutes to young players such as Dotson. The 2017 second-round pick has responded with 17.3 points on 42.6 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.6 triples in eight March games, putting up fringe top-100 value over that span. Dotson has topped 35 minutes in four straight games, which should give him the opportunity to keep putting up big numbers moving forward.
Rodions Kurucs, SF, Brooklyn Nets (3.2% owned): Kurucs likely isn’t the flashiest player available on your league’s waiver wire, but he’s been effective as of late. Prior to his five-point dud against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday—which he helped to salvage with three blocks and two steals in 13 minutes—Kurucs averaged 12.1 points on 55.4 percent shooting, 5.1 rebounds, 2.1 triples, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks and 0.9 assists in 23.5 minutes over his past seven games. Kurucs isn’t a big scorer, but his ability to chip in 3s, blocks and steals makes him roster-worthy nevertheless.
Landry Shamet, PG/SF, Los Angeles Clippers (3.0% owned): Shamet is little more than a 3-point specialist for fantasy purposes, but he’s been delivering those in droves as of late. His seven-triple first half against the New York Knicks on March 3 was the highlight, but he has averaged 3.8 treys to go with 13.6 points, 2.5 assists and 2.4 rebounds over his past eight games. Shamet has delivered top-100 value since the start of March, which makes him a valuable asset for anyone in need of help with 3-pointers.
Kelly Oubre Jr., SF, Phoenix Suns (45.7% owned)
Eric Gordon, SG, Houston Rockets (45.2% owned)
Derrick White, PG, San Antonio Spurs (28.7% owned)
Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat (16.3% owned)
Robin Lopez, C, Chicago Bulls (12.3% owned)
Notable injury news
CJ McCollum, SG, Portland Trail Blazers: McCollum was diagnosed with a popliteus strain in his left knee after going down with a scary-looking injury Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He’ll be sidelined for at least a week, per Woj, which means fantasy owners in redraft leagues likely have to cut bait unless you have an open IR spot on your roster. In McCollum’s absence, Rodney Hood and Jake Layman both saw extended time against the Spurs, although Hood particularly won’t provide much more than points and 3-pointers.
Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Milwaukee Bucks: On Saturday, the Bucks announced Brogdon has been diagnosed with a minor plantar fascia tear in his right foot. According to Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Brogdon is expected to miss six to eight weeks with this injury, which makes him droppable in all redraft formats. Nikola Mirotic started in his place Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers, finishing with only two points on 1-of-7 shooting in 24 minutes. It’s unclear whether he will continue to start or if head coach Mike Budenholzer will alter his starting lineup on a matchup-by-matchup basis.
Jeff Teague, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves: Teague has missed the Timberwolves’ past three games with left foot inflammation, and the team sent him back to Minnesota on Saturday for further testing, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. With the Timberwolves effectively eliminated from playoff contention, there’s a non-zero chance that Teague gets shut down for the year. Barring any positive news Monday, owners in leagues with weekly lineup locks should strongly consider moving on from Teague, while Tyus Jones should be owned in all formats.
Dante Exum, PG, Utah Jazz: On Friday, the Jazz announced Exum has been diagnosed with a partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee and will be out indefinitely. Exum shouldn’t have been owned in leagues of any size even prior to his injury, but his absence bodes well for Donovan Mitchell owners. Mitchell has averaged nearly five assists per game since the All-Star break, and he figures to continue seeing some minutes as the Jazz’s de facto point guard with Exum likely out for the rest of the season.
Elfrid Payton, PG, New Orleans Pelicans: With Jrue Holiday still sidelined by his abdominal strain, Payton has been on fire as of late. He’s riding a streak of four straight triple-doubles, during which time he’s averaged 14.8 points on 42.0 percent shooting, 13.3 assists, 12.5 rebounds, 1.5 triples and 1.0 steals in 35.8 minutes per game. Head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters the Pelicans will be “overly cautious” with Holiday’s return—which suggests he may be shut down for the year—so Payton could be a league-swinging X-factor in the fantasy playoffs.
Collin Sexton, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Sexton has been wildly inconsistent this season, but he’s in the best stretch of his rookie campaign by far. Over the past five games, he averaged 26.4 points on 55.7 percent shooting, 3.8 assists, 2.4 triples and 2.6 rebounds in 36.7 minutes. Oh, and he had zero turnovers in three of those five games. While he won’t continue shooting this well, and his assist totals rarely stand out, an upcoming four-game week should have him locked into weekly lineups.
Isaiah Thomas, PG, Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets’ Isaiah Thomas experiment appears to be over. Following four losses in five games, Denver head coach Mike Malone shortened the team’s rotation, bumping Thomas from the reserve unit in favor of Monte Morris. It’s objectively the correct decision—Morris has been one of the league’s best backup point guards this season, while Thomas is a defensive liability even at full strength—but it means anyone who scooped Thomas up should cut bait if you haven’t already.
Josh Richardson, SG, Miami Heat: With the Heat back closer to full health, Richardson’s fantasy value has been trending downward at the worst possible time for fantasy owners. He hit his nadir Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets, finishing with seven points on 2-of-17 shooting in 38 minutes, and he averaged only 13.7 points, 4.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 triples in the seven games prior. Having to fight Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Dwyane Wade for backcourt touches is doing Richardson no favors, which sits him outside the top 125 since the start of March.
All ownership percentages via ESPN.com. All average draft position info via FantasyPros. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues and are current heading into Monday, March 18.
Bryan Toporek is a contributor at The Basketball Writers. He’s also a Quality Editor for Bleacher Report, co-hosts The NBA Podcast and contributes at FanSided and elsewhere. He still trusts the Process.