Fantasy Forecaster: Gooden hurt; Kaman, Rip return
Just when we were getting used to the idea of Drew Gooden being a fantasy stud, he turns in a pair of clunkers: Two points vs. the Sixers and then nine points vs. Atlanta (while shooting a combined 4-of-15 in the two games). It turns out there's a reason for Gooden's struggles, though. He's injured. And he's not the only key player who's hurting at this critical juncture. But there's also some good news in the Forecaster, because Chris Kaman and Rip Hamilton are back in the lineup. Read on.
Teams with Four Games
Atlanta Hawks (@ MEM, TOR, PHI, @ PHI)
Lineup locks: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Mike Bibby
Outlook: Bibby is averaging 6.5 assists per night as a Hawk, and he's starting to find his shooting stroke. The 29-year-old has knocked down 23 3-pointers in his past six games, and this week he faces two teams, the Grizzlies and Raptors, which allow more than seven 3s a game. And the Sixers -- as good as they've been in the second half -- have yielded 27 3s in their past three games.
Lineup locks: Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton
Outlook: After topping 11 points just once in a nine-game span, Okafor totaled 40 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks while helping Charlotte to road wins at Seattle and Portland. But he'll have a hard time maintaining his recent excellence this week, because the Cavs and Celtics are above-average rebounding teams. In addition, Raptors opponents average a mere 4.0 blocks per night.
Dallas Mavericks (@ LAC, GS, @ LAL, @ PHO)
Lineup locks: Josh Howard, Jason Kidd, Jerry Stackhouse
Outlook: The Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavs will bounce back this week -- they'll bounce from Los Angeles to Dallas and back to Los Angeles. Schedule quirks aside, stick with Stackhouse, who's averaging 18.5 points, 2.3 3s and 51.7 percent shooting over his past four. Clippers and Warriors opponents are better than 46 percent from the field this season.
Denver Nuggets (@ PHO, PHO, SAC, @ SEA)
Lineup locks: Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin
Outlook: It may surprise you to learn that J.R. Smith is averaging 15.6 points, 2.7 3s and 49.4 percent shooting since the All-Star break. For that reason -- and the fact that the Sonics and Kings are 25th and 26th, respectively, in 3-point defense -- keep Smith in your lineup. But note that the Suns allow just 5.7 3s per night, fifth-fewest in the league.
Los Angeles Clippers (DAL, @ SEA, @ SAC, HOU)
Lineup locks: Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman
Outlook: After missing nine games with back problems, Kaman returned to the lineup last week. In his third game back on Saturday, he tallied 10 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks against the Grizzlies. But Kaman will have to earn his double-doubles this week, because the Mavs and Rockets both allow fewer than 41 rebounds per game.
Memphis Grizzlies (ATL, NY, GS, @ MIN)
Lineup locks: Mike Miller, Rudy Gay
Outlook: Since the All-Star break, Hakim Warrick is averaging 16.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 50.6 percent shooting. The field goal accuracy should continue, because Knicks, Warriors and Timberwolves opponents all shoot better than 46 percent.
Miami Heat (@ IND, NO, @ WAS, DET)
Lineup locks: None
Outlook: Even with the Wizards ahead, Jason Williams is a risky play this week. At the very least, he'll probably sit today at Boston and Monday at Indiana because of his thumb problem.
Milwaukee Bucks (NY, @ WAS, IND, @ IND)
Lineup locks: Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Andrew Bogut
Outlook: Bogut is another tough call. He broke his nose last week when he ran into Atlanta's Marvin Williams and has missed the past two games. The big Aussie had surgery on Friday. While he's not ruled out of Tuesday against the Knicks, he's not ruled in, either. Even if Bogut returns by the weekend, he's still a tempting play, since Pacers opponents average 5.3 blocks per night.
Lineup locks: Al Jefferson, Randy Foye
Outlook: Jefferson's had a terrific season, but over his past four, the 23-year-old is averaging just 13.5 points on 42.4 percent shooting. However, he does have 14 blocks in that span. While Jazz and Grizzlies opponents reject more than five shots per game, the Pistons and Suns are two of only three teams that allow fewer than four blocks per night.
Teams with 3 Games
Lineup locks: Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich
Outlook: Gooden tried to play this week with an abdominal strain, but the injury finally took him out of the lineup Saturday, when he missed the game vs. Milwaukee. Ab injuries tend to be slow to heal, so don't count on him this week. But note that in Gooden's absence, Joakim Noah went for 18 points, 15 boards, 2 steals and 4 blocks against the Bucks.
Detroit Pistons (@ MIN, NJ, @ MIA)
Lineup locks: Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton
Outlook: After missing three games with a sore hip, Hamilton returned with 14 points against the Cavaliers Saturday. Though Rip was only 3-of-12 from the field, he made all eight of his free-throw attempts. Hamilton should fully recover this week, as the Pistons play only once before the weekend. Plus, Wolves and Heat opponents both shoot about 47 percent from the field.
Los Angeles Lakers (POR, DAL, @ SAC)
Lineup locks: Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom
Outlook: Pau Gasol could return for Wednesday's game against the Blazers, but, as the Orange County Register notes, his injured left ankle is still hurting him. So expect one more week of significant minutes from Ronny Turiaf, who's averaging 2.0 blocks per game in Gasol's absence. Note that I said minutes and not production. While Kings opponents reject 5.5 shots per game, the Blazers allow the fewest blocks of any team, just 3.7 a night. And Mavs opponents only manage 4.2 blocks.
Orlando Magic (NO, @ CLE, @ NY)
Lineup locks: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu
Outlook: The good news is that Jameer Nelson apparently didn't sustain a concussion last week. The team describes his injury -- a result of an errant forearm from Howard -- as a jaw contusion. Nevertheless, Nelson sat out Friday's game in Milwaukee. The Magic probably will be cautious with Nelson, who has suffered two concussions in his career, and they can afford to be cautious with him because of this schedule. The team plays only once this week until heading to Cleveland on Saturday.
Portland Trail Blazers (@ LAL, HOU, SA)
Lineup lock: LaMarcus Aldridge
Outlook: Brandon Roy's absence makes Portland all the more vexing for fantasy owners. Martell Webster had three straight games of double-digit scoring, but then managed just 3 points on 1-of-9 shooting Saturday against the Bobcats. In that same game, Travis Outlaw got just his second start this month and came through with a season-high-tying 26 points. For better or worse, this week's schedule is brutal for any Blazer. Rockets opponents shoot just 43.3 percent, the second-lowest figure in the league, while the Lakers and Spurs have the fifth and sixth lowest opponents' field goal percentage.
Seattle SuperSonics (LAC, HOU, DEN) Utah Jazz (WAS, MIN, SA)
Lineup locks: Kevin Durant, Nick Collison
Lineup locks: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur
Outlook: The Jazz will be without Okur and, probably, Kirilenko today in Minnesota. Both Okur and Ronnie Brewer have been ill -- though Brewer practiced Saturday and seems likely to play today -- while Kirilenko has a calf strain. With Utah so shorthanded, Paul Millsap could help deep-leaguers this week. The 23-year-old had 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks Friday against the Clippers. Of course those in daily leagues might want to try Kyle Korver Monday against the Wizards, the NBA's worst team at defending the 3-pointer.
Utah Jazz (WAS, MIN, SA)
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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