The playoffs have arrived in several leagues, making Fantasy Week 14 (March 26-April 1) the most important scoring period of the season.
There are 58 games scheduled over the next seven days as the NBA season enters its final month and things are a bit more balanced than last week. Only two teams are slated to play five games and there are 26 sets of back-to-backs. However, there are no back-to-back-to-backs scheduled this week, which hasn't happened much this year.
The team we have chosen to highlight is the Lakers, who are slated to play four times during Week 14. Los Angeles will play three of its games at home with its lone road contest coming on Tuesday night at Golden State. The Lakers will then face the Thunder and Hornets at home on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, before wrapping up the scoring period against the Warriors on Sunday.
The Lakers have been much more efficient on the offensive side of the ball since acquiring Ramon Sessions at the trade deadline and now look to have some favorable matchups on the docket this week. Kobe Bryant and Co. have scored more than 100 points in each of their two matchups against Oklahoma City and New Orleans this year and now will face each of those teams at the Staples Center, where the Lakers are averaging nearly 98 points per contest. Los Angeles' other two matchups are against the Warriors, who are one of five teams surrendering more than 100 points per game on the season. While nothing is certain, it appears Los Angeles should be able to continue its improved scoring this week, making most of its Fantasy options viable plays for the upcoming period. Besides must-start options Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, owners should make sure to get Sessions active for the scoring period. Even Metta World Peace, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes could be worth using in deeper formats.
Pacific: Los Angeles Clippers (NO, PHO, POR, UTA): After enduring a brutal three-game road trip, the Clippers will be back home during Week 14. All four of Los Angeles' games will be played at the Staples Center, starting on Monday night against the Hornets. Steve Nash and the Suns will be in town on Wednesday before the Trail Blazers and Jazz close out the week on Friday and Saturday night, respectively. While the Clippers' recent offensive struggles have been well-documented, maybe some home cooking is what the team needed to get back on track. Chris Paul and Co. were finally able to break their 100-point drought last week against the Grizzlies and will face some suspect defenses over the next few days. Despite beating the Clippers in their lone meeting of the season, New Orleans has had its fair share of issues on defense this year. The Trail Blazers have allowed an average of 102.4 points per game over their last five contests, while the Jazz continue to rank near the bottom of the league in both points allowed (98.3) and opposition field-goal percentage (45.7). The only team that could give the Clippers some trouble is the Suns. Phoenix has held the Clippers to an average of 82.5 points in their two meetings this season. However, that shouldn't be enough to sway Fantasy owners from using the majority of Los Angeles' Fantasy options. Obviously, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul should always be active, but Nick Young, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler and Mo Williams -- if healthy -- can all be considered viable plays.
Northwest: Denver Nuggets (@CHI, @TOR, @CHA, @ORL): The Nuggets are slated to play four times during Week 14, although all of their contests will be on the road. Denver will start the week in Chicago to take on the Bulls on Monday night before heading to Toronto on Wednesday night. After a day off, the Nuggets will face the Bobcats on Friday night before wrapping up the scoring period against the Magic on Sunday. While coach George Karl's squad has struggled to collect wins of late, they certainly have not had a hard time scoring points. Denver enters the scoring period as the highest-scoring road team in the league, averaging 105.6 points per game. However, the Nuggets do have some tough matchups this week, especially against the Bulls and Magic, as both teams rank in the top 10 in points allowed and opposition field-goal percentage. Still, Denver should be able to make up for that against the defensively challenged Bobcats and Raptors, so owners should feel free to roll with the majority of its Fantasy options. In addition to Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee, make sure to get Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried active this week. Andre Miller and Corey Brewer should only be used in deeper formats.
Southwest: Dallas Mavericks (HOU, @MIA, @ORL): The Mavericks are one of six teams slated to play just three games in Week 14. The Mavericks will open the week at home against the Rockets on Tuesday night before playing the next two games on the road. Dallas will be in Miami to take on the Heat on Thursday night and in Orlando to face the Magic on Friday. With only three games on the schedule, Fantasy owners won't have much room for error this week. One bad performance can really put most teams in a serious hole, which makes most of Dallas' Fantasy options risky plays for the upcoming scoring period. With the defensive prowess shown by Miami and Orlando this season, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are the only two players we would recommend starting. The rest of the Mavericks' spotty production just leaves too many question marks heading into the upcoming scoring period.
Atlantic: New Jersey Nets (UTA, IND, @GS,@SAC): The Nets are slated to play four times during Week 14, with two of those contests coming on the road. New Jersey will be at home in the beginning of the scoring period as they host the Jazz on Monday night and the Pacers on Wednesday. After a day off, New Jersey will head out to the West Coast to take on the Warriors Friday night in Oakland before closing out the week against the Kings on Saturday night. While New Jersey ranks near the bottom of the league in points scored this season (92.7), the Nets look to have some favorable matchups on the schedule. Utah, Golden State and Sacramento all rank in the bottom tier in points allowed this season and the Warriors and Kings are two of the teams surrendering more than 100 points per game on the season. The only club that will present a defensive challenge is the Pacers, although New Jersey is averaging 94 points in its three meetings against them this season. Besides must-start options Deron Williams and Kris Humphries, make sure to get Gerald Wallace and MarShon Brooks active in the majority of formats as well. Even Anthony Morrow and Gerald Green can be considered viable plays in deeper formats this week.
Central: Indiana Pacers (MIA, @NJ, WAS, @SA, @HOU): The Pacers are one of two teams slated to play five times during Week 14 with three of those contests coming on the road. Indiana will welcome the Heat to town on Monday night before facing the Nets on Wednesday in New Jersey. The Pacers then host the Wizards on Thursday before heading out to Texas to take on the Spurs and Rockets on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. While the Pacers have been a bit inconsistent on offense lately, Indiana does look to have some favorable matchups on the docket. The Nets and Wizards rank near the bottom of the league in points allowed and opposition field-goal percentage, while the Spurs and Rockets are each allowing their opponents to make more than 45 percent of its shots. The only team that looks to be a concern is the Heat, which have held the Pacers to an average of 88 points per game this season. With five games crammed into a seven-game stretch, fatigue and depth will likely play a major factor this week. That means some of Indiana's mid-range and even lower-end options could see extended minutes. In addition to must-starts Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert, make sure George Hill, David West and Darren Collison are all active this week. Tyler Hansbrough, George Hill and Leandro Barbosa also deserve some run in deeper leagues.
Southeast: Orlando Magic (@TOR, @NY, DAL, DEN): The Magic are scheduled to play four times during Week 14, with two of those contests coming at home. Orlando will be on the road in the early part of the week, starting Monday night in Toronto. The Magic will then be in New York on Wednesday night before returning home to face the Mavericks on Friday. Dwight Howard and crew will then wrap up the week by welcoming the Nuggets to town on Sunday. While the Magic should have no problems putting up points against the defensively challenged Raptors and Nuggets, the Mavericks and Knicks could prove to be tougher. Despite Dallas' inconsistent play this season, the Mavericks still rank in the top 10 in points allowed and opposition field-goal percentage. Meanwhile, the Knicks have looked very strong under new coach Mike Woodson and are surrendering just 87 points per game since he took over. However, in lieu of some tough matchups, most of Orlando's main Fantasy options can still be considered viable plays this week. Obviously, Dwight Howard is always going to remain active, but owners should make sure to get Ryan Anderson, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson active in most formats as well. J.J. Redick and Glen Davis remain riskier plays, so leave them on the bench unless you are in a deeper league.