With Week 19 of the fantasy basketball season underway and the default Yahoo trade deadline quickly approaching, time is truly of the essence. Whether you're already looking ahead to the playoffs or grinding it out for a final spot to the dance, it's time to start thinking about matchups and strategizing how to maximize your roster moves for a run at a championship.
Yahoo's default trade deadline is this Thursday at 11:59 pm ET, and the fantasy playoffs start as early as Week 20 (but predominantly, Week 21). No matter your playoff start date, I'll list the teams you'll want to avoid each week along with recommendations of teams you'll want to target and some look-ahead planning if you're moving onto the next round.
Before we get to it, LaMelo Ball fractured his right ankle last night, so make sure Dennis Smith Jr. isn't sitting on waivers. Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre will all see a bump in usage with Ball missing the rest of the regular season.
Also, LeBron James will be out "multiple weeks" after suffering a foot injury Sunday night. Check if Malik Beasley or Jarred Vanderbilt are available in shallow leagues. In deeper leagues, it's worth adding Dennis Schröder and Austin Reaves. The Lakers are planning to re-evaluate James in a couple of weeks. His return will be based on progress while considering their standing in the Western Conference (they're currently in 12th place).
Note — If you've earned a bye week, start looking at teams like the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets or Miami Heat because they all play four games in Week 21. The Celtics play the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. The Heat play the Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons. All are high-scoring offenses that offer a ton of fantasy appeal.
If your playoffs start in Week 20, here are three teams I'm avoiding
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers will be a team you'll want to ditch now and forever hold your peace. The Clippers play on Wednesday, March 8 (7-game slate) and have to wait three days to play again on Saturday, March 10 (10-game slate).
Since so many games are played on Saturday, you'll probably have to make some tough start/sit decisions that likely will include something other than bench players like Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr. or Nic Batum. So rather than carry dead weight on your roster, I'd drop these players ahead of Sunday's contest on March 5 to pick up players who can provide more production in Week 20.
Mason Plumlee gets a pass for as long as Ivica Zubac is out. It's also not crazy to shop Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, considering the Clippers play only eight games across Weeks 20-22, the fewest number of games during that three-week span. If your playoffs begin in Week 21, stick it out with Leonard and George because the Clippers play four games in Week 23. It includes one back-to-back set against the Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans, but given how close the seedings are in the West, this may be a critical spot for Clippers and for all teams neck-and-neck in the playoff race.
Like the Clippers, the Bulls have a long hiatus in Week 20. The Bulls play Wednesday, March 8, on the road against the Denver Nuggets and then Saturday, March 10, on the road versus the Rockets.
Depending on what you need to close out Week 20, I'd drop players like Patrick Williams, Patrick Beverley and Alex Caruso after Wednesday's contest to target players on teams like the Brooklyn Nets or Charlotte Hornets since they'll play three games from Thursday-Sunday of Week 20.
With news of Ben Simmons being shut down, that gives more life to Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O'Neale as possible streamers for the latter part of Week 20. Even Joe Harris or Seth Curry could be worth considering if you need threes. For the Hornets, Nick Richards is an option for those looking for rebounds and blocks.
The Suns also play two games, beginning Wednesday, March 8, against the Thunder and Saturday, March 10, versus the Sacramento Kings. After trading for Kevin Durant, there aren't many options available that you'll want to hold onto for Week 20. Josh Okogie, Torrey Craig and T.J. Warren can all be dropped before Saturday's 10-game slate. Still, you may want to consider picking up Okogie for Week 21, when the Suns open up the week with a back-to-back set Monday (7 games) and Tuesday (8 games). With KD coming off an injury, there's a high probability he misses one of those two games as well.
The Suns also have two additional games Thursday (5 games) and Sunday (8 games) for Week 21. Unlike the Clippers, I wouldn't be looking to move any star Suns players before the trade deadline since they're in a tight playoff race. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Kings are pace-up teams that will generate plenty of fantasy points for Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant or Deandre Ayton.
If you're abandoning the three squads detailed above like I am in Week 20, here are the teams and players with four games I'd be looking to stream instead:
PISTONS: Marvin Bagley, James Wiseman, Alec Burks, Hamidou Diallo
KNICKS: Immanuel Quickley in shallow leagues, Quentin Grimes
HORNETS: Nick Richards
NUGGETS: Bruce Brown
NETS: Royce O'Neale, DFS, Seth Curry, Joe Harris
THUNDER: Jaylin Williams
WIZARDS: Delon Wright, Daniel Gafford, Deni Avdija
PELICANS: Josh Richardson
TRAIL BLAZERS: Drew Eubanks, Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle
HEAT: Kevin Love, Gabe Vincent