• Another week brings another edition of The Week Ahead. This time, we’re wishing a happy Selection Sunday to all those who celebrate. Watching the next generation of NBA stars in their final auditions for the league is always a special occasion, but that’s not going to help any of us right now. 

    In the fantasy space, it’s fair to question if some of the league’s lottery-contending teams are going to be of much help moving forward. There are squads like the Hornets and Jazz that may be missing a few key names in their two-game weeks, or others like the Pacers, whose primary players are mostly sidelined heading into a three-game slate that doesn’t have much streaming value until Thursday. I could tell you that Andrew Nembhard, Jalen Smith and Isaiah Jackson are having a stretch that matches their early season hype, but there’s no telling if the minutes will still be there for them by the time they’d be worth picking up. For that matter, most of this season has shown that prospects on non-contending teams are generally only reliable for short periods of time, That’s why I expect to see names like Dennis Smith Jr., Kris Dunn, Mark Williams, Nick Richards and Talen Horton-Tucker popping up on more standard league waiver wires in the near future. 

    The Grizzlies have been the talk of the town for weeks and there’s no sign of slowing. There may be a bit of a cloud hanging over the franchise right now, but Tyus Jones and Xavier Tillman have been putting in extra work in the last four games. Jones has been nearly peerless as a fantasy producer since Ja Morant was sidelined, while Tillman has been producing mid-round value as a substitute for both Brandon Clarke and Steven Adams.They’ve surely been picked up in most competitive leagues by now, but deeper league managers may still be able to snag Luke Kennard or Santi Aldama ahead of their four-game weeks. Heck, even rookie David Roddy seems like a solid streamer after exploding for a career-high 24 points with four treys, two steals and a block on Saturday.

    Given where the franchise started this year, it’s hard to believe that the Kings are currently tied for second in the Western Conference and poised for their first playoff run in nearly two decades. De’Aaron Fox is finally getting the respect that some would say he has deserved for years, and most of it is thanks to two things: unparalleled fourth-quarter scoring and an improved jump shot. The Kings have become a nightmare for opposing defenses with a diverse group of perimeter talents to support their star point guard, including the criminally under-rostered Malik Monk. In his last two appearances, Monk has posted 37 points, eight treys, nine boards, 10 assists, two steals and two blocks on 11-of-20 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. Domantas Sabaonis’ back-to-back triple-doubles and a bit of a resurgence from Kevin Huerter might have stolen some of the spotlight, but what Monk’s doing shouldn’t be overlooked by teams looking for guard stats. The Kings play four times in Week 21 and should provide tons of offensive value for those in need.

    A familiar MVP storyline is emerging once again this season after the Sixers seem to have turned the corner since March began. In that timeframe, Joel Embiid has produced 186 points, eight treys, 33 rebounds, 22 assists, seven steals and seven blocks with predictably solid shooting numbers from the field and free throw line. The Sixers are rolling and the only team that has stopped them so far in March is the Mavs, who needed a combined 82 points and 18 assists from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to secure a close win over the third-place Sixers. Embiid isn’t alone in producing top-tier fantasy value over this period and it will come as no surprise to learn that James Harden, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey have registered some elite performances of their own in March. While he is no less valuable to the team, De’Anthony Melton has been bumped from the starting lineup once again and may see a bit of a downward trend in his overall value as the Sixers head into a three-game week. Melton has been a mid-to-late round producer since late February, but a dip in minutes this past week saw the 6’2” combo guard only truly produce value as a 3-point streamer.

