- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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I don't do much on Twitter, but I've already found my favorite tweet. According to Howard Beck, the New York Knicks beat writer for the New York Times, newly acquired Sergio Rodriguez could soon be starting for the Knicks.
Seriously, Beck expects Rodriguez, whose painfully brief displays of dazzling playmaking has tantalized fantasy owners since 2006, will be the catalyst for Mike D'Antoni sooner than later.
It goes without saying that the 23-year-old Spaniard is an unproven commodity. In 258 career games over three-plus NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings, Rodriguez has played just 12.5 minutes a game while averaging 3.9 points. But he does have a career average of 11.1 assists per 48 minutes. Pair that with D'Antoni and then factor in Chris Duhon's ongoing poor play, and fantasy owners have to be intrigued.
A scant few of us have already added Rodriguez. But in my case, it's a 14-team league. If you're in a standard league, you have the luxury of watching this play out for a bit.
But do pay attention -- not just to Rodriguez, but to a number of players who find themselves either on new teams or in improved situations now that the NBA trading deadline has passed. The waiver wire is a fantasy owner's best friend right now.
Week 18 at a Glance
Inconveniently for NBA players, the league often will schedule teams to play up to five games in a seven-day span. Inconveniently for fantasy owners in weekly lineup leagues, this sort of scheduling almost never fits into the standard Monday-to-Sunday window. But in Week 18, for the first and only time this season, a team is looking at a five-game week.
The Milwaukee Bucks are the recipients of this uniquely brutal schedule, playing five times in five different cities. It's tough stretch for the Bucks -- and probably for us, since this set of games isn't especially favorable. While New York Knicks and New Orleans Hornets opponents are fourth and sixth, respectively, in shooting percentage, Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers opponents are in the bottom third in this regard. Only Pacers opponents (12th) are above-average in blocks, and only Hornets (eighth) and Knicks (13th) opponents are above-average in 3-pointers.
Still, you can't beat this for quantity. So find out how John Salmons fits with his new team. And, if you're in a league of at least 12 teams, maybe take a flyer on Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The defensive specialist is averaging 13.8 points, 7.6 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks over his past five games, and Hakim Warrick's departure should open up a few more minutes for him. Mbah a Moute is available in 98 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
"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
Andray Blatche, PF/C, Washington Wizards (CHI, MEM, NY, @NJ): John Cregan may weep over the Wizards' dismantling, but fantasy owners can prosper from this situation. Blatche's ownership is soaring, but the athletic forward can still be had in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Is Blatche's stunning 33-point, 13-rebound performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves an example of blatant stat-stuffing at the expense of an awful defensive team? Sure, but Blatche as a starter should be worth, at minimum, 12 points, six boards and about a steal and a block a night. At least that's what he did in 36 starts last season. And if you're a deep-league owner who missed out on Blatche, grab the Wizards' new starting center, JaVale McGee (five blocks versus the Timberwolves). It's a nice set of games for both big men here, with Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies and New Jersey Nets opponents all in the top eight in rejections.
James Harden, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder (PHO, @SA, MIN, TOR): While Harden has yet to distinguish himself for fantasy purposes, since the start of 2010, the rookie is averaging 1.6 3s and better than 42 percent shooting from downtown. In other words, he's the sort of guy a deep leaguer could take a chance on in Week 18, since Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors opponents are all in the top seven in treys made. In the interest of disclosure though, San Antonio Spurs opponents are dead last in 3s.
Sergio Rodriguez, PG, New York Knicks (MIL, @BOS, @WAS, MEM): If my favorite tweet is to be believed, Rodriguez might not play a whole lot in Week 18. But if you're willing to take the chance, this isn't a bad schedule, since Grizzlies and Wizards opponents are third and ninth, respectively, in assists. These teams are also second and fourth in shooting percentage. However, Boston Celtics opponents are just 29th in dimes, while Bucks opponents are only 22nd in this regard.
Craig Smith, PF, Los Angeles Clippers (CHA, DET, @PHO, @SAC): As a player, Smith couldn't be more different than Marcus Camby, the guy he replaces in the Clippers' starting lineup. He does little to nothing defensively, but now that he's starting, his offensive skills make him fantasy-relevant in leagues with at least 12 teams. After being hindered by foul trouble against the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 16, Smith came through with 15 points and six rebounds the next night against the Atlanta Hawks. Smith and DeAndre Jordan, both virtually unowned in ESPN.com leagues, should play quite a bit from here. Jordan, who had a double-double versus the Blazers but then tanked against the Hawks, is an intriguing talent and worth considering if you need blocks. That means Jordan is worth considering for Week 18, since Charlotte Bobcats, Detroit Pistons and Kings opponents are all in the top third in rejections.
The Forecast: They're Weak
Taj Gibson, PF, Chicago Bulls (@WAS, IND, POR, @IND): The rookie is only averaging 8.1 points, but those blocks are getting hard to ignore; Gibson is stuffing shots at a rate of 1.9 a night over his past 13 games. I'm zoned in on deep-league options this week, and even there, Gibson is only a borderline pickup. But the past few days have been good to him. Gibson had two excellent performances against the Knicks, indicating that he's recovering from his plantar fasciitis issues, and then the Bulls jettisoned Tyrus Thomas. The path for more minutes and bigger numbers is wide open for Gibson. Just don't expect a ton of blocks this week. Blazers opponents are only 28th in this regard, while Wizards and Pacers opponents are middle of the pack.
Brendan Haywood, C, Dallas Mavericks (IND, LAL, @ATL, NOR): When the Wizards dealt him, it seemed Haywood was doomed to a time-share with Erick Dampier. But now that Dampier is expected to miss a month with a dislocated finger, Haywood -- who's currently fifth in the league with 2.1 blocks -- is the primary center in Big D. While that makes him a worthy pickup in all leagues (Haywood's availability is around 35 percent), call this schedule a slight downer, since Los Angeles Lakers, Hawks and Hornets opponents all in the bottom 12 in blocks. Pacers opponents, at least, are second in total rebounds, while Hornets opponents are seventh.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.