- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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In Week 8, NBA teams are busier than Santa's elves. Admittedly, I've actually used a version of that line at least once before, so forgive me for repeating myself. To make up for it, here's a topic I won't rehash: NBA teams that have only two games in the week ahead, because for once, there aren't any. In Week 8, all 30 teams play at least three games. In fact, most of them -- 22 in all -- have four-game sets. Enjoy it while it lasts, because the schedule gets pretty sparse again during the holidays before action really kicks in beginning 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.
Week 8 at a Glance
A couple of candy-cane-sweet schedules belong to the Charlotte Bobcats and Los Angeles Clippers. And at least one Bobcat apparently got his present early. All right, I'm done with the holiday references -- just check out Raymond Felton's numbers since the Stephen Jackson trade. In 11 games with Jackson, Felton is shooting 51.5 percent while averaging 2.4 steals and only 1.5 turnovers. In nine games to start the season, Felton shot a brutal 35.7 percent while averaging just 1.2 steals and 3.0 turnovers. If Felton -- who is still available in a handful of ESPN.com leagues -- isn't starting regularly for you, he should be, especially in Week 8. The Bobcats face the New York Knicks twice, visit the Indiana Pacers and host the Utah Jazz. Knicks opponents are second in the league in field goal percentage and Pacers opponents are fourth in steals.
Another player who has been coming on is the Clippers' Al Thornton. Thornton, who has shot at least 50 percent in seven of his past 10 games while averaging 18.4 points during that span, should benefit from a schedule consisting of the Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers. Sixers opponents are fourth in shooting, and each of these teams is break-even or worse in terms of rebound differential. Thornton has picked it up a bit on the boards, averaging 6.1 rebounds during his past seven games. Incidentally, he's available in more than 40 percent of leagues.
The Forecast: It's their week
Dahntay Jones, SG, Pacers (@ORL, CHA, @MEM, @SA): Owners have been discarding Jones since he lost his spot in the starting lineup, but then the Pacers lost Danny Granger. That makes Jones, who is available in about 65 percent of leagues, once again a must-get free agent. As a starter this season, Jones is averaging 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 0.9 steals. This is about a neutral schedule, though Orlando Magic and Bobcats opponents are only 24th and 27th, respectively, in shooting.
Kendrick Perkins, C, Boston Celtics (@MEM, PHI, MIN): Suddenly, Perkins is a scorer. OK, 13.4 points during his past 10 games isn't earth-shattering, but it's quite an improvement for a guy who averaged just 8.5 points in 2008-09 (and that was his career-best). It looks even better when you put that additional offense alongside 8.2 boards, 1.6 blocks and absurd 77.6 percent shooting (also during his past 10). All of which explains why, suddenly, Perkins is one of the most-added players in ESPN.com leagues. Add Perkins if you can, and don't fret the three games in Week 8. Timberwolves opponents are sixth in blocks, while Memphis Grizzlies opponents are 12th. Sixers and Wolves opponents are sixth and ninth in rebound differential, though Grizzlies opponents, surprisingly, are just 29th in this regard.
C.J. Watson, PG, Golden State Warriors (@PHI, SA, WAS): Do Don Nelson's impulsive lineup machinations scare you that much? OK, I can understand that. Still, it seems crazy that Watson is barely owned in ESPN.com leagues. During his past six games he's averaging 14.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 3-pointers and, best of all, 2.3 steals. With Wizards opponents 25th in steals and Sixers opponents 22nd, Watson might not maintain his rate of thievery, but he'll have a chance to make up for that from beyond the arc. Sixers opponents get the most treys, while Wizards opponents knock down the fourth-most.
The Forecast: They're weak
Erick Dampier, C, Dallas Mavericks (NOR, @OKC, HOU, CLE): Dampier has been fairly effective since his return from an undisclosed illness, grabbing 30 rebounds and blocking 10 shots during a three-game span before sitting most of the game against the Phoenix Suns. But as long as the Mavs' opponent brings a legit center, Dampier can give you some boards and blocks. In that regard, the Mavericks will need Damp to match up with Emeka Okafor and Shaquille O'Neal. However, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers opponents rate from 19th to 25th in blocks. Houston Rockets opponents, though, get the second-most rejections.
Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (LAL, @CLE, SAC): Deep leaguers in search of 3s could benefit from adding Delfino, who's available in almost all leagues. Delfino has been fairly steady while averaging 1.7 3s for the season, though he just had a string of 13 games with at least one trey snapped by, of all teams, the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately, this schedule doesn't bode well for him. Los Angeles Lakers opponents are only 25th in triples (to go with a league-worst 29.5 percent shooting from downtown), while Cavs opponents are 22nd.
Jonny Flynn, PG, Timberwolves (@UTA, LAC, SAC, @BOS): If you happened to see the highlight the other night of Chris Paul making an inbounds pass, then getting the ball back and blowing past Flynn for the game-winning basket, you know that the Timberwolves rookie has much to learn. However, from a statistical standpoint, things are looking up. In his past nine games Flynn is averaging 14.0 points and 5.9 assists. Not great, but not bad. As for this schedule, it's just not great. Sacramento Kings, Jazz and Celtics opponents range from 20th to 23rd in dimes.
Larry Hughes, SG, Knicks (@CHA, @CHI, LAC, CHA): You generally don't want one of your players to lose his starting gig, but when he still plays about 35 minutes a night, that's a demotion you can live with. In coming off the bench the past three games, Hughes is averaging 20.7 points, 4.0 assists and 2.3 3s. Hughes' mini-surge can be explained by hot shooting, particularly from distance, but he'll have a tough time maintaining that pace here. Bobcats, Chicago Bulls and Clippers opponents all are 25th or worse in field goal percentage from downtown. On the other hand, the Bulls have been abysmal of late, with blowout losses to the Raptors and Atlanta Hawks sandwiched around a home-court defeat to the then-one-win New Jersey Nets.
Courtney Lee, SG, Nets (@CLE, UTA, @TOR, LAL): Injured and ineffective for the first month, Lee is starting to look like the fantasy sleeper many thought he would be. In his past six games he's averaging 14.3 points, a surprising 5.3 boards and, best of all, 2.0 steals. At about 85 percent availability, Lee is a solid free-agent add, but for this week, he might be in for a bit of a letdown. Lakers opponents are dead-last in shooting, while Cavs opponents are third-from-last. In addition, Cavs opponents are 24th in steals.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Neil Tardy looks ahead to Week 8 of the NBA schedule and highlights good and poor offensive and defensive matchups to exploit.