    What do the Rockets and the Raptors have in common? Well, it’s not their records. In fact, it’s really three things: four games in Week 21, no injuries to start the week and six players hovering around standard league value based on their Week 20 results. With regard to the Raptors, who rely heavily on their fantasy-friendly starters, the only potential add among that mostly-rostered group is Chris Boucher for those in need of a bit of blocks and boards. Coach Nurse recently spoke about the need to get him more involved and longtime fantasy managers know that Boucher is a great handcuff for other Raptors forwards, as he often translates a bump in playing time into solid standard league value. With regard to the Rockets, there are three potentially-available standard league assets to consider in Week 21: Jae’Sean Tate, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Tari Eason. Deciding between the trio is a bit of a pick-your-poison situation: none are particularly reliable fantasy producers and each has their own advantage. The veteran Tate likely has the highest floor and out-produced his peers based on totals in the past week with across-the-board production, while Martin is starting and scoring with remarkable efficiency. Of course, the rookie Eason has the highest upside, since his rebounds and steals production in four games could be the X-factor in some close head-to-head matchups. All of the above are playing well enough to be streamed but they’re not making the cut as Quick Adds this week, so they get a tip of the cap before we move on.

    Speaking of Quick Adds, let’s see how last week’s batch performed. Bruce Brown was essentially a steals specialist on his way to putting up some pretty unspectacular numbers last week. However, Brown has already earned enough equity with me to be someone I’ll still trust in the future, so I’m not altogether prepared to dismiss him ahead of another four-game week for the Nuggets. Both Delon Wright and Immanuel Quickley really hit their marks this week and made me feel pretty smart for having listed them. As expected, Quickley surged after Jalen Brunson got hurt, while Wright averaged three-plus steals and five-plus assists since Monday. Wright shouldn’t be available in any format right now, so be sure to check that he’s not free in your leagues. There might not be enough upside to gamble on Quickley ahead of a two-game week and without clarity on Brunson’s status. Onyeka Okongwu had a bit of a resurgence on Saturday against the Celtics but was otherwise unspectacular and may be a bit too limited to keep rostered in 12-team leagues with a three day gap between games on Monday and Friday in Week 21. Similarly, Matisse Thybulle saw a downward trend in value and playing time that coincided with Anfernee Simons’ return to action. While the defensive stopper is still in the starting lineup and liable to have multiple steals or blocks at a moment’s notice, he has seen his minutes shrink from over 30 a night between March 1st and 6th to less than 20 in two consecutive games since then. Teams can safely drop him and maybe consider re-adding him ahead for two games in three days starting on Friday.

    The upcoming schedule is very similar to the last: minimal (no) double-digit game days, multiple two-game teams and an abundance of short-term streaming plays. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news for managers of key Hornets, Knicks and Jazz players, but they’re going to have to be extra productive in their limited appearances in order to keep pace with their peers. On the bright side: there are 15 teams with four games this week, so there should be no shortage of streaming options with half of the league playing on every day but Thursday. It’s the rarity of Thursday streamers that adds value for some of the three-game teams, as playing in less than half of all possible days typically means that they’re only relevant over a three-day period. That’s why teams like the Nets and Thunder have my attention, as I could use one of my first adds on them to secure value on a weak day while still getting multiple days of production in the early week. There are lots of different ways to navigate the schedule this week, but the important thing to remember is that streamers have the best value when they play twice in three days. Thankfully, this spread-out schedule really lends itself well to that strategy and everybody should have at least a couple of options near the top of their respective waiver wires.

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Hornets, Knicks, Jazz

    Three Games: Hawks, Nets, Bulls, Cavs, Mavs, Pacers, Clippers, Pelicans, Thunder, Sixers, Blazers, Wizards

    Four Games: Celtics, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Wolves, Magic, Suns, Kings, Spurs, Raptors


