As I sat at Barclays Center on Tuesday night (Wednesday AU), watching my Pacers battle the Nets for the final playoff spot in the East, I started thinking about how important each and every play can be at this time of the year. Sure, neither Brooklyn/Indiana are realistically competing for a title this season, but when the playoffs start, anything can happen. They just need to get in.
Brook Lopez had it going, George Hill was doing everything he could and unlikely heroes Alan Anderson and Damjan Rudez each gave their teams a much-needed offensive boost off the bench.
The Pacers got down 17 in the 1st quarter, took the lead in the 3rd before finally succumbing – it was as unpredictable a contest as it gets. Impossible to predict.
As we move into the championship round for all remaining fantasy leagues, it’s getting harder and harder to predict what will happen there too. Players are being rested frequently, making planning for your matchup tougher than staying on your feet against Steph Curry – right Chris Paul?
You’ll also need some unlikely heroes to catch fire if you’re going to survive and that’s where we can help. For the last time this NBA Fantasy season, Downtown is listening to the Music of the Traffic (from Midtown Manhattan) to help you win the most important week of the season.
Week 24 (Apr 6 – Apr 12)
4 Games: ATL, BKN, CHA, LAL, MIN, NOR, PHO, POR, SAC, SAS
3 Games: BOS, CHI, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, MEM, MIA, MIL, NYK, OKC, ORL, TOR, UTA, WAS
2 Games: LAC, PHI
Week 24 (Apr 6 – Apr 15) – Extended Finals
6 Games: ATL, BKN, CHA, LAL, MIN, NOR, POR, SAC
5 Games: BOS, CHI, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, MEM, MIA, MIL, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHO, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS
4 Games: LAC, PHI
It’s the final week of the season for most leagues and depending on your league’s format, it could be a 7-day or a 10-day week. Just 10 of the 30 teams play 4 times in 7-day formats, with 18 teams lace them up 3 times. The Clips and Sixers tip off just twice, so should be avoided if you’re looking for a games boost. That means Ish Smith will not be relevant in championship rounds. In 10-day formats, a similar story with the bulk of teams (20 to be exact) playing 5 times, 8 teams having a heartier schedule with 6 games, while again the Clips and Sixers bring up the rear with just 4 games on tap.
Whatever your schedule, the following players may be available in standard 10 or 12 team leagues and should be targeted.
Evan Turner (G/F, BOS): I recall watching Evan Turner as a rookie in Philadelphia back in the 2011 playoffs versus Miami and thinking he has the tools to be a really nice pro someday. He’d struggled to play a consistent role, but his skillset has value – on the right team. Indiana was not the right team, but it seems Boston is. He is thriving of late with post All-Star splits of 11pts, 5.8reb, 6.8ast and 1stl while playing 31mpg. He’s had two triple-doubles in the past 10 days, and double-digit assists on one other occasion as well. He’s available in 42% of Yahoo and 61% of ESPN leagues and should be owned in all formats right now as the Celtics try and sneak into the playoffs.
Gerald Henderson (G/F, CHA): With a 6-game week in 10-day formats, the Hornets, who are still mathematically alive in the East playoff race, can be a source of strong value for those of you still alive. Gerald Henderson continues to be overlooked by owners, but yet continues to deliver solid value. Sure he’s not a 5-cat or even a 4-cat contributor, but he does help in pts, reb and 3s while getting the odd steal too. His play over the past 6 games (16.2pts, 5.8reb, 1 3ptm and 0.8stl) is enough to make a big difference with such a hearty schedule and he’s available in 61% of Yahoo and 78% of ESPN leagues.Jordan Clarkson (PG, LAL): Clarkson was recommended to you right here last week (as well as in the Week 15 and Week 19 columns) and since then, he’s continued to produce. Byron Scott said during the week that Clarkson has impressed him but he wants to see even more. That tells me that Clarkson will get every opportunity to produce during the season’s final weeks. Over the past week he’s been great to the tune of 22.3pts, 6.5reb, 8.3ast and 1.3stl, while shooting .603 FG%. That may not be sustainable, but even 80% of that production would be enough to impact your team in a positive way …. oh and he may give even more if Byron Scott has anything to do with it. He’s available in just under 50% of Yahoo leagues and in 64% of ESPN leagues.
Chase Budinger (G/F, MIN): I said all I need to say about him last week, so all you need to know is that Air Bud continues to produce (16.7pts, 5.3reb, 0.8stl, 1.8 3ptm over the past 6 games) and is still widely available. The Wolves also have a great schedule, so what are you waiting for? Grab a Bud.
Andrea Bargnani (F/C, NYK): He’s the only player on the Knicks right now who can score consistently, and he seems to be comfortable in a feature role for the lowly Knicks. They have nothing to play for the rest of the way, but Bargs seems to be playing for pride and to prove he can still be a meaningful NBA player. He’s been just that over the past week, with averages of 20.3pts, 6.3reb, 1blk and 1.3 3ptm while shooting .510 FG% overall; good for top-70 value. But that was before yesterday’s dud vs. the Wizards. It’s tough to recommend him or any Knicks player at this stage, but he’s the one to own if you’re going to take that chance.
Anthony Morrow (G/F, OKC): As was the case in Week 22, Anthony Morrow is hot right now and you should ride his scoring, shooting and threes on the way to your title. Over the past week, he’s averaging 17pts, 4.3reb, 3 3ptm and .561 FG%; good for top-15 value. Talk about an offensive boost. The Thunder’s still playing meaningful games (and plenty of them), so Morrow will continue to be used by Scott Brooks, and by you if you’re smart.
T.J. Warren (SF, PHO): April is the time for rookies to step up and showcase what they can do. T.J. Warren is following that protocol currently with a nice 3-game stretch currently where he’s averaging 16pts, 3.7reb, 1.7ast, 1stl, 1blk, and just 0.7 TOs, while shooting a ridiculous .710 FG%. He’s played 26mpg over that stretch and with the Suns on the outside of the playoff race, there’s no reason for Jeff Hornacek to turn away from the talented rookie. He’s worth a flier in 12-team leagues.
If you need to drop someone to make room for one of the names above or another player you like, the following players can be let go from your roster.
Carlos Boozer (F/C, LAL): He’s still owned in 56% of Yahoo leagues, despite missing 5 straight games and not scoring in double-digits since March 20. The Lakers are all about keeping that pick of theirs and Boozer doesn’t fit with that strategy.
Kyle Lowry (PG, TOR): The latest report says that Lowry hopes to be back before the end of the regular season. In the words Morgan Freeman’s ‘Red’: “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” I hope I’m wrong, but if you’re trying to win, you just can’t wait for hope.
Paul Pierce (F, WAS): The Truth hurts, but right now he’s only hurting yu if you’re still rostering him. He’s either resting or under-performing right now and has not scored in double-digits since March 19. He can be cut in all formats.
This is it folks. If you’re still playing in a head-to-head league this week, you’re playing for all the cookies. There’s no tomorrow so make sure you maximise your games and the production from your roster. Cut anyone who may be rested or may be limited and focus on players whose teams are still in the playoff race, playing meaningful games. As I saw first-hand on Tuesday, every play counts so make sure you give yourself the best chance of winning.
It’s been a pleasure bringing you the Music of the Traffic this fantasy season and here’s hoping you bring home the hardware this week. Until next season ….
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