Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Back to the grind

Updated: February 17, 2008, 7:22 PM ET
By Neil Tardy | Special to ESPN.com

Good times at All-Star Weekend: Daniel Gibson drops 11 3-pointers on the Rookie team, while Slam Dunk champion Dwight Howard breaks out the Superman cape. Still, I'm with Dr. J: Gerald Green slamming in his socks is a lot harder than it looks.

Fantasy owners have had a hard time looking at Larry Hughes' shot this season. But after two huge games last week, perhaps there's hope for Hughes owners. This week's active post-break schedule -- 13 teams play four games -- offers more hope for Hughes. That Cavs' schedule is sweeter than Green's prop cupcake. The week ahead also holds promise for Hakim Warrick and Nate Robinson, among others.

On Tap (schedules through Feb. 24)

Teams with four games

Atlanta Hawks (@ LAL, @ SAC, @ GS, @ Utah)
Lineup locks:
Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby
Outlook: Howard might fly like Superman, but Bibby is the one flying to the Hawks' rescue, just as Atlanta heads west for four games in five nights. One thing worth noting with this schedule: The Lakers, Kings and Warriors rank 11th, seventh and fourth in most assists allowed, so Bibby has a chance to rack up helpers out of the gate. And what better way to impress your new teammates? Incidentally, a shaggy-goateed ESPN fantasy hoops analyst I know well, offers his take on the Bibby deal here.

Boston Celtics (@ DEN, @ GS, @ PHO, @ POR)
Lineup locks:
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo
Outlook: Expect Kevin Garnett to play this week. Sometime this week, anyway. The Boston Globe says that the team hopes Garnett will return Tuesday at Denver for the start of a five-game, seven-day road trip. But coach Doc Rivers insists that Garnett won't play untill his abdominal strain is fully healed and that Monday's practice will truly determine KG's status. If Garnett doesn't play Tuesday, it's hard to imagine him suiting up the next night in Oakland, either. Your call, KG owners.

Cleveland Cavaliers (HOU, @ IND, WAS, MEM)
Lineup locks:
LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: A week ago, Hughes owned a 35.4 field-goal percentage. How bad is that? Well, 28 NBA players make more than 40 percent of their shots -- from 3-point land. But Hughes got it going in a big way when he rained 40 points and four 3s on Orlando and 26 points and four 3s on San Antonio. It marked the first time this season that Hughes shot better than 50 percent in consecutive games. While it's obvious Hughes simply isn't an accurate shooter -- he didn't manage back-to-back games of better than break-even shooting all of last season -- perhaps he's turning a corner. You'll find out this week, because the Grizzlies and Bucks are the NBA's two worst teams in terms of opponents' shooting percentage. Both allow opponents to make more than 47 percent of their field-goal attempts. And the Wizards, another of this week's opponents, surrender the most 3-pointers in the NBA.

Detroit Pistons (ORL, @ MIL, MIL, @ PHO)
Lineup locks:
Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton
Outlook: The Pistons are almost too good. Three of their past four games were decided by the end of the third quarter, so the starters didn't accumulate a lot of minutes or stats. Perhaps Billups, 'Sheed, Rip and Tayshaun Prince owners are better off when Detroit faces quality opponents like the Magic and Suns. Still, you'll take it when your guys go back-to-back against the Bucks, who, in addition to being 29th in opponents' field-goal percentage, allow more than 100 points and seven 3s per night.

Rafer Alston
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty ImagesRafer Alston has made a steady improvement over the past month or so.
Houston Rockets (@ CLE, MIA, @ NO, CHI)
Lineup locks:
Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady
Outlook: Rafer Alston is playing a big part in Houston's surge. He's also helping his fantasy owners. In January, Alston averaged 15.0 points, 5.9 assists, 1.9 3s and 1.7 steals. In seven games this month, he's averaging 13.7 points, 6.9 assists and 2.0 3s. Even better, his turnovers are down from January (under two per game) and his field-goal percentage is up (to 43.4 percent, compared with 39.3 percent last month).

Los Angeles Lakers (ATL, @ PHO, @ LAC, @ SEA)
Lineup locks:
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom
Outlook: Odom has been a third wheel -- first to Kobe and Andrew Bynum, and now to Bryant and Gasol -- but a very productive one. He has upped his rebounding and assist totals in each month this season. In February, Odom is averaging 11.6 boards and 5.6 assists to go with 13.0 points and 61.2 percent shooting. With the Suns, Clippers and Sonics among the league's worst six teams in total rebounds allowed, the double-doubles should keep coming.

Memphis Grizzlies (@ SEA, @ LAC, DAL, @ CLE)
Lineup locks:
Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, Darko Milicic
Outlook: Gasol's departure has allowed Hakim Warrick to get another opportunity in Memphis. So far, so good. The third-year player totaled 47 points and 21 rebounds against the Kings and Sixers last week. And as noted, the Sonics and Clippers give up a lot of boards.

New York Knicks (@ WAS, @ PHI, TOR, @ TOR)
Lineup locks:
Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph
Outlook: Nate Robinson has been injured and ill, but with the Wizards on tap and back-to-back games against the Raptors ahead, I'd take my chances. As noted, Washington is the league's worst in 3-point defense, while the Raptors are third worst. Both teams allow more than 7.5 treys a night.