    Monday-Tuesday: Pistons, Bucks, Suns

    Tuesday-Wednesday: Cavs, Lakers, Spurs

    Wednesday-Thursday: Kings

    Thursday-Friday: None

    Friday-Saturday: Celtics, Bulls, Warriors, Grizzlies, Wolves, Sixers, Wizards

    Saturday-Sunday: Nuggets, Clippers, Heat, Magic, Raptors

    Sunday-Monday (Week 22): Rockets

    Schedule Maximizers

    Per usual, the best start for a week of streaming will be whichever team(s) offer a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back. In this case, it’s the Pistons, Bucks and Suns getting off to a strong start in their respective four-game weeks. They’re the best early options for their consecutive games but also a third game in four days on Thursday. However, most Monday teams fit the typical 2-in-3 rule and will play once more by Wednesday night. So long as managers aren’t resting their hopes on players from the Hawks, Pacers or Jazz, they should feel free to pick up their favorite active player for Monday. The Cavs, Lakers and Spurs start on Tuesday but will still get managers three games across four days in the middle of the Week 21 schedule. As with last week, managers should ideally get at least two streaming games under their belt before making a move to fill spots on a relatively dry Thursday, so some squads may prefer to only use the Cavs, Lakers or Spurs for their Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back.

    Since building a strategy around a slow Thursday is arguably the best way forward, managers will have to consider the possibility that their competition may also build a strategy around getting active players on the weak day. In that case, there is no problem with picking up players from the Celtics, Bulls, Warriors, Grizzlies, Wolves or Sixers for their Wednesday-to-Saturday stretch with three games each. Thursday will mark the third Kings game in four days, which makes any available rotation players ideal pickups for Week 21. However, the Nuggets, Magic and Raptors have three games from Thursday to Sunday and their best available players could also be impactful. As a final option for a Thursday play, managers should consider some of the Pacers, as the questionable availability of their key players plus two games between Thursday and Saturday could make them an ideal source of streamers, depending on who is in or out of the lineup.

    Anyone making moves on Friday should focus exclusively on the back-to-back teams. Thankfully there are several, as the Celtics, Bulls, Warriors, Grizzlies, Wolves, Sixers and Wizards all meet the criteria. By adding from teams that finish on Saturday, managers will allow themselves flexibility to make an extra pickup for Sunday night. The Rockets have a Sunday-Monday back-to-back that can be exploited for extra games in Week 22, but the Hawks and Spurs are also solid options. Both are scheduled for Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-backs and any fantasy squads that know they’ll make it to Week 22 should bump these three teams to the top of their list.

    Best Schedule: Detroit Pistons (vs. Pacers, @ Wizards, vs. Nuggets, vs. Heat)

    You know, I was planning to make it the Kings. They play four games in a six-day period that also covers the softest schedule day, but how does that help anyone reading this? Aside from Monk, the majority of the rotation is rostered in around or above three-quarters of all leagues. It’s not likely that the likes of Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter are available in any competitive leagues, so why write about them? Anyone with a Kings player rostered probably already has them in the starting lineup anyway, so take that for what it’s worth.

    That’s a long way of saying that the Pistons are your two-time reigning Best Schedule winners. Most of what I wrote about them last week remains true, so I’ll paraphrase: back-to-back, four games and players available everywhere. Isaiah Livers and James Wiseman have been the best of the bunch in the past week, but Jalen Duren is looming as a potential difference-maker in only 40 minutes across two games since returning from injury. Managers in 12-team leagues will probably prefer to look elsewhere, but veteran Cory Joseph hasn’t played less than 23 minutes in March and was a top-100 producer over the past week with primary value in assists, shooting percentages, steals, treys and turnovers. With Alec Burks still on the shelf and Jaden Ivey now sidelined for a few games due to Health and Safety Protocols, the already-valuable Pistons should have a chance to sustain their production, while other potential assets like Killian Hayes and RJ Hampton will have some extra time to assert themselves. Unfortunately, Marvin Bagley III is dealing with right ankle pain and put up negative value in four consecutive games with declining playing time last week, so he likely won’t be worth holding onto in standard leagues despite the advantageous schedule. 

    In a spaced-out week without any double-digit games, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to carry your favorite Pistons player into Thursday night before swapping them out for two or more extra streaming days between Friday and Sunday. In fact, that’s the best path forward and the Pistons beat out the other 3-in-4 teams specifically for the viability of streaming their players over a shorter period. Unlike the others, their roster is loaded with viable players that should actually be on waiver wires in all sorts of formats. 

