Fantasy Forecaster: Schedule gets busy, except for the Warriors
When will Kevin Garnett, Caron Butler and Chris Kaman return? It's hard to say. But at least you have the luxury of being cautious with your studs. That's because 17 NBA teams play four games this week, so there are plenty of capable fill-ins.
Teams with four games
Atlanta Hawks (PHI, LAL, CLE, @ HOU)
Lineup locks: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Marvin Williams
Outlook: Someone must have reminded the Hawks that Josh Childress is a career 51.6-percent field goal shooter. Or maybe the message went to Childress himself. In any event, after an ugly six-game stretch in which he made just 42.1 percent of his shots while seeing his minutes (26), attempts (6.3) and scoring (7.3 points) tank, Childress now is chucking it again, and things are happening. Really good things. In his past three games, he logged 34 minutes per night and averaged 18.0 points, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks on 61.5 percent shooting. Take four games of Childress this week, but note that the Sixers, Cavs and Rockets all hold opponents to fewer than 98 points per game.
Boston Celtics (@ CLE, LAC, @ MIN, SA)
Lineup locks: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Outlook: After missing three of four games because of a sore back, Rajon Rondo averaged 14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals in his past six games. Don't look for him to keep up the scoring, though. He has been shooting more (11-plus attempts per game in this span, compared to 8.5 attempts per game on the season) with Allen and Garnett missing time. Speaking of KG, his abdominal injury makes him a tough call this week. The Celtics said they won't rush him back, but personally, I can't see him missing Friday's return to the Twin Cities.
Lineup locks: Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni
Outlook: Gordon, who put up 33 points Saturday at Sacramento, returned just in time. Sonics, Jazz and Warriors opponents are shooting 45 percent or better, and Golden State allows the most points in the league. But if you are in a daily lineup league and have other viable options, bite the bullet and sit Gordon Wednesday. The Blazers are sixth in the league in scoring defense (95.3 points) and fourth in opponents' field goal percentage (44.2).
Cleveland Cavaliers (BOS, @ HOU, @ ATL, DEN)
Lineup locks: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: It's November all over again for Drew Gooden owners. When Anderson Varejao held out the first month of the season, Gooden averaged 15 points and 10 boards. Now that Varejao is sidelined with a bad ankle sprain, look for Gooden to return to that double-double form. While the Rockets and Celtics are ranked first and third, respectively, in rebound differential, keep in mind that Boston has been out-rebounded in two of three games without Garnett.
Dallas Mavericks (@ ORL, MIL, MEM, @ NJ)
Lineup locks: Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard
Outlook: Jason Terry wasn't overly impressive in his first two starts after Devin Harris went down, but the treys should come in bunches this week. The Bucks and Grizzlies both allow about seven 3-pointers per game, and the Nets aren't far behind, allowing 6.3.
Denver Nuggets (@ POR, Utah, WAS, @ CLE)
Lineup locks: Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony
Outlook: Camby's left knee bruise isn't considered serious, so the Nuggets could finally have him, AI and Melo together Monday at Portland. Still, with the Wizards and their NBA-worst 3-point defense on the schedule, it's tempting to keep Linas Kleiza active in weekly lineup leagues. But keep in mind that Anthony's return means Kleiza again will be a reserve, and that the Blazers, Jazz and Cavs all are above average when it comes to limiting 3s.
Los Angeles Clippers (@ NY, @ BOS, @ TOR, @ PHI)
Lineup locks: None
Outlook: It can't get much worse for the Clippers, whose two best players, Kaman and Corey Maggette, have missed a combined seven games because of the flu. (Not to mention that the Clippers' "bestest" best player, Elton Brand, has been out all season.) I prescribe ice packs and fluids -- for Kaman and Maggette owners. As of early Sunday, I couldn't find any definitive word on their availability. In the meantime, with the Knicks and Raptors on the schedule, give Tim Thomas a chance to break out of his 3-pointer dry spell this week. And Al Thornton is worth adding in deep leagues, even if he was 8-of-36 from the floor in his past two games.
Los Angeles Lakers (@ NJ, @ ATL, @ ORL, @ MIA)
Lineup locks: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol
Outlook: Last week, I surmised that Ronny Turiaf might emerge as the Lakers' top center in Andrew Bynum's absence. But I guess trading a bunch of nothing for Gasol is a good solution, too. In daily leagues, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic are good plays against the Nets and Heat. Otherwise, the Lakers are a three-man team (Bryant, Gasol and Lamar Odom).
New Jersey Nets (LAL, @ ORL, @ CHA, DAL)
Lineup locks: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson
Outlook: The Nets play Tuesday at home, jet to Orlando the next day, and then are back in New Jersey by the weekend. It kind of reminds me of that "Seinfeld" episode in which Jerry buys his parents a Cadillac and goes broke flying back and forth. Anyway, the Nets are expected to acquire Stromile Swift from the Grizzlies on Monday, and in a large league, I'd get him. Sean Williams has lost his starting spot, and I think Swift will move in alongside Josh Boone this week.
