Fantasy Forecaster: Hawks prepare for steady flow of games
A short while back, I mentioned how strong the Celtics were in so many defensive categories. While Detroit has since slipped ahead of Boston in scoring defense, the C's still hold opponents to league lows in field-goal percentage (42.4) and 3-pointers per game (5.0). In addition, Boston allows the second fewest rebounds and assists while also forcing the second-most turnovers.
The Grizzlies have this much in common with the Celtics: They stand out in a lot of defensive departments. But in their case, it's because they're so bad. Memphis is last in opponents' field-goal percentage (47.8) and next to last in points allowed (105.7). The other numbers, of course, are grizzly: 24th in 3s allowed, 25th in rebounds allowed and 28th in assists allowed.
And here's the kicker: The Grizzlies are getting worse. Opponents are scoring 109.1 points per game during the team's eight-game losing streak. Each of Memphis' last five opponents has shot at least 50 percent, and they've combined for 43 3-pointers. In short, you want your players playing Memphis.
On the other hand, if 3-point scorers is what you want, I have a couple surprises for you.
Teams with 4 Games
Atlanta Hawks (GS, @NO, @CHA, MIA)
Lineup locks: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Mike Bibby
Outlook: Starting today at Boston, the Hawks play 20 times over the next 35 days. While Smith has topped 50-percent shooting in just three of his past 11 games, this schedule figures to enhance his accuracy. The Warriors, Bobcats and Heat all allow opponents to shoot 46.3 percent or better.
Charlotte Bobcats (@MIN, GS, ATL, @WAS)
Lineup locks: Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton
Outlook: Charlotte released Jeff McInnis last week, but in their efforts to give Felton full reign at point guard, the Bobcats might also be giving fantasy owners their new Kyle Korver. Matt Carroll, the 27-year-old who has made 40.3 percent of his 3-point attempts over five NBA seasons, is McInnis' replacement in the starting lineup. This week he draws the Warriors (the only team allowing more points than the Grizzlies) and the Wizards, who yield the most 3-pointers. And while Hawks and Timberwolves opponents have the second and third lowest shooting percentage from long range, respectively, it's worth noting that Carroll just buried four 3s against the Celtics.
Chicago Bulls (MEM, CLE, @BOS, @DET)
Lineup locks: Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni
Outlook: Since returning from injury, Gordon is shooting just 39.8 percent from the field. Perhaps a matchup with the Grizzlies will reinvigorate him, but the Celtics and Pistons are two of only three teams that hold opponents to less than 44 percent from the floor.
Detroit Pistons (SEA, @BOS, @NY, CHI)
Lineup locks: Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton
Outlook: Billups missed Saturday's game versus the Clippers due to personal reasons. On those rare occasions when any Pistons regular sits, you can pretty much bank on Tayshaun Prince filling the void, which he did to the tune of 22 points and 10 assists against Los Angeles. The dimes are actually a bit of a trend with Prince; he's averaging 5.0 assists in his past seven games. For what it's worth, the Sonics allow 23.5 assists per game, fourth most in the league.
Golden State Warriors (@ATL, @CHA, @MIA, @ORL)
Lineup locks: Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis
Outlook: After spending nearly the entire month of February at home, the Warriors play four times in five nights at Southeast Division opponents. Brandan Wright has started the past two games, and he's worth watching in deep leagues. While the rookie played just nine minutes against Seattle on Feb. 26, Wright came back with 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes against Philadelphia on Friday.
Los Angeles Clippers (PHI, SAC, @LAL, MIN)
Lineup locks: Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette
Outlook: After missing four games because of back problems, Kaman had 13 points and 14 rebounds Saturday against Detroit. Al Thornton did little in the blowout loss to the Pistons, but in February he averaged 17.4 points and 6.3 assists. Play him this week, with the Kings and T-Wolves ranking 24th and 20th, respectively, in scoring defense.
Minnesota Timberwolves (CHA, @Utah, @SAC, @LAC)
Lineup lock: Al Jefferson
Outlook: The Timberwolves are yet another team that plays four times in five nights this week. This is a deceptively favorable schedule for Randy Foye and Rashad McCants. While the Bobcats, Jazz and Clippers all rate as above average against the 3, lately these teams have slipped, especially the Bobcats. In fact, Charlotte has surrendered 40 3s over its past five games.
New Jersey Nets (@SA, @MEM, @NO, @DAL)
Lineup locks: Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson
Outlook: Starting Tuesday, the Nets visit each Southwest Division team over a seven-day span. Devin Harris was terrific in his New Jersey debut, but it will be interesting to see if his three 3s against Milwaukee are an accident or a trend. The Bucks are awful against the 3, but after reading his post-game comments, I'm thinking Harris could be more active from the perimeter with the Nets. "I had a specific role with the last team, there were certain things I could and could not do," Harris told PA Sports Ticker. "It's a new start here, so I'm letting it all out, and we will see what happens." That said, the Spurs and Mavs don't give up a lot of 3s, and the Hornets are average in that regard. Then there are the Grizzlies, quite possibly the league's worst team right now. So we'll see.
