Fantasy hoops weekly dish: March 30

ByBrian McKitish ESPN logo
Friday, April 3, 2015

April is almost always the most difficult month to project in fantasy basketball as youth movements and shutdowns go into full effect in the last few weeks of the season. Teams that are locked into the postseason may give their star players some extra rest to help keep them fresh for the playoff run. These scenarios can be awfully frustrating (particularly in head-to-head leagues), but they also create incredible opportunities to find unheralded breakout players. Conversely, teams that are out of playoff contention will often decide to give their younger players more playing time in the season's final frame as they look to evaluate talent for next season, although I should note that teams like the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves have been in tank mode for quite some time already.

Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer has already proven that he's willing to play it safe and rest his starters in preparation for the playoffs as we've seen Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Kyle Korver steadily lose value through the month of March. With the Hawks locking up the No. 1 seed in the East, we can now expect that any injury, no matter how minor, will result in a DNP until said player is 100 percent healthy. And with nine games remaining, including 3 back-to-back sets, we're probably going to see a lot of healthy scratches as well. Enter Dennis Schroder, who should already be owned in all fantasy formats but is somehow currently available in more than 80 percent of leagues. Schroder has been terrific since the All-Star break with 13.7 points, 6.3 assists and 1.4 3-pointers in 19 games, and has been even better as a starter with 14.1 points and 8.2 assists in nine starts. Whether Teague is healthy or not, Schroder has proven that he's a must own fantasy player the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the Hawks don't have many other bench options worth considering in fantasy leagues aside from Kent Bazemore, who will make for a nice plug-and-play option in deeper formats.

Over in Golden State, Steve Kerr has employed a similar strategy (although not to the extent of Budenholzer) with the Warriors clinching the No. 1 seed in the West. The good news is that of their nine remaining games, they have just one back-to-back set, which should limit the healthy scratches. Still, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green owners should be prepared for slightly decreased value, while players like Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston and David Lee could have some sneaky value down the stretch.

Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight has missed his past eight games with an ankle injury, but returned to action on Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Knight has averaged a productive 14.4 points, 4.5 assists and 2.1 3-pointers since joining the Suns, and has been dropped by many teams during his absence. We don't know how effective he'll be upon his return, and he tweaked his ankle again on Sunday night, but he's certainly worth an add just in case he can return to full strength the way Jimmy Butler has for the Chicago Bulls. Butler hasn't missed a beat with 20.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals in three games after recovering from his elbow injury.

With limited information on injuries to Greg Monroe, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Monta Ellis, and Kyle Lowry, fantasy owners will have some tough add/drop decisions to make in the coming days. Monroe and Rubio are by far the most concerning of the group, and no one would argue if you decide to move in another direction at this stage. Some of my favorite pickup candidates of the week are benefactors of the above injuries, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is averaging 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 2.4 3-pointers over his past five games and upstart rookie Zach LaVine, who's put up 17.4 points, 4.2 boards, 5.2 assists and 2.0 3-pointers over his past five.

Don't look now but the Lakers may have finally decided on a backcourt. After playing musical chairs for almost the entire season, Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson seem to have finally separated themselves from the pack with 29.2 and 32.2 minutes per game, respectively, over their past five games. Lin is averaging 17.4 points, 5.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 3-pointers while Clarkson has posted 16.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.0 steals per game during the same span. Both need to be owned in all fantasy leagues the rest of the way.