Final-week to-do list
Scour the wire for players with greater opportunity, and for forgotten keepers
As a child of divorce, I could always count on being bombarded Saturday mornings with an incredibly long list of last-minute things to do. This was usually offered just as my father's Mercury Cougar was rounding the corner. Well, this is my final chance to give you things to do. And it's a long list almost four columns in one. Just know I care, and I feel your pain.
Now let's go win us some leagues! Let's play the lightning round!
Section 1: Extended final weeks
Here are some fringe players in line for solid final stretches, due to a high amount of games scheduled during the extended week (April 5-14).
Rasual Butler, SG/SF, Los Angeles Clippers (5 games): I know I've written about Butler many, many times this season, but here's one more plug: In the past week his minutes are above 38 a game, and most of his field goal attempts are from behind the arc. Oh, and he's averaging 1.5 blocks a night, and qualifies at multiple positions. If Butler can't help you at this point, you're either loaded beyond belief, or beyond help.
Wesley Matthews, SG, Utah Jazz (5 games): The Jazz were apoplectic when Ronnie Brewer was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies. But while not possessing Brewer's elite steal-snagging acumen, Matthews does have one thing Brewer doesn't offer: an outside shot. He's cracked double digits in 12 out of his past 15 games, and is peeling away more and more of Andrei Kirilenko's available minutes.
Ryan Gomes, SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (5 games): Gomes can be a frustrating player to own. He's seemingly in a perfect situation to produce (bad team, depleted roster, multi-category ability), but he has difficulty sustaining night-in, night-out effectiveness. However, Gomes is trending up at the moment (eight assists Wednesday night), and plays the Golden State Warriors next time out, so there's at least one big box score in his immediate future.
Steve Blake, PG, Los Angeles Clippers (5 games): It's hard to believe, but Baron Davis is shutting himself down. Unofficially, this actually occurred back in late January, but Davis just made it final, declaring himself "out" for what appears to be the rest of the campaign. Blake was already helping in limited minutes, but should be a revelation during the final week for point-guard-needy lineups.
Ryan Anderson, PF, Orlando Magic (5 games): Anderson is a late-season beneficiary to the Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus injuries. He could also be in line for more minutes if the Magic shut it down for the final few games.
Jason Thompson, PF, Sacramento Kings (5 games): The Kings have been inordinately disappointing this season a promising fantasy pool of talent left submarined by time-shares, injuries and coach Paul Westphal's Nelson-esque rotational switches. But with Spencer Hawes hurt, Thompson is finally getting the minutes he deserves, and is responding as once anticipated (61 points, 48 rebounds in his past four games).
Tayshaun Prince, SF, Detroit Pistons (6 games): Like Miller, Prince shouldn't be available in your league. There hasn't been a more underrated fantasy bench player since the All-Star break. Assists, boards, points, the odd steal, block or 3-pointer, and a guaranteed 35 minutes a night.
George Hill, PG/SG, San Antonio Spurs (6 games): I'll take Hill's past five games over any five-game stretch of Tony Parker's from this season. Hill contributes in every category; he rebounds well for a guard, has a reliable 3-point shot and is steady with his defensive numbers. He's also hitting 41 percent of his 3-pointers for the season. A sneaky-nice little keeper going into next season.
Antoine Wright, SG, Toronto Raptors (6 games): Raptors head coach Jay Triano is using Wright as a motivational tool with Hedo Turkoglu, and Wright has responded with 26 points in his past two games. He's worth a look if you need 3s. (Has there ever been a more disappointing free-agent signing from a fantasy perspective than Turkoglu to Toronto? I have to think back to 2005 when Larry Hughes jumped from Washington to Cleveland.)
Jermaine Taylor, SG, Houston Rockets (6 games): Any Rocket pushing 30 minutes per game is worth consideration, and Taylor is filling in for Kevin Martin with a nice blend of points, steals, 3s and rebounds. He's exponentially more versatile than Chase "Garrity" Budinger.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Milwaukee Bucks (6 games): There aren't many players lurking on the wire who can give you reliable assist production. Ridnour's been hovering around 25 minutes per game during the past couple of weeks, which is just enough time to warrant consideration.
Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, Toronto Raptors (6 games): Strictly if you're desperate for assists and need a plug-in at either guard position. He's also gone for double figures in two of his past three games (went scoreless Wednesday night, but did have 10 assists).
JaVale McGee, PF/C, Washington Wizards (6 games): Sort of an East Coast Darko Milicic.
Section 2: Where in the world is Anthony Tolliver?
The Warriors are running out of chances to help Don Nelson become the winningest coach in NBA history. Sorry, Coach Wilkens, but I for one hope he gets it, because it guarantees Nelson (the Black Hole of Roto) will be expunged from our lives once and for all. But for the final hunk of Nelson's Vengeance Ride, the Warriors are going to be as exciting a lottery team as you'll see.
The Warriors are a must if you're looking for one-game plug-in players. While I've already mentioned Mike Miller, Ryan Gomes and Darko Milicic, here's a look at the Warriors' remaining schedule and some other possible waiver-wire adds by opponent chronologically.
April 7 at Timberwolves: Ryan Gomes, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer
April 13 versus Jazz: Wesley Matthews, C.J. Miles, Kyle Korver
(Important note to readers: This is Don Nelson's final home game. At least one of these guys will go for 20 points, and possibly all three.)
Section 3: Shutting it down
The final few games will feature three teams who have locked up playoff positions and will rest as many key players as possible.
Los Angeles Lakers: In the past month, Kobe Bryant has been nursing an injury report that would do Marcus Camby proud, the difference being Kobe's actually playing through his assorted maladies. If Kobe sits, we already know that Shannon Brown has explosive fill-in potential. Remember the Lakers' final two games are versus the Kings and Clippers. Watch this situation very closely. Jordan Farmar will be good for a couple of 3-pointers a night during the same period.
Orlando Magic: With both Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus being banged up, you should see a couple of nice spot box scores out of the coasting Magic. Given 30 minutes, J.J. Redick is capable of singlehandedly helping your team win a tight 3-point race. I've already plugged Ryan Anderson (who shares Redick's pathological willingness to hoist the 3-pointer), but don't sleep on Matt Barnes. Barnes can also hit the 3, and has gone for double digits in five straight games.
Cleveland Cavaliers: This may be exciting to only me and John Hollinger, but LeBron James is still vying for the all-time-high single-season PER. As a result, I hope James sticks to 40 minutes per game, but if he sits, I'd key on Delonte West. West will get you assists, and if his shot is falling, can also be a double-digit scorer. Anthony Parker is a mortal lock for a 3-pointer a game while boosting your steals totals in the process.
Bonus Section: Injured keepers
I'm sure you already thought to do this, but don't forget to look for injured stars who might be lurking on the wire in keeper leagues. That means Blake Griffin, Gilbert Arenas, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum, Yao Ming, Tony Parker, Wilson Chandler and Michael Redd.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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