Fantasy Basketball 2014: Week 21 Strength Of Schedule

Joakim Noah

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

 

Nothing is the same.

What was once true during the start of the NBA season isn’t so. Sure, the Philadelphia 76ers are still god awful, and that won’t change. However, look at other teams. The powerhouse Miami Heat have now dropped five of their last six games, whle the Indiana Pacers haven’t been the defensive juggernaut they were to start the season.

The fantasy hoops playoffs start in a few short weeks, and owners cannot afford to be patient. If you are currently on the outside looking in, you need to make moves. You need to attack. Because nothing is certain.

You know, other than the 76ers losing.

Chicago Bulls

Opponent

PPG Allowed

Rank

Thunder 99.2 11th
76ers 111.0 30th
Pacers 92.0 1st
76ers 111.0 30th

 

How good is Joakim Noah?

Over his last five contests, the Bulls star is averaging a gaudy 16.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 7.4 (!) assists per game. That’s insane. His recent play has the Bulls surging, but has also created chatter about him being an MVP candidate. That remains to be seen, but what’s evident is that Noah is one of the best real life and fantasy centers in basketball. He is currently the number four center and number 20 overall player on ESPN’s Player Rater.

You are starting him every week, but I felt like touching on him a bit because he’s been worth it. With two matchups against the worst defense in basketball in the 76ers, the very same team Noah is averaging 15.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks against in two games, my mouth begins to water.

A more unsung hero in Chicago has been the steady play of veteran Mike Dunleavy. After watching him take an inadvertent elbow to the face that required 10 stitches on Thursday night, Dunleavy came back and scored 18 points … in the third quarter. He finished the night with a strong stat line of 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists, a steal and four triples. Dunleavy could make for a prime waiver wire add with a friendly four game slate. He is still available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues, and gets these two games with the 76ers, who are the worst defense in basketball at defending the three ball (29.7 PPG from beyond the arc). Small forwards are also averaging a league-leading 42.97 fantasy points per game against the Sixers this year, so Dunleavy should be a fine play.

However, even his tougher matchups against the Thunder and Pacers aren’t too bad. Neither team has looked as sound as of late, and Dunleavy could be the perfect fit for a matchup against Oklahoma City. This unit is coughing up the fourth-most points per game from three-point range this year (25.5), and they have allowed about 11 per game over their last 10 games. On top of averaging a healthy 1.5 triples per game this year, Dunleavy is also averaging six rebounds per game since the All-Star break, so he’s providing there, too. If you need a lift to get into the fantasy playoffs, look no further than the veteran archer.

Washington Wizards

Opponent

PPG Allowed

Rank

Kings 103.5 26th
Trail Blazers 102.9 25th
Lakers 108.4 29th
Nuggets 105.6 28th

 

Washington probably has the most favorable fantasy schedule in basketball this week. All four of their opponents rank inside the bottom-five in points allowed, which, as a result, means there will be plenty of fantasy points to be had.

Let’s start with Marcin Gortat, who has quietly been a very steady source of production from the center position lately. He’s really benefited from the absence of Nene in the lineup, averaging 15.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in the 10 games Nene has missed. And over his last five, he’s averaging a strong double-double (11.6 pts, 11.2 reb). He should keep it going this week, as both the Lakers and Nuggets allow the most and fourth-most fantasy points per game to centers this year. Also, the Lakers are coughing up a league-leading 58.4 total rebounds per game, while Denver is right behind them, allowing 53.1 per game, the third-most in basketball. Meanwhile, the Lakers, Nuggets and Trail Blazers all allow at least 45 points in the paint per game, which ranks them inside the bottom-five in the league.

As for Bradley Beal, who has been underperforming a bit lately, I think this is the week from him to get back on track. I still believe that this is a future 25 PPG guy, and a very good scorer, this week’s slate is ideal for Beal to light it up. The Kings are allowing the most points per game to opposing shooting guards this year (23.67) while the Lakers are right behind them, coughing up 23.01 per game to the position. Neither club has anyone at the shooting guard position that can play defense at all, let alone slow down Beal. And it’s also worth noting that his teammate, John Wall, is averaging 71.4 passes per game (2nd-most), to go along with 21.3 points created by an assist per game (4th-most), so Beal could be in line for a fine week.

Dallas Mavericks

Opponent

PPG Allowed

Rank

Celtics 99.2 10th
Timberwolves 102.5 22nd
Nuggets 105.6 28th
Nets 98.9 9th

 

Dallas is one of 13 teams that play four games in Week 21. But unlike the others, all four of the Mavericks’ contests take place in the comfy confines of the American Airlines Center.

Dirk Nowitzki continues to have one of the most overlooked seasons in basketball. At age 35, he is averaging 21.5 points per game to go along with 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 triples. No one seems to ever talk about Dirk, and I guess it’s because there isn’t anything too exciting about his play. But the fact remains that 2014 has been business as usual for Nowitzki, who makes for a fine option this week. We already know how bad Denver’s frontcourt is, allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing power forwards (45.75). In three games against the Nuggets this season, Nowitzki is averaging a strong 24 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Feel free to continue rolling out Monta Ellis, too. He’s been one of the more overlooked adds in basketball this year, and his play has helped Dallas remain the playoff race. He is contributing everywhere for fantasy owners, averaging 18.8 points, 5.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game this year. Ellis is sporting a strong usage rate of 25.9 percent, and has really asserted himself as a pass-first player. I love his prospects for this game against Minnesota, a team he is averaging a healthy 19.3 points, four rebounds and 6.3 assists per game against in three contests this year. This should be a fast-paced game, as the Wolves rank fourth in pace this year, while they also are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing shooting guards (36.73).

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

You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.

 

 

 

 


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