- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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A couple weeks back I noted that the Milwaukee Bucks are playing a dizzying 17 games in 29 days coming out of Christmas. Well I'm back on this topic because this schedule is reaching its maniacal peak -- the Bucks play five games this week. It's the first time in the 2007-08 season that a team will play five times between Monday and Sunday. (Of course there have been other instances in which teams played in five of seven days -- in fact, Milwaukee also did this in early December.)
The bad news for fantasy owners is that, this being the Bucks, there aren't a lot of ways to take advantage of Milwaukee's schedule. On the bright side, 23 other NBA teams have four games this week, so you have abundant lineup options to choose from.
On Tap (schedules through Jan. 27)
Teams with five games
Milwaukee Bucks (@ NO, PHO, IND, @ TOR, WAS)
Lineup locks: Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Andrew Bogut
Outlook: Really, it's hard to recommend playing anyone other than Redd, Williams and Bogut. It's temping to suggest Yi Jianlian for his shot-blocking, but a majority of this week's opponents -- the Hornets, Suns, Raptors and Wizards opponents -- are getting blocked less than 4.5 times a game. To put it another way, these four teams are all among the best teams in the league in fewest shots rejected. Plus, Yi's shooting 36.5 percent and averaging only 8.5 points in January. Has the 20-year-old already hit the rookie wall? With this schedule, maybe.
Teams with four games
Atlanta Hawks (POR, @ DEN, @ SEA, @ POR)
Lineup locks: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Marvin Williams
Outlook: The Hawks open a five-game, eight-day trip Wednesday in Denver. After starting January with seven straight games of double-digit scoring, Josh Childress has totaled just six points in his past two games. Of greater concern is that Childress, who averages 30 minutes per game this season, played only 21 and 22 minutes at Milwaukee and Toronto. So perhaps Childress fans -- I am one of them -- should think twice about activating him this week.
Boston Celtics (@ NY, TOR, MIN, @ ORL)
Lineup locks: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Outlook: According to The Boston Globe, Rajon Rondo could return Monday against the Knicks. I mention this in case you're tempted to plug Eddie House into your lineup. House started the past two games at point guard, scoring 10 and 15 points and totaling five 3-pointers.
Charlotte Bobcats (SA, DAL, @ CHI, PHI)
Lineup locks: Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton
Outlook: Wallace has upped his points (18.5 in November, 21.4 in December and 25.4 in January), rebounds (4.9, 5.3 and 8.7), assists (1.8, 3.9 and 4.7), steals (2.0, 2.3 and 2.4) and blocks (0.8, 1.0 and 1.2) in each month so far. Now if he could just get his turnovers to less than three per game. Perhaps this schedule will help -- the Spurs and Mavericks are 28th and 29th in the NBA in forcing turnovers. Or, maybe it won't -- the Bulls and 76ers are eighth and ninth in this category.
Chicago Bulls (@ MEM, IND, CHA, PHO)
Lineup locks: Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Joe Smith
Outlook: Thabo Sefolosha has started the past four games and is averaging 11.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals in that span. With Deng still struggling with his left Achilles problem and Chris Duhon injuring his knee this weekend, Sefolosha is worth watching in larger leagues.
Cleveland Cavaliers (@ MIA, WAS, PHO, @ LAL)
Lineup locks: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: Even though he's coming off the bench now, Daniel Gibson is still averaging 2.6 3s a game in January. With the Heat and Wizards -- teams that allow more than seven 3s a night -- on tap, you'll want Boobie in your lineup this week.
Dallas Mavericks (@ WAS, @ CHA, LAL, DEN)
Lineup locks: Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard
Outlook: Play Devin Harris. The Nuggets allow 25.0 assists a night -- the most in the league by far -- while the Wizards and Lakers both yield more than 22 dimes per game.
Denver Nuggets (@ LAL, ATL, NJ, @ DAL)
Lineup locks: Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony
Outlook: Linas Kleiza continues to start in place of Kenyon Martin (who has a staph infection), but you're Rocky Mountain high if you expect more performances like that 41-point showing against Utah. This schedule definitely doesn't favor him; the Mavs lead the league in 3-point defense while the Lakers, Hawks and Nets are average to above average in that regard.
Houston Rockets (SEA, @ SEA, @ POR, Utah)
Lineup locks: Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady
Outlook: After missing 11 games with a left knee injury, McGrady scored nine points in 27 minutes against San Antonio on Jan. 19. Back-to-back games with the Sonics (28th in scoring defense) should help T-Mac get back up to speed.
Indiana Pacers (@ PHI, @ CHI, @ MIL, @ MIA)
Lineup locks: Jamaal Tinsley, Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy
Outlook: Jeff Foster is, unsurprisingly, piling up the boards (23 in two games) since Jermaine O'Neal went down. You'll play him this week, but with the Pacers facing Samuel Dalembert, Ben Wallace, Bogut and Shaquille O'Neal, don't bank on monster numbers.
Los Angeles Clippers (Utah, SAC, @ NO, @ MEM)
Lineup locks: Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette
Outlook: Sam Cassell, who may or may not be auditioning for a new team, is averaging 22.3 points and 6.3 assists in his past three. Keep riding Cassell -- and, if you're in search of sleepers -- take a chance on Cuttino Mobley or Tim Thomas. The Jazz, Kings and Grizzlies all allow opponents to shoot 46.0 percent or better. Memphis is, um, grizzly defensively -- opponents have averaged 112.3 points over their past seven games.
