Fantasy Week 22 (March 25-31) is the last scoring period of the regular season for most owners as the playoffs will begin in the majority of leagues next week. However, the challenge most owners will face over the next seven days is trying to find enough healthy bodies to plug into the lineup. As is the case every year, the injury bug has been running rampant of late as several big names have sustained fairly significant injuries over the last few weeks. While injuries obviously deplete a lineup, they also provide some of the more unheralded or unproven players to a chance to show what they can do.
One of the teams that have been ravaged by injuries over the past few weeks has been the Magic. Only one of the team's five starters from opening night is healthy at the moment -- Jameer Nelson -- as Arron Afflalo (hamstring) and Nikola Vucevic (concussion) are latest players sidelined. Both are expected to miss some, if not all, of Week 22, which means the Magic will desperately be looking for help in the scoring department. That should give Maurice Harkless -- our Start of the Week -- a chance to continue his recent surge.
The rookie has been playing some of his best basketball of the season over the past few weeks as everything seems to be slowing down for him. Harkless has scored in double figures in each of his last six games, including dropping in a career-high 25 points against the Thunder last Friday, and is averaging 15.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 steals on 50 percent shooting from the field over that span. He is seeing 35.5 minutes per contest during his hot streak, while also giving owners 1.2 blocks and 1.3 treys-made. While we aren't crazy about Harkless' schedule this week, Orlando's depleted lineup will likely mean another dose of heavy minutes for the 19-year-old. Harkless is averaging 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds when he sees 35-plus minutes per game and has also proved he can consistently fill up a stat sheet. Fantasy owners in category-based formats looking for help at forward this week should consider rolling with Harkless.
Find a place for 'em
Nate Robinson, G, Bulls (MIA, @DAL, DET): Robinson has been running the point for the Bulls over the past few weeks with Kirk Hinrich sidelined and has thrived in that role. In fact, Robinson averaged 17 points, 6.0 assists and 1.6 steals during his latest seven-game stretch as a starter and shot a respectable 45 percent from the field over that span. However, Hinrich was able to return lineup last Friday, which forced Robinson back to the bench. While the 28-year-old's move back to a reserve role may have some Fantasy owners concerned, an injury to Marco Bellineli should allow him maintain his productive ways heading into Week 22. With Bellineli sidelined with an abdominal issue, coach Tom Thibodeau only has two healthy guards on his roster in Hinrich and Robinson. That should translate into more minutes for Robinson – at least in the upcoming scoring period. The eighth-year guard has averaged 13 points and 8.1 assists during his first three games coming off the bench, but he is seeing 28 minutes per game over that span. While he will continue to come off the bench, Robinson should be in line to see at least 30 minutes most nights during Week 22. He is putting up 17.9 points and 6.2 assists when he sees 30-plus minutes per game, so leave him active heading into the upcoming scoring period. (owned in 75 percent of leagues)
Jerryd Bayless, G, Grizzlies (@WAS, @NY, HOU, @MIN): After not being much of a factor over the first four months of the season, Bayless has started to heat up in recent weeks. The 24-year-old has scored in double figures in each of his last six games and is averaging 18.5 points over that span on 52 percent shooting from the field. He is also giving owners 2.5 made treys and 1.5 assists during his hot streak, while seeing around 28 minutes off the bench. We have seen this a few times from Bayless this season as he has put a few productive stretches together before eventually falling off. However, Bayless looks to have some favorable matchups on tap this week, which should allow him to at least maintain his productive ways. He has averaged 11 points in each of his meetings against the Wizards and Timberwolves this season and will also get to face the defensively challenged Rockets this week. While Bayless struggled in his lone meeting against the Knicks this season, he only logged 13 minutes in that contest. Bayless is averaging 13.5 points when he sees 30-plus minutes a game, so owners looking for help at guard should get him active this week while he is seeing more run. (owned in 36 percent of leagues)
