Week 16 is the final full week of action before the February 9 trade deadline, which means fantasy managers are running out of time to identify players who may be worth stashing until after that day passes. Conversations focused on players such as Jakob Poeltl, Eric Gordon, and Jae Crowder will only intensify between now and the deadline, so some interesting decisions could be made regarding injury management to ensure some guys remain healthy through the deadline. Let's look at some of the key storylines in Week 16.
Week 16 Schedule: Games Played
4 Games: ATL, CHA, DEN, DET, GSW, LAL, MIN, NOP, NYK, ORL, PHI, PHO, POR, SAC, TOR, WAS
3 Games: BKN, CHI, CLE, DAL, HOU, IND, LAC, MEM, MIA, MIL, OKC, SAS
2 Games: BOS, UTA
Top Storylines of Week 16
-- All eyes on the Raptors, who may be the most important team at the trade deadline
Toronto enters a four-game Week 16 12th in the East, trailing Washington and Chicago by two games in the loss column. They play all four games on the road, beginning Monday in Phoenix, with matchups against the Jazz, Rockets, and Grizzlies to follow. With contract statuses of Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. up in the air and O.G. Anunoby's name surfacing in trade rumors, how much of an impact will this week have on the thinking of team president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster? And does that make a player like Precious Achiuwa even more attractive in fantasy basketball than he already is?
Rostered in 46% of Yahoo leagues, Achiuwa's providing 8th-round value in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks. Anunoby's recent wrist injury propelled Achiuwa into the starting lineup, but his production improved even before the lineup change. If things go in the wrong direction, Chris Boucher will also be worth keeping an eye on because Toronto's lineup could look a lot different after the trade deadline.
-- What will the minutes distribution look like among Spurs centers?
As noted in the intro, Poeltl has been a popular name in trade rumors, and something interesting has been happening with his minutes. Over the last two weeks, he's averaging 23.3 minutes per game, with backup Zach Collins playing 22.1. Poeltl's minutes are close to three fewer than his average for the season (26.0), and he also averaged a career-high 29.0 minutes per game last season. The Spurs' starting center played 33 minutes in Saturday's overtime loss to the Suns, the first time he surpassed 25 since January 15 vs. Sacramento (31 minutes).
Collins is rostered in 15% of Yahoo leagues, and this may be a good time to add him, even with the Spurs only playing three games in Week 16. Prior to losses against the Clippers and Suns, in which he played 19 and 20 minutes, he played 22 minutes or more in four straight games. If Poeltl were to be moved ahead of the deadline, Collins would clearly have the most to gain as far as fantasy value is concerned.
-- How much longer will Mavericks' Doncic be sidelined?
After spraining his left ankle during Thursday's win over the Suns, Luka Dončić sat out Saturday's loss to the Jazz. Dallas is now 0-6 this season without Doncic, but he may be closing in on a return. He's listed as questionable for Monday's game against the Pistons, which is the first of three games the Mavericks will play in Week 16. Josh Green is the player who will be impacted the most by Doncic's status, as he replaced him in the starting lineup Saturday night. In the midst of the best fantasy season of his NBA career, Spencer Dinwiddie would take a hit in the usage department, but he'll be fine otherwise.
Doncic's presence impacts the entire roster, especially with Christian Wood (thumb) still sidelined. Dallas only playing three games with no back-to-backs means managers may get a full week out of Doncic. However, Monday's game could be viewed in a different light than matchups with the Pelicans (Thursday) and Warriors (Saturday) due to the Pistons' struggles. Hopefully, Doncic will be cleared for Monday's game and play all three. But even if he plays two, excellent value can still be had.
-- How will the Lakers handle Thomas Bryant's minutes?
With Anthony Davis returning to game action on Wednesday, Bryant's minutes have decreased, as one would expect. He played 21 minutes in the Lakers' January 25 win over the Spurs and 19 in Saturday's loss to the Celtics. But even with the decrease in playing time, Bryant remained in the starting lineup. Add in the arrival of Rui Hachimura, and Bryant no longer looks like the fantasy "lock" that he was prior to those changes. However, he will receive a boost for the Lakers' first game of the week. Davis and LeBron James have been ruled out for Monday's game against the Nets, which will keep Bryant in the starting lineup for another game at a minimum.
But what happens on Tuesday when the Lakers visit the Knicks? And how will the frontcourt rotation look moving forward? It's no secret that Davis prefers to play the four but will play the five when needed. We'll find out in Week 16 how Darvin Ham will divvy up those minutes as the Lakers look to move up the Western Conference standings. While nothing will change for Davis, who was the top-ranked player in 9-cat formats at the time of his injury, there are questions regarding Bryant and Hachimura. And we should get some answers in the Lakers' final three games of the week.
-- Wizards' Porzingis cleared to return Monday
Initially declared week-to-week with a sprained ankle, Kristaps Porzingis has been cleared to play Monday night against the Spurs. That's the first of four games for the Wizards in Week 16, but it does end with a Friday/Saturday back-to-back against Portland (home) and Brooklyn (road). The player most impacted by Porzingis' return is Corey Kispert, who has been filling the void in the starting lineup. But this will also impact Deni Avdija and Daniel Gafford, with the latter having been a fantasy stud over the last week.
As always, the question with a player returning from injury is whether or not they'll be available for both games of a back-to-back, so this could be a three-game week for Porzingis. That would open the door for Avdija and Kispert as streamers, while those who have Gafford rostered should ride the wave, as he'll remain in the starting lineup.
-- How many games will fantasy managers get out of Warriors' stars?
Golden State will play four games in Week 16, but there's a back-to-back right in the middle. Andrew Wiggins (illness) has been cleared to play Monday night in Oklahoma City, but that game is followed by a Wednesday/Thursday road back-to-back against the Timberwolves and Nuggets. Klay Thompson has yet to play both ends of a back-to-back this season, while Stephen Curry and Draymond Green sat out the second game of the Warriors' most recent back-to-back (January 19-20).
In the case of Thompson, it's likely safe to assume he'll play three games at the most in Week 16. The others may have a better chance of playing all four, even with that Thursday night showdown in Denver being the second game. While Jordan Poole is already rostered in 95% of Yahoo leagues, the schedule makes Kevon Looney, Donte DiVincenzo, and Jonathan Kuminga players to keep an eye on.
-- Is it time to drop Celtics' White, G. Williams?
Boston is one of two teams playing two games in Week 16, with Utah being the other. In the case of the Celtics, Derrick White and Grant Williams have benefitted from injury-related absences, with Marcus Smart still being sidelined and Robert Williams having missed Saturday's win over the Lakers. But with Boston's light Week 16 schedule, is there anything to be gained from keeping either on your roster? Probably not, especially with it being possible that Smart returns for at least one of those games (the Time Lord was an injury management case, so he should be back Wednesday night against Brooklyn). There's no shortage of teams playing four games in Week 16, so fantasy managers would be better served mining those rosters than holding onto White or "Batman."
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Light Game Days
Tuesday: 5 Games
MIA vs. CLE
LAL vs. NYK
LAC vs. CHI
CHA vs. MIL
NOP vs. DEN
Week 16 Back-to-backs
Thursday-Friday: CHA, IND
Friday-Saturday: ATL, DET, HOU, PHO, POR, WAS
Saturday-Sunday: DEN, NOP, NYK