Fantasy musings: Scouting NFL playoffs, surging Ibaka, more
The NFL postseason as preseason
Watching the NFL playoffs often can make a fantasy football owner feel uneasy. For the three months leading up to the league's championship tournament those who play fantasy are often decidedly non-partisan when it comes to picking the side that they want to win. More important is that their players do well (and, conversely, that their opponent's players do not). But in the playoffs, for a vast majority of those who are serious fantasy participants, that approach isn't relevant. Instead of rooting for a player, it's time to pull for a team. Sure, many still will have a soft spot in their hearts for those who came through in the clutch, but there's a decidedly different feeling when nothing is on the line personally.
However, forward-thinking fantasy owners can use the playoffs as a time to start scouting for next season. Chances are the teams that have made the postseason won't undergo wholesale changes in the spring and summer. Sure, there likely will be a retirement, an assistant coach departure, a free agent defection, etc., but for the most part the framework you see in January and February is what you'll get next year.
In recent seasons some players have taken the playoff opportunities afforded them to establish themselves firmly in their teams' future plans. The list includes the likes of Shonn Greene, who raised his rushing average yards per game from 38.6 during the 2009 regular season to 66.0 during that season's playoffs; Jordy Nelson, who twice set career high in single-game catches during the playoffs following the 2010 season and parlayed a career-best nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLV against the Steelers into a breakout 2011 campaign; and Demaryius Thomas, who was at the receiving end of this memorable Tebow Time 80-yard score to sink Pittsburgh in the 2011 AFC Wild Card.
setting a record for yards per catch in a playoff game with 51.0 (204 yards on four catches). All three were on the fence in fantasy before but became major contributors the following year.
Here are eight players who should be making that same leap up next year's draft boards based on their 2012-13 postseason exploits:
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These schedule quirks have set up a situation where some teams have a significant number of more games left to play than others. While you'd rather have the best players on your team active, sometimes it's better to simply have those who are playing the most, a rule of thumb that helps you make decisions on free agents and trades for the remainder of the season. As of Monday night the Cavs, Jazz, Spurs and Suns have played 40 games this season, one game shy of the half-way point. On the other end of the spectrum, the Timberwolves and Wizards have suited up just 35 times. So when choosing between two players with identical per-game stats from this point on, those who play for Minnesota and Washington are 14 percent more valuable than those for the aforementioned quartet.
Thanks to basketball-reference.com, here's a list of games played through Monday night's contests.
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