April 4, 2022, 2:27 pm
The final week of the 2021-22 regular season is finally here. It’s always bittersweet.
On one hand, the most exciting time in professional basketball is about to start. The playoffs, the pinnacle of basketball, are the proving grounds for the NBA’s best. Legends are made and champions are crowned during postseason play.
On the other hand, the regular season is for us hoop junkies. 30 teams play 82 games. With so much basketball on, there’s something to consume every night. Sometimes, it’s watching Evan Mobley and Darius Garland work their two-man game against Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks. Other times, we’re watching Saddiq Bey drop 51 points on the Magic’s Wagner brothers. The prestigious NBA title is presented in the postseason, but the hoop junky’s crowning achievement is earned in the regular season. With one week to go, let’s make sure you’re the last person standing in your league.
Week 24 might be the wonkiest of the season. Everybody has Monday night off and nobody has Sunday off. Tuesday’s a 12-game slate, making it quite difficult to stream then. Friday’s nine-game schedule looks appealing next to Tuesday’s and Sunday’s schedules. The low-volume nights are Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Only one team, the Celtics, suit up for Wednesday and Thursday. Most teams only offer two quality games, so no team’s schedule is much better than another’s. There are many routes to take this final week.
Besides the wonky schedule, it’s difficult to know who’s going to play in these games. The Pistons started Cade Cunningham last week, played him for about eight minutes then sat him the rest of the way. Other teams are resting sections of their squads. The Grizzlies just upset the Suns despite not having any of Ja Morant (right knee soreness), Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Steven Adams or Tyus Jones. Wholesale rest days like the Grizzlies’ can be damaging or beneficial depending on your preparedness. Stay on top of injury updates to keep that edge over your opponent and add the winning streamer.
The shutdown teams are wonderful hosts to streamers. The Blazers, Thunder, Rockets, Kings and Pacers are a few of the shutdown teams to consider. Each team has obscure or typically back-end players outperforming their usual standards due to increased usage or production stemming from the usual starters resting or having been shut down. Consider Drew Eubanks, the 21st ranked player in 8-category formats over the past week in three appearances. With all the Blazers’ big guns sidelined, Eubanks averaged 20.3 points, 9.7 boards, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks on 73% shooting from the field and 75% shooting from the stripe in 34 minutes a night over the past week while on a fourth 10-day contract. Streamers like Eubanks can shift the momentum of a series and they’re available on waiver wires.
With a few busy nights in this week’s schedule, don’t forget to plan ahead and find your expendable players. What good is Isaac Okoro if he doesn’t make the cut for your team on Tuesday, Friday or Sunday? It’s the final week of the season. In head-to-head, you should know what the deal is. Get rid of the guys who won’t help you or will help you less than other streaming options. Add games played by any means necessary. Avoid adding a player for Tuesday or Sunday. Target Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Don’t leave any acquisitions in the chamber by Sunday. Unload your adds on Saturday night because you likely won’t benefit from an add during the season’s 15-game finale on Sunday.
Three Games: Celtics, Cavs, Mavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Heat, Wolves, Knicks, Magic, Kings
Four Games: Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Bulls, Lakers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Pelicans, Thunder, Sixers, Suns, Blazers, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards
Tuesday/Wednesday: Hawks, Nets, Bulls, Thunder, Suns, Jazz, Wizards
Thursday/Friday: Hornets, Lakers, Bucks, Blazers, Raptors
Saturday/Sunday: Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Sixers, Kings, Spurs
The Celtics are the first team to target. They’re the only team playing a back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday. Grabbing the most suitable player among Derrick White, Daniel Theis and Payton Pritchard, all inside the top-150 in 9-cat over the past week and two weeks, allows you to avoid the heavy Tuesday night slate and cash-in on two games early in the final. Next, we’re looking at the teams playing around Friday’s nine-game slate. The Warriors, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Sixers and Spurs all finish the week with three games in four nights, including playing on Thursday and Saturday. The Pacers, Kings and Clippers join the aforementioned ballclubs on Saturday night. The Hornets, Lakers, Bucks, Blazers and Raptors have that Thursday/Friday doubleheader. If you can squeeze in a guy for that nine-game Friday, these teams should be in your crosshairs. We’re not streaming on Sunday since every team plays to end the season, so use your remaining moves on Saturday.
Best Schedule: Grizzlies (@ Jazz, @ Nuggets, vs. Pelicans, vs. Celtics)
No team has more than two quality games, in terms of streaming, this week. Somebody must be anointed the owner of the week’s best schedule. The Grizzlies take it this week. They close the week out with three games in four nights, play four overall and they’re a candidate to sit guys on the final night of the season, elevating the value of their streamers. They might play on the two loaded nights, but they play around Friday’s nine-gamer and they have many streaming options.
Worst Schedule: Rockets (@ Nets, @ Raptors, vs. Hawks)
Houston, we have a problem…with streaming. Only three teams play only three games on each of the high-volume nights. The other two, the Heat and the Cavs, have slightly easier schedules. On the bright side, the Rockets have sat their vets for the remainder of the season. As a result, a couple guys picking up the slack are likely on your waiver wire. Josh Christopher, Alperen Sengun, Bruno Fernando and Jae’Sean Tate are all posting at least top-170 value in 8-category leagues over the past few games and should remain in line for increased usage and value for the final week.
