- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
- 0 Shares
That redhead who's in the middle of everything is still here, but he won't be around much longer.
No, not Conan O'Brien. I'm talking about Robin Lopez.
Actually, Lopez's upward mobility does seem about as sudden as Conan's impending departure. Lopez averaged fewer than 10 minutes a night in December, and in the Phoenix Suns' first six games this month, he recorded three DNPs while seeing the court for a total of 29:12.
But then, a mere seven days ago in Atlanta, in front of an ESPN audience, Lopez played 30 minutes and scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting. His six blocks against the athletic Atlanta Hawks provided the Suns with a much-needed defensive presence. Four days later, he started at center against the Memphis Grizzlies. And two nights after that, on Wednesday, Lopez scored 20 points -- a career best for the second-year pro -- and grabbed seven boards against the New Jersey Nets.
To be honest, this is enough for me. I'm sure Lopez will have his off nights, and I expect that many of those off nights will be the result of a handful of quick fouls. But I believe Lopez's shot-blocking can help you in fantasy leagues of any size. Meanwhile, others, like this NBA center who knows him well, will vouch for his offensive game.
Lopez may not be fantasy's biggest free-agent get of this season -- it turns out Randy Foye has been plenty good -- but I think he's one of those few free agents who can improve fantasy rosters over the long haul. While owners are catching on to Lopez, as of this writing, he remains available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Of course, as of this writing, Conan O'Brien is the host of "The Tonight Show." Things will change quickly and dramatically on both of these fronts. Do yourself a favor and get Lopez while you still can.
Oh, and did I mention that Lopez has a sweet-looking schedule for Week 14? More in a bit.
Week 14 at a glance
I spent the past day or so thinking I would discuss Delonte West and how he might fare as a replacement for Mo Williams. However, West could join Williams on the sidelines after injuring the ring finger on his left (shooting) hand late in the Thursday game versus the Los Angeles Lakers. His status is currently uncertain, but the fact that his finger was in a splint after the Lakers game doesn't seem like a good sign.
Even a healthy West is a risky add, but if he can go in Week 14, the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking at a pretty favorable four-game set. After visiting the Miami Heat, the Cavs face the Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers. Wolves, Pacers and Clippers opponents rank first, second and seventh in steals, respectively, something that West could certainly exploit.
The Cavs are one of 20 teams with four games in Week 14. Another is the surging Charlotte Bobcats, who've stepped up their offense of late. The Bobcats draw both the Golden State Warriors and Suns during their West Coast swing, so definitely stick with Boris Diaw, who's giving you a steal, a block and a 3-pointer a night -- not to mention 5.5 boards and 4.7 assists -- in January.
"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's matchups.
The Forecast: It's their week
Matt Barnes, SF, Orlando Magic (@MEM, BOS, ATL, @DET): In his past six games, Barnes is averaging 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.7 3s and 1.3 steals. While those numbers are skewed by a 28-point outburst at Denver on Jan. 13 and a huge 16-rebound effort versus the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, Barnes has a Diaw-esque way of filling up the stat sheet. He should be rostered in all leagues of at least 12 teams, and on a week like this, Barnes -- who's available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues -- can help in standard 10-team leagues. Memphis Grizzlies opponents are third in shooting percentage and ninth in steals, while Detroit Pistons opponents are seventh in shooting. While Pistons and Grizzlies opponents are 26th and 27th, respectively, in total rebounds, Barnes can get after it on the glass. He's had at least seven boards in nine of his 11 starts this month.
Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (@DAL, PHI, MIA): When Michael Redd went down, I thought that Luke Ridnour's numbers would perk up, and I wasn't the only one. However, it's Delfino who's responded with 13 triples in his past three games -- to go with 20.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals. This three-game set should keep Delfino -- who's available in about 95 percent of leagues -- hot from downtown. Philadelphia 76ers opponents are third in 3s, while Heat and Dallas Mavericks opponents are eighth and 12th.
Robin Lopez, C, Phoenix Suns (@UTA, CHA, DAL, @HOU): Here's where it gets even better: Rockets and Bobcats opponents are 1-2 in blocks, and by a good margin. Lopez will have to work for his boards, though, since Bobcats and Jazz opponents are 23rd and 24th in total rebounds.
The Forecast: They're weak
Corey Brewer, SG/SF, Minnesota Timberwolves (@NY, @CLE, LAC, NY): Something's brewin' with Corey and 3-pointers. In his past six games, Brewer has 12 buckets from downtown. Those dozen makes exactly doubled his total for the season. But where Brewer was a putrid 12-for-57 (21.1 percent) from distance in his first 37 games, he's gone 12-for-25 (48.0 percent) since. I don't want to discount Brewer's progress: He's topped 20 points in three of his past five games, and his performance against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder (25 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals) might have been the best of his three-year career. But his game -- starting with his crappy free throw shooting and high turnovers -- still poses problems in fantasy. So while Brewer is probably rostered in most leagues of at least 12 teams by now, I wouldn't yet consider him an automatic start in deeper leagues. As for Week 14, it's a tough call, but if you activate him, don't count on the treys. Clippers opponents are only 24th in triples, while Knicks and Clippers opponents are 29th and 26th in 3-point shooting percentage.
Mike Miller, SG/SF, Washington Wizards (LAL, @NJ, NY): I still see Miller as a Wizards starter sooner rather than later. However, coach Flip Saunders recently said that for now he'll continue bringing Miller off the bench and keeping his minutes in the mid-20s. Lakers, Nets and Knicks opponents aren't great at making 3s anyway, so hold off on Miller for at least another week.
Jason Richardson, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (@UTA, CHA, DAL, @HOU): When the Suns made the move to start Leandro Barbosa over Richardson, coach Alvin Gentry said it wasn't about J-Rich; the Suns just wanted to get Barbosa going. Still, I can't help but wonder if maybe there is a message in there for Richardson, whose 15.2 points is his lowest output since his 2001-02 rookie campaign. In his second game coming off the bench, Richardson lit up the Nets for 26 points on Wednesday; it was his highest-scoring night since Nov. 9. However, the schedule that looks so good for Lopez offers little to Richardson. Rockets opponents are just 27th in 3-point makes, while Bobcats opponents are 28th in shooting from downtown.
Jason Thompson, PF, Sacramento Kings (GS, @UTA, CHA): Thompson's numbers for January are flat ugly (9.7 points, 36.5 percent shooting and 2.9 turnovers), and the scary thing about it is this stretch includes one huge game (19 points and 16 boards at Philadelphia on Jan. 15). Though Thompson does have ability, his poor decision-making causes him to pass up good shots on offense and pick up needless fouls on defense. Even with the Warriors on this schedule, sitting Thompson might be your best option this week. Bobcats opponents are 26th in shooting percentage, and, as noted, both the Bobcats and Jazz are strong rebounding teams.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
42mMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon
NBA Free Agent Experts