Fantasy Forecaster: Schedule on the lighter side
As we enter the second half of the NBA season, the schedule will dial it down a notch. Just six teams have four games this week, while four clubs play only twice. Filling out your lineup might be tough, so check on the availability of Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson and Carlos Delfino, among others. The forecast calls for creativity.
Teams with four games
Charlotte Bobcats (@ LAC, @ SAC, @ GS, @ DEN)
Lineup locks: Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton
Outlook: The Bobcats will open a five-game, eight-day road trip Monday at the Clippers. Word is that Felton, who sat out Saturday's game because of a sprained left ankle, should return Wednesday at Sacramento. If you are in a weekly league and you need the assists, though, it might be worth it to keep him active. Nuggets opponents get the most dimes in the league by a significant margin. The Warriors, meanwhile, allow the fourth-most assists, more than 23 per game.
Los Angeles Clippers (CHA, ATL, @ MIN, @ CLE)
Lineup locks: Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette
Outlook: Kaman's left shin bruise doesn't sound too serious, but he told the Los Angeles Times he couldn't put enough weight on his leg to give it a go Saturday at Memphis. It's nothing but a guess here, but that makes me think he might need another day or two, which would cost him Monday's game with Charlotte. But if an iffy Felton is worth playing this week, ya gotta stick with the All-Star-worthy Kaman.
Los Angeles Lakers (NY, @ DET, @ TOR, @ WAS)
Lineup lock: Kobe Bryant
Outlook: Kwame Brown kind of reminds me of my golf game -- he would be a lot better if the game didn't have a ball. A recent Sports Illustrated poll of NBA players listed Brown as the player who does the least with the most talent but I don't even see the talent. It's like he has no instinct for the game. Not trying to pile on here; I mention this because I think Ronny Turiaf will emerge in Andrew Bynum's absence. Turiaf might not be gifted, either, but for fantasy owners, he's a blockin' good time. In four games without Bynum thus far, the Frenchman has totaled nine rejections while playing about 23-25 minutes. While this isn't a favorable schedule -- none of these opponents allows more than 4.5 blocks per night -- add Turiaf if you still can.
New York Knicks (@ LAL, @ Utah, @ POR, @ SEA)
Lineup locks: Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, Nate Robinson
Outlook: The Knicks will complete a five-game, seven-day road trip this week. Say what you will about Isiah Thomas, but he seems to have gotten a rise out of Randolph. In seven games since his benching Jan. 11 against Toronto, Z-Bo has averaged 19.3 points, 11.6 boards and a scant (for him) 2.3 turnovers. While the Jazz allow the second-fewest rebounds, Randolph should keep cleaning the glass effectively.
Utah Jazz (SA, NY, @ WAS, @ MEM)
Lineup locks: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur
Outlook: Since arriving in Salt Lake City, Korver has averaged just 1.3 3-pointers per game. Part of the problem is that the career 40.6-percent 3-point shooter is shooting just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc. Another part of the problem is that he is playing only 22 minutes a night. And perhaps the biggest problem is that Jerry Sloan expects Korver to play some defense. In 11 games with the Jazz, Korver has fouled out once and has picked up five fouls three times. Still, the Grizzlies (29th in scoring defense), Wizards (29th in 3-point defense) and Knicks (they're the Knicks) are three great reasons to get Korver in there this week.
Washington Wizards (TOR, @ TOR, Utah, LAL)
Lineup locks: Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler
Outlook: Two games against the Raptors and their No. 28 3-point defense? That alone makes Stevenson a decent fill-in this week. The 26-year-old has had at least one 3-pointer in 21 of his past 22 games.
Teams with three games
Unless otherwise noted, stick to your locks from here.
Chicago Bulls (MIN, @ MIN, @ SAC)
Lineup locks: Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni
Outlook: Nocioni is averaging 18.5 points, 2.7 3s and almost a block per game in January. Meanwhile, Joe Smith averaged just 16 minutes and 5.2 points over his past four games. My bad.
Cleveland Cavaliers (@ POR, @ SEA, LAC)
Lineup locks: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: Daniel Gibson has been one of my favorite fill-ins, but he burned me last week with poor games against Miami and Washington. Still, slumps happen. With the Sonics coming up (27th in scoring defense, 26th vs. the 3) and the Clippers allowing 24 3s in their past two games, I'll go back to that well.
Denver Nuggets (@ NO, @ MEM, CHA)
Lineup locks: Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony
Outlook: Anthony, who missed two games because of a left ankle sprain, is expected to return to the lineup Sunday. Hope Linas Kleiza owners enjoyed this week (22.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 3s in his past three games).
Houston Rockets (GS, @ IND, @ MIL)
Lineup locks: Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady
Outlook: I've never been a Shane Battier fan, but he is averaging 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in January. This week, he will get a chance to step it up from beyond the arc, as the Warriors, Pacers and Bucks all allow more than seven 3s per game.
Indiana Pacers (DET, HOU, ORL)
Lineup locks: Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy
Outlook: Jamaal Tinsley missed the past two games with a left knee injury. There has been nothing to suggest the injury will be long-term, so, with the Pacers playing just once between Monday and Friday, it's realistic to expect two games from Tinsley this week. But with Friday's opposition, the Rockets, allowing fewer than 19 assists a night, sitting Tinsley in a weekly league is a defensible decision.
Lineup locks: Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay
Outlook: With Mike Conley sidelined for up to a week, it's worth checking the free-agent wire for Kyle Lowry. Again, the Nuggets give up more assists than anybody. Gasol, meanwhile, remains a question mark because of his back problem.
Minnesota Timberwolves (@ CHI, CHI, LAC)
Lineup locks: Al Jefferson, Rashad McCants, Ryan Gomes
Outlook: Sebastian Telfair is on a roll, averaging 13.0 points, 7.2 assists and 1.5 steals in his past six games. With the Bulls and Clippers in the middle of the pack in opponents' field goal percentage and assists, and in the bottom half of the league in turnovers, Telfair is in line for another solid week.
New Orleans Hornets (DEN, GS, @ SAC)
Lineup locks: Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler
Outlook: The Warriors allow the most points per game, the Nuggets allow the most 3-pointers per game and the Kings yield lots of points from behind the arc. Peja Stojakovic averaged 19.7 points and 4.0 3s in his past six games. You don't really need me to spell this out, do you?
San Antonio Spurs (@ Utah, @ SEA, @ PHO)
Lineup locks: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili
Outlook: The Spurs went 11-11 in their past 22 games, and my life officially doesn't make sense anymore. Deep-leaguers, take a gander at Ime Udoka, who reached double figures in three of his past four games.
Toronto Raptors (@ WAS, WAS, LAL)
Lineup locks: Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon
Outlook: Delfino is shooting 50 percent from downtown this month. Sure, it's exasperating that in his past six games he scored 14, 26, 0, 0, 15 and 18 points, but with back-to-back tilts against the Wizards, take your chances.
Teams with two games
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball writer for ESPN.com.
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