Game of the Week: Celtics @ Bucks, Thursday, April 7th, 7:30 pm ET
The TNT headliner will be the final regular season meeting between two of the Eastern Conference’s championship hopefuls. The defending champs have been there and done that. The Celtics have been close in recent seasons and got off to a rocky start in this one. They’ve figured things out since the turn of the calendar, though. The Celtics boast the league’s best net rating since January 1st and have gone 31-11 in 42 games. They’ll be without a key piece in Robert Williams III (torn left meniscus), who would be useful against the league’s most unstoppable force in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks are rounding into form for the homestretch while the shorthanded Celtics want to stamp their incredible 2022 regular season run with a big win over the defending champs. The Greek Freak welcomes all challengers to the throne, and Jayson Tatum will take his shot on Thursday night. As a bonus, this game could very well decide who earns the second seed in the East.
Damian Jones, C, Sacramento Kings
When healthy, the Kings wouldn’t have Jones on the floor as often as they do now. Still, in 21 minutes a night over the past two months, Jones is posting top-100 value in 9-category rankings. Take the last two weeks and he’s top-30, and in his most recent three games Jones is a top-10 player in 30 minutes a night. The big man hits free throws at an acceptable rate, field goals at a high rate and blocks shots like prime Bill Russell! Well, at least he has lately. If Jones can make your best 10 on Tuesday and Sunday, he’s somebody that must be scooped when looking for traditional big-man numbers.
Obi Toppin, PF, New York Knicks
Sitting behind Julius Randle for most of the season, Toppin sports a top-320 ranking in 9-category formats for the year. Randle, who’s dealing with right quad tendon soreness, has likely played his final game of the season. With last season’s All-Star sidelined, Toppin becomes the man at power forward. The sophomore slowed down a bit last week, but over the past two Toppin’s averaging 13.4 points, 4.9 boards, 2.3 assists, 1.1 3s, 0.6 steals and 0.6 blocks on 62.1% and 82.4% shooting from the floor and foul line, respectively. While the shooting percentages won’t pop off the box score like they have over his last seven, Toppin’s going to get the minutes and should be able to put some numbers up against the Nets and Wizards before heading into Sunday’s game against the Raptors. Inside the top-90 over the past two weeks, Toppin’s good to go for the homestretch.
Killian Hayes, PG, Detroit Pistons
The number seven overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft has looked like an absolute bust since entering the league. Despite low expectations, Hayes has been worse at scoring the ball than the Pistons had hoped. Things are starting to shift a bit for the lefty. Hayes is inside the top-55 over the past two weeks and at No. 21 over his last four games. The sophomore’s averaging 14.8 points, 1.3 3s, 3.0 boards, 5.0 assists, an unsustainable 3.3 steals and 0.8 blocks on 52% shooting from the floor in 30.4 minutes a night over the past week. The Frenchman’s hitting about 39% from the field on the season, but over the last two months he’s at 43% and even better over the past two weeks. With Hayes hitting his stride to end the campaign, he’s a good option for their three-game week starting on Wednesday night.
De’Anthony Melton, PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies
Melton has famously been one of our favorites at SportsEthos. The per-minute stud has been on fantasy radars since last season when he would barely crack the 20-minute mark. Well, he’s only averaging a couple more minutes here in the 2021-22 campaign at 22.6 a night. Over the past week and two weeks. his minutes have increased to over 24 a night. He’s top-60 over the past two weeks due to a torrid shooting stretch at 53.3% from the field while averaging 20 points a night. Funny enough, it’s Melton’s defense that has fallen a bit over his last six appearances. The Grizzlies have four games this week, Melton’s role is safe to close the season and he’s in the middle of a heater. The productive guard can be streamed in week 24.
John Collins (right foot strain & right finger sprain) remains without a firm return date.
Robert Williams III is out indefinitely with his surgically repaired left meniscus.
Ben Simmons (conditioning/back) remains out indefinitely.
Lonzo Ball (torn left meniscus) has resumed running but has no return date yet.
Earlier in the week, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff mentioned that Jarrett Allen (fractured right ring finger) and Evan Mobley (left ankle sprain) could return at some point in the coming week.
Michael Porter Jr. (back) and Jamal Murray (left ACL tear) remain without firm return dates.
Jerami Grant (strained left calf) is out for the season. Cade Cunningham (right hip soreness) missed Sunday’s game against the Pacers and should be considered day-to-day moving forward.
Christian Wood is done for the season with left hamstring tightness.
Stephen Curry (left foot sprain) won’t return during the regular season and will receive an update on April 11. Klay Thompson (injury management) missed the team’s Sunday game but should be back in week 24.
Myles Turner (left foot stress reaction) will not return this season. Malcolm Brogdon has missed eight straight games with lower back soreness.
Kawhi Leonard (right ACL) and Norman Powell (left foot fracture) remain sidelined indefinitely.
LeBron James (left ankle sprain) missed the team’s Sunday game and should be considered day-to-day.
Ja Morant (right knee) is considered week-to-week. Jaren Jackson Jr. (right thigh soreness) missed the team’s Friday game, but so did a few of their regulars. He should be considered day-to-day.
Jimmy Butler missed Sunday’s game with left big toe irritation.
Julius Randle (right quadriceps tendon soreness) is likely done for the season.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right ankle) and Josh Giddey (right hip) will miss the remainder of the regular season.
Wendell Carter Jr. (left wrist sprain) and Jalen Suggs (right ankle bone bruise) missed Sunday’s game.
Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and Jae Crowder all missed Sunday’s game for load management.
Josh Hart (left knee) and Justise Winslow (left calf) have missed the past week. Anfernee Simons (left patella tendinopathy), Damian Lillard (abdominal surgery) and Jusuf Nurkic are all out for the season.
De’Aaron Fox (right hand) and Domantas Sabonis (left knee) are both out indefinitely.
Dejounte Murray (illness) and Jakob Poeltl (back tightness) missed Sunday’s game.
OG Anunoby missed the team’s Sunday game with a thigh issue.
Kyle Kuzma missed Sunday’s game with right knee tendinitis.