Ed’s Note: Glen Hogarth will be guiding you through the ins and outs of fantasy basketball from a Raptors and NBA perspective.

This is an exciting time of year for the basketball fan. March Madness has begun, teams around the NBA are coming down to their last 20 games of the regular season and that means it’s time for the first round of the fantasy playoffs. If you made it in, then congratulations are in order. You are among the elite, the few who move on and have the last 19 weeks of staring at a computer screen comparing countless amounts of stats be worth something. If you didn’t make it, it’s harder to justify what you just spent the last 19 weeks doing. However all hope isn’t lost, maybe you can have someone else play for you next year, have someone take you out back and put you down, win the consolation bracket.

Okay, maybe all hope is lost after all. Still, if that’s where you find yourself, I’d suggest to play your consolation bracket like you were playing for the real thing and continue to shrewdly use the waiver wire. Picking up players makes it harder for the guys in the championship bracket to do what they want or plan to do. You might not be able to knock them out directly, but you can still beat them to a hot player when it counts and rub it in their face when they come up short because of it… Isn’t fantasy sports great!

The Raptors have another four-game week ahead of them, starting with the Hawks in Atlanta before matching up in New Orleans against the Pelicans. Then they come back home in the second half of the back to back to face Oklahoma City and finish the week off in a rematch with Atlanta in front of the home crowd.

Gotta Have Em!

DeMar DeRozan – Season player rating rises from 49th up to 48th and is owned by 100% of the leagues at ESPN. DeMar is coming off a subpar week from a fantasy perspective. That said, he still averaged 20 PTS, 3.3 REB, 1.5 AST, 0.5 STL and 0.3 BLK over the last seven days. To his credit, he also got to the free-throw line 8.5 times per game hitting .882 FT% over the course. What I’m considering a subpar fantasy outing this week would have been considered one of his better last season. This is a strong indicator of how far he has developed this year. Still, his .397 FG% is not what owners or DeRozan wants to see even in the short term. The dip in his shooting percentage stems from the Brooklyn and Memphis games where he found tough covers with the intent to smother him. This has been a good experience to feel the type of pressure that will come in the playoffs. Fear not, DeMar is still DaMan.

Kyle Lowry – Season player rating increases from 14th up to 13th and is owned by 100% of the leagues at ESPN. Statisticians needed to bring extra stationary when covering Raptors games this week, mainly because of this man. Lowry responded to his time off to rest by averaging 20.5 PTS off .446 FG% and adding 3.0 three-pointers, with 7.8 REB, 9.0 AST, 1.3 STL and 0.3 BLK per game. He also earned 6.0 free throw attempts per game, hitting .833 FT% over the last seven days. With all eyes on Kyle down the stretch, he appears ready to move into the postseason with his game rounding into top form. I’m excited to see his matchup against Westbrook this week, not only because there were some comparisons made between the two when he was being brought into Toronto, but also because it will be a great test of Kyle’s defensive ability.

Amir Johnson – Season player rating climbs from 75th up to 65th and is owned by 73.1% of the leagues at ESPN. Amir has continued to play to impress, averaging 15.8 PTS off of .617 FG%, with 6.3 REB 2.0 AST 1.5 STL and 1.8 BLK over the last seven days. Despite the recent drop in rebounds, he’s picked up the intensity on both ends of the floor raising his steals, blocks and points categories. His ability to drop to the hoop when his cover leaves or gets lost in the switch has been his bread-and-butter this past week. His recognition of what defences are giving him has been top notch. Continue to expect big minutes from Amir, because the coach has been looking to him to finish games up strong as of late.

Keep An Eye On

Jonas Valanciunas – Season player rating moves from 110th up to 108th and is owned by 71.5% of the leagues at ESPN. What a difference a game can make and what an interesting week it has been on the floor for JV. Over the last seven days he has averaged 10.3 PTS off .600 FG%, with 9.3 REB and 1.5 BLK per game. If you look over the last four games his 23 points against Memphis outscored the previous three games, where he only totalled 18 points combined. Continuing to look at that comparison, he took 15 shots in Memphis, which is as many as he did against Detroit, Brooklyn and Minnesota combined. Many fantasy owners and fans alike have been frustrated with the limited minutes that Valanciunas has seen throughout this season. At this point however, it seems as though coach Casey has done a good job at having him stay focused and keeping him hungry. Fluctuating minutes are to be expected with a young big man, a risk you take whenever you have any developing player on your fantasy roster.

Terrence Ross – Season player rating jumps from 125th up to 121st and is owned by 28.4% of the leagues at ESPN. The added pressure felt from this past week’s matchups have created a dip in Terrance’s production. Over the last seven days T.Ross has averaged 10.8 PTS off .471 FG% adding 1.8 three-pointers, with 2.3 REB, 1.3 AST, 1.0 STL and 0.3 BLK per game. Opponent scouting reports surely have “close out on this guy” written next to his name, so I’d like to see Ross use his reputation to up-fake and drive more…as long as it doesn’t take away all the threes he makes for my fantasy team! Over the last three games he has shot 15 three-pointers while only hitting 4 of them. Despite that, his high field-goal percentage shows that overall he’s still making the right choices on the offensive end. On nights where he can log a lot of shots, he has a good chance to give fantasy owners a nice surprise.

Greivis Vasquez – Season player rating moves up from 180th to 168th and is owned by 33.4% of the leagues at ESPN. Vasquez has continued to play well, over the last seven days he has averaged 10.0 PTS off .412 FG%, with 5.3 REB, 4.5 AST, 1.0 STL and hitting 1.5 three-pointers per game. His problem in the fantasy world is solely based in minutes. Against Memphis he was able to log 29 min. and put up 17 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, and 3 STL in the game. With four games this week and a back to back with travel in the middle, Casey may look to share some minutes around in the attempt to keep players fresh down the stretch. If so, this should benefit the fantasy owners of Vasquez. Either way, he could be a useful acquisition on the right game this week.

They Try and Try

Patrick Patterson – Season player rating drops from 137th down to 146th and owned by 0.6% of the leagues at ESPN. Unfortunately, 2Pat has been out this past week with an elbow sprain that he had been playing through over the last couple of weeks. He is expected to be re-evaluated at some point in the upcoming week. When he does get back out on the floor expect the 6th man mentality he was bringing as of late. Keep an eye out for him to come back strong, just maybe not this week. Only time will tell.

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