By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
The good news? There will be a lot of basketball on TV next week.
The bad news? Most of it won’t be the NBA.
With March Madness heating up — NCAA conference tournaments conclude throughout next week — the NBA cools down, so Week 21 will be one of the quietest ones we’ve had in a while.
Only six teams have four games, and six other teams play just twice. The light schedule gives a big boost to the Celtics, Nets, Hornets, Bulls, Nuggets, and Jazz (the teams with four). On the other hand, the quiet week means there is less harm in sticking with someone with just two games — the Pistons, Pacers, 76ers, Suns, Kings, and Raptors.
That said, as some leagues are entering the fantasy playoffs, the margin for error shrinks, so managers should still try to maximize games in leagues where they can.
The light schedule also messes up the normal day-to-day pattern of Week 21. Monday has only three games. Tuesday, usually one of the days with fewer games, ties Saturday for the Week 21 max with a nine-contest slate. Wednesday, usually a busy day, has only six games. There should be increased opportunities to stream, as managers will probably have open roster spots every day.
The players below are listed in the order I’d recommend adding them.
This article will focus on players available in at least 50 percent of leagues.
Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks (45 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: at SA, Den, Pho
The younger Curry is one of the hottest players in the league. He’s averaging 19.9 points and 4.0 threes since the All-Star Break. His shooting is absurd – 57 percent from the field and 55 percent from behind the arc. He’s benefitted from a series of injuries up and down the Mavericks’ rotation, with Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson (shoulder), J.J. Barea (ankle) and Dorian Finney-Smith (hip) all missing games recently; Tim Hardaway Jr. (shoulder, questionable) was recently added to the injury report.
The healthier the team gets, the fewer minutes remain available for Curry, who’s up to 32.7 per game since the break. That said, it’s hard to imagine they’ll cut his workload until after his hot streak wears off. Ride him as long as this lasts.
Naz Reid, Minnesota Timberwolves (35 percent)
Next week’s schedule: at Hou, at OKC, at SA
The definitely-not-tanking Timberwolves have kept the definitely-not-grumpy Karl-Anthony Towns (tired of losing and Minnesota weather) sidelined for the last nine games. They’ve provided more information about this extended absence than the one that cost him 15 games from December to January, but I wouldn’t expect too much from them going forward.
What we know is that he is set to get his wrist re-evaluated very soon, which will hopefully yield a more specific timeline. Either way, I expect him to miss at least a few more games, leaving Reid as the starting center. After a few bad outings, Reid has bounced back over the past week, averaging 12.7 points and 12.3 rebounds over his last three. He can also provide some solid assists, blocks, and threes. He’s droppable when (if?) Towns returns, but Reid is an all-leagues guy until then.
Bruce Brown, Detroit Pistons (11%)
Next week’s schedule: at Phi, at Tor
While all the newbs are picking up Brandon Knight (17 percent rostered), cut straight to the good stuff and snag Brown. Brown has missed the last four games, but he is expected to return Saturday. Knight is on a solid run, making the most of Brown’s and Derrick Rose’s (ankle) absences, but Brown projects to be ahead of Knight — whom the Pistons acquired from Cleveland in the Andre Drummond trade — in the rotation. Since the start of February, Brown has averaged 10.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 34.1 minutes. Knight may continue to have relevance until Rose returns, but I’d much prefer Brown to Knight moving forward.
Damion Lee, Golden State Warriors (28%)
Next week’s schedule: LAC, Bkn, at Mil
I don’t fully understand why Lee is still so widely available. He puts up some bad games, sure, and he slumped for much of January, but overall he’s been relatively consistent since joining the starting lineup back in December. He’s played at least 29 minutes in 26 of his 34 starts, and all the games when he failed to reach that threshold were either during that slump or in an overwhelming blowout (or both). He’s averaging 14.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.8 threes and 1.4 steals since the start of February, and he was completely unaffected by Steph Curry’s return to action Thursday – Lee still scored 23 points and played 36 minutes.
Other recommendations: Eric Paschall, Warriors (46 percent rostered); PJ Washington, Hornets (45 percent rostered); Trevor Ariza, Trail Blazers (30 percent rostered); Maxi Kleber, Mavericks (46 percent rostered); De’Andre Hunter, Hawks (30 percent rostered); Danuel House, Rockets (26 percent rostered); Juancho Hernangomez, Timberwolves (36 percent rostered); Dillon Brooks, Grizzlies (48 percent rostered); Josh Jackson, Grizzlies (6 percent rostered); Kelly Olynyk, Heat (29 percent rostered); Jordan McRae, Pistons (8 percent rostered)