    Worst Schedule: Utah Jazz (@ Heat, vs. Celtics)

    The Jazz have been one of my favorite teams to watch this season. Unfortunately, I’ll have to watch other teams play on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as the Jazz sandwich four days off between Monday and Saturday games in a very slow week. Aside from Lauri Markkanen and Blocker Kessler, there aren’t many players from this Jazz squad that are worth retaining through such an uninspiring slate of games. It’s a shame that this is the case, since Kelly Olynyk, Kris Dunn, Simone Fontecchio and Talen Horton-Tucker have all been relevant standard league producers over the past seven days. The anticipated returns of Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson may change the picture a bit, but the aforementioned names will be important to remember as the Jazz transition to a four-game week that could contend for Best Schedule in Week 22.

    Game of the Week: Clippers at Blazers on March 18, 2023

    Last week, I wrote about having a rule that every Grizzlies-Warriors game gets picked as Game of the Week due to their ongoing rivalry. In the interest of variety, I’m going to break that rule even though they have a rematch scheduled for this week after the Grizzlies trounced the Warriors last Thursday. 

    With the winners disqualified, the title now goes to the runners-up. I’m prepared to argue that the best shot of Damian Lillard’s career happened on April 23, 2019. That’s when he pulled up from nearly halfcourt to make a shot which would send the Blazers to the Western Conference Semifinals. Who was defending him on that shot? Paul George. Who was George’s superstar teammate on that Thunder squad? Russell Westbrook. It just so happens that those two are paired up once more and will be visiting Lillard in the same arena that he doomed their Thunder-era days in. It goes deeper than that, though. 

    These two teams are pretty close in the standings and fighting for playoff position. The Blazers are on the outside looking in but no less dangerous than any of the teams between themselves and the Clippers, who are well-rested after only two games -both wins- in Week 20 and getting an awful lot out of Kawhi Leonard right now. At this point, it suffices to say that most of the Clippers roster could produce standard league value and that depth may also be why teams prefer to look elsewhere. Most of the Clippers supporting cast of Ivica Zubac, Eric Gordon, Mason Plumlee, Marcus Morris Sr. and Terance Mann should get 20-plus minutes in this contest, and they should probably be rostered in the order listed. On the Blazers end, the likes of Cam Reddish, Drew Eubanks and Matisse Thybulle are no less valuable but more readily-available in most leagues, so they could also be considered as standard league adds ahead of what should be a tightly-contested matchup with playoff implications and some personal history.

    Quick Adds

    Donte DiVincenzo, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors

    We’re going to keep coming back to this well until it runs dry. DiVincenzo is rostered in about 4-of-10 leagues on average, which drastically misrepresents his season-long fantasy impact or his recent performance, for that matter. The 6’4” combo guard has been a reliable producer since cracking the Warriors rotation in December and has shown no signs of slowing since then. In fact, he has been a starter for nearly a month now and is a proven contributor of assists, free throw percentage, steals, treys and low turnovers for the majority of the season at this point. It doesn’t matter if Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Co. are all fully healthy: DiVincenzo has earned his place on this Warriors squad and should see a major surge in rostership ahead of a four-game week.

    Jalen Duren, PF/C, Detroit Pistons

    Remember that part of the season before the trade deadline when we were obsessed with how impactful an 18-year-old athletic behemoth like Duren could be so early in his career? Let’s get back to that. Duren is still a physically imposing monster and that doesn’t change because Marvin Bagley III is healthy or because James Wiseman came to town. In fact, managers should bet that Duren will shortly reclaim the spotlight as the premier Pistons pivot. Unlike his offense-minded peers, Duren’s value relies on more stable categories that won’t come and go as often as your average hot or cold streak. The 7-footer is already among the premier rebounders and rim-rollers in the league while also ranking as the best paint protector in Detroit. The Pistons have a bunch of names on their Injury Report, so there shouldn’t be a shortage of minutes available to Duren. He lost his starting spot since returning from an extended absence, but the Memphis alum has produced standard league value in limited minutes. Yours truly is betting that Duren’s playing time surges this week and that he gives Dwane Casey no choice but to re-insert him into the starting lineup. Wiseman’s recent brilliance shouldn’t take away from what we know Duren can do. Keep an eye on him in his four-game week because Duren could be an X-factor in blocks, boards and field goal percentage.

