Commentary

Forecaster: Finishing with a flourish

Updated: April 2, 2010, 5:55 PM ET
By Neil Tardy | Special to ESPN.com

Welcome to the final Fantasy Forecaster for the 2009-10 season. This week we're covering the final 10 days of the NBA season. While you're making your final moves toward league championships, note that, as always, general recommendations are made with head-to-head league owners in mind. Owners in roto leagues -- and anyone who plays in a league that allows daily lineup changes -- will want to keep up with the ESPN.com Fantasy Basketball Blog, which is updated weekdays.

That said, those in daily lineup leagues would do well to study the entire schedule over the last week and a half. If you're proactive, you can pick up some extra games -- from some quality free-agent help -- on those days when the NBA schedule is light. Specifically, on Thursday, April 8, when there are just three games scheduled, and Tuesday, April 13, when there are only four games. So where do you go for help? Well, a handful of teams -- the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings -- play on both days. Of course, the Nuggets and Lakers have little to offer fantasy owners in terms of free-agent assistance, but that's not the case with the Bulls and Kings.

The Kings have a potentially promising second-year player named Jason Thompson. With Spencer Hawes finished for the season, Thompson is a strong add.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have a hustling rookie named Taj Gibson, who's available in a staggering 85 percent of ESPN.com leagues. He's a must-add.

Week 24 Forecast: Teams to Watch

Chicago Bulls (MIL, CLE, @NJ, @TOR, BOS, @CHA): Joakim Noah is expected to start and play 30 minutes against the Washington Wizards on April 2, but the Bulls go into that contest two games out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. You'd think the team would shut Noah down if/when it's eliminated from playoff contention. If you're in a league that allows daily lineup changes, check into the availability of Kirk Hinrich (who's also expected back for the Wizards game) and, especially, Gibson. Again, the Bulls play next Thursday (April 8) and on the final Tuesday (April 13) -- the two light nights on the schedule. Gibson, incidentally, has double-doubles in five of his past seven games. Did I also mention he's averaging 1.9 blocks in that span? For those seeking boards and blocks, you can't do better.

Denver Nuggets (@OKC, LAL, SA, MEM, @PHO): While the Nuggets hit that Thursday-Tuesday sweet spot for daily lineup leagues, you'll naturally have Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene Hilario and J.R. Smith going regardless. I really like Smith to finish strong against the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns. While he's disappointed this season, Smith has been better in the second half (16.2 points, 2.4 3s and 43.6 percent shooting). And the last time he faced the Grizz, J.R. swished seven from downtown.

Golden State Warriors (@WAS, @MIN, @LAC, OKC, UTA, @POR): It's always a guessing game with the Warriors, but at this crucial point of the season, no team has more to offer fantasy owners in need of free-agent help. Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Williams are the most added players in ESPN.com leagues, but their availability still stands in the 80 percent range. And don't forget about Anthony Morrow, who finally showed some life with a 21-point performance against the Utah Jazz on March 31. Unfortunately, this schedule will keep fantasy owners guessing, as well. Yes, the Minnesota Timberwolves are terrible by any defensive measure, and the Los Angeles Clippers yielded 108.2 points per game in March. But the Wizards are suddenly stingy against the 3-pointer, allowing just 4.2 over their past six games. On the other hand, even though the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers are solid defensively, you could catch a break there if either team secures its playoff position early. The point is, if your need is points or treys, then it makes sense to grab Tolliver, Williams or Morrow. But if you're trying to maintain field goal percentage, you should probably look elsewhere.

Memphis Grizzlies (HOU, @DAL, @SA, PHI, @DEN, @OKC): Marc Gasol's season is finished, making No. 2 draft pick Hasheem Thabeet fantasy-relevant from here on out. If Thabeet can stay on the court for at least 20 minutes (no gimme given the rookie's propensity to foul), you're all but assured of two blocks per game. Houston Rockets' opponents are far and away the leaders in blocks, while Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs opponents are eighth and 10th, respectively, in this regard. Consider Thabeet a suitable replacement for Chris Andersen, he of the scary-looking ankle sprain and minor airway obstruction.

New Orleans Hornets (CHA, UTA, MIN, @HOU): The Hornets are the only NBA team that plays fewer than five games over the season's final 10 days. As good as Darren Collison and even Marcus Thornton have been, you might want to bench either in a head-to-head league.

New York Knicks (BOS, @IND, @ORL, MIA, WAS, @TOR): Last week, I noted that Danilo Gallinari has been much more effective at Madison Square Garden than he's been in away games, and the kid's made me look good by looking really bad on the Knicks' West Coast swing (11.3 points, 33.3 percent shooting through three games of the five-game trip). Of course, Toney Douglas, my late-season fave, has been struggling right along with Gallinari. With the notable exception of the Toronto Raptors, all of these teams are average to above-average at defending the 3. Then again, Indiana Pacers opponents are scoring 103.6 points, and the Orlando Magic, with second place in the Eastern Conference all but assured, might not have a lot of incentive. What I said about the Warriors' players could well apply to the Knicks: Go for it if you need points and 3s, but stay away if you're trying to maintain percentages.

Sacramento Kings (SA, LAC, DAL, HOU, @LAL): The Kings have only five games, but again, they're handy for daily lineup leagues because they play on both April 8 and 13. Beno Udrih remains accessible (55 percent availability), but after seeing at least 39 minutes of action in eight straight games, he may be wearing down. On the other hand, Thompson seems minty fresh. Since replacing Hawes, he's averaged 16.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. Thompson is available in more than 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Washington Wizards (GS, @ORL, @BOS, ATL, @NY, IND): His 27-point outburst against the Hornets on March 31 got fantasy owners' attention, but Mike Miller has actually been coming on for a while now. With the Wizards' offensive options pretty much down to him and Andray Blatche, Miller has averaged 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 3-pointers over his past six games. Warriors and Knicks aside, this seems like a tough set, but again, at this point the Wizards might not command the full attention of the playoff-bound Magic, Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks. We'd all like to see Miller shoot more, but for a guy who's available in slightly more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues, he can help you in a lot of ways.

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

Neil Tardy | email

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

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