The Play-In Tournament has resulted in plenty of teams still having something left to play for late in the season. While some squads (Detroit, Charlotte, Houston and San Antonio) are still plodding to the finish line after being eliminated from Playoffs contention, on the bright side, from a fantasy perspective, some players on these teams are set to thrive over the season’s final two weeks.
The Pistons’ season went south in a hurry. Detroit didn’t have much margin for error if they were going to make the playoffs, but an early injury to Cade Cunningham (lower leg) dashed any hopes they may have had. He appeared in only 12 games, propelling the Pistons to the worst record in the NBA.
The Pistons have dealt with plenty of injuries down the stretch. We may have seen the last of Bojan Bogdanovic (Achilles) and Isaiah Stewart (shoulder), while Jalen Duren has been in and out of the lineup because of various injuries. On the bright side, they play four games each in the final two weeks of the regular season, providing a boost in fantasy for their healthy players.
The favorable schedule could mean plenty of production from Killian Hayes, James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley III. Hayes enters the stretch run on a hot streak, averaging 15.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.7 steals across his last six games. Since being acquired from the Warriors, Wiseman has provided 13.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks over 15 games while shooting 55.1% from the field.
The Rockets didn’t have a season-altering injury early on as the Pistons did with Cunningham, but their young roster has a way to go before the team is competitive. Jalen Green has increased his production compared to his rookie season, averaging 22.1 points and 2.5 three-pointers per game. In his first chance to regularly play extended minutes, Alperen Sengun has shown promise, putting up 14.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. What’s just as impressive is that he is shooting 55.6% from the field, compared to 47.4% last season.
Following a four-game Week 24 schedule, the Rockets will play three games in Week 25. Not only should Green and Sengun assist fantasy managers during that stretch, but so should rookie Jabari Smith Jr. He is arguably having his best run of the season, averaging 16.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 three-pointers over the last 11 games.
The Spurs dove further into a rebuild last offseason when they traded Dejounte Murray to the Hawks. San Antonio has some exciting young pieces to build around — the best of which might be Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell. With an eye on the future, they dealt away Jakob Poeltl at the trade deadline, further thinning out their depth chart.
On the surface, the Spurs playing three games in Week 24 and four in Week 25 would appeal to fantasy managers. However, they have been sitting several key players because of injuries or back-to-back sets. Vassell has appeared in just three of their last five games, while Johnson has missed four of the previous seven. Even Jeremy Sochan has missed five of the last nine games. Their four-game final week does include a back-to-back set and three games in four nights. As good as some of their players have looked, relying on any of them to play enough games down the stretch to make a difference will be risky.
The loss of Miles Bridges and an early injury to LaMelo Ball derailed the Hornets’ season before it began. Ball is back on the sidelines with an ankle injury that has ended his season, meaning he will have played in just 36 games. Knowing that it would be best to have their eyes on next season, the Hornets dealt away Mason Plumlee at the trade deadline, setting up added playing time for promising rookie Mark Williams. Williams took off in a starting role but has now missed six straight games because of a thumb injury. With no positive updates on his status, it’s fair to question if we have seen the last of him.
To complicate matters, the Hornets had a rough Thursday against the Pelicans in which Terry Rozier (foot), Kelly Oubre Jr. (shoulder) and Dennis Smith Jr. (illness) all went down. Smith has the least worrisome situation since he only had an illness, but keep an eye on the status of Rozier and Oubre, as they have been valuable fantasy options. The likes of Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington and Nick Richards could significantly increase their production if those two were to miss any time. In terms of Charlotte’s remaining schedule, it’s not great, with the Hornets playing three games in each of the final two weeks.
Of the teams on this list, the Magic haven’t technically been eliminated from the playoff hunt yet. However, they would have to jump over three other teams and make up four games in the standings, so it’s a long shot. They have shown improvement, though, already winning nine more games than last season.
Another good thing about the Magic for fantasy is that they entered Thursday mostly healthy besides Jalen Suggs (concussion) missing four straight games, and Jonathan Isaac (thigh) is out for the remainder of the season. However, things became more complicated with Franz Wagner suffering an ankle injury against the Knicks that rendered him unable to return.
Orlando plays three games in Week 24, then four games in Week 25. Fantasy managers rolling with Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr. and Markelle Fultz should continue to do so with confidence. The Magic don’t play again until Sunday, so Wagner will have time to rest his ankle, and we’ll get more clarity on his situation before Week 24. If Suggs hasn’t returned for their final four-game week, or if Wagner is out, Cole Anthony would also be worth deploying in most formats. He has averaged 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.2 three-pointers over the last five games with Suggs out.
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. In 2018, he was a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award.