Alan Anderson, F, Raptors (ATL, @DET, @WAS): By now most owners know that the Raptors are considering shutting down Rudy Gay for the year. That will open up a huge hole in the Raptors' rotation as Gay was averaging 19.9 points and 6.3 rebounds, while seeing 36.2 minutes per game during his time in Toronto. Anderson has seen the biggest spike in production when Gay missed time earlier in the year and we would expect that to be the case once again in Week 22. In fact, Anderson has scored 21, 18 and 14 points in the three games Gay has missed with the Raptors and also dropped in 35 points when Gay was forced to leave Friday's tilt versus the Knicks. While Anderson doesn't bring much to the table for owners besides scoring, the 30-year-old's increased role and upcoming opponents make him an intriguing play this week. Anderson finished with 15 and 16 points, respectively, when he faced the Hawks and Pistons earlier in the year and he is averaging 18.5 points and 3.7 rebounds on 44 percent shooting from the field when he sees 30-plus minutes per game. He should easily top that number in Gay's absence, so owners looking for scoring help should consider giving Anderson a look. (owned in 15 percent of leagues)
Shawn Marion, F, Mavericks (LAC, IND, CHI): After missing eight games due to a strained left calf, Marion was finally able to get back on the court this week. That should be a welcome sight for Fantasy owners as Marion has very quietly been turning in productive stat lines. The veteran was averaging 14 points and 6.4 rebounds over the 13 games prior to his injury and was shooting 54.5 percent from the field over that span. He was also giving owners 1.7 assists and 1.3 as Marion remains one of the better stat-sheet fillers in the league. While Dallas will face three of the better defensive teams in the league during Week 22, Marion has looked to have a little extra pep in his step since his return to the lineup. The 34-year-old put up 26 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and three steals in his first two games back on the court, proving that he is more than over his most recent calf issue. Marion is only active in 31 of the 82 percent of CBSSports.com leagues that he is owned in, but that number should be on the rise this week.(owned in 82 percent of leagues)
Robin Lopez, C, Hornets (DEN, LAC, MIA, CLE): Lopez is by far in the running for the most frustrating Fantasy option of the year award as the 24-year-old continues to flash high-end potential in between his fair share of duds. Just look at his last four games. Lopez goes from dropping 20 points and 11 rebounds versus the Timberwolves to putting up a combined eight points and six rebounds over his next two games before dropping in 23 and 10 against the Grizzlies on Friday night. While we have avoided listing Lopez as a start this season in this column for that very reason, he does look to have some intriguing matchups on tap over the next seven days. The 7-footer has been fairly productive against all four of New Orleans' upcoming opponents, including the Clippers as he has averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over two games this season. He has posted a 13-3-2 stat line in his two matchups with Denver and finished with 20 points and eight rebounds when he faced the center-less Heat. Lopez also went for 15 points and three rebounds against the Cavaliers, so hopefully he can string together four productive performances. Owners should consider rolling with Lopez this week.(owned in 66 percent of leagues)
Put 'em on your bench
Devin Harris, G, Hawks (@IND, @TOR, @BOS ORL): Coach Larry Drew continues to shuffle his starting rotation in Atlanta, but has been recently going with Harris as his starting two-guard. While Harris is no longer the high-end option he once was during his days with the Nets and even Jazz, he showed he can be a productive option when given the chance as he is averaging 12.1 points and 4.7 assists over his last seven games – six starts. However, Harris was forced to leave Sunday's matchup at Milwaukee with a sore left foot, which is not the news Atlanta and Fantasy owners wanted to hear. The 29-year-old was forced to miss 11 straight games earlier this season due to his problematic left foot, making him a huge injury risk heading into Week 22. Naturally, the Hawks decided not to provide any injury updates regarding his availability as of Sunday night, only adding to his uncertain status. The Hawks are slated to play four times this week, but with Harris' injury history and the playoffs looming, owners may want to err on the side of caution and seek out a healthier alternative.(owned in 37 percent of leagues)
