Fantasy Forecaster: Sleepers and creepers
Halloween was Wednesday, but I got my trick on Friday night while watching the Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns game. I thought I saw Reggie Miller, but it was Vladimir Radmanovic (19 points in just 23 minutes, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc). And Andrew Bynum was so dominant, even Kobe Bryant seemed happy to be his teammate. Meanwhile, the Suns looked like a bunch of extras in a George A. Romero movie.
Give the Lakers their props for going into Phoenix and crushing Steve Nash and crew. But also understand that the Suns played the night before at the Seattle SuperSonics and didn't get home until 4 a.m. Friday.
Sometimes the schedule makes a big difference. Keep that in mind, especially those of you in daily-transaction leagues. Now, let's get to this week's Forecaster and analyze the NBA teams that face grueling schedules in Week 2.
Teams with four games
Atlanta Hawks (@NJ, PHO, @BOS, WAS)
Lineup locks: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith
Outlook: To me, the most interesting line from Atlanta's season-opening win over the Dallas Mavericks was Tyronn Lue's 14 points in 26 minutes, including 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Acie Law IV committed four fouls in only 14 minutes. The veteran Lue is worth watching in deep leagues, and he's worth a flyer, given this week's schedule. The New Jersey Nets yielded an absurd 13 3-pointers against the Toronto Raptors, while opponents blistered the Washington Wizards with 30 treys in their first three games.
Charlotte Bobcats (PHO, @PHI, IND, HOU)
Lineup locks: Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor, Jason Richardson
Outlook: It's too bad the Bobcats lost Sean May and Adam Morrison, because with a little depth, this team's prospects would be intriguing. Perhaps Matt Carroll and Walter Herrmann will produce, but stick with the big four for now.
Cleveland Cavaliers (@GS, @Utah, @SAC, @LAC)
Lineup locks: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: After ending his holdout last week, Sasha Pavlovic could return as soon as today at Phoenix. This is a fairly favorable schedule, but Larry Hughes, whom you might want to play this week, and Daniel Gibson, whom you definitely should play, seem to have Pavlovic blocked from getting major minutes.
Denver Nuggets (@NY, @BOS, @WAS, @IND)
Lineup locks: Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby
Outlook: Linas Kleiza was huge in the opener against Seattle, but he was a non-factor at the Minnesota Timberwolves. This makes me think Denver might be willing to give J.R. Smith another opportunity. If there is a player on your roster you are itching to drop, hold your nose and grab Smith, who is eligible to play Tuesday at the New York Knicks. Otherwise, play Kleiza against this cake schedule and hope for the best. And don't think about activating Kenyon Martin until he starts playing more than 20 minutes a night.
Houston Rockets (@DAL, SA, MIL, @CHA)
Lineup locks: Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady
Outlook: Mike James has greatly out-produced Rafer Alston so far, but games against the Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs make James an iffy play in weekly leagues. Stick with Yao and T-Mac.
Los Angeles Clippers (@CHI, @IND, @DET, CLE)
Lineup locks: Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman
Outlook: Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas combined for 41 points and five 3-pointers in the opener, but the Golden State Warriors were the opposition, so don't make too much of it.
New Orleans Hornets (@LAL, @POR, SEA, @PHI)
Lineup locks: Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic
Outlook: The Hornets play 16 games in the first 28 days of the season. For what it's worth, Paul shot only 40.2 percent in the second of back-to-back games last year, compared with an overall rate of 43.7 percent. With its front-line talent, New Orleans doesn't really need a lot from Morris Peterson, but since none of these opponents are stopping the 3-pointer in the early going, it might be a good week to go with Mo-Pete.
Orlando Magic (@MIN, @TOR, @NY, PHO)
Lineup locks: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu
Outlook: Here's a name to think about if you're seeking a quick (and maybe temporary) infusion of 3-pointers: Keith Bogans. Bogans won the starting job at shooting guard in the preseason, primarily because of his defense. But on offense, Stan Van Gundy wants his team to shoot more from long range, and Bogans is obliging. All but one of his 17 field goal attempts have come from beyond the arc, and Bogans has made half of them. The caveat here is that Bogans is shooting just 39.4 percent from the floor overall in his career.
