- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Anthony Morrow is currently the most-added player in ESPN.com leagues, and with good reason. Morrow has scored at least 15 points in six of his past seven games while averaging 3.1 3-pointers during that span.
Despite the surge of interest in the second-year player, Morrow is actually a bit underrated. Yes, when you look at his season line, nothing jumps out other than the 2.3 3-pointers per game. But as a starter, Morrow is averaging 15.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals. Those stats are at least helpful, if not trending toward valuable. However, his accuracy from the field is the foundation of his fantasy value. Morrow, just 24, is an astonishing 51.2 percent from 3-point range, a figure topped only by two players, Chris Paul and Mike Miller, who have both missed significant time with injuries. And the only guards besting Morrow's 53.6 percent shooting overall are Paul, Rajon Rondo and Beno Udrih (yes, Beno Udrih).
So should you add Morrow, who remains available in close to 40 percent of leagues? Absolutely. Should you have him active for the coming week, when his Golden State Warriors hit the road for four games? Yes. However, the schedule suggests you should temper your expectations. It could be a tricky trip.
More on Morrow -- and a couple of his teammates -- in a bit.
"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based on 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 from 1 to 10 of that week's matchups.
Week 7 at a glance
Compared to Week 6, the upcoming NBA schedule is a bit fantasy-friendlier -- but only a bit. As was the case last week, a relatively small number of teams (10) have four games, while a relatively high number of teams (four) play just twice. The Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Washington Wizards all have two-game weeks ahead.
One team I'll be watching is the New Orleans Hornets. While the Hornets have an enticing three-game set against the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Knicks, Chris Paul's pending return is, of course, the big news here. After missing eight games with an ankle injury, Paul could play as soon as this weekend. When the All-Star does come back, expect better things from David West. While West's scoring with and without Paul has been nearly identical (15.4 versus 15.3 points per game), his shooting percentage has suffered greatly since CP3 went down (48.4 percent with Paul, 40.5 percent without him).
It will also be interesting to see whether Darren Collison retains any fantasy value with Paul in the lineup. As a starter, the rookie has averaged 14.9 points and 6.4 assists while holding things together for the Hornets. It's hard to imagine Collison putting up fantasy-worthy numbers unless he and Paul play some minutes together, but maybe that could happen. It isn't as though Devin Brown (34.8 percent shooting) has a lock on the starting shooting guard position. There is this intriguing thought from new Hornets coach Jeff Bower:
"I think when Chris comes back, Darren has proven he can help our team win, has proven he is an effective player and that he's got poise beyond his rookie years in the first 20 games," Bower told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "We'll look to be very creative to take advantage of that moving forward."
The forecast: It's their week
Allen Iverson, PG/SG, Philadelphia 76ers (DEN, DET, HOU): For the record, A.I. has been snapped up more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues. While the Forecaster doesn't usually focus on a known fantasy commodity like Iverson, the Answer is the NBA's big story of the moment, so let's be topical. Though this isn't an outrageously favorable schedule, it should give Iverson a chance to shake off the rust. Houston Rockets opponents are sixth in the league in shooting percentage, while opponents have punished the injury-riddled Detroit Pistons to the tune of 52.7 percent shooting in their past five. The catch there is that the Pistons might be getting some of their injured players back soon -- Richard Hamilton, for instance, has returned to practice. And yes, I'm ending my look at Iverson by talking about practice.
Ben Wallace, C, Pistons (@PHI, DEN, GS): For a player who averages 4.1 points a game, Wallace can still help you in multiple categories -- namely rebounds, steals and blocks. He should do well here, primarily because Warriors opponents are third in steals, third in blocks and first in rebound differential. Additionally though, Denver Nuggets opponents are fifth in blocks, and Sixers opponents are fifth in rebound differential.