Los Angeles Lakers (DEN, @ SA, @ DAL, CLE)
Lineup lock: Kobe Bryant
Outlook: With Andrew Bynum out, someone has to help out Kobe, and that someone is likely Lamar Odom, who yanked down 19 boards against Phoenix on Jan. 17. While the Nuggets yield the fourth-most rebounds on a per-game basis, each of the Lakers' opponents this week is on the plus side in boards for the season. If you're in a daily lineup league, play Jordan Farmar against Denver -- the Nuggets are 25th in points allowed, 29th in turnovers allowed and 30th in 3s allowed. Despite playing only about 20 minutes a night, Farmar is averaging 11.6 points, 2.0 3s and 1.6 turnovers in January.
Memphis Grizzlies (CHI, ORL, @ WAS, LAC)
Lineup locks: Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay
Outlook: Juan Carlos Navarro is averaging 19.2 points and 4.0 3s in his past five games. He's also shooting 54.5 percent in that span (including 57.1 percent from downtown), which surely won't last. Not that you won't keep riding JCN, especially with the Bulls and Wizards both allowing more than seven 3s a night, but watch out for the Clippers, who are ranked fifth in 3-point defense.
Minnesota Timberwolves (@ GS, PHO, @ BOS, NJ)
Lineup locks: Al Jefferson, Rashad McCants
Outlook: As bad as the Wolves are, they're looking better to fantasy owners, with McCants and Ryan Gomes both putting up good numbers as of late. Gomes is averaging 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 55.4 percent shooting in his past five.
New Jersey Nets (@ SAC, @ GS, @ DEN, @ MIN)
Lineup locks: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson
Outlook: The Nets conclude a six-game, nine-day road trip this week. After playing just 10 games all season (and averaging just seven minutes), second-year point guard Marcus Williams scored 17 points in 22 minutes against the Clippers on Jan. 19. If New Jersey deals Kidd, pounce on Williams.
New Orleans Hornets (MIL, POR, LAC, @ SA)
Lineup locks: Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler
Outlook: Peja Stojakovic is averaging 3.1 3s in January. You'll want him active against the Bucks, who allow nearly seven treys a night. But don't expect a lot otherwise. The Clippers and Spurs are fifth and third, respectively, in 3-point defense.
Orlando Magic (DET, @ MEM, @ DET, BOS)
Lineup locks: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu
Outlook: Even with Memphis on the schedule, now isn't the time for weekly leaguers to get cute with fringe players like Keith Bogans. Despite showing some flaws recently, the Celtics and Pistons remain the league's top two teams in scoring defense.
Philadelphia 76ers (IND, DET, @ NY, @ CHA)
Lineup locks: Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Samuel Dalembert
Outlook: In the week since I wrote him off, Willie Green is averaging 14.3 points, 1.5 3s and 57.4 percent shooting. He still doesn't do much overall, but with the Pacers, Knicks and Bobcats coming up, he isn't a bad play.
Phoenix Suns (@ MIL, @ MIN, @ CLE, @ CHI)
Lineup locks: Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Leandro Barbosa
Outlook: Grant Hill told me that he would return to the lineup Tuesday at Milwaukee. OK, you know what I know -- I watched Hill's interview during Thursday's nationally-televised Suns-Lakers game. Point is, Boris Diaw's minirun is over.
Portland Trail Blazers (@ ATL, @ NO, HOU, ATL)
Lineup locks: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge
Outlook: After shooting less than 43 percent through New Year's Day, Travis Outlaw is 50.9 percent from the floor -- and averaging 16.4 points -- over his past eight games. But if he slips this week, it's understandable, given that the Hawks and Rockets are seventh and second, respectively, in opponents' field goal percentage.
San Antonio Spurs (@ CHA, LAL, @ MIA, NO)
Lineup locks: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili
Outlook: The Spurs have reached 90 points in just three of their past nine games. Even though it seems like they're doing their part, Duncan and Parker must take some blame for the offensive outage. Duncan is just 45.7 percent from the field in January, while Parker is shooting 46.9 percent. In 2006-07 Duncan and Parker shot 54.6 and 52.0 percent from the field, respectively.
Seattle SuperSonics (@ HOU, HOU, ATL, SAC)
Lineup lock: Kevin Durant
Outlook: Earl Watson and Luke Ridnour are both putting up decent numbers while sharing time at point guard since the latter's return from a quad injury four games ago. Watson is averaging 9.8 points and 8.5 assists, while Ridnour is averaging 7.5 points and 6.0 assists. But in most leagues, neither will be relevant unless -- or until -- the Sonics make a deal.
Washington Wizards (DAL, @ CLE, MEM, @ MIL)
Lineup locks: Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler
Outlook: Antonio Daniels (5.9 assists, 56.3 shooting in January) might be worth plugging into to the lineup in a deep league -- at least for the Memphis-Milwaukee portion of the schedule.
Teams with three games
Unless otherwise noted, stick to your locks from here.
Golden State Warriors (MIN, NJ, NY)
Lineup locks: Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins, Al Harrington, Monta Ellis
Outlook: A pretty inviting schedule, even if it is only three games. Even Matt Barnes is a tempting play -- assuming Golden State's coaches can be bothered to include him on the active list going forward.
New York Knicks (BOS, PHI, @ GS)
Lineup locks: None
Teams with two games
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball writer for ESPN.com.
2hBy Dan Graziano