- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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This column's primary purpose is to help fantasy hoops owners in leagues that require weekly lineups. While I have nothing against being hands-on -- we make daily lineups in my primary league -- I focus on weekly leagues here because I believe that these folks must make more numerous and difficult lineup decisions throughout the season.
That said, this seems like a good time to highlight daily lineup calls. As is typically the case, the NBA has no games on Thanksgiving, while playing a near-full schedule on the days surrounding the holiday; Wednesday (13 games), Friday (12 games) and Saturday (10 games). So in the team summaries, we'll go through some of the favorable and unfavorable matchups on those days in particular. Hopefully, you'll end up being thankful for your lineup calls.
On Tap (schedules through Nov. 25)
Teams with 4 Games
Charlotte Bobcats (POR, WAS, @ ORL, BOS)
Lineup locks: Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor
Outlook: With 11 3-pointers in his past three games, Jason Richardson is out of his shooting slump, but it shouldn't be as easy this week. You know that the Celtics are playing great D, but like Boston, the Blazers and Magic allow fewer than six 3-pointers a game. However, play J-Rich and Matt Carroll against the Wizards on Wednesday. Deep leaguers should watch Ryan Hollins, who's averaged 25 minutes in his past two contests for the center-deprived Bobcats. This schedule, however, doesn't do the slim 7-foot shot-blocker any favors.
Cleveland Cavaliers (MIL, @ MIN, TOR, @ IND)
Lineup locks: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: Daniel Gibson has been a reliable play for fantasy owners; that is, he's put up his biggest numbers against the weakest competition. So get Boobie in there Wednesday against the woeful T-Wolves, who've allowed 26 3-pointers in their past three games, and Saturday against the Raptors, who yield nearly eight treys per night.
Dallas Mavericks (TOR, @ HOU, @ IND, @ MIL)
Lineup locks: Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry
Outlook: This is one of the week's tougher schedules; the Mavs play four games in five nights around Thanksgiving. Devin Harris (2.2 steals) is a promising play Friday against the Pacers, who average nearly 17 turnovers a night. DeSagana Diop looks like a stellar play Saturday against the Bucks, who are getting 6.6 shots rejected per game so far.
Denver Nuggets (CHI, @ LAC, MIN, @ HOU)
Lineup locks: Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby
Outlook: The Nuggets also play four in five around the holiday. Bench J.R. Smith against the Clippers on Wednesday and the Rockets on Saturday -- these teams only allow about five treys a night.
Golden State Warriors (@ NY, @ BOS, @ WAS, @ PHI)
Lineup locks: Baron Davis, Al Harrington. Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins
Outlook: While you're waiting at the airport this week, think of the Warriors, who will be out east and traveling almost daily over the holiday. You know the tasty (Knicks, Wizards) and tough (C's) parts of this schedule. You also know to watch how Don Nelson doles out the minutes. But don't get cute and try to play Kelenna Azubuike, Monta Ellis or Mickael Pietrus against the Sixers on Saturday. Besides Golden State's weariness, there's Philly's stout defense -- the Sixers are fifth in scoring defense so far -- to worry about.
Indiana Pacers (LAL, @ NO, DAL, CLE)
Lineup locks: Jermaine O'Neal, Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy
Outlook: Despite the four games, this week (like many weeks) is a good occasion to sit Jamaal Tinsley and his 37.9 field-goal percentage. Lakers, Hornets and Mavs opponents are all shooting in the 43-44 percent range. So for you daily leaguers, sit Tinsley against New Orleans on Wednesday and Dallas on Friday.
Los Angeles Lakers (@ IND, @ MIL, @ BOS, NJ)
Lineup locks: Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom
Outlook: And this week (like most weeks) is a good occasion to play Andrew Bynum. The Pacers and Celtics get around 5.5 shots blocked per night. And only the Knicks receive more rejections than the Bucks. Daily leaguers, just keep the kid active.
Memphis Grizzlies (SEA, TOR, @ SA, WAS)
Lineup locks: Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay
Outlook: Juan Carlos Navarro had a huge weekend shooting 3s, and with this schedule (Friday's trip to San Antonio excepted), he should stay hot. The Sonics, Raptors and Wizards are all allowing more than 7.5 3-pointers a night.
New Jersey Nets (@ Utah, @ POR, @ SEA, @ LAL)
Lineup locks: Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Antoine Wright
Outlook: Play your Nets, including fantasy find Sean Williams (22 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in his first start). But know that the Nets are winless and averaging 74 points in four games without Vince Carter.
New Orleans Hornets (ORL, IND, @ Utah, @ LAC)
Lineup locks: David West, Tyson Chandler
Outlook: Chris Paul isn't expected to play against the Magic, but he could return against the Pacers. The Wednesday matchup with Indiana might be the only good night this week for the all-or-nothing tandem of Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson.
