I have no idea if this is a general trend in the world of fantasy basketball, but for the first time that I can recall, I'm playing in multiple leagues that wrap up their season this week and skip Weeks 24-25 -- aka, the final 10 (really, nine) days of the 2013-14 NBA regular season.
I've always been a believer that fantasy leagues should play out the entire schedule, and it's one thing I've specifically appreciated about fantasy hoops; there isn't much moaning about the inevitable uncertainty that surrounds the end of the regular season. We adapt. We deal with it. If Timofey Mozgov and Henry Sims are suddenly fantasy-relevant, if Ramon Sessions is doing everything for the Milwaukee Bucks short of running concessions and negotiating with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other prospective new owners of the franchise, well cool beans, let's try to win championships with them.
That said, I admit I'm wavering. I've become more tolerant of shortened fantasy seasons than I once was, because things are pretty crazy around this time of year. And even though this feature is known as the NBA Fantasy Forecaster, I can't tell you today how much Tim Duncan will play the rest of way, or if Isaiah Thomas will play at all. Those are big, season-defining calls, and if you need to make them, you're on your own. Owners, especially those who must commit to a final lineup by Monday or Tuesday, are just going to have to follow the news and roll the dice.
But what I have done with this final installment of the Forecaster is provide a guide to the season's final 10 (really, nine) days. In a nutshell, in Weeks 24-25, six NBA teams play six games, and six others play only four. Every other club has five games. Of course there are some fantasy free agents who could make a difference. These and other observations follow.
Thanks, as always, for reading. And best of luck in your final push for fantasy glory.
Weeks 24-25 at a Glance
"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 performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that week's matchups.
• Atlanta Hawks (DET, BOS, @BKN, MIA, CHA, @MIL)
• Brooklyn Nets (@MIA, @ORL, ATL, ORL, NY, @CLE)
• Houston Rockets (@LAL, @DEN, @MIN, NO, SA, @NO)
• Miami Heat (BKN, @MEM, IND, @ATL, @WSH, PHI)
• Minnesota Timberwolves (SA, CHI, HOU, @SAC, @GS, UTA)
• Oklahoma City Thunder (@SAC, @LAC, NO, @IND, @NO, DET)
Available players: Louis Williams (as of Friday available in 81.8 percent of ESPN.com leagues); Corey Brewer (73.2 percent availability); Mario Chalmers (59.2 percent availability); DeMarre Carroll (54.4 percent availability); Omer Asik (42.2 percent availability); Reggie Jackson (40.3 percent availability); Gorgui Dieng (38.7 percent availability); Terrence Jones (35.2 percent availability); and Jeremy Lin (12.2 percent availability)
Comments: Remember that Weeks 24-25 include two makeup games Tuesday, April 8: the Hawks host the Detroit Pistons and the Timberwolves host the San Antonio Spurs. While the Hawks have faded badly, Carroll and Kyle Korver hold some intrigue in most formats. Both have recently dealt with injuries, but with Bucks and Heat opponents ranking sixth and ninth, respectively, in 3-pointers, they could do some damage from downtown. Nikola Pekovic hasn't been ruled out for the season, but he's unlikely to play this weekend, so Dieng certainly seems like a chance worth taking. ... A tough bout with the flu essentially cost Jones two games this week, but figure the Rockets forward will be well enough to contribute in Weeks 24-25. Asik, on the other hand, is another gamble, but given the uncertainty about Dwight Howard's ankle, it won't be shocking to see him make at least a couple of more starts in the Rockets' final six contests. ... To the relief of LeBron James owners, the King is insisting he'll finish out the season. Even if he misses the finale (which has happened in each of the past six years), James owners will gladly take five games from their stud. In contrast, there doesn't seem to be any reason to start Dwyane Wade (hamstring), who's missed seven of his past eight games and isn't expected to play Friday.
Available players (includes players from all 18 NBA teams with five games): Anthony Morrow (97.8 percent availability); Timofey Mozgov (97.2 percent availability); Ray McCallum (90.4 percent availability); Henry Sims (88.5 percent availability); Kent Bazemore (77.1 percent availability); Terrence Ross (66.9 percent availability); Jordan Hill (63.9 percent availability); Ramon Sessions (33.9 percent availability); Randy Foye (32.4 percent availability); Kyle Korver (28.9 percent availability); and Jared Sullinger (18.1 percent availability)
Comments: As the only team that plays on both Thursday, April 10 (@GS) and Tuesday, April 15 (@LAC), the Nuggets are the wild card for owners in daily lineup formats. Believe it or not, the barely rostered Mozgov may be the best free agent out there in terms of ability/availability. With J.J. Hickson lost for the season, the 7-footer is taking advantage of his boost in minutes, averaging 14.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over his past five. ... While it's nearly impossible to know who will suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers and who Mike D'Antoni will run out there from night to night, Bazemore has seen at least 30 minutes in five of his past six games, and in his past four, he's averaging 18.5 points, 2.3 steals and 1.5 3s. ... The Raptors are trying to nail down the third seed in the Eastern Conference, so their regulars figure to keep playing down the stretch. With that in mind, you have to like Ross' chances facing five opponents (including the New York Knicks twice) that rank in the top 10 in 3-pointers. ... Isaiah Thomas (quad) isn't expected to play Friday, and at this point it's worth wondering whether he'll suit up again this season. If I had to decide right now, I'd bench IT2 in a weekly lineup format, and I'd certainly consider adding McCallum if I needed assists. We can only hope that the weekend will bring some clarifying update on Thomas' status. ... Sessions remains criminally undervalued. In his past five games, the veteran is averaging 20.8 points, 8.0 assists and 1.2 3s while playing at least 41 minutes in each game. ... In case you're wondering, Duncan actually played meaningful minutes in six of his final seven regular-season games in 2012-13. On the other hand, Tony Parker sat out five of his final eight last season. The Spurs have only one back-to-back in Weeks 24-25 (April 10-11). It's nothing but a guess based on recent history, but I'd expect those two to suit up for no more than three of these five games. In a weekly lineup format, I'd be inclined to bench Parker but keep Duncan active, since he's apparently aging backward anyway.
• Cleveland Cavaliers (DET, @MIL, BOS, BKN)
• Dallas Mavericks (@UTA, SA, PHX, @MEM)
• Indiana Pacers (@MIL, @MIA, OKC, @ORL)
• Los Angeles Clippers (OKC, SAC, DEN, @POR)
• New York Knicks (@TOR, CHI, @BKN, TOR)
• Portland Trail Blazers (SAC, @UTA, GS, LAC)
Available players: J.J. Redick (76.1 percent availability); Darren Collison (42.2 percent availability); Matt Barnes (40.8 percent availability); Vince Carter (40.3 percent availability); Shawn Marion (32.5 percent availability); and Tristan Thompson (10.1 percent availability)
Comments: The schedule puts a damper on Kyrie Irving's return, but Irving owners might be better off than owners with playoff-bound fantasy superstars such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Paul George and LaMarcus Aldridge. I could see any of those players sitting out the finale, leaving them with, at most, three games in Weeks 24-25. Of course, you'll roll with those guys regardless... For weekly lineup formats, I'm not sure I'd add any of the potential free agents listed here, though in daily lineup formats, you can work with the Mavs (games on April 8 and 10) and Clippers (games on April 12 and 15). ... Note that Thompson has fared far better with Anderson Varejao out of the lineup, and that Varejao (shoulder) could return as soon as Friday. In light of this, I'd start Thompson only if absolutely necessary in a weekly lineup format.
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.