Chris Andersen, PF/C, Nuggets (@PHI, @CHA, @DET, PHO): Like Big Ben, the Birdman is also useful in leagues of at least 12 teams. Andersen has an average of 3.0 blocks during his past five games, and this is a good week to plug him into a head-to-head lineup. Charlotte Bobcats opponents are second and Pistons opponents are ninth in rejections -- plus a Phoenix Suns game is typically chock full of rebounds.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Milwaukee Bucks (@BOS, TOR, POR): Funny, but Ridnour might have more fantasy value now than he did last season when he was starting for the Bucks. The fact is the veteran has been pretty useful off of the bench (15.6 points and 6.4 assists during his past five games), particularly in light of Michael Redd's injuries. And fantasy owners are warming to him -- Ridnour's ownership is past 5 percent now. The Toronto Raptors have been absurdly bad so far (their 111.0 points allowed is better than only the Warriors), but what could tip this schedule in Ridnour's favor is the Portland Trail Blazers. While for the early season Blazers opponents are second-worst in shooting percentage and assists, the team also enters the weekend in a mystifying funk, having allowed 107.0 points during its past three games.
Ryan Gomes, SF/PF, Timberwolves (@TOR, NOR, @LAL, @SAC): Gomes heads into the weekend coming off two strong showings -- 27 points at Denver on Nov. 29, followed by 20 points versus the Grizzlies on Dec. 2. In each game Gomes topped 60 percent shooting while draining a pair of 3s. The veteran is available in 95 percent of leagues, and he looks like a strong fill-in for the coming week. Raptors and Hornets opponents are second and third in triples, while Raptors, Hornets and Kings opponents are all in the top 10 in shooting percentage. And while I have you -- see if Kevin Love is available in your league. He's returning this weekend, and as of this writing, Love is still available in more than 20 percent of leagues.
DeJuan Blair, PF, San Antonio Spurs (@UTA, SAC, CHA, @LAC): Two nice games is all it takes to get me back on this rookie buzzsaw's bandwagon. Looking at Blair's stats, I can't help but wonder where he finds the time. It's one thing to go for 18-and-11 with three blocks versus the Celtics on national TV, but in only 22 minutes? That, of course, is the downside with Blair -- he has played more than 22 minutes in just one game so far, in part because the youngster can pick up three fouls just as easily and quickly as he can a half a dozen boards. Still, the numbers here are too intriguing to ignore, even if the Clippers are the only one of these teams that's being out-rebounded this season. Blair hasn't been a big shot-blocker yet, but he could get you some rejections here. As noted, Bobcats opponents are second in blocks. Kings opponents are eighth.
The forecast: They're weak
Anthony Morrow, SG/SF, Warriors (@OKC, @NJ, @CHI, @DET): While I'll certainly have Morrow active in my leagues, this is a tough schedule to like. For one thing, Morrow has been much more productive at home (where he's a stunning 61.9 percent from distance), although it's possible to write that off because of small sample size. What's harder to ignore is that opponents of the Oklahoma City Thunder, New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls and Pistons rank from 15th to 19th in 3-pointers made. The best matchups look like the Nets (no surprise) and the Pistons, assuming they're still short-handed by the time the Warriors hit town. Incidentally, deep-leaguers should watch two other Warriors: C.J. Watson and Vladimir Radmanovic. Watson, who seems to be siphoning minutes from Stephen Curry, has topped 30 minutes in his past three games while averaging 14.7 points and 2.0 steals. Radmanovic has started eight of nine games since coming over from the Bobcats and seems to be heating up offensively (18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 3s in his past two). Both are virtually unowned in ESPN.com leagues.
Ronnie Brewer, SG, Utah Jazz (SA, @LAL, ORL, LAL): With several of his teammates sidelined, Brewer has seized on the extra minutes being doled out to him. In his past six games, he has averaged 13.7 points on 56.3 percent shooting with 1.8 steals thrown in, while playing 41 minutes a night. With the Jazz getting healthier, those minutes are sure to take a hit -- and even aside from that, this is a brutal four-game set. Los Angeles Lakers opponents are last in shooting (42.3 percent), while Spurs and Orlando Magic opponents are 23rd and 24th, respectively, in this regard.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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