New Orleans Hornets (@NY, ATL, NJ, @HOU)
Lineup locks: Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic
Outlook: How nice was it seeing Paul and the Hornets on national TV the other night? One thing mentioned during the ESPN broadcast that's worth repeating here is that the Bobby Jackson trade should mean more playing time for Jannero Pargo. The 28-year-old is capable of shooting 3s in bunches, but limit your expectations this week. The Hawks and Rockets are both in the NBA's top five in 3-point defense.
New York Knicks (NO, CLE, DET, POR)
Lineup locks: Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, David Lee
Outlook: Randolph missed Saturday's game because of a right foot injury. While it doesn't sound serious, the New York Daily News says it's uncertain whether Z-Bo will play Monday against the Hornets.
Phoenix Suns (@POR, @DEN, Utah, SA)
Lineup locks: Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Grant Hill, Leandro Barbosa
Outlook: Raja Bell is making you pay for those two 3s a night. Since the All-Star break, he's averaging only 8.5 points on 29.6 percent shooting. Might be more of the same this week. The Blazers, Nuggets and Spurs all hold opponents under 45 percent from the field.
Sacramento Kings (LAL, @LAC, MIN, @LAL)
Lineup locks: Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, Ron Artest
Outlook: Interesting week for the Kings, who visit the Clippers, return home and then go back to L.A. to face the Lakers. That the Clippers and T-Wolves allow 26-plus free-throw attempts per game is good news for Martin, an 86-percent foul shooter who averages 8.6 attempts per game. The more Martin can get to the line right now the better, since in February he averaged just 18.7 points and 40.5 percent field-goal shooting.
San Antonio Spurs (NJ, IND, @DEN, @PHO)
Lineup locks: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker
Outlook: Get used to four-game weeks from the Spurs, who are in the midst of playing 19 times in 31 days. With the Pacers, Nuggets and Suns ahead, Michael Finley is a possibility if you're hard up for 3s. The veteran is averaging 1.9 treys over his past 14 games.
Seattle SuperSonics (@DET, @MIL, @PHI, @TOR)
Lineup locks: Kevin Durant, Chris Wilcox
Outlook: As the rookie Durant approaches wall-hitting territory, he's a tenuous lock, at best. Since the break the 19-year-old is just 37.5 percent from the field. However, with Bucks opponents shooting 47.2 percent and Sixers opponents shooting almost 46 percent, this isn't the week to bench him.
Lineup locks: None
Outlook: ESPN is saying that Chris Bosh's sore right knee is expected to keep him sidelined at least through Toronto's current road trip. I'm saying that you don't have to sweat the Raptors' tumultuous point guard situation, at least for now. The Heat, Wizards and Sonics are in the league's bottom third in assists allowed. Jose Calderon or T.J. Ford? Either player should help you this week. And Anthony Parker and Andrea Bargnani should help you as long as Bosh is out.
Utah Jazz (DAL, MIN, @PHO, DEN)
Lineup locks: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur
Outlook: Ronnie Brewer has three straight games of double-digit scoring, but he has only one steal in that span. He should increase his pick-pocketing this week, though, as the Nuggets and Timberwolves each allow around eight steals per game.
Teams with 3 Games
Cleveland Cavaliers (@NY, @CHI, IND)
Lineup lock: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: Ilgauskas strained his back and won't play today against Chicago. He'll be reexamined, though, and there should be an update soon. If Big Z misses multiple games, it obviously bodes well for Ben Wallace and possibly Anderson Varejao, especially since Knicks, Bulls and Pacers opponents all get more than five blocks a game.
Los Angeles Lakers (@SAC, LAC, SAC)
Lineup locks: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom
Outlook: The Los Angeles Times says that Vladimir Radmanovic could play today against Dallas. The 27-year-old has missed four games because of a right calf strain. With two shots against the Kings, who are 26th in 3-point defense, Radman could help you this week.
Memphis Grizzlies (@CHI, NJ, BOS)
Lineup locks: Mike Miller, Rudy Gay
Outlook: Since the Gasol trade, Hakim Warrick is averaging 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 51.1 percent. But his sub-70 percent foul shooting and high turnover rate (nearly three per game over his past nine starts) limits his fantasy value. The Celtics force 16.0 turnovers a game, while Bulls opponents turn it over 15.2 times. Boston trails only Golden State in this department, while Chicago, perhaps surprisingly, is sixth in turnovers forced.
Philadelphia 76ers (@LAC, SEA, @MIL)
Lineup locks: Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Samuel Dalembert
Outlook: Dalembert is playing with a left quad strain and a sore left ankle, and it shows. Since the break he's averaging just 6.6 points, 1.1 blocks and 37.8-percent shooting. However, he's still putting up 10 boards per game in that span. It might be wise to sit him this week if it doesn't hurt you too much in rebounding. But note that the Clippers and Sonics are in the league's bottom third in total rebounds allowed.
Portland Trail Blazers (PHO, @MIL, @NY)
Lineup locks: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw
Outlook: Interesting piece on OregonLive.com about Jarrett Jack. Apparently Nate McMillan has relented, and is again playing Jack primarily at point guard rather than shooting guard. Since the switch, the inconsistent Jack has responded with back-to-back 21-point games. Take that information, and this schedule, and play the 24-year-old this week, considering the Suns, Bucks and Knicks all allow more than 101 points per game.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.