Welcome to the NBA Fantasy Forecaster, where, for this week, we'll just dive in. Four-game sets are at a premium in the week ahead. Just 11 NBA teams will suit up four times, while 18 teams play three games. The Utah Jazz hit the court just twice in Week 11.
Week 11 at a Glance
This has nothing to do with the schedule, and it's not the most actionable fantasy advice I can offer, but it still strikes me as worth mentioning: If he's become available in your league, grab Jared Sullinger. The second-year pro has slumped of late, and his injured left hand is a growing concern. However, during a 12-game stretch from late November to just before Christmas, Sullinger averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 3-pointers while shooting 48.2 percent from the field. As of Friday, Sullinger's availability has crept past 20 percent in ESPN.com leagues. Given the numbers I just noted, I believe Sully is worth stashing until he returns to health.
Now, if Sullinger does end up missing some games, Kris Humphries takes on further fantasy intrigue. Humphries' playing time has slowly ticked up this season. He averaged 13 minutes per game in November, and then checked in at around 20 minutes per night for the bulk of December. But in his past two games Humphries has seen 28 and 26 minutes, respectively -- his most substantial action thus far -- while putting up double-digit rebounds in both games. Just from eyeballing the box scores it seems that Humphries' increased minutes have come at the expense of Brandon Bass, and obviously two games doesn't constitute a trend. But if Sullinger is out or limited, it's easy to imagine Humphries being a factor in Week 11, when the Boston Celtics will have to deal with the likes of Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge while playing four times in five nights out west. Humphries, who's available in 98 percent of ESPN.com leagues, is a consideration in deep formats.
Two other attainable free agents I like based on their upcoming schedules are Rodney Stuckey and Tony Wroten. You'll have to check for updates on Stuckey, who's been out with a shoulder problem and hadn't returned to practice as of Thursday. But if Stuckey's active for Sunday's tilt with the Memphis Grizzlies, I like his chances of regaining his November form (when he averaged 16.9 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting) while facing the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns in Week 11. Wroten carries some risk as well. Of course the presence of Michael Carter-Williams limits his playing time, and Wroten's percentages (.424 from the field and .583 from the line) leave a lot to be desired. But with Minnesota Timberwolves opponents ranking first in shooting and Detroit Pistons opponents ranking third in steals, Wroten's four-game set looks pretty appealing. Both Stuckey and Wroten are available in around 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and are worth adding in leagues of at least 12 teams.
"R" matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their opponents' numbers in those categories, and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the right lists the team's total number of games scheduled ("G") as well as home games ("H"), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
Players to Watch
James Johnson, SF/PF, Memphis Grizzlies (SA, PHX, ATL): There was a time when the Grizzlies' lineup epitomized stability. Obviously injuries can undo that, and that's what happened in Memphis this season. When Tayshaun Prince was sidelined for three games in mid-December, it opened the door for Johnson, whom fantasy owners recognize as a hustle category stud. Having been given at least 20 minutes of playing time in each of the past seven games, Johnson has predictably responded by averaging 1.5 blocks and 1.4 steals per game (to go with 10.0 points and 6.1 rebounds in that span). Unfortunately, it's tough to see this continuing. Johnson averaging just 23 minutes over his past three games is one ominous sign, and this schedule is perhaps another. San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and Suns opponents all rank in the bottom third in steals, and Hawks and Suns opponents rank in the bottom third in rejections.
Kendall Marshall, PG, Los Angeles Lakers (@DAL, @HOU, @LAC): Some weeks back I snarkily noted that Mike D'Antoni's point guard-friendly system made Chris Duhon relevant. One has to wonder if D'Antoni thinks about calling Duhon these days. Marshall succeeds the injured Steve Nash, the injured Steve Blake and the just re-injured Jordan Farmar as the Lakers' starting point guard. (I'm not even counting Xavier Henry, who did play out of position at the point briefly and is now, naturally, hurt.) While Marshall provided a decent line in his first start -- 10 points, 7 assists and a pair of 3s -- we are talking about a player who was cut by the Wizards before the season (following the Marcin Gortat trade) and shot just 37.5 percent as a sparingly used backup with the Suns in 2012-13. He could help you in assists -- and Los Angeles Clippers opponents rank seventh in this regard -- but Marshall is strictly deep-league fodder.
Terrence Jones, PF, Houston Rockets (LAL, @ATL, @WSH): After a two-week dry spell, Jones has bounced back by averaging 14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game over his past five contests. Now available in about 45 percent of ESPN.com leagues, I like Jones for leagues of at least 12 teams. Unfortunately, this schedule doesn't appear to do much for his short-term prospects; while Lakers opponents are tops in rebound differential, Wizards, Hawks and Lakers opponents rank just 26th, 21st and 20th, respectively, in blocks.
Terrence Ross, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors (@IND, DET, BKN): Because fantasy sports writers love nothing more than reporting on players who make them look good, I'll note that the up-and-down Ross (he's produced 23, 11, 23, 6 and 18 points over his past five games) continues to sink treys in bunches. He's had multiple 3s in nine of his past 12 games, highlighted by his seven buckets from downtown against the Knicks on Dec. 28. Expect more volatility from Ross with this schedule. While Brooklyn Nets opponents are sixth in triples, Indiana Pacers opponents are only 29th.
Louis Williams, PG/SG, Atlanta Hawks (@BKN, HOU, IND, @MEM): If Ross is up and down, Williams' recent stat lines could be described as manic depressive. Here are his 3-pointers made per game over his past nine matchups: 6, 1, 0, 6, 1, 0, 4, 4 and 0. The fluctuations in this case likely stem from the fact that Williams continues to recover from a major knee injury. While the probability that he'll have some nights where he doesn't feel right physically makes it tough to evaluate him against the schedule, Williams is another player I'd stash in a deeper format in hopes he'll achieve some consistency sooner than later. He's available in about 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played, and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.