Tomorrow marks the beginning of the fantasy finals. For those who have made it there, we salute you. For the rest of you, I hope you paid attention to the little things that got those fantasy GM’s into position to win it all this season. If you did and stay sharp, you may find yourself in their shoes come next year. If not, I will be hosting a high-stakes fantasy league next season that you’re all invited to.
With four more games on the schedule for the Raptors it would seem like another good week to have them in your fantasy line-up. My only concern is that they have already played eight games in the last 14 days with four more on the schedule over the next six. All the extra floor time could equate to some tired legs and flat shots and therefore could translate into lower shooting percentages and totals. That said, this week holds some big playoff calibre competition for them to test where they’re at, as they gear up to enter into the postseason. The Raptors begin this week on the second half of a back-to-back facing the Heat in Miami on Monday, before defending their home turf against Houston on Wednesday. On Friday they host the Indiana Pacers, before they finish up the week in Milwaukee against the Bucks on Saturday in the second half of another back-to-back.
Third Seed Race Note: This being the toughest week left in the season, it’s possible for the Raptors to go 1-3 or even worse if they let their guard down and don’t respect Milwaukee after going up against three playoff bound teams and think they have an easy night. I believe the Raptors should go 3-1 with the Pacers (6-4) and the Heat (5-5) showing signs of struggling over the last 10 games, but they must bring their “A” games and be ready to walk through hellfire. This week is a possible swing moment for the Raptors, to either lose third-place or kick some serious ass and solidify their standings. Chicago is only one game back (depending on Sunday’s outcomes) and they have an easier 4-game line-up this week playing Boston, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Washington on the same nights as Toronto. LETS GO RAPTORS!!
Gotta Have Em!
DeMar DeRozan - Season player rating increases from 40th up to 39th and is owned by 100% of the leagues at ESPN. This past week, DeMar struggled to earn as many shots at the line or convert a high percentage of baskets from the floor. Despite this, he still found ways to contribute to the Raptors and your fantasy team to get the job done. Over the last seven days DD has averaged 21.0 PTS off .405 FG% earning 7.0 FTA (down 2.9 attempts off his monthly average of 9.7) shooting .786 FT%, with 3.8 REB, 4.5 AST, 0.5 STL and 0.3 BLK. This season he continues to show new ways he can stay effective on the court. On the night he struggled against Cleveland scoring only 13 points, he made up for it by adding eight assists, four above his season average. With games against Miami in Indiana this week that are sure to get attention from the entire NBA, I expect DeMar to attack the basket and get to the line early and often.
Kyle Lowry - Season player rating holds at 12th and is owned by 100% of the leagues at ESPN. In typical warrior fashion, Kyle continues to battle through injuries and ailments each game in order to help lead the team to victory. Kyle’s eight-game streak of scoring 20 or more points came to an end Friday night against Boston after only adding nine to the total for the night. Nevertheless, Lowry had another fine week averaging 19.8 PTS off .446 FG% and hitting 2.5 three-pointers, with 5.5 REB, 5.8 AST and 1.8 STL per game. Lowry has posted five or less assist in five out of the last six games, making some fantasy GM’s nervous after being used to a larger production in that category. Kyle struggled from the free-throw line as well, going 4.8 times per game but shooting only .579 FT%, well below his season mark of .813 FT%. Still, complaining about that would be like complaining about how a cloud wouldn’t let the sun shine on your cherry red Ferrari. I’m sure the prevailing winds will blow that free-throw cloud away leaving the high-octane Lowry shining in the sun.
Amir Johnson - Season player rating rises from 57th up to 56th and is owned by 94.8% of the leagues at ESPN. Amir keeps on keeping on as he continues to stuff those stats sheets. Over the last seven days he’s averaged 9.0 PTS off .567 FG%, with 8.0 REB, 1.3 AST, 1.0 STL and 1.3 BLK per game. Between his recognition of when to roll to the rim with his ability to stay in the passing lanes when his teammates attack he’s finding easy baskets. His desire to step up defensively and fill the gaps has shown in his stats line and floor time. With strong defensive teams upcoming expect offensive sets to run into the third and fourth options leaving players like Amir primed to pick up big points.
Keep An Eye On
Jonas Valanciunas - Season player rating continues to climb from 105th up to 99th and is owned by 86.6% of the leagues at ESPN. Since missing one game from a strained back, we’ve seen some of the most consistent basketball out of Jonas throughout the fantasy season. Over the last seven days he has averaged 11.3 PTS off .500 FG% while going to the free-throw line 4.8 times and shooting .895 FT%, with 9.5 REB, 1.3 AST, 0.3 STL and 0.8 BLK per game. This week’s match ups will showcase how Valanciunas has improved this season. He can take advantage against Miami and their lack of interior presence. His ability to battle against the size of Houston and Indiana will become an X-factor in their matchups as well. I expect JV to show up to this week’s games with a chip on his shoulder something to prove.
Terrence Ross - Season player rating moves up from 120th to 114th and is owned by 27.1% of the leagues at ESPN. The young gun was up to his old tricks and looking good. Over the last seven days T.Ross has put up 16.8 PTS off .436 FG% and hitting 3.0 three-pointers, with 3.8 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.3 STL while clocking nearly 33 minutes per game, all of which are at or above his season averages. He has hit 11 threes in his last four games, which no longer comes as a surprise. However, his steals and rebounding production has increased giving the second-year player added value. While Indiana allows the third fewest three-pointers per game in the NBA, Houston Miami and Milwaukee are all below the league average, which should give Ross the chance to have another good week overall from beyond the arc. If you’re in a battle for 3 point supremacy, don’t hesitate and pick him up now.
Greivis Vasquez - Season player rating holds at 161st and is owned by 37.0% of the leagues at ESPN. Since 2Pat being out with the injury, production from the bench has largely fallen on the shoulders of General Greivis. The pick and roll game with Amir has been great at keeping defences guessing and leaving him room to operate and pick up assists. His shooting percentage took a hit over the last seven days, he’s averaged 12.5 PTS off .362 FG% while hitting 2.0 three-pointers, with 2.5 REB, 4.0 AST and 0.8 STL per game. Vasquez has been good at playing the sixth man role and should find even more success when Patterson returns to the team, putting another threat on the floor in the second unit for the defence to worry about. Until he does return you can be sure that GV will have plenty of opportunities to score. Available on the waiver in over 60% of the leagues at ESPN, keep him in mind as an effective option for three-pointers and points as well as assists and free throw percentage.
They Try and Try
Patrick Patterson - Season player rating drops from 154th down to 163rd and owned by 0.4% of the leagues at ESPN. With rumblings of 2Pat getting close to coming back, thoughts wander to what he will be able to bring when he returns. Coach Casey has already mentioned his conditioning could be an issue. Just before going out, he had 15 PTS off .750 FG% adding 3 three-pointers, with 6 REB, 1 AST, 2 BLK and 1 STL against his former team the Kings. He was hustling hard and moving his feet on defence. If he can bring that type of game when he returns don’t hesitate to pick him up, as the Raptors have been in need of another scoring option off the bench since he’s been gone as well as someone comfortable covering the stretch 4 position.