Kemba Walker has his sights set on a packed schedule in December.
While opponents matter less in fantasy basketball than they do in fantasy football, schedules can still greatly influence a player’s short-term value. Playing more games than other guys may not help a player’s percentages, but it does give fantasy players with more condensed schedules a leg up in the counting stats.
Counting stats (points, rebounds, three-pointers made, assists, steals, blocks and turnovers), of course, outnumber the percentage stats.
For that reason, added consideration may be given to the players who play the most games in the first four full fantasy weeks (Monday through Sunday) of December. Seven teams play 15 games between Monday, December 3 and Sunday, December 30—the Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Hornets.
Every other team plays 14 or fewer. The Oklahoma City Thunder play 11. Here are five fringe fantasy studs that could benefit from an extra night of action in the short term.
All stats accurate as of November 22, 2012.
Stephen Curry has played more than 40 minutes four times this season and no fewer than 29 in any one contest en route to averaging 36.6 minutes per game. He’s filling it up from outside, knocking down multiple threes in all but three games this year.
He’ll also be a positive influence on your assists (5.7 per game), steals (1.6), points (19.3) and a big-time helper in the free-throw percentage category. He’s converting 89.1 percent of 4.6 free-throw attempts this year.
The New Orleans Hornets’ No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis, has missed four of a possible 10 games this season. Robin Lopez has received more minutes as a result. The big man has recorded either one or four blocks in each game this season (not two, not three…) and secured his first double-double against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
Lopez scored 21 points, pulled down 13 boards and swatted four shots while also recording two steals on the road. That’s legitimate fantasy production—especially against 7’2” Roy Hibbert, who recorded a triple-double with blocks in the same night.
Eight of Lopez’s shots were blocked on that particular evening as he went 3-of-17 from the field. However, he lived at the free-throw line and knocked down 15-of-17 from the stripe.
Jamal Crawford is doing everything he can to walk away with the Sixth Man of the Year Award by All-Star Weekend. His percentages are unprecedented (48.3 FG%, 43.9 3FG% and 92.6 FT% this season vs. 40.9 FG%, 34.9 3FG% and 85.4 FT% career), but based on his role in the L.A. Clippers offense, they appear to be legit.
He doesn’t have to create his own offense all of the time with Chris Paul as a facilitator—but he can still get his own shots in bunches at a moment’s notice.
In December, look for Crawford to continue to get buckets (and threes) in bunches. Crawford (33.4) is currently second in the league—behind The Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant (35.6)—in scoring per 48 minutes.
And he’s playing 28.3 minutes per game.
Take a look at Player A’s statistics: 40.5 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 1.4 3PM, 4.5 RPG, 8.4 APG, 0.1 BPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.8 TOPG and 20.8 PPG.
Here’s Player B: 44.0 FG%, 86 FT%, 0.7 3PM, 5.0 RPG, 7.5 APG, 0.8 BPG, 3.3 SPG, 3.3 TOPG and 25.6 PPG.
Player B is what Kemba Walker’s averages would look like if the totals of 15 games’ worth of his production (based on current averages) were condensed into 11 games.
The other player is Russell Westbrook, who plays 11 games between December 3 and December 29.
Most fantasy owners would prefer Westbrook to Walker for the season, and for good reason. It takes Walker more games to put up totals to make you think twice about comparing the two. With that being said, Walker could be a cheap fantasy addition for the upcoming month—with the upside to improve in the interim—before being traded later in the season.
Kyrie Irving is out for the next few weeks with a finger injury. In his stead, the Cleveland Cavaliers started Jeremy Pargo against Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers.
All Pargo did was score 28, hit four threes, grab five boards and a steal and dish four assists in 39 minutes. He shot 11-of-19 from the field and 2-of-4 from the line (which bears watching, going forward—that’s not good for anyone, let alone a point guard).
Cleveland plays four games in each of the first three full fantasy weeks in December, giving Pargo plenty of opportunities to score and dish for your fantasy team. If he can string together a handful of 20-point, five-assist games, a shrewd fantasy move would be to deal him for someone with brighter long-term fantasy prospects in a week or two.
For more fantasy basketball and fantasy football advice, follow Jamal on Twitter: Follow @StatManJ