Last season, Paul George averaged a solid 1.4 3-pointers per game. This season, as George has emerged as a fantasy superstar, he's increased his production to 2.3 a night. I mention this because, like George, the Fantasy Forecaster is expanding its range. As we move toward the league playoffs (in head-to-head formats), the Forecaster will include a longer-term look at team schedules.
Here's a taste: For the balance of the season, starting with Week 19, only two NBA teams play at least four games every week: the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Actually, both of these teams play four times in weeks 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23. Then in the H2H final "week" of April 8-17, these two (along with several other teams) play six games.
While the fantasy options on the Knicks are apparent, let's look at the Wolves. With his strong recent showings, Derrick Williams is, as of Friday, the most-added player in ESPN.com leagues. In his past 10 games, Williams is averaging 16.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, and he seems to finally be gaining some favor with coach Rick Adelman.
However, there's two reasons I'd avoid Williams in fantasy. The first is his pedestrian percentages; even during his nice 10-game stretch, he's only connecting at 45.5 percent from the field and 68.8 percent from the line. The second, larger factor is Kevin Love. Love continues to progress following hand surgery; on Wednesday, he was seen shooting jumpers when the team practiced in Los Angeles. As recently as last weekend, Love said he hoped to play in the Wolves' final 15 to 20 games. In that scenario, Love would be available no later than Week 21, and he could even return by the start of Week 20 (the week after next).
By the way, as of Friday, Love was available in about 25 percent of ESPN.com leagues. If H2H playoffs are in your future, Love is a no-brainer add.
Week 19 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 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").
Nineteen NBA teams have four games in the week ahead, so chances are that the players you want active will have a favorable schedule. Only one team has just two games: the San Antonio Spurs.
Players to Watch
Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, New Orleans Hornets (ORL, LAL, @MEM, POR): Has anyone since Manute Bol been so valuable in fantasy while producing so few points? In six games since the break, Aminu is averaging only 6.0 points per game, but in that span he's also providing 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks. This set of games suggests Aminu will have an easier time getting steals than blocks. Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers opponents rank second and third, respectively, in takeaways.
Trevor Ariza, SG/SF, Washington Wizards (@MIN, BKN, CHA): Ariza has emerged as the Wizards' top reserve, averaging 11.9 points, 1.6 3s and 1.6 steals while shooting 49.1 percent in February. His recent scoring splurge (16.0 points in his past four games) has gotten him noticed in ESPN.com leagues. While I can't see Ariza maintaining his hot shooting -- he's consistently struggled to reach 40 percent from the floor since leaving the Lakers four years ago -- he might be fine for this week, considering that Wolves, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Bobcats opponents all rank in the top eight in field goal percentage. And I'll note for approximately the 87th time this season that Bobcats opponents make the most 3s.
Tobias Harris, SF, Orlando Magic (@NO, @MIA, IND, PHI): Just the other day I said Harris is worth rostering in large leagues of at least 14 teams. It turns out I might be selling the lad short. In three games since coming over in the J.J. Redick deal, the 20-year-old Harris is averaging 17.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. Of course, he's not going to keep shooting 67.7 percent (Harris is 21-of-31 from the floor in three games with Orlando), but he should continue to see significant minutes for the playing-for-next-season (or perhaps the season after) Magic. Harris has accumulated a good chunk of his numbers playing in blowout losses, but in that sense this schedule could kind of work out. There could be plenty of garbage time for the Magic against the likes of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Houston Rockets (DAL, @GS, @PHX): On Wednesday, Seth Landman shrewdly noted Motiejunas' presence in the Rockets' rotation in the aftermath of the Patrick Patterson trade. And sure enough, that night the Lithuanian made his first career start, contributing 13 points and seven boards in 26 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, the Rockets still went small at the end of that game, but Motiejunas should continue to start and generate decent numbers. As Seth notes, the young 7-footer can stretch the floor a bit more effectively than the departed Patterson. With that in mind, I'll note that Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors opponents rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in buckets from downtown.
Marcus Thornton, SG, Sacramento Kings (DEN, @GS, PHX, MIL): Thornton had a monster performance (36 points, eight triples) against the Heat on Feb. 26, and followed that up with 20 points the next night against the Magic, but I'm not sure I buy his re-emergence. A lot of long-range shooters do well against the Heat, and after playing 40 minutes that night, Thornton played just 23 minutes in Orlando. Still, this schedule should help him. Both Warriors and Denver Nuggets opponents thrive in the 3-point department. Nuggets opponents bomb away at a rate of 8.5 treys per game, second only to the Bobcats.
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.