- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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With so many games -- 20 teams play four times this week -- and, with all of the trade activity, so many reconfigured lineups, Why am I talking about Kareem Rush? Because the schedule likes him. And why am I not feeling the sizzling J.R. Smith? It's the schedule. At the Forecaster, it's always the schedule.
On Tap (schedules through March 2)
Teams with 4 Games
Atlanta Hawks (@ SA, SAC, NY, @ BOS)
Lineup locks: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Mike Bibby
Outlook: After four games with Bibby, Johnson and Smith are shooting less and scoring less, but making more shots. What's interesting is that the slight scoring declines (from 20.6 to 18.8 points for Johnson and 17.8 to 16.5 points for Smith) can be accounted for by decreased trips to the line. Since Bibby's arrival, Johnson is taking only 3.0 free throws a game (compared to 4.9 attempts previously), while Smith averages 3.3 attempts (down from 6.2 previously). Of course it's hard to make much of four games, but for what it's worth, the Spurs allow the second-fewest free-throw attempts, just more than 20 per game. The Kings, Knicks and Celtics allow between 24 and 27 trips to the line.
Boston Celtics (@ LAC, CLE, CHA, ATL)
Lineup locks: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo
Outlook: The Clippers, Cavs, Bobcats and Hawks are all in the bottom half of the league in opponents' field goal percentage. For instance, Cleveland's opponents are shooting 46.0 percent for the season, 22nd in the league. It'll be interesting to see if that changes with Danny Ferry dumping half the roster. Point is, expect another productive week from your Celtics.
Chicago Bulls (@ DAL, @ IND, WAS, @ CLE)
Lineup locks: Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni
Outlook: Moving two big men (Ben Wallace and Joe Smith) for one (Drew Gooden) should mean more playing time for Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. Each registered a double-double Friday against Denver. Owners in ESPN leagues are grabbing these two, but Noah remains available in 79 percent of leagues, while Thomas can be had in 45 percent of them. With this schedule, however, don't expect a lot of shot-blocking from either youngster. Among these four teams, only the Pacers are averaging more than five against rejections per night.
Cleveland Cavaliers (@ MIL, @ BOS, MIN, CHI)
Lineup locks: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: Can Delonte West man the point for a playoff team? If you plucked him out of free agency -- and he is a recent acquisition in 20 percent of ESPN leagues -- play him this week. The Bucks and Timberwolves are in the league's bottom third of the NBA in assists allowed.
Dallas Mavericks (CHI, @ SA, SAC, @ LAL)
Lineup locks: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Josh Howard
Outlook: Howard is averaging only 16.1 points and 38.6 percent shooting in February. It won't get much easier this week, with the Bulls, Spurs and Lakers all limiting opponents less than 45 percent from the field.
Denver Nuggets (DET, @ SEA, LAC, @ HOU)
Lineup locks: Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin
Outlook: J.R. Smith has 31 3-pointers in his past six games, but there was one bad outing in that stretch. Smith managed just seven points and a single 3 against Boston on Feb. 19. That's instructive, because the Celtics allow fewer than six 3-pointers a night. Same goes for the Pistons, Clippers and Rockets. With Linas Kleiza hurting right now, Smith should continue to get minutes. But don't count on him filling it up this week.
Indiana Pacers (TOR, CHI, @ TOR, MIL)
Lineup locks: Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy
Outlook: My deep-league flyer of the week is Kareem Rush, who's averaging nearly two treys a game since December. As if the home-and-home against the Raptors (28th in 3-point defense) wasn't enough, the Bulls and Bucks yield around seven 3s a night.
Los Angeles Clippers (BOS, POR, @ DEN, DET)
Lineup locks: Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette
Outlook: In his second-half preview, our Brian McKitish sagely notes that the Clippers have one of the league's most favorable schedules. Los Angeles is in the midst of a dizzying stretch of 26 games in 44 days. So pretty much every week is a four-game week from here on out. That said, this four-game set is a fairly tough one, with the Celtics, Pistons and Blazers first, third and fourth in opponents' shooting percentage. So Al Thornton, Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley aren't the best options this week.
Los Angeles Lakers (POR, MIA, @ POR, DAL)
Lineup locks: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom
Outlook: Vladimir Radmanovic left early on Saturday with a right calf strain. That could mean a start or two for Luke Walton. It could also mean more offense from Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic, both of whom got extensive playing time on Saturday. Perhaps one or both could get you a bundle of 3s against the Heat; however, the Mavs are first in 3-point defense and the Blazers are above average in the category.
