Week 21 Fantasy Basketball Preview: Building a Champion

By on March 13, 2016
Week 21 Fantasy Basketball Preview Photo Credit: Keith Allison

I’ve played in the same keeper league for going on 18 years. In all that time, I’ve managed to win two titles and make it to the finals a third time (I lost that one on a boneheaded decision that I still regret to this day). One thing both of my winning teams had in common was that they lacked balance. I had one or two really good players and everybody else was mediocre. This may seem counterintuitive to real basketball, but I don’t really think it is. Consider some of the Bulls teams from the 1990’s, which included the single best team I’ve ever seen–the 96 Chicago Bulls. To my mind, that team, as well as all of those Bulls teams– had two great players, one good one, and a ton of role players. Despite the obvious allure of trying to fill out a balanced roster, fantasy champions are built in much the same way.

A quick check of the best team in my league this year (and unfortunately it’s not mine) reveals this trend continuing. The lineup consists of PG Stephen Curry, SG Khris Middleton, SF Kevin Durant, PF Pau Gasol, C Rudy Gobert. Obviously with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant on the team, you don’t need a whole lot more. It almost doesn’t matter who the three players are beyond Durant and Curry. As long as they’re serviceable, this team has a strong chance to win the title.

So how do you build a team like this? First, you’ve got to forget the idea that you must be strong at every position. It can be  a difficult mindset to reverse. I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to achieve balance year after year. The bottom line, though,  is that Fantasy Basketball is a numbers game. Two exceptional players and three serviceable ones will outperform five good ones every time.

Getting two elite players can be difficult. One is hard enough in a closed league, but two really takes some work and scouting. On my two winning teams, one of the elites was Tim Duncan. The other one was Kevin Garnett. I got Garnett through a savvy and well-timed trade. I drafted Duncan, taking on a chance on a rookie when most people in the league would have gone with a vet. To my mind, that’s the way to do it. Don’t play it safe in the draft. Take a risk, try to find the guy that could make or break your team. Then work the phones hard–attempting to find someone willing to give up an elite player for the illusion of team balance (believe me, those folks are out there).

Here’s wishing you good luck as we head toward the playoff push and the end of the year. Starts/ sits are below.

Week 21 Fantasy Basketball Preview

TeamNumber of GamesSchedule FavorabilityMust StartConsider Sitting
Atlanta2 home
1 away
FavorablePaul Millsap, Al Horford, Jeff TeagueDennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore
Boston1 home
3 away
FavorableIsaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jared SullingerEvan Turner, Avery Bradley
Brooklyn1 home
2 away
NeutralBrook Lopez, Thaddeus YoungJarrett Jack
Charlotte3 home
1 away
FavorableKemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Marvin WilliamsAl Jefferson
Chicago2 home
2 away
FavorablePau Gasol, Jimmy ButlerDerrick Rose, Nikola Mirotic
Cleveland1 home
3 away
FavorableLebron James, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie IrvingMo Williams, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love
Dallas2 home
2 away
NeutralChandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki Deron Williams
Denver0 home
4 away
FavorableDanilo Gallinari, Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel MudiayKenneth Faried, Will Barton
Detroit3 home
1 away
FavorableAndre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias HarrisKentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson
Golden State2 home
2 away
Highly FavorableStephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay ThompsonAndre Iguodala
Houston3 home
1 away
FavorableJames Harden, Dwight HowardTy Lawson, Trevor Ariza
Indiana3 home
0 away
FavorablePaul GeorgeMonta Ellis, George Hill, Ian Mahinmi, Myles Turner
Los Angeles Clippers0 home
4 away
FavorableDeandre Jordan, Chris PaulBlake Griffin
Los Angeles Lakers2 home
0 away
UnfavorableJulius Randle, D'Angelo RussellRoy Hibbert, Kobe Bryant
Memphis2 home
2 away
FavorableMarc Gasol, Mike ConleyZach Randolph
Miami3 home
0 away
NeutralHassan Whitehead, Dwyane Wade, Luol DengGoran Dragic, Chris Bosh
Milwaukee3 home
0 away
NeutralKhris Middleton, Giannis Antekokounmpo, Jabari ParkerMichael Carter Williams, Greg Monroe
Minnesota0 home
3 away
PoorKarl-Anthony TownsAndrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng
New Orleans2 home
2 away
Favorable Anthony DavisEric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson
New York1 home
2 away
NeutralCarmelo Anthony, Kristaps PorzingisRobin Lopez
Oklahoma City1 home
3 away
FavorableRussel Westbrook, Kevin DurantSerge Ibaka
Orlando2 home
2 away
FavorableVictor Oladipo, Nikola VucevicElfrid Payton
Philadelphia3 home
1 away
NeutralJahlil Okafor, Nerlens NoelRobert Covington
Phoenix1 home
2 away
UnfavorableDevin Booker, Alex LenTyson Chandler, TJ Warren, Brandon Knight
Portland0 home
4 away
NeutralDamian Lillard, CJ McCollumMason Plumlee
Sacramento1 home
3 away
FavorableDemarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Rudy GayOmri Casspi
San Antonio3 home
0 away
Highly FavorableKawhi Leonard, LaMarcus AldridgeTony Parker, Tim Duncan
Toronto3 home
2 away
Highly FavorableKyle Lowery, DeMar DeRozanJonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo
Utah2 home
2 away
FavorableRudy Gobert, Derrick FavorsRodney Hood, Gordon Hayward
Washington3 home
1 away
FavorableJohn Wall, Otto PorterMarcin Gortat, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris

Starts

Gorgui Dieng, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

Boy, I missed this one. Last week, I listed Dieng as a must sit. I saw his strong play in the weeks before as something that wouldn’t last, especially in the face of the Wolves tough schedule. A quick check of the boxscores show that I was wrong. Despite some lackluster scoring, Dieng has found other ways to make his presence known, mostly on the defensive end with blocks and steals. So, I’m going the other direction this week. Get him in. He’s earned it.

Luol Deng, SF, PF, Miami Heat

All of the Heat’s injury problems have allowed Deng to really step into the spotlight in Miami. Playing power forward seems to have helped too. Whatever the reason, Deng is performing at a high level, averaging 17 points and 9 boards over his last four.

 

Sits

Kevin Love, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

Love’s been fighting some injuries and it shows. Over the last five games, his numbers have been bad enough to rank him behind guys like Meyers Leonard, Cody Zeller, and JaMychal Green. He’s only scoring 13 points a game over that span, but perhaps more disturbing is that he’s only pulling down 7 rebounds a game, a far cry from the numbers he was putting up just a few years ago.

Greg Monroe, C, Milwaukee Bucks

Poor Greg Monroe. He’s got a lot of talent, but he’s been unable to find the right fit. First, Detroit sent him packing in favor of the more athletic Andre Drummond. And now he’s been relegated to a reserve role for the new and improved, uptempo Bucks. Until his situation changes again, I’d keep him on the bench.

 

John Mantooth

John Mantooth

John Mantooth is an award-winning author whose short stories have been recognized in numerous year's best anthologies. His first book, Shoebox Train Wreck, was released in March of 2012 from Chizine Publications. His debut novel, The Year of the Storm, came out in June 2013 from Berkley. He lives in Alabama with his wife, Becky, and two children where he spends far too much time thinking about fantasy basketball.
John Mantooth

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