Phoenix Suns (@CHA, @ATL, @MIA, @ORL)
Lineup locks: Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Leandro Barbosa
Outlook: The Suns have four games in five nights, but the flights involved (Charlotte to Atlanta and Miami to Orlando) are short. So odds are all of your Suns will be rested enough to produce.
San Antonio Spurs (@HOU, MIA, @NO, MIL)
Lineup locks: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili
Outlook: I thought Michael Finley would be a solid play last week, but he hit just 33.3 percent of his shots. So, two weeks in, I'm down to stating the obvious: For fantasy purposes, the Spurs are strictly a three-man team.
Seattle SuperSonics (@SAC, MEM, Utah, DET)
Lineup locks: Chris Wilcox, Kevin Durant
Outlook: Nick Collison has been decent at center, but Kurt Thomas and Robert Swift could push him once they get healthy. The Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz have made a ton of turnovers so far, which could bode well for Damien Wilkins.
Toronto Raptors (@MIL, ORL, @PHI, @CHI)
Lineup locks: Chris Bosh, T.J. Ford, Andrea Bargnani
Outlook: Play your Raptors. And if you don't have any Raptors, check into Carlos Delfino's availability. As a reserve, he logged 30-plus minutes in each of Toronto's first two games. If Delfino continues to get the playing time, he'll get you 3s and steals.
Teams with three games
For teams playing three and two games this week, stick to your locks (unless otherwise noted).
Dallas Mavericks (HOU, @GS, @POR)
Lineup locks: Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard
Outlook: Howard is back from suspension, but a thigh injury kept Devin Harris out of the lineup Saturday versus the Sacramento Kings. Harris could play Monday against Houston, but sit him in weekly leagues if you have a similar option.
Detroit Pistons (@CHI, LAC, @SEA)
Lineup locks: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace
Outlook: Hamilton missed the first two games because of the birth of his son but is expected to play at Chicago. That should put an end to Tayshaun Prince's astounding statistical start.
Indiana Pacers (LAC, @CHA, DEN)
Lineup locks: Jermaine O'Neal, Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy
Outlook: Yes, with totals of 67 points and 27 boards in his first three games, I now consider Dunleavy to be a lineup lock.
Miami Heat (@SA, PHO, @NY)
Lineup lock: Ricky Davis
Outlook: If we're lucky, this is the last week we'll be without Dwyane Wade. I say this because Wade has been medically cleared to play. Best guess is he debuts Nov. 11 at New York or Nov. 13 at Charlotte. I say "we" because I have him in two leagues, and I really need the lad.
Sacramento Kings (SEA, CLE, MIN)
Lineup lock: Kevin Martin, John Salmons
Outlook: As bad as the Kings have been, Salmons and Francisco Garcia join Martin as viable fantasy options. Garcia actually played the point Nov. 3 at Dallas. He could be a terrific addition to your team for the next month or so while Mike Bibby is sidelined.
Washington Wizards (@NJ, DEN, @ATL)
Lineup locks: Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood
Outlook: The Wizards are 0-3, but it sure isn't Haywood's fault. He's averaging 13.7 boards and 3.0 blocks. Arenas still is being bothered by his surgically repaired left knee, so four days off prior to the Nets game can only help.
Teams with 2 games
Golden State Warriors (CLE, DAL)
Lineup locks: Baron Davis, Al Harrington. Andris Biedrins
Outlook: Kelenna Azubuike is off to a terrific start, but give it one more week before inserting him or Mickael Pietrus into your lineup. With just two games, Davis might be the only Warrior worth using this week.
Los Angeles Lakers (NO, MIN)
Lineup lock: Kobe Bryant
Outlook: I think you know this, but just to confirm: As long as he's healthy, Kobe plays. Even with a two-game slate. Always.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball writer for ESPN.com.
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