- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Matthew Berry's long-standing mantra for fantasy hoops is "point guards and power forwards." But two prominent storylines of this early season revolve around point guards and centers -- specifically, rookie point guards and underrated centers. I mean, how many productive centers could you have gotten late, really late, on draft day? And is there really another first-year point guard with fantasy value -- I mean, beyond Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans and Jonny Flynn?
Questions now, answers to come.
"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 4 at a Glance
Nothing sneaky with this schedule, as 13 NBA teams have four games and 16 others have three. The Minnesota Timberwolves are the only team with two games in Week 4. I was going to say this isn't any great loss, but as a fantasy owner you have to love it when your players go up against the Wolves. This is a team that currently ranks 24th or lower in these categories: points allowed (106.4), opponents' shooting (48.0 percent), 3-pointers allowed (7.7), shots blocked (6.4) and steals (a whopping 10.0 per game). Rank is definitely the operative word in that previous sentence, though it's a sweet stench of defensive ineptitude that fantasy owners can exploit again and again. Just not so much this week.
One team that draws the Wolves is the Rockets, who also face the Suns, Hawks and Kings. Kings and Suns opponents are shooting 49.1 and 48.3 percent, respectively. While Carl Landry is a nice, steady player to have at the end of a deep roster, this schedule makes him a decent fill-in option for a shallower league. Week 4 should also be good to the Cavaliers, who face the Warriors, Wizards, Pacers and 76ers. A player I surely don't want to see in a H2H matchup in Week 4 is the sizzling-hot Mo Williams. Sixers opponents are swishing the most 3s, while Warriors and Wizards opponents are seventh and ninth, respectively, in triples.
The Forecast: It's Their Week
Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks (DAL, NJ, CHA, @MEM): Just a week ago, I was going on about highly productive centers you could have drafted around Pick 90 or later. The thing is, I didn't even get to Bogut, who averaged 19.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in his first four games this month. After back problems cost him 46 games last season, Bogut seems to be healthy, and his numbers should stay strong with this schedule. Bobcats opponents lead the league in blocks -- and don't write that off to a small sample size. Bobcats opponents were tops in rejections for the 2008-09 season. Grizzlies opponents are currently ninth in blocks, while Nets opponents are fourth in rebound differential.
Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers (@NJ, NY, CLE, @CHA): Though he's one of the most-added players, Hibbert remains available in nearly 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues. That makes him, at least in my book, the free-agent find of the moment. Hibbert's league-leading 2.7 blocks is a number that's every bit as legit as his 7-foot-2 frame. Yes, Hibbert still gets his share of fouls -- he reached five in four of his first six games -- but he's also played at least 25 minutes in every game but one so far. Like Bogut, Hibbert will face the Bobcats and Wizards, but this schedule offers the added bonus of the Knicks, who are being outrebounded by nearly nine boards per game.
Andre Miller, PG, Portland Trail Blazers (@ATL, DET, @GS, MIN): Since the start of the preseason, fantasy owners wondered how Miller would fit with the Blazers. At least Miller's numbers have improved in the four games since Nate McMillan slipped him into the starting lineup with Brandon Roy and Steve Blake; in fact, his assist (6.0), steals (1.3) and shooting (46.2 percent) numbers approach what he did in Philly. Still, you probably won't see Miller registering many 20-point performances this season, so even if he's on most fantasy rosters, he's no longer an automatic start. Despite that -- and despite the fact that the Hawks and Pistons are looking strong defensively -- call this schedule a win for Miller. The Warriors and Wolves are that bad on D. Warriors opponents are third in field goal percentage, fourth in assists and sixth in steals. As for the Timberwolves, one thing I forgot to mention: On top of everything else, Wolves opponents are second in assists.
Marreese Speights, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers (CHA, MEM, @CLE): Even though I grabbed Speights in both of my ESPN writers leagues, I have to say I find it kind of sad the way Elton Brand has struggled. And I find it kind of annoying the way people talk about Speights taking Brand's place in the starting lineup. I mean, the 22-year-old is just fine where he is, giving you 15.0 points, 7.1 boards and 61.5 shooting off the bench. While Speights isn't a great shot-blocker, you have to like his chances to get multiple rejections versus the Bobcats and Grizzlies. Grizzlies opponents are also shooting a league-best 50.0 percent, though with Marc Gasol, the Grizz have been pretty formidable on the boards.
The Forecast: They're Weak
Ron Artest, SF, Los Angeles Lakers (DET, CHI, OKC): I'm not sure how the Lakers feel about Artest. I suppose Mitch Kupchak is OK with the arrangement to this point, since the 2009-10 version of Artest is statistically superior to the 2008-09 version of Trevor Ariza. And give Artest credit for keeping his cool with the Lakers. Artest owners, however, are steamed. After consecutive five-point showings versus the Hornets and Suns, Artest is averaging just 11.1 points early on. While he should have his moments in L.A., the Lakers are so good it's hard to see how Artest will approach the 15 shots a night to which he (and fantasy owners) are accustomed. This schedule doesn't do him any favors, either. Pistons opponents are shooting just 41.9 percent so far, second-worst in the league. While Thunder opponents are eighth in steals, this team seems transformed defensively. Thunder opponents are seventh-worst from the field (42.8 percent), a startling turnaround from last season, when they were fourth-best in shooting.
Toney Douglas, PG, New York Knicks (@IND, @NJ, BOS): While Jennings, Evans and Flynn are rostered in most leagues by now, Douglas is just starting to attract attention. That's because he just made his first start Nov. 11 versus the Hawks, going for 23 points in 36 minutes. The intrigue with Douglas is that he plays for Mike D'Antoni, who seems to have soured on Chris Duhon. Still, the Knicks have a crowded backcourt that will get more crowded with the pending return of Nate Robinson. The other issue is that Douglas' strengths are defense and shooting, as opposed to play-making. But it does look like the kid can shoot. In his past three games, he's 59.5 percent (25 for 42) from the field with nine 3-pointers. Obviously, that sort of accuracy is unreal for a guard, so see how Douglas fares this week. Celtics opponents, not surprisingly, are sixth-worst in field goal percentage. But Pacers opponents, quite surprisingly, are right there with the C's, at eighth-worst. And Pacers, Nets and Celtics opponents are all in the bottom third in treys.
Brendan Haywood, C, Washington Wizards (CLE, @OKC, @SA): Don't take this placement as a knock on Haywood, who's averaging an incredible 10.8 boards and 2.4 blocks so far. At 70-plus percent availability, Haywood is another strong free-agent add from the center position. It's just that Cavs opponents are eighth-worst in blocks. It's also possible that, should Antawn Jamison return this weekend as expected, Haywood's rebounding numbers take a slight hit.
Jason Thompson, PF, Sacramento Kings (CHI, @DAL, @HOU): Again, the schedule doesn't endorse Thompson, but I do. He can still be had in more than 40 percent of leagues, and the second-year player is fully capable of maintaining his double-double averages. The one flaw with Thompson, though, is foul trouble, so it will be interesting to see how he fares this week, given that Mavs opponents commit the most fouls, while Rockets opponents are whistled for the ninth most.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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