It's been a long seven months, but Week 25 marks the final full week of the NBA season – and the unofficial end to the dog days of March and April, which, in many cases, can feel like an extended sleepwalk for half of the league.
The Western Conference playoff field has been locked in for some time now, and while the final three spots in the East remain up for grabs, the majority of the league already has its eye toward the future, whether that means a playoff series or the start of offseason preparations.
Amid of all of this, the fantasy basketball season keeps rolling. Unless your league decided to end things early and eliminate the headaches that come with the final week-and-a-half, championships are still on the line. So, yes, that means your league title could be in the capable hands of... Shaquille Harrison or Emmanuel Mudiay.
Frustrating as it may be to manage the rest and injuries that inherently pair with the final weeks of the season, every game matters, and keeping up with lineup changes and status updates is as important as ever.
With that in mind, let's run through some storylines to keep an eye on as Week 25 progresses:
The New Orleans Pelicans continue to play it coy with a few key players, including Anthony Davis, who's in-again-out-again routine has, for some owners, come to define the second half of the fantasy season. The Pels are one of only a handful of teams to play three games in Week 25, but Davis has proven to still be a starting-caliber option, even when he's only playing 21 minutes. Since the All-Star break, Davis is averaging 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.4 steals/blocks per game.
Like most of the league, New Orleans is off Tuesday, but the Pels will play Wednesday, Friday and Sunday before wrapping up the regular season next Tuesday against Golden State. Davis is yet to be ruled out for Wednesday's game, but he's sat out three of the last four games with what the team is calling a "strained lower back". I wouldn't count on Davis playing the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Julius Randle left Sunday's game against the Lakers with a left index finger injury, and his status is also murky going forward. X-rays cleared Randle of a break, but as a left-handed player, the issue could still cause him significant discomfort.
If both Randle and Davis continue to miss time, the door could be opened even further for Bucks cast-off Christian Wood, who's already made an impact since being claimed off waivers last month. Over his last three games, Wood is averaging 21.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.0 steals/blocks.
Frank Jackson is another name to keep an eye on. He's been ruled out of Wednesday's game – his third straight concussion-related absence – but there's hope he'll be able to get back on the floor at some point. With Jrue Holiday shut down, Jackson had put together a decent run as the fill-in at point guard, averaging 17.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists in nine starts. However, the second-year Duke product struggled shooting the three (30.3%) and added virtually no defensive value during that span.
The Celtics have been rightfully cautious with Al Horford, who was non-committal Tuesday when asked about his status for the final four games of the regular season.
"Yeah, I mean, if I can, I'll play all four," Horford said. "It's every other day, so it's nice – there's no back-to-backs. But my whole key is just to continue to take it a game at a time and, like we've been talking about, this is a good opportunity for us to have that playoff mindset, because every team that we're playing is playing for something."
That's not exactly the most encouraging quote if you're a Horford owner, but the good news is when he does play, he shows few signs of the knee issue that's plagued him on-and-off over the last few seasons. Horford put up a 19-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double Monday against Miami, though he sat out two of the previous four contests.
Perhaps the biggest factor the Celtics will have to weigh is how much they value home court advantage in Round 1. Boston will almost certainly face Indiana, over which it currently holds the tiebreaker. Home court is the obvious preference for any organization, but as Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com notes, it could be even more valuable for the Celtics, given how poorly the Pacers have played on the road of late. Indiana hasn't won a road game since Feb. 23 (10 straight losses) and is now 17-22 away from home on the season.
The Grizzlies officially shut down Jonas Valanciunas on Monday after he suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain in Sunday's loss to the Clippers. After missing the final two months of his time with the Raptors, Valanciunas emerged as a nightly double-double threat in Memphis, essentially taking over the same role held by Marc Gasol prior to the trade. In 18 games, Valanciunas averaged 20.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.
With Jaren Jackson done for the season and Joakim Noah's status up in the air following four straight absences, Ivan Rabb could be in line for big minutes over Memphis' final five games, as could Bruno Caboclo. While Rabb's minutes have mostly been capped in the mid-teens with Valanciunas healthy, Caboclo has already topped 35 minutes in three of the last four contests. He struggled in 20 minutes of action Sunday, but prior to that averaged 17.7 points and 10.0 rebounds over the previous three games (36.7 MPG).
