- Tom Carpenter, Fantasy and Insider
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The playoffs for most head-to-head leagues are underway at this point, so the pressure is on. Every single stat that you can possibly cram into your starting lineup each week will be critical. For leagues that set your weekly lineups on Monday, it's also critical that you max out the number of games in which your players participate each week. For the most part, such moves revolve around the lower-level players in your starting lineups, because you likely will keep your studs active, even if they play just twice or thrice in a week.
Since most weekly lineups were set yesterday, and because staying ahead of the curve is important, let's take a look ahead to Week 22, which begins Monday, March 24. All of the players below play at least four games next week. Many, as noted, also carry quality long-term potential by playing four games in Week 23 and beyond. All are worth consideration over lower-level players who only roll three times next week.
Top Available Free Agents for Week 22
DeMarre Carroll (owned in 65.5 percent of leagues), Atlanta Hawks: One of the more underrated fantasy players this season, Carroll should be owned in all leagues. He's a shoo-in to score in the low teens with about 1.3 steals per game and good rebounds for a small forward. He's also averaging 2.5 3-pointers over his last 10 contests and plays four games each of the next three weeks. Despite a couple of rough shooting performances lately, we should expect his FG% the final 3.5 weeks to hover around 50 percent.
P.J. Tucker (32.4 percent), Phoenix Suns: Put Tucker in the "don't ask questions, just ride him while he's hot" category. Who cares whether he "should" be averaging 35.1 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.9 3-PPG, 60.9 FG% and 74.1 FT% this month. The fact is that he's doing just that, so ride him for the short term (four games in Week 22), because the Suns play only three times each of the final two full weeks.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (10.7 percent), New York Knicks: It's no surprise that Hardaway, who just turned 22 on Sunday, has lacked consistency as a rookie. He's found his stroke over the past three games, though, knocking down 24 of 36 shots and 10 3s, while scoring at least 20 points in each outing. Keep in mind that he averaged 48.5 FG% in December and January, so he could settle in down the stretch. The Knicks roll four times the next two weeks before running only twice in Weeks 24 and 25.
Amar'e Stoudemire (57.2 percent), New York Knicks: The fact that STAT had a random DNP for rest on Wednesday is a bit disconcerting for those in head-to-head battles, despite the Knicks' solid schedule the next couple of weeks. On the other hand, his March averages of 17.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 61.3 FG% and 77.8 FT% may make adding Stoudemire in your league worth a shot.
Dion Waiters (51.3 percent), Jarrett Jack (30.7 percent), Cleveland Cavaliers: I mentioned Waiters last week as a player who helps as a scorer and chips in some 3s but does little else. However, now that we know Kyrie Irving is out for at least a couple of weeks due to his biceps injury, both Waiters and Jack should get a big enough boost to generate consideration in most formats. Their long-term values are limited, though, because after hitting the hardwood four times in Week 22, the play just thrice each in Weeks 23-24 and once in Week 25.
Kendall Marshall (62.2 percent), Los Angeles Lakers: He's a one-stat wonder, basically doing nothing but chipping in assists. Nonetheless, the Lakers play four times each of the next two weeks, and he's averaging 9.6 APG this month. Do the math and we see that Marshall could chip in something in the neighborhood of 38 assists in both Week 22 and Week 23. Needless to say, that could be the difference between beating your opponent and coming up short in an H2H battle.
Marco Belinelli (7.8 percent), Patty Mills (5.4 percent), San Antonio Spurs: Neither is great option at the moment, though Mills has been a steady 3-point contributor this month (2.1 3-PPG). However, if Danny Green ends up missing an extended stretch due to his injured right wrist, the door would be open for both Belinelli and Mills to make an impact from beyond the arc. X-rays and an MRI were negative, though, so Green may play through it and is worth consideration if you need 3s. Owned in just 45.6 percent of ESPN leagues, Green is averaging 2.5 3-PPG in March. The Spurs play four times in Weeks 22 and 23 before playing thrice in Week 24.
The Final Five-Game Week
Dorrell Wright (0.1 percent), Portland Trail Blazers: Next week the Blazers have the only remaining five-game week in the NBA. If LaMarcus Aldridge remains sidelined, Wright could be a sneaky add in deep leagues.
Top Long-Term Deep-League Pickups (four games each in Weeks 22-24)
Pero Antic (6.6 percent), Atlanta Hawks: If he can maintain his recent pace of 2.2 3-PPG in March, you could get 30 or so 3-pointers out of your center spot during the remaining weeks of the season.
Marcus Thornton (1.0 percent), Brooklyn Nets: His game-to-game inconsistency can be overcome in weekly leagues. Despite scoring five or fewer points four times in March, Thornton also has scored at least 19 points four times. Overall, he's chipping in 13.5 PPG and 2.5 3-PPG, while hitting 48.2 percent of his shots from the field during that stretch.
Gorgui Dieng (0.2 percent), Minnesota Timberwolves: He opened some eyes Sunday with 12 points, 11 boards, 5 blocks and 2 steals in 37 minutes with Nikola Pekovic sidelined. If Pek's ankle bursitis lingers, Dieng will be an intriguing addition to all deep-league squads.
Tom Carpenter looks at players on the wire who have four games next week that are worth picking up.