Orlando Magic (@ NO, @ SA, CHA, MIA)
Lineup locks: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu
Outlook: Add in the Nov. 18 tilt with Boston, and the Magic play five games in seven days. While 60 of Keith Bogans' 77 field-goal attempts have come from beyond the arc, deep-leaguers can't get a read on the Kentucky product, who's struggled against the likes of Washington, Minnesota, New York and New Jersey. Nevertheless, this week doesn't look great for Bogans. Believe it or not, the Bobcats are allowing the fewest 3-pointers in the league.
Toronto Raptors (@ DAL, @ MEM, @ CLE, CHI)
Lineup locks: Chris Bosh, T.J. Ford
Outlook: Don't give up on Andrea Bargnani, but don't let the schedule sway you while he's looking this lost. Play Anthony Parker against the Grizzlies on Wednesday and the Cavs on Saturday. Cleveland, surprisingly, is allowing almost 103 points a night so far, compared with 92.9 per game last season.
Washington Wizards (PHI, @ CHA, GS, @ MEM)
Lineup locks: Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler
Outlook: While you're feeling sluggish after Turkey Day, the Wizards should feast on Golden State and Memphis on Friday and Saturday. The Warriors and Grizzlies are the NBA's two worst teams in scoring defense. I'm not comfortable calling Brendan Haywood a lock, but yes, play him this week in either format.
Teams with 3 Games
For teams playing three games, stick to your locks.
Atlanta Hawks (SA, @ MIA, @ MIN)
Lineup locks: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford
Outlook: After playing only 42 minutes total in the first two games of the season, Josh Childress has logged at least 30 minutes in each of the past seven games. He's not a lock, but he's a good lineup choice most of the time.
Boston Celtics (GS, LAL, @ CHA)
Lineup locks: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Outlook: I've never found much fantasy value in split stats for baseball, much less basketball, but it's getting mildly interesting with Rajon Rondo. In five home games, he's averaging 11.6 points, 5.6 assists and 61.4 percent from the field. In three away contests, the numbers are 6.0, 4.0 and 35.0 percent. As for Eddie House, mea culpa.
Chicago Bulls (@ DEN, @ NY, @ TOR)
Lineup lock: Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni
Outlook: In two starts, Nocioni is averaging 19.5 points, 7.5 boards and 1.5 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Ben Gordon has picked it up the past couple of games. Will Kirk Hinrich follow suit? This schedule gives him a chance.
Detroit Pistons (NY, PHI, Utah)
Lineup locks: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace
Outlook: Billups, who's been sitting because of knee and hip problems, should be able to return against the Knicks.
Houston Rockets (DAL, @ MIA, DEN)
Lineup lock: Yao Ming
Outlook: Hope you didn't give up on Luis Scola and drop him like I did. And if you did cut him, I hope you rescued him from your league's free-agent rolls. Like I did. (Whew.) The Rockets are an interesting team for fantasy. I still have hope that Bonzi Wells will start producing and that Mike James will keep getting time even when Tracy McGrady returns. Play James in deep leagues. In deep leagues with daily lineups, just play him against the Heat and Nuggets.
Los Angeles Clippers (DEN, @ PHO, NO)
Lineup locks: Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman
Outlook: Cuttino Mobley is shooting just 39.1 percent in three games since returning from a groin injury. Don't expect a lot of improvement this week. The Nuggets are actually holding opponents to 43.7 percent shooting, while the Suns and the Hornets allow fewer than six 3-pointers per game.
Miami Heat (ATL, HOU, @ ORL)
Lineup lock: Dwyane Wade
Outlook: Wade is back, but Jason Williams and Ricky Davis continue to struggle. Opponents of the Hawks and Rockets are shooting better than 45 percent. The Magic, however, are holding opponents to 41.8 percent from the field; only the Celtics are tougher to shoot against. You make the call.
Milwaukee Bucks (@ CLE, LAL, DAL)
Lineup locks: Michael Redd, Mo Williams
Outlook: Andrew Bogut has posted back-to-back 20-point games, but the Cavs and Lakers are two of the league's top rebounding teams. Saturday against Dallas might be the opportune time to use him.
Minnesota Timberwolves (CLE, @ DEN, ATL)
Lineup lock: Al Jefferson
Outlook: Rashad McCants is well on his way to becoming the Eddy Curry of guards. He's shooting only 60 percent the line, and he's accumulated more turnovers than assists, blocks and steals combined. Even his averages of 17.0 points, 2.1 3-pointers and 48 percent from the floor are inflated by a couple of huge games. So no, don't start him. Ever.
Portland Trail Blazers (@ CHA, NJ, SAC)
Lineup locks: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge
Outlook: In his past five games, Martell Webster has totaled just three 3-pointers. I'd wait till he heats up before playing him again, but if you're tempted, the matchups Wednesday and Friday are attractive. Both the Nets and the Kings allow more than seven 3-pointers per night.
San Antonio Spurs (@ ATL, ORL, MEM)
Lineup locks: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili
Outlook: I'm thinking Ginobili just might stay healthy this season. The Spurs go the entire month of December without play back-to-back games. As if the defending champs need the schedule on their side.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball writer for ESPN.com.