Fantasy Forecaster: Different team objectives this time of year
Welcome to the final Forecaster for the 2007-08 NBA season. This week, we cover the final 10 days of the NBA regular season, which ends Wednesday, April 16.
If you're still vying for a fantasy hoops championship, good luck -- and forget what you know. By now, some teams have everything on the line, some are just waiting for the playoffs and some are waiting for the draft lottery. Some stars are playing hurt, some stars are resting, some scrubs are starring
But one fact will remain unchanged: The Wizards will surrender tons of 3-pointers.
Let's get to it.
Teams with six games
Boston Celtics (@ MIL, @ WAS, MIL, @ ATL, @ NY, NJ)
Lineup locks: None
Outlook: You probably won't see Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen all sitting out at the same time, as they did in Saturday's win at Charlotte, again this regular season. But with Boston having clinched the NBA's best record, you won't see the big three together on the court a lot, either. Pierce's fiancée gave birth to the couple's first child Friday, so the team might allow him to skip the next two road games. Garnett, Allen and Rajon Rondo also could miss at least one game in the week ahead. With the front-liners resting, Leon Powe (22 points and 9 boards against the Bobcats), should play a lot. He's a solid add if you have a starter to replace. James Posey and Eddie House also figure to get minutes, not to mention plenty of 3-pointers against the Bucks and Wizards.
Chicago Bulls (@ MIA, @ ORL, CLE, ORL, @ MIL, TOR)
Lineup locks: Luol Deng, Ben Gordon
Outlook: Drew Gooden has vowed to play again this season, but coach Jim Boylan told the Chicago Sun-Times the player's strained abdominal muscle isn't getting any better. The coach added that he'd be surprised to see Gooden play Tuesday at Miami. You probably can count Gooden out of Wednesday's contest at Orlando, too. Tyrus Thomas is starting in Gooden's place, but don't start the erratic forward unless you need the blocks. And when it comes to rejections, this schedule could leave you dejected; Heat, Magic and Raptors opponents are in the league's bottom third in blocks per game.
Detroit Pistons (NY, @ PHI, WAS, TOR, MIN, @ CLE)
Lineup locks: Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace
Outlook: After Friday's win over the Nets, coach Flip Saunders said Pistons starters will play in the 20- to 25-minute range the rest of the way. That means they can still help you -- for instance, in his 24 minutes against the Nets, Wallace notched 17 points, 8 rebounds and 2 3s -- but don't expect huge numbers. This is especially true for Richard Hamilton, who has missed five of the past six games because of a hip problem, and Billups. In Chauncey's case, Detroit wants to give Rodney Stuckey as many minutes as possible before the playoffs begin. The rookie averaged 28 minutes in his past six games, producing 13.2 points and 3.7 assists in that span.
Milwaukee Bucks (BOS, @ TOR, @ BOS, NJ, CHI, @ MIN)
Lineup locks: Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut
Outlook: Speaking of minutes, Mo Williams' are dwindling big-time. He has failed to reach 30 in any of his past five games, including Friday's debacle against the Pacers, when he managed just 2 points in 18 foul-plagued minutes. Apparently the Bucks want to see what Ramon Sessions (7.7 points and 7 assists in his past three games) can do, so don't expect much more from Williams.
Lineup lock: Al Jefferson
Outlook: If there's a Wolves player you want active this week besides Jefferson, it's Marko Jaric. And if you want Jaric, it's for the steals. Since regaining his starting spot when Sebastian Telfair went down 14 games ago, Jaric is averaging 1.8 thefts per game. To fantasy owners, that number is about as pretty as Jaric's girlfriend, Adriana Lima. He should keep up the pace against this fairly neutral schedule. Although the Hornets and Pistons are the top two teams in terms of fewest steals allowed, the Grizzlies are dead last in that category, with 8.9 takeaways allowed per game.
New Orleans Hornets (Utah, @ MIN, @ LAL, @ SAC, LAC, @ DAL)
Lineup locks: Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic
Outlook: The Hornets' fight to secure the top seed in the Western Conference leaves fantasy owners feeling pretty secure. If everything goes right, New Orleans could wrap up the West with a couple of games to go. But even in that case, Paul owners would still get, at minimum, four games of their best player going full bore. A good number of Paul-led teams will be clinching league championships this week, in fact.
Teams with five games
Atlanta Hawks (@ IND, @ NY, BOS, ORL, @ MIA)
Lineup locks: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Mike Bibby
Outlook: It'll be nice to see the Hawks in the playoffs again, but it won't be pretty seeing them play the Celtics. Know what else isn't pretty? The predicament owners of Smith, Johnson or any Hawks player, really, face this week. If Atlanta wins at Indiana on Tuesday, the Hawks should wrap up their playoff spot Friday at MSG. And if that happens, expect the Atlanta regulars to get considerable rest in the final three contests. You have to stick with Smith, Johnson and Bibby. But in a weekly lineup league, I'd be tempted to sit Horford, and I wouldn't take a chance on Marvin Williams or Josh Childress. If you're playing your Hawks, though, you're definitely a Pacers fan come Tuesday.
Charlotte Bobcats (MIN, @ NY, @ IND, @ NJ, PHI)
Lineup locks: Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton
Outlook: Gerald Wallace left Friday's game at Toronto with a sore groin and didn't play Saturday against Boston. I don't know whether Charlotte will shut him down, but as a fantasy owner, I'd sit him down.