New York Knicks (LAC, IND, SA, @ MIL)
Lineup locks: Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, Nate Robinson
Outlook: The Knicks have a tough back-to-back schedule of their own, going from NYC to Milwaukee this weekend. We would like to see Eddy Curry get over the flu, but we also would like to see Isiah Thomas keep giving David Lee big minutes. Especially this week -- the Clippers, Pacers and Bucks all have been out-rebounded this season.
Philadelphia 76ers (@ ATL, WAS, MIA, LAC)
Lineup locks: Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Samuel Dalembert
Outlook: After Iguodala, Miller and Dalembert, the Sixers offer little for fantasy owners. But rookie Thaddeus Young scored 14 and 15 points, respectively, in his past two games while shooting 60 percent (12-of-20) from the field. With the Hawks, Clippers and Heat each allowing opponents to shoot better than 45 percent, Young could help deep-leaguers this week.
Phoenix Suns (CHA, NO, SEA, WAS)
Lineup locks: Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Leandro Barbosa
Outlook: Raja Bell totaled just 15 points in his past three games, but games against the Bobcats, Sonics and Wizards should get him back on track.
Portland Trail Blazers (DEN, CHI, @ DET, @ IND)
Lineup locks: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw
Outlook: Steve Blake had 10 3s in his past five games, and he could maintain that pace with this schedule. The Bulls and Pacers allow about seven treys per game, while the Nuggets are the league's second-worst team at defending the 3-pointer.
San Antonio Spurs (@ IND, @ WAS, @ NY, @ BOS)
Lineup locks: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili
Outlook: Damon Stoudamire signed with the Spurs on Sunday. Tempting as it is to activate him with the Pacers, Wizards and Knicks on the schedule -- the veteran is shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range -- his last game was Dec. 30. Stoudamire probably won't play much right away, and he is bound to be rusty.
Utah Jazz (NO, @ DEN, @ SAC, CHI)
Lineup locks: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur
Outlook: I've never liked Kyle Korver for fantasy purposes, but if I'm hyping Blake because he's playing the Nuggets, Bulls and Pacers, I'm pretty much obligated to recommend Korver against the Nuggets, Kings and Bulls.
Washington Wizards (@ PHI, SA, @ DEN, @ PHO)
Lineup locks: Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler
Outlook: The Wizards don't want to rush Butler back from his hip injury. So maybe Andray Blatche, who has averaged 16.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks while starting in Butler's place, is a viable play this week.
Teams with three games
Unless otherwise noted, stick to your locks from here.
Charlotte Bobcats (@ PHO, NJ, @ DET)
Lineup locks: Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton
Outlook: If you have better options, sit Wallace, who is expected to be out until late this week because of a right ankle sprain. But with the Bobcats having only one game between Sunday and Friday, weekly leaguers still could get two games out of G-Wall.
Detroit Pistons (MIA, POR, CHA)
Lineup locks: Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton
Outlook: Tayshaun Prince scored in double figures in six of his past seven games. This trend might have legs, considering Prince also averaged almost 14 field goal attempts in that span (compared to 11.7 shots on the season). The Bobcats and Heat allow about 100 points a night, so there is incentive to keep him active.
Indiana Pacers (SA, @ NY, POR)
Lineup locks: Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy
Outlook: Jamaal Tinsley is playing, but he is not all the way back. After missing three games because of a knee problem, Tinsley came off the bench the past two games, playing about 20 minutes each night and totaling just seven points. The Spurs and Blazers are stout defensively, so sit Tinsley one more week unless you are starved for assists.
New Orleans Hornets (@ Utah, @ PHO, MEM)
Lineup locks: Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler
Outlook: I'm not going to tell you to sit Peja Stojakovic, who had 38 3-pointers in his past nine games. But I will say the Suns are sixth-best in the league at limiting treys (they allow just 5.5 per game) and the Jazz allow only six buckets from downtown.
Sacramento Kings (SEA, Utah, @ GS)
Lineup locks: Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, Mike Bibby, Ron Artest
Outlook: Miller has been a monster of late, averaging almost 17 rebounds over his past four games. With the Warriors allowing the most boards in the league and the Sonics fourth-worst in that regard, the glass-cleaning should continue.
Toronto Raptors (@ MIA, LAC, @ MIN)
Lineup locks: Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon
Outlook: Andrea Bargnani has been hugely disappointing this season, but coach Sam Mitchell's patience is showing signs of paying off. The former No. 1 draft choice averaged 16.6 points and 2.4 3s in his past five games. That Minnesota is probably the best team on Toronto's schedule this week should tell you everything you need to know about whether to use him.
Teams with two games
Golden State Warriors (CHI, SAC)
Lineup locks: Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Al Harrington
Outlook: Golden State has it easy -- like third-string quarterback easy -- for awhile. The Warriors are in the midst of a 31-day stretch in which they play just 11 games, with an amazing 10 of them coming at home. Another surprise: You can justify playing any of your Warriors with this schedule. Need blocks? Biedrins should get his share, with the Bulls and Kings allowing about 5.5 per game. And Chicago and Sacramento give up plenty of 3s, too.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball writer for ESPN.com.
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