As the Fantasy basketball season continues to wind down, lineup decisions become increasingly crucial at this point in the calendar. Entering Monday, every team has between 15 and 19 games remaining, and the postseason races in each conference are far from settled.
From a competitiveness standpoint, that's a good thing for Fantasy managers, though we're already beginning to see a handful of teams exercise caution – to put it generously – with some key players' workloads. Most notably, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said over the weekend that the team will "manage" Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who's dealing with an abdominal injury, the rest of the way. While SGA did see 37 minutes Sunday night in his return from a five-game absence, managers unfortunately have to prepare for the possibility that one of the top players in all of Fantasy could be in and out of the lineup – or have his minutes reduced – at this key juncture.
Looking at the schedule, we're presented with a fairly Fantasy-friendly week, as nearly half of the league plays four games. Of those teams, only the Cavaliers, Nuggets, and Trail Blazers do not have any back-to-back sets.
Also of note: while the Thunder play four times, their week includes two back-to-backs, beginning with tough matchups against the Warriors (Tuesday) and Suns (Wednesday).
Here's the full breakdown:
Teams with four games: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards
Teams with three games: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz
Teams with two games: Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs
All roster and start percentages via CBS Fantasy Basketball
Consider starting: Tyus Jones, MEM (54% rostered, 25% start)
Opponents: @LAL, vs. GSW, vs. DAL
We begin with a fairly obvious start candidate in Jones, who's been an excellent plug-and-play option whenever Ja Morant misses time. Morant is, of course, suspended two games, the second of which is Tuesday's meeting with the Lakers. While Morant could technically return as soon as Thursday against Golden State, coach Taylor Jenkins' comments over the weekend didn't exactly imply that he expects the star guard to be back with the team in the immediate future.
With that in mind, there's a decent-to-good chance that Jones gets at least a full week as the Grizzlies' starting point guard. He was fantastic in Sunday night's loss to the Clippers, finishing with 25 points, 12 assists, three rebounds, five steals and five 3-pointers in 36 minutes. In his 10 starts on the year, Jones is giving Fantasy managers 19.4 points, 8.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.4 3-pointers.
Consider starting: Delon Wright, WAS (53% rostered, 32% start)
Opponents: @DET, vs. ATL, vs. ATL, @PHI
I've been starting Wright in one league for a few weeks now, and while Fantasy expectations need to be tempered, he's a must-roster for any manager looking to move up in steals in a Roto league. Wright has played in only 35 games this season – he missed 29 straight from Oct. 28 through Dec. 22 – but he still ranks 23rd in the league in total steals, while ranking No. 1 in the NBA (by a mile) in both steals per 100 possessions and steal rate.
Over the last three games, Wright has 11 total steals, and he's also chipping in some assists and 3s while Monte Morris (back) remains sidelined. It's unclear when Morris will return, but the Wizards called him "week to week" a few days ago, so Wright should have a clear path to big minutes for at least another week.
Consider sitting: Devin Vassell, SAN (88% rostered, 23% start)
Opponents: vs. DEN, vs. OKC
Vassell's recent start rate is artificially low considering he just returned from a lengthy injury absence, but he shouldn't be in most lineups as the Spurs enter a two-game week. The silver lining is that San Antonio gets four days off before Friday's game against Denver, so Vassell should be ramped up and ready to handle a larger workload in Week 21 when the Spurs play four times. Vassell ended Sunday's blowout loss to the Rockets with 13 points, five assists, one rebound, one steal and two 3s in 29 minutes.
Consider sitting: Chris Paul, PHO (99% rostered, 66% start)
Opponents: vs. OKC, vs. SAC
Phoenix is riding high coming off of a third straight win since Kevin Durant debuted, but with only two games on the schedule this is a dicey situation for Fantasy managers. Durant and Devin Booker can still be started in many circumstances, but Paul is a tougher call. Leaving the assists on the table is a tough pill to swallow, but Paul hasn't been a high-volume scorer this season, and both his field goal percentage and free throw percentage are notably down from 2021-22.
Over the past 10 games, Paul is providing 12.3 points, 10.0 assists and 2.2 steals, but he's shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor and 76.9 percent at the line. Most managers should be able to pull a four-game option off of the bench who has a bit more upside.
