Fantasy Basketball 2014: Week 12 Strength Of Schedule

By Adam Pfeifer
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports


The early bird gets the worm.

Here at Rant Sports, I analyze, dig statistics and team trends to find the best matchups possible for fantasy hoops owners as they prepare for each and every week. I do it so they don’t have to, I do it because, as a wise lion from the Lion King once said…

Be prepared.

It’s already Week 12 in seasonal fantasy basketball leagues, and the injuries aren’t slowing down. 17 times are looking at a four-week schedule, while the Nets and Hawks, meanwhile, only suit up one night each. It’s safe to say you won’t want to play any of those guys this week, but who should you be plugging into your starting lineup?

Phoenix Suns


PPG Allowed


Knicks 98.0 8th-fewest
Lakers 105.1 2nd-most
Mavericks 101.5 9th-most
Nuggets 101.2 10th-most


Apparently the Suns didn’t get the whole “tanking” concept.

12 weeks into the season and Phoenix is 21-15, sitting at the number seven seed in the Western Conference. The reasoning behind this is the terrific play of their dynamic backcourt. Both Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic have been carrying the load for the Suns all season, but an unfortunate knee injury to Bledsoe will keep him sidelined for a while. In fact, the newly acquired guard just recently underwent surgery to repair his meniscus. This means the backcourt will belong to Dragic, who has seen his fantasy value rise as of late. The number 10 overall shooting guard on ESPN’s Player Rater, Dragic is averaging a healthy 19 points, six assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 triples per contest. He’s a borderline All-Star thus far, and is close to cementing himself as must-start status.

The injury to Bledose makes it official.

Dragic has a very favorable schedule this week. He’ll start against a Knicks team that is hurting at the point guard position, and doesn’t have anyone that can guard him. Then he gets the matchup of all matchups against the Lakers, who are allowing the 2nd-most points, 5th-most fantasy points to PG (43.04), second-most assists per game (25) and third-most assists per possession. That bodes well for Dragic, who is averaging 8.3 helpers per game over his last three games. Dragic is going to touch the ball religiously, and the Lakers high-pace will lead to plenty of offensive possessions. Start him with confidence.

I also think Channing Frye remains an intriguing player for the Suns. He’s been strong over his last five, averaging 17.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and a block per game, but has made most of his damage from beyond the arc. He’s hit 19 threes during that span (3.8 per) and continues to be valuable for those in category leagues. Also, Miles Plumlee could be a very sneaky play for those in deeper leagues, especially if you need rebounds. Plumlee is averaging 9.1 boards per game this season, and has strong matchups. The Lakers, Mavericks and Nuggets all rank inside the bottom-10 in offensive rebounds allowed per game, as LA ranks dead last in both.

Oklahoma City Thunder


PPG Allowed


Grizzlies 97.5 6th-fewest
Rockets 102.0 8th-most
Warriors 98.4 10th-fewest
Kings 104.3 3rd-most


Kevin Durant is the greatest thing in fantasy basketball.

Analysis, everyone.

You are never, ever, EVER (even if there’s a fire) not starting Durant in fantasy land. However, the Thunder, even without Russell Westbrook, do have other fantasy relevant players who warrant some attention in this favorable week of matchups.

After a string of weak fantasy outings, Ibaka exploded for a monster double-double on Saturday night, scoring 17 points, adding 17 rebounds, one assist and three blocks in 33 minutes of work. It was a good matchup for Ibaka against the rebounding-challenged Bucks, so owners could trust him. I think they can count on him again this week with a favorable slate of games at his disposal. Houston is surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing power forwards on the season (44.19), while Sacramento is coughing up the 11th-most, coming in at 41.46 per game. Houston is also one of the weaker defensive rebounding teams in basketball, allowing 12.5 offensive boards per game, the 3rd-most in basketball. That could spell some second chance points for Ibaka. But of course, the most obvious contribution out of Ibaka is his shot blocking, as he’s averaging 2.31 blocks per game. Sacramento and Memphis both rank inside the bottom-10 in blocks allowed per game. Without Westbrook, Ibaka should continue to play at least 30 minutes and see a fair share of touches.

Maybe even Jeremy Lamb could provide some fantasy value this week. He’ll continue to see a significant amount of minutes to matter while Westbrook is out, and his scoring prowess allows him to get hot on any given night. Meanwhile, Houston and Sacramento opponents rank 23rd and 25th, respectively in fantasy points allowed to the shooting guard position. Lamb, who is sinking 1.3 triples per contest on the year, could get hot from beyond the arc, as the Kings are also coughing up 26.8 points per game from three-point range, the second-most in basketball.

And, of course, Durant will go absolutely bonkers this week.

Toronto Raptors


PPG Allowed


Bucks 100.0 16th-most
Celtics 98.9 20th-most
Timberwolves 102.4 7th-most
Lakers 105.1 2nd-most


If you aren’t aware of one DeMar Derozan, get familiar.

One of the NBA’s bright young players, Derozan now controls the Raptors offense after the departure of Rudy Gay. Playing in Toronto doesn’t draw in much attention, but fantasy players need to appreciate the talent in front of them. Over his last five games, Derozan is one of the hottest shooting guards in fantasy, averaging 23.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.4 steals. There’s been plenty of appealing volume here, too, as the 24-year old is logging 26.8 minutes and is taking 18 shots per contest during that span. He’s now scored at least 19 points in each of his last six games, and I love him to keep it going in Week 12.

Obviously, that matchup against the Lakers is the most intriguing one, as no team is surrendering more fantasy points per game to opposing shooting guards than LA’s 40.48. That game alone will probably result in 40 fantasy points from Derozan, just as long as the game remains competitive. The guy can score, but also contributes in the peripheral stats. I mean, the guy almost had a double-double at the end of the first quarter on Saturday night. Another one of his opponents, Minnesota, is coughing up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to shooting guards (37.96). It’s also worth noting that Derozan also plays small forward for the Raptors, which allows matchup preferences as well. For instance, the Lakers are allowing the second-most rebounds per game to opposing small forwards (8.67) and the most steals (2.24).

He may not make it this year, but mark my words, this kid is a future All-Star.

I think Jonas Valanciunas may be in a few of my daily lineups this week, as well. He’s playing well as of late, averaging nearly a double-double over his last five, and has two of the best matchups a center can have. The Lakers (49.50) and Bucks (48.14) are allowing the most fantasy points per game to centers, and both teams are atrocious when it comes to rebounding. We’ve already established the fact that the Lakers are dead last in offensive and defensive rebounds per game, but Milwaukee isn’t great either, coughing up the second-most offensive boards per game (12.6) and the fifth-most defensive rebounds (33.5). Valanciunas could be a good value play this week.

Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.

You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.




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