• Fantasy managers, how are we doing out there? I hope you’re still in contention. Who am I kidding? Of course you are. That’s why you’re here for The Week Ahead. It’s fantasy playoffs time and I’ve got the goods.

    If I’ve been trying to drive one point home over the past several weeks, it’s this: there’s no more time to waste. Players and teams that don’t serve the most utility must be cut from your roster where possible. You can pretty easily guess who the exceptions to this rule are on each NBA team — the stars — but it’s not enough to be a moderately productive starter anymore. Gone are the days that we can be patient with players that aren’t clearly putting our teams above the opposition, so that’s why you need to prune your roster of any players that are currently underperforming or those from teams whose schedules will minimize their impact. I’m going to focus on these types in the intro and as you read further, I promise you’ll see who’s going to take their place. 

    Let’s start with the Raptors, Magic and trust. First and foremost: they’re here because their schedule sucks. I’ll pick on that a bit more later. What I’m really focused on right now is whether I can trust either team for consistent value from the same guys. We’ll start with the Raptors, who really don’t benefit when you rate them against the field. I could be talking about their record, their schedule or their roster and I would be right. There’s just not enough value here to rationalize a Monday morning hold even if they’re active. Aside from Gary Trent Jr., Immanuel Quickley and Kelly Olynyk, there’s nobody left that you can truly count on for any extended stretch, so you can start cutting ties with others if necessary. As a fan, I’m happy to see Gradey Dick, Jordan Nwora, Jontay Porter and Ochai Agbaji getting their playing time but I’m not confused about what their inefficiency and inconsistency means for my fantasy team. I have personally been a fan of Bruce Brown for his entire pro career as well, but I’m not failing to notice that he’s ranked outside the top-250 over the past week. Everybody named above can expect heavy playing time in Week 22 but I can’t tell you to expect that to correlate with fantasy value. Given that the Raptors play on a busy Monday, a busy Wednesday and then rest until Sunday, there are going to be better options than them on a daily basis this week. Act accordingly.

    With regards to the Magic, Jonathan Isaac currently leads a group of several players that I would love to stream if only I couldn’t think of a direct positional rival that’s able to produce equal or greater value on their own squad much less the league at large. The combined health of Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz may strengthen the Magic rotation but it weakens the value of all three men, and we’re seeing the same thing play out with the center rotation of Wendell Carter Jr., Moritz Wagner and formerly Goga Bitadze. I’ve listed the backcourt and frontcourt players in order of preference but rostering them isn’t likely to pay dividends until Friday or Saturday at the earliest, so I’m out. 

    Out west, there’s the Wolves. If you’ve been reading this piece for any length of time, you probably know that I’m always ready to go to bat for Naz Reid and usually ready to sing the praises of Jaden McDaniels and Kyle Anderson. This week, they’ve made it easy on me. Reid probably isn’t available in any competitive leagues anymore thanks to his ability to fill Karl-Anthony Towns’ spot in the rotation. The Anderson-McDaniels forward duo have both been churning out top-100 value too. It has caused them to pop up on more standard league rosters as a result. That’s all well and good, but we’re not giving out awards for B-level production anymore, remember? The Wolves don’t start until Wednesday this week and nobody named above is productive enough to warrant two days of non-productivity. The kicker is that the Wolves only play on the busiest days of the week, so you’d better hope that their non-stars can outproduce the true stars of the league if you expect bonus value from them.

    The Grizzlies have a lot in common with the squads named above. Three games? Check. Back-to-back rest days? You got it. However, I’m giving them a bit of a pass. If you’ve got a Grizzlies player on a hot streak right now, you might be tempted to hold them for a while. Though there are 11 games on Monday and 12 on Wednesday, there are several streamer-level Grizzlies playing well enough to be held through that initial stretch. Further, the Grizzlies are one of the only teams active on a very slow Saturday, so they have single-day streaming value thanks to that alone. Consider this my blessing to hold GG Jackson, Jake LaRavia or Santi Aldama if you’re already rolling with them. Are they worth an add? Probably not until Saturday. At least they’re not a must-drop on Monday.

    It’s time to put the pessimism to rest and focus on some positives. You better believe I am ready to brag about last week’s Quick Adds. All five of them were successful but none more than Sam Hauser. The Celtics sniper is putting up first-round value since appearing on my list, so he’s an obvious hold. Managers may note that he only plays three times but two of those games come on extremely low volume days, so that in itself is reason enough to roster Hauser. Elsewhere, a trio of players held it down with mid-round value last week, as Kyle Anderson, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Eric Gordon all came through with solid value in their own ways. Unfortunately, I already buried Anderson earlier in this article and I’m recommending a drop regardless of last week’s success. Gordon can go with him thanks to poor scheduling and there likely being better options among the streamers from the 10 or more other teams active when he plays this week. At least Jackson-Davis is starting to feel like a rest-of-season hold for those managers in need of blocks, boards and field goal percentage. Make sure you keep him for the Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back at least. Finally, there is Jontay Porter, who was the worst of the bunch and missed too much time in Week 21 to be fairly rated. I’ve already recommended a shift away from Raptors players but it’s worth noting that Porter remains valuable whenever he’s able to take the floor. See his 20 minutes against the Thunder on Friday for evidence. I feel great about my most recent batch of Quick Adds but it’s going to be hard to meet this standard once again. 

    If you’ve read this far then you must know by now that this week’s schedule is ugly. You’ve got double-digit game days every other day from Monday to Sunday and sandwiched between them are days with less than half that number of games on the slate. There’s almost no point in streaming players on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday unless you have some space on your roster. Most managers shouldn’t expect to, so watch what that does to the value of those teams active on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I promise that the winning team in your head-to-head matchups will be working to create an advantage on those days. In order to get the best of the available streamers, it might be advisable to get your guys a day or more in advance. After all, this schedule isn’t going to encourage active streaming and you can probably get through the week with a move to spare.

    Can you do a seven-day stream? Sure, it’s technically possible but as difficult as ever and without the typical rewards since your streamer might not even be in the starting lineup on more than half of all days. Everybody is going to have to race for the best available players from the Bucks and Pelicans, who play on all three weak days. The Hawks and Celtics will be runners-up thanks to their two value-added streaming days. Beyond that, anyone who helps your team will do, so don’t hesitate to take the best player available whenever you can get them. Good luck in Week 22!

    Schedule Breakdown

    Three Games: Celtics, Pistons, Pacers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Wolves, Pelicans, Magic, Suns, Blazers, Raptors

    Four Games: Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Bulls, Cavs, Mavs, Nuggets, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, Knicks, Thunder, Sixers, Kings, Spurs, Jazz, Wizards

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