Cleveland Cavaliers (NJ, @ CHI, MIA, @ PHI, DET)
Lineup locks: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: James' back spasms are of course a concern, but with the Cavs trying to hold off the Wizards and Sixers for fourth place in the East, the team grades out fairly well in terms of incentive. So play Delonte West, who averaged 14.5 points, 6.3 assists and 2.0 steals in his past four games. The Nets, Bulls and Heat rank in the lower third in the league in terms of steals allowed.
Dallas Mavericks (SEA, Utah, @ POR, @ SEA, NO)
Lineup locks: Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry
Outlook: In four games since replacing injured Jerry Stackhouse in the starting lineup, Terry has averaged 22.8 points, 4.5 assists, 1.8 3s and 1.5 steals. I shouldn't have to tell you that any schedule featuring a home-and-home against the Sonics' 27th-rated scoring defense is a favorable one.
Golden State Warriors (SAC, DEN, LAC, @ PHO, SEA)
Lineup locks: Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis
Outlook: In his past five games Andris Biedrins averaged 13.8 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, but maybe most impressive is the fact that the 62.7 percent foul shooter is 21-for-24 from the line in that span. Although you can't count on the Latvian to continue channeling his inner Steve Nash, the boards and blocks should continue. Nuggets, Clippers and Sonics opponents are in the top eight in the league in total rebounds per game, and Kings and Sonics opponents are fourth and fifth in blocks. But note that coach Don Nelson doesn't use Biedrins much against Phoenix. In three previous games against the Suns this season, Biedrins has averaged just 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 16 minutes.
Houston Rockets (SEA, PHO, @ DEN, @ Utah, LAC)
Lineup locks: Tracy McGrady, Rafer Alston
Outlook: Alston has missed the past two games because of a sore left hamstring problem but could play Sunday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Track that, Alston owners.
Los Angeles Clippers (DEN, LAL, @ GS, @ NO, @ HOU)
Lineup locks: Corey Maggette, Elton Brand
Outlook: Yep, Brand is back, and those owners who stashed him on their rosters weeks ago are being rewarded for their foresight.
Memphis Grizzlies (PHO, @ MIA, MIN, @ POR, @ DEN)
Lineup lock: Rudy Gay
Outlook: Mark Iavaroni said recently that Mike Miller is looking worn down, and the numbers agree with the coach. Miller shot just 38.9 percent over his past five games and didn't have more than 10 field goal attempts in any of them.
Miami Heat (CHA, MEM, @ CLE, @ TOR, ATL)
Lineup lock: Chris Quinn
Outlook: In seven games since returning to the starting lineup, Quinn has averaged 16.4 points, 8.3 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.1 3s. Add about six points to that, and you have Baron Davis-type numbers. I'm just sayin'. And now I'm also saying that Ricky Davis is a tempting play for the stretch run. Davis has had only two good games in the past 3½ weeks, but they've come against the Knicks (28 points, 7 3s on March 26) and Washington (33 points, 9 3s on Friday). The Wizards can't stop the 3, and the Knicks have pretty much stopped playing anything. Filling those roles for Davis this week are Toronto, which is second only to Washington in 3-pointers allowed, and Memphis, which has lost 15 games by double digits since the All-Star break alone.
Lineup locks: Richard Jefferson, Devin Harris
Outlook: Vince Carter could have a big game this week, but that might be all you get from him. Carter is playing on a sore right ankle (he could be looking at offseason surgery), but he'll keep playing as long as the Nets cling to their slim playoff hopes. Elimination for the Nets could come as soon as Wednesday at Cleveland. The end of Carter's season could come right after.
Orlando Magic (CHI, MIN, @ CHI, @ ATL, WAS)
Lineup locks: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu
Outlook: The Magic are locked into the third seed in the East, so any of their stars could be rested.
Portland Trail Blazers (LAL, @ SAC, DAL, MEM, @ PHO)
Lineup lock: LaMarcus Aldridge
Outlook: Brandon Roy, who has missed four games because of a strained groin, is expected to play today against the Spurs. But lest you Roy owners get too giddy, the All-Star says he's still in some pain. You must keep Roy active if he's playing, but keep in mind that one slip or twinge probably ends his season. Meanwhile, Martell Webster is out again Sunday after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. The 21-year-old will have more tests this week.
Lineup lock: Kevin Martin
Outlook: Even though Martin is averaging an astonishing 28.6 points in his past 11 games, he still needs help. And with Ron Artest, Brad Miller and Beno Udrih all sidelined, Martin's help is coming from two unlikely sources: Mikki Moore and Francisco Garcia. If you can get Garcia as a deep-league add, do it. In his past eight games, the 26-year-old Dominican averaged 16.3 points, 1.4 3s and 1.8 steals.
Washington Wizards (BOS, @ DET, PHI, IND, @ ORL)
Lineup lock: Caron Butler
Outlook: No word on the availability of Antawn Jamison (or Gilbert Arenas, for that matter), and the Wizards are off until Wednesday. While Jamison was missing his second straight game because of a right shoulder sprain, Brendan Haywood scored a career-high 25 points in Saturday's win at Chicago. Though the 7-footer has averaged 2.1 blocks in his past seven games, Celtics, Pistons and Magic opponents all average fewer than five rejections per night.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.