- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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The NBA All-Star break is a week away. And after trying to set lineups for a truncated Week 16, fantasy owners just might be ready for a break themselves.
In Week 16, only one team -- the Orlando Magic -- plays as many as three games. But that, actually, isn't the issue. What could bedevil fantasy owners -- at least those in head-to-head (H2H) weekly lineup leagues -- is the fact that nine teams play only one game.
Naturally you'll go with your best players provided they're healthy. One night's worth of stats from the likes of Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Chris Bosh (all one-and-done next week) is likely worth more to your team than any two games from most other players. Still, I think you can benefit by modifying your approach to Week 16. Plenty of otherwise reliable starters might be best left on your bench for the upcoming week.
Week 16 at a glance
As a team, the Orlando Magic have frustrated fantasy owners. Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson have been hurt. After starting late because of his 10-game suspension, Rashard Lewis has been less effective. Even Dwight Howard's scoring is down. But a three-game set is reason enough to stick with VC (who's coming off a double-double against the Bucks); Jammy (who's expected to return this weekend); and, of course, Howard. Matt Barnes has done nothing since, well, the last time he was mentioned in this column, but I'll tout him once more as a worthwhile lineup plug-in for leagues of at least 12 teams. For the majority of this season, Barnes has been brutal from distance -- he has two 3-pointers in his past eight games -- but this schedule offers some hope, with New Orleans Hornets and Chicago Bulls opponents seventh and eighth, respectively, in treys made.
As for the teams that play only once, here's a quick rundown:
Boston Celtics (@NO)
Sure start: Rajon Rondo
Consider sitting: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen
Outlook: Fantasy owners will get the benefit of a Sunday game against the Magic to see whether Paul Pierce can play on his injured ankle. Obviously Pierce is a sure start for Week 16 if he's active. In seven games since his return, Garnett is averaging 13.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 63.8 percent shooting. You can probably live with one game of that for Week 16, but don't rule out other options. I could rule out the struggling Allen in a one-game week, but since the Hornets struggle against the 3, you're probably best off with Ray active.
Houston Rockets (@MIA)
Sure start: Aaron Brooks
Consider sitting: Carl Landry, Luis Scola, Trevor Ariza
Outlook: Don't think I'm hating on Landry and Scola -- both are nice, consistent players. But for one game, they're not difference-makers in a head-to-head matchup. Scola's production on the boards -- he has at least seven rebounds in seven of his past eight games -- does make him a slightly more attractive play than Landry. Despite his miserable shooting, Ariza could help you with a big night from downtown; however, Miami Heat opponents have averaged only 4.9 3s in their past 10 games.
Indiana Pacers (CHI)
Sure starts: Danny Granger, Troy Murphy
Consider sitting: Everyone else
Outlook: If you're going to use a Pacer other than Granger or Murphy, Roy Hibbert is my choice. Bulls opponents are third in blocks.
Memphis Grizzlies (ATL)
Sure starts: Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol
Consider sitting: O.J. Mayo
Outlook: Mayo's certainly a defensible start, but I suggest sitting him because he's not outstanding in any single category. His biggest attribute for fantasy is his 1.7 3-pointers, but he'll struggle to get multiple treys against the Atlanta Hawks, given that Hawks opponents are only 18th in 3-point makes.
New York Knicks (SAC)
Sure start: David Lee
Consider sitting: Wilson Chandler, Nate Robinson, Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington
Outlook: As much as the Sacramento Kings have struggled of late, Kings opponents are just 26th in 3-pointers made. So that's the case for sitting Harrington, Gallinari and Robinson. On the other hand, Kings opponents are eighth in shooting percentage. Given the ability of each of these players to put up monster numbers on any one night, I'd roll the dice on any of them.
Oklahoma City Thunder (@POR)
Sure starts: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook
Consider sitting: Jeff Green
Outlook: After struggling around the new year, Green has been a consistent 16-point, six-rebound guy since. But you want big performances from your one-game players, and against a low-possession team like the Portland Trail Blazers, Green's potential to exceed his averages is limited.
Toronto Raptors (PHI)
Sure starts: Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani
Consider sitting: Everyone else
Outlook: If Jose Calderon remains sidelined, you probably want Jarrett Jack in your lineup. Philadelphia 76ers opponents are third in 3s and eighth in assists.
Washington Wizards (@CHA)
Sure starts: None
Consider sitting: Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Randy Foye
Outlook: It'd be tough to bench Jamison, but his recent up-and-down play in the Wizards' dysfunctional environment is cringe-inducing. Butler is dealing with a knee problem, but you have the weekend to see how he fares.
"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, and 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 (1-10) of that week's matchups.
The Forecast: It's their week
Ryan Hollins, C, Minnesota Timberwolves (@PHI, CHA): It's tough for a 7-footer to go unnoticed, but that's the case with Hollins, who's quietly slipped into the Wolves' starting five. In his first two starts, the 25-year-old totaled 35 points and four blocks against the Los Angeles Clippers and Knicks, with the lowly Wolves winning both games decisively. Given that he's currently starting ahead of Kevin Love, Hollins' minutes seem tenuous. But the team likes his energy, and more minutes for Hollins gives Al Jefferson more time at his natural power forward spot. At least for these two games, Jefferson, Love and Hollins were all effective in 30-minute stints. Hollins is virtually unowned in ESPN.com leagues (in fact, I may be the only one), but I think he can keep it going. It certainly shouldn't hurt him that Charlotte Bobcats opponents are second in blocks. Sixers opponents, however, are only 25th in that regard.
The Forecast: They're weak
Shaquille O'Neal, C, Cleveland Cavaliers (NJ, ORL): Is it a coincidence that Shaq's numbers have improved since Mo Williams went down? Actually, it isn't. Without Mo, the Cavs' primary ball-handling responsibilities fall to their de facto backup point guard, some guy named LeBron James. Of course, LeBron is an exceptional playmaker under normal circumstances, but in the first eight games without Williams, James is averaging an absurd 10.4 dimes. O'Neal, who's averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 boards and 65.5 percent shooting in that span, has certainly been on the receiving end of his share of those passes. Shaq is a solid play for Week 16, but there are reasons to pass on him. The matchup with the New Jersey Nets could be a little too good -- it's easy to imagine Shaq seeing about 22 minutes in a Cavs blowout. Then there's his predictably laughable foul shooting: O'Neal is just 46.7 percent from the stripe in his past eight, and those 5.6 attempts are enough to hurt, especially in a week in which your team will have fewer games played. Given a choice in a deep league, I'd take Hollins over O'Neal at a utility spot. But then again, this is Week 16: Be bold, then take a break.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Neil Tardy previews Week 16 in fantasy basketball, which features the Orlando Magic as the only team with three games to play.