Orlando Magic (@ DET, @ TOR, PHI, SAC)
Lineup locks:
Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu
Outlook: The cape was cool, but my fave Howard dunk was the one in which he lobs it to himself, then pushes it off the backboard left-handed and throws it down with the right. Anyway, it appears that Jameer Nelson is right again. He has started the past three games and averaged 17.3 points and 6.0 assists. He should dish plenty of assists against the Sixers and Kings, who allow nearly 23 dimes per game. On the other end of the spectrum is Detroit. Pistons' opponents average only 18.6 assists, second fewest in the league.

Philadelphia 76ers (@ MIN, NY, @ ORL, @ MIA)
Lineup locks:
Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Samuel Dalembert
Outlook: Philly must contend with four games in four cities over five nights. Fatigue might make it tougher to score than the Timberwolves, Knicks and Heat, who are among the six worst teams in opponents' shooting percentage.

Portland Trail Blazers (SAC, SEA, @ SEA, BOS)
Lineup locks:
Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw
Outlook: Another sweet schedule, even if it does include the Celtics, who allow the fewest points (89.4), rebounds (38.5) and assists (18.2) in the league. The C's also hold opponents to league-low field-goal (42.2) and 3-point (31.6) percentages. But two games with the Sonics (and what's with all the home-and-home series this week?) should provide your Blazers with ample opportunities to pad their stats.

Sacramento Kings (@ POR, ATL, @ CHA, @ ORL)
Lineup locks:
Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, Ron Artest
Outlook: Get Beno Udrih if he was dropped in your league. But don't expect great things from him or any of your Kings this week. The Hawks are the NBA's third-best team in 3-point defense, while the Blazers, Bobcats and Magic are all in the upper half in that regard. Slumping Portland, however, has been more susceptible to the 3 of late, having allowed 38 buckets from downtown in its past five games.

Seattle SuperSonics (MEM, @ POR, POR, LAL)
Lineup locks:
Kevin Durant, Chris Wilcox
Outlook: The Sonics might be the league's least-useful team from a fantasy perspective. But the play of Wilcox is a bright spot. The 25-year-old has reached double figures in nine straight, averaging 16.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 57.1-percent shooting in that span.

Teams with three games

Charlotte Bobcats (@ SA, SAC, @ WAS)
Lineup locks:
Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton
Outlook: Lots of injury news from here. Start with Wallace, who's expected to go this week after missing five of six games because of a strained right foot.

Chicago Bulls (@ NJ, DEN, @ HOU)
Lineup locks:
Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni, Joe Smith
Outlook: The Chicago Tribune says that Gordon should play Tuesday in New Jersey.

Dallas Mavericks (@ NO, @ MEM, @ MIN)
Lineup locks:
Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard
Outlook: Nothing I can find on Howard, who has missed the past two games after falling hard on his back last week at the end of the Sixers game. No news is probably good news here. With the break to rest, expect Howard to play this week. But keep checking for updates.

Denver Nuggets (BOS, @ CHI, @ MIL)
Lineup locks:
Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin

Golden State Warriors (@ Utah, BOS, ATL)
Lineup locks:
Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington

Indiana Pacers (CLE, NJ, @ NJ)
Lineup locks:
Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy

Al Thornton
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty ImagesPlease tell us why Al Thornton is not owned in 62 percent of ESPN hoops leagues?
Los Angeles Clippers (MEM, Utah, LAL)
Lineup locks:
Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette
Outlook: Two weeks ago, I told you to pick up Al Thornton. Obviously you've listened. Or maybe you just looked at the numbers. In any event, the rookie is currently the ninth most added player in ESPN leagues. However, in 62 percent of ESPN leagues, he can still be had. So get Thornton, who's averaging 21.5 points and 8.0 rebounds over his past four games.

Milwaukee Bucks (DET, @ DET, DEN)
Lineup locks:
Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Andrew Bogut

Minnesota Timberwolves (PHI, SA, DAL)
Lineup locks:
Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes

New Jersey Nets (CHI, @ IND, IND)
Lineup locks:
Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson
Outlook: As of now, Jason Kidd is still a Net. But in deep leagues, grab Marcus Williams, who manned the point last week at Toronto. Williams played 31 minutes and finished with 11 points, five assists and four turnovers against the Raptors.

New Orleans Hornets (DAL, HOU, @ SA)
Lineup locks:
Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic
Outlook: I'm finally buying into Stojakovic, who has been incredible for a month, but he'll get tested this week. The Mavericks, Rockets and Spurs are second, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the league in fewest 3-pointers allowed.

Phoenix Suns (LAL, BOS, DET)
Lineup locks:
Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa
Outlook: Wow. Every game is a marquee match up for the Suns this week. It has been four games since Phoenix moved Shawn Marion, and the results have been predictable. Shaquille O'Neal has yet to suit up, though that should happen in a week or so, and Boris Diaw has stayed true to his inconsistent form. In starting the past four games, Diaw has scored 4, 13, 7 and 19 points, respectively. Still, the overall averages aren't bad: 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks.

San Antonio Spurs (CHA, @ MIN, NO)
Lineup locks:
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili

Toronto Raptors (ORL, @ NY, NY)
Lineup locks:
Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon

Utah Jazz (GS, @ LAC, ATL)
Lineup locks:
Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur

Washington Wizards (NY, @ CLE, CHA)
Lineup lock:
Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler
Outlook: Butler won't play in tonight's All-Star Game, but The Washington Post says he should be ready for the Knicks on Tuesday.

Teams with two games

Miami Heat (@ HOU, PHI)
Lineup locks:
Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion.

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

Neil Tardy | email

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

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