March Madness, NBA style


Fantasy hoops owners have their own kind of March madness.

The better-known March Madness frequently features underdog teams that, in the course of pulling an upset or two in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, destroy several hundred thousand brackets nationwide. But underdogs are also prominent in the fantasy hoops version of March madness -- or have you forgotten about Walter Herrmann? Herrmann is the flowing-haired Argentine who stepped into a depleted Charlotte Bobcats lineup and averaged 19.6 points, 2.3 3-pointers and 58.5 percent shooting while starting the final 12 games of the 2006-07 season.

Ramon Sessions, I'm sure you recall. Two years ago, the unheralded second-round draft pick finished the season as the Milwaukee Bucks' point guard, piling up a staggering 13.1 assists per game over the final seven games. That had to help a few folks in head-to-head league playoffs.

The point is, at this time of the season, as many NBA teams deal with injuries and/or the reality of missing the playoffs, rotations change dramatically. As a result, surprising fantasy factors suddenly emerge. Truly, these underdogs of March madness can arrive from anywhere. And they can take you places.

For instance, there's Terrence Williams. Unlike Herrmann, a veteran of international basketball, or Sessions, an end-of-the-draft afterthought out of Nevada, Williams is hardly unknown. The New Jersey Nets took the Louisville product with the 11th pick of the 2009 NBA draft. However, while Williams opened eyes early in camp, he's seen inconsistent minutes and produced spotty results. In other words, he's gone through the typical rookie ups and downs.

That is, until recently. Over his past five games, Williams is averaging 14.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from the field. Sure, it's a small sample size, especially for a player coming off the bench, but those minutes (32, 28, 32, 26 and 31 over the past five) have been steady. And with the Nets playing for the future (and trying to avoid NBA infamy), the opportunity is there for Williams to show what he can do.

It's a bit early to suggest that Williams will be the prize of this year's fantasy hoops edition of March madness. Besides, there are a couple of issues with his game -- namely his minuscule hustle numbers and sub-70 percent foul shooting. But Williams, who's available in 98 percent of ESPN.com leagues, can help you in leagues of at least 12 teams.

We'll get to some other interesting free-agent options in a bit.

Week 21 at a Glance

It's a tricky week, with stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard and Brandon Roy playing just two games. But again, the majority of NBA teams -- 17 in all -- are looking at four games in Week 21. While the Utah Jazz are pretty much a five-man team for fantasy purposes; in a large head-to-head league, you could get a lift from Kyle Korver. He's averaging 1.8 treys over his past 12 games, and the Jazz draw the Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets in Week 21. Wolves opponents are tops in triples made, while opponents of the Wizards, Suns and Hornets range from sixth to 10th in this regard.

"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

Chris Andersen, PF/C, Denver Nuggets (@HOU, WAS, NOR, MIL): Fortunately for the Nuggets, who are already without Kenyon Martin, knee problems don't seem to be slowing Andersen. The Birdman should see in the neighborhood of 25 minutes a night as long as Kenyon Martin is sidelined, making him roster-worthy in all leagues for the time being. On paper at least, there's no better team for Andersen to face than the Houston Rockets (Rockets opponents lead the league in blocks). However, opponents of the Wizards, Hornets and Bucks opponents are only middle-of-the-road in this regard.

Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers (NY, NJ, @NY, CHI): The rookie was reinserted into the Sixers' starting lineup on Jan. 22, but only now is he starting to find consistency. Since the All-Star break, Holiday is shooting 49.6 percent from the floor, and over his past three games he's averaging 18.3 points, 6.0 assists and 2.3 3-pointers. The desirability of this schedule speaks for itself, but I'll point out that Nets opponents are second in assists, Bulls opponents are second in 3s. Holiday is still available in more than 97 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Serge Ibaka, C, Oklahoma City Thunder (@CHA, @TOR, @IND): Nenad Krstic continues to start at center, but Ibaka continues to make an impact in his limited minutes. The youngster is almost unrostered in ESPN.com leagues, but with this set of games, he's worth adding in deeper head-to-head leagues if you're looking for rejections and Andersen isn't available. Bobcats opponents are second and Indiana Pacers opponents are ninth in blocks.

Delonte West, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (@DET, IND, @CHI, DET): West has scored in double figures in five straight, and while the Cavs rested LeBron James, he had a season-high 27 points against the Milwaukee Bucks. Obviously he won't handle the ball as much with LeBron playing, but West seems to be getting closer to his 2008-09 form. And this schedule gives him a chance to do the things he does best: Bulls and Detroit Pistons opponents are second and eighth, respectively, in 3-pointers, while Pacers opponents are fourth in steals.

Terrence Williams, SG/SF, New Jersey Nets (ATL, @PHI, TOR): Again, Williams is averaging 5.4 assists in March, so you have to like the fact that Toronto Raptors and Sixers opponents are seventh and eighth in dimes.

The Forecast: They're Weak

Grant Hill, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (MIN, UTA, POR): Not much I can tell you about Hill, other than the fact that he's available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues. The 37-year-old has been rock-solid since the break, averaging 14.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and nearly a steal and a block while shooting 56.5 percent. There's really no reason to think he can't maintain that pace, but I will point out that Blazers opponents are only 30th in steals and 28th in blocks, and Jazz opponents are 22nd in field goal percentage.

Reggie Williams, SF, Golden State Warriors (LAL, NOR, @SA, @MEM): The Warriors recently claimed Williams from the Developmental League, and he was just added to the ESPN.com player pool. Williams can score if given the minutes -- he led the D-League with more than 26 points per game -- so watch out if the perpetually undermanned Warriors sustain another injury. But as long as Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette can play, Williams will settle for some minutes off the bench. That's probably just as well for the week ahead, since Spurs opponents are last in 3s and Los Angeles Lakers opponents are last in 3-point shooting percentage.

Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.