Consider starting: Saddiq Bey, ATL (75% rostered, 37% start)
Opponents: @MIA, @WAS, @WAS, vs. BOS
Bey was one of my favorite waiver wire targets this week, and I'm excited to deploy him on a four-game week for the Hawks. Since the All-Star break, Bey has had some ups and downs, but he's settled into averages of 13.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 3.0 3s in nearly 30 minutes per game.
He's also coming off of an excellent showing in Saturday's win over the Heat, which he finished with 22 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and four 3s in 35 minutes. The workload and production will vary night-to-night, but managers chasing points, 3s and lower-end steals should feel comfortable making Bey their final starter this week.
Consider starting: Marvin Bagley, DET (70% rostered, 47% start)
Opponents: vs. POR, vs. WAS, vs. CHA, vs. IND
If you'd told me back in September that I'd be crossing my fingers to land Marvin Bagley on waivers, I would've assumed my season had gone completely off the rails. On the contrary, Bagley has emerged as one of the most coveted late-season adds thanks to three strong outings in his last four appearances since returning from a multi-month injury absence.
The No. 2 overall pick in 2018 has three double-doubles in his four, including a 21-point, 18-rebound performance against Toronto and a 29-point, 13-rebound, three-block effort Saturday at Cleveland. Not only is it a four-game schedule for Detroit, but the Pistons will be without Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren and Bojan Bogdanovic to begin the week, while James Wiseman is also on the injury report with a sore knee. At worst, Bagley should be looking at one or two more games in a semi-featured role.
Consider starting: Deni Avdija, WAS (520% rostered, 23% start)
Opponents: @DET, vs. ATL, vs. ATL, @PHI
Another player with a four-game week, Avdija is coming off of a big night in Sunday's loss to Milwaukee. In 31 minutes off the bench, Avdija posted 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals to go with a pair of 3s and a 5-of-5 night at the line. The 2020 lottery pick is prone to dramatic swings in production from night to night, but he makes for an acceptable – albeit lower-end – starter this week with Kyle Kuzma battling a sore knee. Chances are, Kuzma, who missed Sunday's game, will be back in action at some point in Week 20, but it's also very possible that he sits at least one-half of the Wizards' Tuesday/Wednesday back-to-back set.
Consider sitting: Tobias Harris, PHI (95% rostered, 63% start)
Opponents: @IND, @IND, vs. POR, vs. WAS
Philly is entering a four-game week so sitting Harris does come with some potential downside, but we also have to consider the calf injury that forced him out of Saturday night's game in Milwaukee. Harris did not partake in shootaround ahead of Monday night's game against the Pacers, which falls on the front end of a back-to-back set.
If he ends up being ruled out Monday, I would immediately pivot to a different four-game forward in order to avoid a scenario in which Harris only ends up playing one or two games this week. It's also worth noting that the veteran's production has tailed off of late. Over his last 13 games, he's posting just 10.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 combined steals/blocks per game. Long story short: the risk is not worth the reward.
Consider starting: Mark Williams, CHA (79% rostered, 52% start)
Opponents: @NYK, @DET, vs. UTA, vs. CLE
Fantasy managers stashing Williams ahead of the deadline got their wish when the Hornets sent Mason Plumlee to the Clippers. Since then, Williams has stepped in as the every-night starter at center, averaging 26.8 minutes per game since the trade. While the numbers haven't been overwhelming, Williams is posting a nightly double-double (11.9 PPG, 10.0 RPG) and had at least one block in nine straight games before Sunday's loss to the Nets.
Don't expect much in terms of assists, steals or 3s, but on a four-game week Williams makes for a perfectly acceptable starter – especially for managers seeking rebounds and blocks. He's also a decent free throw shooter by 7-foot-2 center standards.
Consider sitting: Rudy Gobert, MIN (99% rostered, 61% start)
Opponents: vs. PHI, vs. BKN
As a Gobert manager in one very important league, it pains me to say this, but I'll be leaving him on the bench for the Timberwolves' two-game week. The Frenchman is starting to look better of late – he has multiple blocks in six of his last seven – but he's still not doing quite enough for me to warrant starting over a four-game option, like, say, Mark Williams. That's especially true with the Timberwolves' first game of the week coming against Joel Embiid and the 76ers. In their previous matchup back on Nov. 19, Gobert found himself in early foul trouble and finished with only eight points, 13 boards and no blocks in 28 minutes.