Welcome back to the NBA Fantasy Forecaster. After a week away, there's much to cover as we enter the final third of the fantasy hoops schedule.
First, though, some thoughts about the passing of the NBA trade deadline:
• Danny Granger is being added to a few rosters. Sure, I've taken my share of leaps as a fantasy hoops owner, but I'm skeptical that Granger's move will boost his fantasy value. Frankly, Granger probably isn't done moving. Reportedly he's pushing for the Philadelphia 76ers to release him so he can sign with another team. Presumably, Granger would be looking to catch on with a contender, even if it means he's again confined to a bench role for the balance of this season. More significantly, it's been two years since Granger was a true fantasy asset. Don't get hung up on the name.
• It wouldn't be shocking to see Byron Mullens get substantial minutes with the Sixers. With the departure of Spencer Hawes, Arnett Moultrie and Henry Sims are currently the only other options at center. Sims played in just 20 games as a backup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Moultrie has averaged just 15 minutes in four appearances since joining the Sixers earlier this month. While Mullens' career 40.3 percent shooting makes him the Ricky Rubio of bigs, he could rack up enough treys and boards to be roster-worthy in leagues of at least 12 teams.
• This is based on little more than the fact that the Charlotte Bobcats are currently 29th in the NBA in 3-pointers made, but I consider Gary Neal a speculative deep-league add. If Neal can consume most of the 24 minutes per game that Ramon Sessions was getting -- and, even better, do that while approaching the 41.9 percent shooting from downtown that he maintained through his first two pro seasons -- he should at least score in double figures while topping 1.5 3s.
Speaking of deep, as noted, we are deep into the fantasy hoops season, so here's a quick look at the overall schedule for the remainder of the season. For better or worse, there's minimal deviation with teams' schedules the rest of the way. Starting with Week 18, the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat have the most games to go, with 28, while the Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic have the fewest games left, with 24. The other 26 NBA teams all have 25, 26 or 27 games remaining.
Notable schedules (ranked from most games to fewest)
Brooklyn Nets, 28 games (14 home, 14 away)
Available player: Andray Blatche (owned in 15.7 percent of ESPN.com leagues as of Friday)
Outlook: The Eastern Conference being what it is, a No. 3 seed is within the Nets' grasp if they can surpass the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division. So perhaps this veteran group pushes it down the stretch, and perhaps that makes the likes of Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams worth trading for if you can get a good deal. I emphasize "get a good deal," though, because of the injury risks and the chance that the Raps pull away.
Miami Heat, 28 games (16 home, 12 away)
Available player: Mario Chalmers (owned in 49.2 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
Outlook: It's bittersweet that the Heat find themselves with such a favorable closing schedule. While the glut of games seems appealing for owners invested in at least one of Miami's stars, it likely won't make things any easier once head-to-head playoffs roll around. For the record, LeBron James appeared in just four of the Heat's final 10 games in the 2012-13 regular season. Dwyane Wade suited up five times in the final 14 games and Chris Bosh played in only two of the team's final seven contests. Yes, injuries were a factor for all three, but it's inevitable that these guys will again get their rest ahead of another championship run. Also note that Chalmers didn't do anything special with the depleted lineups last season. In April, he did contribute 5.0 assists and 2.0 3-pointers, but his 9.8 points per game and 40.8 percent shooting took some of the luster off of that. Chalmers also sat out the final two games.
• 26 games: Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards
• 24 games: Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando Magic
Note: This outlook is updated to reflect the addition of two games that were postponed earlier this season. Both contests -- Pistons at Hawks and Spurs at Timberwolves -- have been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 8, in Week 24.
"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").
Week 18 at a Glance
As for the week ahead, fantasy owners will have to scrape for extra games. Only 11 NBA teams have four games in Week 18, while 16 teams have three games. The Bobcats, Heat and Timberwolves play just twice.
Players to Watch
Alec Burks, PG/SG, Utah Jazz (BOS, PHX, @CLE, @IND): In this case, the schedule that Burks has just played is worth examining as much as the one that's ahead for him. In his past three games, he's topped 20 points while shooting a jaw-dropping 60 percent (21 for 35). He also paraded to the line at a Durant-like rate, averaging 11.3 free throws per game in that span. But note that Burks accumulated these numbers against the Lakers, Sixers and Nets. Sixers and Lakers opponents, at least, are 1-2 in points scored. So it's safe to say that Burks will have a tough time keeping it going in Week 18, especially with Pacers opponents last in shooting and Celtics opponents only 26th from the field over their past 10 games.
Jodie Meeks, SG, Los Angeles Lakers (@IND, @MEM, SAC): After missing five games with an ankle injury, Meeks put up 19 points, including a pair of triples, in 34 minutes against the Rockets on Feb. 19. While there's nothing telling with this schedule -- Kings opponents are seventh in treys, Pacers opponents are last and Grizzlies opponents are somewhere in between -- it's worth noting that in January, Meeks averaged 18.9 points, 2.6 3s and 1.9 steals. As of Friday, he was available in about 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Get him if you can.
Brian Roberts, PG, New Orleans Pelicans (LAC, @DAL, @PHX, @LAC): While there was some buzz early in the week about an imminent return for Jrue Holiday, the Pellies' starting point guard remains sidelined indefinitely. With that in mind, Roberts -- who can be had in more than 85 percent of ESPN.com leagues -- could be the top free agent available to you. Though his numbers as a starter aren't stellar -- 12.2 points, 4.0 assists and 1.3 3s -- he's picked it up as of late, averaging 15.3 points, 4.5 assists and 1.7 treys over his past six. Not a lot to say about these opponents, though Clippers foes are fifth in assists. Again, though, in a week where 4-game sets are hard to find, this schedule should work.
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.