    Jalen Suggs, PG/SG, Orlando Magic

    Suggs was an early round producer over the past week and is getting starter’s minutes on a team that plays four games this week, so this didn’t take much thought. Last year’s fifth overall pick has seen a major surge in steals value in recent weeks, which coupled with solid assists, blocks, free throw percentage and treys output to see Suggs rise in the overall rankings. Managers in all league formats shouldn’t hesitate to add the 6’5” guard ahead of a four-game road trip for the Magic in Week 21. 

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets

    KCP has been a productive and reliable streamer for years, so perhaps fantasy managers are dismissing what he’s doing this season based on past precedent. However, the veteran has stepped up his production this season and is in the top-20 for steals value while also producing at or above-average marks in shooting percentages, treys and turnovers. Alongside offensive studs like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Caldwell-Pope can regularly expect to get his choice of open looks every game, which creates a solid floor of shooting efficiency and production for risk-averse managers. This is an experienced starter that is already producing mid-round value on a championship-contending squad, so tons of teams should be looking to pick KCP up ahead of a busy week for the Nuggets.

    Kyle Anderson, SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Everyone knows how Anderson got his nickname and I’m convinced that it’s part of the reason why he’s not rostered in as many leagues as he should be. Watching him play might not be as exciting as some (most) other players, but from a numbers perspective, Slo Mo gives fantasy teams everything they could possibly need. Anderson cracked the starting lineup in December and has retained his position since then, so his current hot streak still retains a nice floor of production when he eventually cools off. However, Anderson has produced an excellent blend of assists, blocks, field goal percentage, rebounds, steals and low turnovers over the past two weeks to the extent that he is hovering around a top-50 valuation. The 6’9” forward likely ended up on some waiver wires after the Wolves’ two-game Week 20 schedule, but Anderson should be picked up everywhere with four games in six days between Monday and Saturday in Week 21.

    Honorable Mention: Andrew Nembhard (PG/SG, Pacers), Austin Reaves (SG/SF, Lakers), Bruce Brown (SG/SF/PF, Nuggets), Cam Reddish (SF/PF, Blazers), Caris LeVert (SG/SF, Cavs), Chris Boucher (PF/C, Raptors), Cole Anthony (PG, Magic), De’Anthony Melton (PG/SG, Sixers), Delon Wright (PG/SG, Wizards), Derrick White (PG/SG, Celtics), Deni Avdija (SF/PF, Wizards), Grayson Allen (SG/SF, Bucks), Isaac Okoro (SG/SF, Cavs), Isaiah Livers (SG/SF, Pistons), Jae’Sean Tate (SF/PF, Rockets), Jalen Smith (PF/C, Pacers), Jarred Vanderbilt (PF/C, Lakers), Jeremy Sochan (PF, Spurs), Joe Ingles (SF/PF, Bucks), Josh Okogie (SG/SF, Suns), Kenyon Martin Jr. (SF/PF, Rockets), Kevon Looney (C, Warriors), Malik Monk (SG, Kings), Mike Conley (PG, Wolves), Patrick Beverley (PG/SG, Bulls), Patrick Williams (PF, Bulls), Royce O’Neale (SG/SF, Nets), Saddiq Bey (SF/PF, Hawks), Tari Eason (SF/PF, Rockets), Terrence Ross (SG/SF, Suns), Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG/SF, Mavs), Tre Jones (PG, Spurs), Tyus Jones (PG, Grizzlies), Xavier Tillman (PF/C, Grizzlies), Zach Collins (PF/C, Spurs)

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