Miami Heat (SAC, @ LAL, @ SEA, @ SAC)
Lineup locks: Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion
Outlook: Watch Marcus Banks this week. While Jason Williams continues to struggle, Banks has played more than 20 minutes twice in the past three games. The Kings, Sonics and even the Lakers give up their share of 3s, and that's something Banks can exploit. In his limited minutes this season, he's shooting 41.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Milwaukee Bucks (CLE, @ NJ, SA, @ IND)
Lineup locks: Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Andrew Bogut
Outlook: Redd, Williams and Bogut account for nearly 60 percent of the Bucks' offense, and 100 percent of the reasons that fantasy owners should care about this team.
Minnesota Timberwolves (Utah, @ TOR, @ CLE, SEA)
Lineup lock: Al Jefferson
Outlook: Only 10 games into his season, Randy Foye is making solid progress. He's moved into the starting lineup and reached double figures in three straight games. With the Raptors and Sonics coming up, Foye should continue to be worth at least a couple of 3s a night.
New Orleans Hornets (WAS, PHO, Utah, @ WAS)
Lineup locks: Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic
Outlook: Morris Peterson has struggled all season, but he's a tempting play this week. After knocking down three treys on Saturday against the stout Spurs defense, he has two cracks at the Wizards, who surrender more 3-pointers than anyone.
Portland Trail Blazers (@ LAL, @ LAC, LAL, @ GS)
Lineup locks: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw
Outlook: What I said about the Bucks pretty much applies to the Blazers. This is a three-man team for fantasy.,/p>
Sacramento Kings (@ MIA, @ ATL, @ DAL, MIA)
Lineup locks: Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, Ron Artest
Outlook: Francisco Garcia is healthy again, evidenced by his 15 3s over the past three games. With the two games against the Heat, he should keep it going. However, the Hawks and Mavs are both in the top five in 3-point defense.
San Antonio Spurs (ATL, DAL, @ MIL, @ NJ)
Lineup locks: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker
Outlook: Ginobili is carrying this team. OK, Duncan is helping, too, but look at the Argentine's numbers in February: 26.3 points, 7.0 assists, 5.9 rebounds, 3.9 3s, 1.6 steals and 55.8 percent shooting. That's King James and Kobe-type value.
Seattle SuperSonics (@ GS, DEN, MIA, @ MIN)
Lineup locks: Kevin Durant, Chris Wilcox
Outlook: Kurt Thomas' departure should mean big things for Nick Collison. Although he did nothing in 21 foul-plagued minutes against the Blazers on Friday, with the Warriors and Nuggets up next, look for Collison to get back to double-digits in boards. These teams are 1-2 in total rebounds allowed.
Toronto Raptors (@ IND, MIN, IND, @ CHA)
Lineup locks: Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon
Outlook: The inconsistent Carlos Delfino has had back-to-back big games, with 23 points against the Magic and 18 more against the Knicks. More importantly, he has averaged a steady 27 minutes over his past five outings. You don't need me to tell you that playing the Pacers, Timberwolves and Bobcats bodes well for anyone.
Utah Jazz (@ MIN, DET, @ NO, @ MEM)
Lineup locks: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur
Outlook: Kirilenko is reportedly suffering from a toe problem and, more recently, the flu. Perhaps that explains why he's scored in single-digits in four of his past eight games.
Washington Wizards (@ NO, @ HOU, @ CHI, NO)
Lineup lock: Antawn Jamison
Outlook: Keep Andray Blatche in your lineup. Caron Butler still hasn't recovered from his hip flexor injury, and according to The Washington Post, coach Eddie Jordan is no longer speculating on Butler's return.
Teams with 3 Games
Charlotte Bobcats (@ NY, @ BOS, TOR)
Lineup locks: Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton
Outlook: Gerald Wallace is expected to miss at least two weeks with a concussion. He was unconscious for 13 minutes after taking an elbow to the jaw from Sacramento's Mikki Moore on Friday. Nasty, and scary, given that this is G-Wall's fourth concussion in three-plus seasons in Charlotte.
Golden State Warriors (SEA, PHI. POR)
Lineup locks: Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington
Outlook: I can't find anything definitive on Jackson, who has missed the past two games with a left-ankle sprain. Don Nelson told the San Jose Mercury News that he initially thought Jackson would play in Friday's loss to Atlanta, but that his ankle was just too sore.
New York Knicks (CHA, @ ATL, @ ORL)
Lineup locks: Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, David Lee
Outlook: Lee is shooting 71.2 percent from the field in February. I don't care if it's coming on only 6.6 attempts a night, that will give your team a lift.
Phoenix Suns (@ MEM, @ NO, PHI)
Lineup locks: Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Grant Hill, Leandro Barbosa
Outlook: Hill, one of the season's quiet success stories, has been hitting the boards since the Marion trade. He has three double-doubles in his past four games. Barbosa has been cleared to play Sunday. He took three stitches over his eye after getting hit Friday against Boston.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball writer for ESPN.com.
The boys get back to work this week after All-Star weekend and the schedule-makers didn't exactly ease most of the NBA teams back to work. Neil Tardy explains how to approach the heavy week.