Dion Waiters, G, Cavaliers (BOS, PHI, @NO): Waiters ended up missing all of Week 21 due to his sore left knee, but there are many who think that his absence will be extended further. The rookie is dealing with loose cartilage in his left knee, which could end up requiring surgery. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, the Cavaliers are off until Wednesday this week and the team announced Waiters would not be reevaluated until Tuesday, meaning owners will have to make a tough call regarding his status without much information at their disposal. While the team is certainly hoping Waiters can avoid surgery, we aren't so sure it necessarily wants him back on the court right now. NBA conspiracy theorists will tell you this is the time of year where teams out of the playoff picture don't mind losing in order to improve their lottery standing and tend not to rush players back from injuries. Of course this is just a theory and coach Bryon Scott told reporters Sunday that he hopes Waiters is able to return before the end of the season. However, we see no reason why Cleveland would bring him back before he was 100 percent and he clearly is nowhere close to that right now. While it is a bit of a risk, we would advise owners to sit Waiters down this week based on what he know right now. (owned in 79 percent of leagues)
Earl Clark, F, Lakers (@GS, @MIN, @MIL, @SAC): Clark's value has been on the decline for some time now, but the return of Pau Gasol may officially mark the end of his run as a useful Fantasy option. As expected, Clark was moved back to the bench for the first time in 29 games Friday night and he hardly saw the floor, logging just seven minutes in Los Angeles' loss to the Wizards. While he will continue to come off the bench for the Lakers, Mike A'ntoni prefers to use an eight-man rotation, which could make it tough for Clark to see the floor much moving forward. Owners should have seen the writing on the wall with this one as Clark's recent up-and-down production was starting to wear thin on D'Antoni. The 25-year-old had scored in double figures in just two of his last nine games and was averaging 6.2 points and 4.6 rebounds over that span on 37 percent shooting from the field. He even was benched a few times over the past few weeks as his teams began going right at him whenever he was on the court. While Clark proved to be a viable stopgap for Gasol during his absence, owners should make sure he is firmly planted on the bench heading into Week 22. (owned in 53 percent of leagues)
Donatas Motiejunas, F, Rockets, (IND, @MEM, LAC): Motiejunas became a pretty popular pickup off the waiver wire after being inserted into the starting lineup a few weeks back – especially after posting 12.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 52 percent shooting from the field over his first three starts. However, the rookie has since fallen back down to earth as the rest of the league quickly learned how to guard him. In fact, Motiejunas has only managed to score in double figures in three of his last 10 games and is averaging 8.4 points and 3.3 rebounds over that span. While the 22-year-old does show flashes of high-end potential, clearly he needs a little more seasoning before he can be trusted as a reliable Fantasy option. With upcoming matchups against three of the better defensive teams in the league in the Grizzlies, Pacers and Clippers, owners should plan on leaving Motiejunas on the bench this week.(owned in 21 percent of leagues)
Jermaine O'Neal, C, Suns, (@UTA, SAC, IND): After spending much of the first four months of the season as a Fantasy afterthought, an injury to Marcin Gortat has given O'Neal a chance to become relevant again. The veteran has taken advantage of his recent bump in playing time as he has managed to score in double figures in six of his last eight games and is averaging 12.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks over that span on 54.2 percent shooting from the field. However, O'Neal continues to have problems staying on the court as his increased minutes have also led to a new rash of injuries for the 34-year-old. O'Neal has missed each of the Suns last two games due to an illness and calf injury, albeit the calf injury is the one that scares us a bit. O'Neal has only appeared in 98 games over his last three seasons and while he has been productive when he has been on the floor recently, there is no guarantee that he will be able to return this week. With the playoffs looming, O'Neal seems too risky of a play. We would recommend leaving the oft-injured center of the bench. (owned in 48 percent of leagues)