Special to Yahoo Sports
With the NBA regular season set to conclude on April 10, this week will officially bring us past the one-month-remaining mark in the calendar. For some managers, it’s one of only four weeks left to jockey for final positioning. And for others — including many in Yahoo head-to-head leagues — this is the final week before the fantasy playoffs commence.
It goes without saying that urgency is of the utmost importance with playoff seeding up for grabs. Luckily, more than half of the league has four games on its schedule, while no team plays fewer than three games. Injuries, rest days and even a high-profile COVID-19 case — looking at you, Devin Booker — are still causing headaches, but for the most part, managers should have plenty of opportunities to make one final push.
As we look around the NBA this week, we’ll once again take a rapid-fire approach to hit on all of the biggest storylines fantasy managers should be monitoring:
Cavaliers’ injury issues
The Cavaliers Lost Jarrett Allen to a fractured finger during Sunday night’s win over the Raptors. Allen exited the game in the first half and did not return. The team has since confirmed the injury and hit him with the dreaded “out indefinitely” tag.
Allen has been so good this season (29th in total value) that fantasy managers shouldn’t panic-drop him just yet, but if he’s ultimately ruled out for more than a couple of weeks, it may make sense to free up another roster spot .
Caris LeVert (foot) will remain out for Tuesday’s matchup against the Pacers, which will mark his seventh consecutive absence.
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players on the mend
-While the Warriors dropped their seventh game in eight tries Monday night in Denver, help should be on the way soon in the form of Draymond Green, who’s reportedly targeting next Monday’s matchup against the Wizards to return to action. Green has not played since all the way back on Jan. 5. If that return date holds up, he’ll end up missing a string of 31 straight contests.
–Fred VanVleet went through a full practice Tuesday and is on track to return to action Wednesday night against the Spurs. The star guard, who ranks 12th in per-game value this season, has missed the last five games with discomfort in his right knee.
–John Collins was back in the starting lineup for Monday’s loss to the Pistons, which he finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two threes in 32 minutes.
Collins returned from a seven-game absence Friday at Washington but came off the bench and had only nine points and six boards in 25 minutes.
-We caught our first glimpse of Kristaps Porzingis in a Wizards uniform Sunday night. The big man was back on the floor for the first time in well over a month after missing a string of 14 games with a knee injury.
Porzingis looked plenty rejuvenated, needing only 21 minutes to post 25 points, five rebounds, two blocks and three three-pointers. The 25 points were his most in any game since Dec. 27.
–Markelle Fultz now has three games under his belt since making his season debut against Indiana on Feb. 28. Through 50 combined minutes of action, Fultz has totaled 27 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and one block.
Fultz will play Tuesday against Phoenix before resting for Wednesday’s game at New Orleans.
-The Grizzlies are hoping to get Dillon Brooks back in the near future, but the talented wing will not return Tuesday against New Orleans. Brooks has reportedly made significant strides in recent practices, so it’s possible he could come back as soon as Friday (vs. NYK) or Sunday (at OKC).
Heat getting even stronger
Kyle Lowry returned to action Monday night after his latest adsence due to a personal matter. In Miami’s 123-106 win over Houston, Lowry finished scoreless (0-3 FG, 0-3 3Pt) with five assists and three rebounds in 32 minutes.
In total, Lowry has missed 13 of the last 22 games while tending to the undisclosed personal issue, but he should be good to go as the Heat look to hang on to their 3.0-game lead atop the Eastern Conference.
Tyler Herro‘s heater continued Monday night, as he finished with 31 points — his most in any game since Jan. 8 — to go with three assists, two rebounds and a steal in 31 minutes. Over the last seven games, Herro hasn’t dipped below 20 points and is averaging 25.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.3 three-pointers per contest.
In other Heat news, Victor Oladipo made his long-awaited return to game action Monday. In his first appearance from him since April 8 of last year, Oladipo posted 11 points (4-7 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 1-2 FT), four assists and one rebound in 15 minutes off the bench.