With Dewayne Dedmon and Miles Plumlee done for the year, Deyonta Davis has resurfaced in Atlanta, and he played a season-high 22 minutes in Sunday's win over Milwaukee. Davis probably shouldn't be considered in anything but the deepest leagues, though Atlanta will rest John Collins on Tuesday, which could mean an even more expanded role for the ex-Michigan State standout.
The Sixers will be without Joel Embiid for at least one more game, but he could be back on the floor as soon as Thursday night against Milwaukee. Embiid isn't traveling with the team on its current road swing, which ends Wednesday in Atlanta. It's unclear if he'll be limited over the final six days of the season, but given that Philly is virtually locked into the three-seed already, Embiid could be held out of at least one leg of the Sixers' season-ending back-to-back versus Miami (away) and Charlotte (home).
Deandre Ayton will remain out for Wednesday's game against Utah as he continues to deal with a sprained ankle. The Suns are calling him day-to-day, but Gina Mizell of The Athletic notes that Ayton was spotted using a crutch at the arena Monday.
Rick Carlisle intimated Monday that there's a chance Luka Doncic doesn't play again this season. The likely Rookie of the Year has missed the last two games with a thigh injury, and he's also battled discomfort in his knee throughout the second half of the season. While Doncic is considered questionable for Wednesday's game, it wouldn't be a surprise if Dallas opts to play it safe – especially with significant draft implications at play.
If the Mavs' pick falls outside of the top-five, it goes to Atlanta as part of the Doncic/Trae Young Draft-night swap. Entering Tuesday, the Mavs are tied with Memphis at 31-46 – three games "up" on the Hawks, who would currently hold the fifth-best lottery odds. At this point, it's highly unlikely that the Mavs, who've inexplicably won their last two games, can get into that bottom-five, but the silver lining is that the odds of jumping into the top-four from the seventh spot (34.4%) aren't drastically lower than from the fifth spot (42.1%).
The Bucks are one win, or one Raptors' loss, away from clinching the top seed in the East, so once that's officially locked up, it'll be worth monitoring the status of Giannis Antetokounmpo, a well as Khris Middleton, who missed his second straight game Monday night. The Bucks have downplayed Middleton's groin injury, but given how beat-up they are elsewhere on the roster, they could be cautious with the free-agent-to-be.
Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, put 28 and 11 on the Nets on Monday after sitting out Sunday's game against Atlanta. He didn't appear bothered by his ankle, which he's tweaked twice in the last two weeks, but the Bucks obviously won't take any chances, should Antetokounmpo report any discomfort in the next eight days. Milwaukee plays at Philadelphia on Thursday, and if the top seed is clinched at that point, it's hard to imagine Antetokounmpo playing in both games of Milwaukee's Saturday/Sunday back-to-back against Brooklyn and Atlanta.
Before Monday's game, David Fizdale revealed that DeAndre Jordan may not play for the rest of the season in an effort to give more opportunities to Luke Kornet and Mitchell Robinson. Jordan was a DNP-CD for the second straight game Monday, while Kornet and Robinson played 28 and 33 minutes, respectively. Kornet may be the bigger helper for those in need of scoring, but Mitchell has significantly higher upside as a rebounder and shot-blocker. Over his last three games, Robinson is averaging 14.0 points, 15.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks while hitting 16-of-20 attempts from the field. The rookie is un-owned in more than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues.
The Chicago Bulls are rolling out some of the wildest lineups in recent memory in the wake of injuries to several regulars, including Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Otto Porter. The latter three could still return at some point, but each has missed at least the last four games, and the team hasn't provided much in the way of updates.
As a result, the Bulls have turned to rotation of names straight out of the draft pool on NBA Live 2006 (the year that game fell off a cliff). Things hit rock-bottom Monday night when Chicago rolled out Walter Lemon, Jr., Shaquille Harrison, Wayne Selden, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Robin Lopez in a loss to the Knicks.
If you're mining for fantasy value there, Harrison is probably the best option, though it was JaKarr Sampson who, mere hours after signing a 10-day deal, erupted for 22 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench Monday.