After taking an inadvertent elbow from Chandler Parsons on Thursday, Mike Dunleavy was a bloody mess. Prior to Thursday, it was his game that was kind of a mess, in that his offensive production had plummeted. Dunleavy hadn't scored more than 10 points in any of his previous six games, and he hadn't made a 3-pointer in his past three outings. In the process, he was dumped in a whole bunch of ESPN.com leagues. One whack from Parsons and 10 stitches later, Dunleavy returned to the game with an 18-point third quarter as his Chicago Bulls demolished the Houston Rockets.
So what's the message to fantasy owners? Be patient? Not really. Not now. It's way too late in the fantasy season. In some leagues, head-to-head playoffs begin next week. Titles are on the line. And on the court, the NBA landscape is changing, with some teams looking ahead to the postseason and others playing out the string.
The point is to be ready for anything. Don't assume that what has been true for the bulk of this season still holds up. The Indiana Pacers, perhaps looking ahead to April (or, more realistically, late May), have not been a defensive juggernaut of late. The Oklahoma City Thunder have also shown their vulnerabilities.
It might be a good idea to add Dunleavy if he's become available in your league. You'll absolutely love his upcoming schedule.
Week 21 at a Glance
This season's Phoenix Suns have been a good thing for fantasy owners. They went out and got Eric Bledsoe, making him an NBA starter at last and the fantasy mainstay we were hoping and anxiously waiting for. Also think of all the Suns players who were overlooked and/or forgotten fantasy considerations going into this season: Miles Plumlee. Channing Frye. Gerald Green. Both Morris twins. For that matter, Goran Dragic -- currently No. 18 on the Player Rater -- has turned out to be one of this season's biggest draft-day steals. A few of us deep-leaguers are even rostering P.J. Tucker, and we're OK with it. We know we could do worse.
But man, I'd be lying if I told you I knew where things were headed from here. With Bledsoe back in action (and expected to return to the starting lineup this weekend), and to a far lesser extent, with Plumlee re-emerging, it's hard to figure which Suns players will be the most valuable the rest of the way.
So let's go with what we know: Frye, Plumlee and Marcus Morris range from available to widely available in fantasy free agency, and any of them could be a viable option for Week 21. The Suns have a very appealing 4-game set. Brooklyn Nets opponents are second in rebound differential, Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves opponents are second and third in field goal percentage, and Wolves and Orlando Magic opponents are fifth and sixth in blocks. On a night-to-night basis, Dragic and Bledsoe are probably the only sure things on this team now, but with this schedule, there are chances worth taking. If there's a Suns player you can get your hands on, make the move and hope for the best.
As for the overall landscape of Week 21, the Suns are one of 13 NBA teams that play four times. Sixteen teams have three games, and the Los Angeles Clippers are in action just twice.
"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 Anderson, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers (@IND, CHI, NY, @CHI): Going into this season, Anderson was a source of some intrigue. It was obvious the Sixers would be thin and Anderson seemed like a sleeper candidate. It hasn't really panned out until recently, though. Since the break (and Evan Turner's departure), Anderson has averaged 12.5 points and 2.6 3s. While his overall shooting has dipped slightly, he's connected at a rate of 37.7 percent from downtown, compared to just 31.2 percent from beyond the arc in the first half. Based on the pair of games with the stingy Bulls alone (Bulls opponents are just 26th in 3s), this projects to be a crushing schedule. However, this is where we come to my point about change. During their recent four-game slide, the Pacers yielded a whopping 40 3-pointers. Factor in the presence of the New York Knicks (Knicks opponents allow the third-most 3s), and maybe this schedule isn't as brutal as it appears. On the other hand, the Knicks have suddenly won five straight, and Indiana recovered to throttle the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. Anderson -- or, for that matter, Tony Wroten -- are risky options for the week ahead.
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls (OKC, @PHI, @IND, PHI): I told you this was awesome: not one, but two meetings with the Sixers, and two other games with elite teams that have shown some vulnerability. In the case of the Thunder, they've allowed a staggering 10.7 3s in the past 10, bringing Thunder opponents up to fifth in 3s made for the season. OKC opponents are also fourth in steals. As for the Sixers, by now you should be intimately familiar with the matchup possibilities: Philly opponents are tops in 3s, second in steals, second in total rebounds and fourth in rebound differential. And yes, Dunleavy has been doing fairly well on the glass. He's averaged 5.9 boards since the break, which you'll certainly take from a guard-eligible player.
Enes Kanter, C, Utah Jazz (@HOU, @MEM, ORL): Kanter has been a significant disappointment, but of late he and Derrick Favors have finally been simultaneously producing. That said, it's probably instructive to look back at Kanter's recent schedule. While he's averaging 14.7 points, 7.9 boards and 52.6 percent shooting in his past seven games, the opposition during this span includes the Sixers, the Atlanta Hawks, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Dallas Mavericks and the Knicks. All of these opponents are in the top third of rebound differential. Kanter should have a much tougher task facing the Memphis Grizzlies and the Rockets (though Joakim Noah and Robin Lopez have recently produced nice lines against Dwight Howard). For the record, Grizzlies opponents are last in total rebounds, while Rockets opponents are 26th in rebound differential.
Ryan Kelly, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers (SA, WSH, ORL): Kelly has apparently found his way back into Mike D'Antoni's good graces. In his past three games, he's averaged 16.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.7 3s and 1.7 blocks. Most significantly, he's averaged 33 minutes in this brief span, after seeing only 15 minutes (including a DNP-coach's decision) in his previous seven. San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards opponents are both below average in 3s (Spurs opponents are just 28th in this regard), making this three-game set less than desirable. But as long as Kelly gets the playing time, he's worth rostering in most formats.
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.