It was an encouraging debut for Oladipo, but expectations should be tempered considering he’s played in only 89 total games since the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
Latest on LeBron, Lakers
Lebron James has been a mainstay on the Lakers’ injury reports all season, but his “questionable” or “probable” designations are typically just a formality. That was not the case Monday night, however, when James surprisingly sat out the Lakers’ loss to the Spurs due to soreness in his knee. Chances are, the second-most-valuable player in fantasy basketball (per-game value) will return Wednesday against Houston, but for now he’s considered questionable.
James is coming off of a 56-point, 10-rebound eruption against Golden State on Saturday night.
The Lakers’ lead over New Orleans for the No. 10 spot in the West has dwindled to just 1.0 game.
Suns playing waiting game on Booker
The Suns will be without Devin Booker for a fourth straight game Tuesday against Orlando as he remains in the league’s health and safety protocols. The revelation that Booker landed in protocols last week was a major throwback, as the NBA has largely moved past the COVID-19-riddled portion of the season, which peaked around Christmas. It’s unclear how many games Booker will ultimately miss, but he figures to pass through protocols within the next few days.
With Chris-Paul also sidelined, cameron payne you have started the last three games and racked up 55 points and 32 assists in 88 total minutes.
Embiid, Harden flex their muscle
Joel Embid‘s march toward the MVP continued Monday night, when he put 43 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks on the Bulls in a 121-106 victory. Philadelphia moved to 4-0 against Chicago this season.
james harden: 16 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds in 38 minutes. Through five games in Philly, Harden is averaging 24.6 points (53/45/89), 12.4 assists, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.6 threes
TobiasHarris finished with just eight points, three rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes. Since Harden’s arrival, he’s clearly become the fourth option, behind even Tyrese Maxeyand his fantasy value has suffered: 11.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.2 3PM/G over the last six games.
Bulls, DeRozan cool off
Monday’s loss sent the Bulls to their season-high fifth consecutive loss. DeMar DeRozan was the hottest player on the planet for most of February, but he’s now done the unthinkable and scored fewer than 30 points in four straight games. During the five-game skid, DeRozan is averaging 24.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.6 steals, but he’s shooting just 39.3 percent from the field.
Chicago was without Nikola Vučević (hamstring) on Monday, but he’ll likely be back for Wednesday’s game at Detroit.
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Tatum peaking at right time
Over the last month, Jayson Tatum ranks as the sixth-most-valuable player in all of fantasy basketball (8-cat total value), trailing only Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony TownsDeRozan and Luka Doncić.
Tatum had perhaps the best individual performance of his career Sunday against the Nets, when he finished with 54 points (16-30 FG, 8-15 3Pt, 14-17 FT), five rebounds, three assists in a 126-120 victory. Over his last 10 games, Tatum is up to 31.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.4 threes per game.
Randle with bounce-back effort
julius randle bounced back from Sunday’s 10-point (4-16 FG) effort against the Clippers with a season-high 46 points, to go with 10 boards and eight three-pointers, in Monday night’s 131-115 win over Sacramento. Overall, it’s felt like a disappointing year for the reigning Most Improved Player. He’s still returning top-30 value in 8-cat leagues, though it’s a far cry from .
Glimmer of hope for Pistons
The Detroit Pistons have (extremely) quietly won four of their last five, and six of their last eight, heading into Wednesday night’s home showdown with the Bulls.
Coincidentally, Cade Cunningham is in the midst of one of his most consistent stretches of the season, averaging 21.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.6 threes over the eight-game stretch. He’s scored at least 17 points in each of those games — easily his longest such streak of the season (previous high: four straight games).
Marvin Bagley hasn’t exactly turned into a late-season fantasy savior in Detroit, but he finished Monday’s win over the Hawks with 19 points and 10 boards for his fifth double-double of the season. Since arriving in Detroit, Bagley is averaging 13.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
For those in daily-lineup leagues, Bagley should make for a viable streamer over the next few games with starting center Isaiah Stewart (knee) sidelined for at least a week.