Fantasy Forecaster: Time for flyers
Welcome to the Fantasy Forecaster, where we look at the NBA schedules and add up everything but the frequent flyer miles. Speaking of flyers, there are a few good ones to take a chance on when making your lineups this week. Read on.
Teams with four games
Atlanta Hawks (@ ORL, TOR, @ DET, CHA)
Lineup locks: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford
Outlook: I said last week that as long as the Hawks have four games, Josh Childress would be in my lineup. Well, the Hawks did have four games, but Childress didn't. A strained groin sidelined him Saturday against Memphis. However, the latest word, given by Childress himself to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is that he plans to return Monday at Orlando. He's still safe to start.
Dallas Mavericks (@ NY, @ TOR, NO, @ HOU)
Lineup locks: Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry
Outlook: Contrary to my expectation -- and much to my chagrin -- it appears Erick Dampier is slowly squeezing DeSagana Diop out of the picture in Dallas. Dampier's 21-point game Saturday against Utah was not only a season high, but it represented the first time he scored in double-digits this season. He also has registered 10 blocks in his past four games, which might indicate that he's feeling better. That said, this might not be a great week to use him. After the Knicks, who lead the league in shots blocked, Dampier must deal with Chris Bosh (assuming he's healthy), Tyson Chandler and Yao Ming. Good luck with that, Erick.
Detroit Pistons (@ MEM, @ HOU, ATL, GS)
Lineup locks: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace
Outlook: Tayshaun Prince is a prime example of a player whose value is far greater on the court than it is in fantasy hoops. He has had some big games thus far, but most of them have come when Detroit was missing a starter (Billups, Wallace and Antonio McDyess have already missed time with minor injuries). Detroit seems fairly healthy now, so even with the Grizzlies and Warriors ahead, I wouldn't expect a huge week from Prince. Still, it might be worth your while if you can get him thrown into a larger trade offer. With the Pistons being one of the league's older teams, Prince figures to get more chances to pick up the slack in place of a sidelined teammate.
Golden State Warriors (SAS, @ POR, LAL, @ DET)
Lineup locks: Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Andris Biedrins
Outlook: The Spurs and Pistons will challenge Golden State, which tops the NBA with 9.7 3-pointers per game. But that shouldn't stop you from playing your Warriors, including Monta Ellis.
Indiana Pacers (@ CLE, CHI, TOR, @ MIA)
Lineup locks: Jermaine O'Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy
Outlook: Although the Pacers played only two games last week, Tinsley still did plenty of damage, totaling 39 points and 22 assists. The lesson: Play your studs, regardless of the schedule. Percentages and turnovers be damned. I admit Tinsley is looking pretty studly right now. Then again, any of your Pacers could be studs this week. Even Troy Murphy is a good spot play against the Raptors and Heat, who rank 29th and 25th, respectively, in 3-pointers allowed.
Los Angeles Clippers (@ NJ, @ CHA, @ MEM, @ LAL)
Lineup locks: Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman
Outlook: The Clippers, in the midst of playing eight road games out of 10, start the week with back-to-back tilts in New Jersey and Charlotte. Schedules aside, it will be interesting to see if the 22 minutes Ruben Patterson received at Sacramento on Friday are an aberration or a trend.
Milwaukee Bucks (@ SAC, ORL, @ BOS, MIN)
Lineup locks: Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Andrew Bogut
Outlook: Like the Clippers, the Bucks also are being run ragged right now. After completing a road trip that consisted of five game in seven days Monday in Sacramento, they're at home Wednesday, in Boston on Friday and then back home on Saturday. So forgive Redd if he slips from his December pace of 25.3 points and 50.0 percent from the field.
Minnesota Timberwolves (@ WAS, @ PHI, SEA, @ MIL)
Lineup lock: Al Jefferson
Outlook: Antoine Walker likely will miss more time this week, so consider Craig Smith, who has totaled 36 points and 17 rebounds in two games without Walker. Corey Brewer has also been cleaning some glass, with 29 boards in his past two games. Although I didn't see either performance, my guess is that the rookie pulled down several of his own missed shots, given that he was just 6-of-25 from the field in that span. But rebounds are rebounds.
New York Knicks (DAL, SEA, @ CHI, NJ)
Lineup locks: None.
Outlook: Not a bad week to play your Knicks. The Sonics and Nets give up their share of 3s, of course, and if you're wondering what's wrong with the Mavs, start with the fact that they're allowing 100.1 points a night. Then move on to the number "12.9," which is how many turnovers Dallas forces per game. That's third-worst in the league.
Orlando Magic (ATL, @ MIL, @ CHA, MEM)
Lineup locks: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson
Outlook: Keith Bogans has nailed 10 3-pointers in his past three games, but the Lakers, Warriors and Pacers were the opposition. With that as a guide, Bogans should be solid against the Bucks and Grizzlies, but he might struggle against the Hawks and Bobcats, who are first and third, respectively, in limiting 3-point makes.
Philadelphia 76ers (HOU, MIN, SAC, @ CLE)
Lineup locks: Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Samuel Dalembert
Outlook: Willie Green must be feeling the holiday season -- it's December, his name is Green, and he's red hot. Green is averaging 14.6 points and shooting 58.6 percent from the field this month, and the good looks should keep coming. The Timberwolves, Kings and Cavs all allow teams to shoot better than 46 percent from the floor.
Portland Trail Blazers (@ Utah, GS, Utah, @ DEN)
Lineup locks: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge
Outlook: Travis Outlaw, a favorite among fantasy hoops writers, is emerging as a third option for the Blazers. Although he still isn't starting, he has played at least 27 minutes in each of his past nine games. And in his past five games, he has averaged 18.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 51.3 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, with Martell Webster's continued struggles, James Jones has come off the end of the bench to average 25 minutes, 13.3 points and 3.0 3-pointers in his past three contests. Jones should soon regress to his 40 percent shooting ways, but he's a decent fill-in for this week. The Jazz, Warriors and Nuggets all are below average at defending 3s.
Seattle SuperSonics (@ CHI, @ NY, @ MIN, @ Utah)
Lineup locks: Kevin Durant, Chris Wilcox
Outlook: The Sonics play four road games in five nights, capped by a trip from Minnesota to Salt Lake City on Saturday. I recommend, reluctantly, playing Earl Watson this week. Luke Ridnour is supposed to return to Seattle's lineup, but Watson has posted three straight solid games (totaling 40 points and 20 assists), and he could even get you a few 3s against this opposition.
Toronto Raptors (@ ATL, DAL, @ IND, BOS)
Lineup locks: Chris Bosh, T.J. Ford
Outlook: Bosh, who has missed five-plus games because of a strained groin, is expected to play Sunday against Houston. Andrea Bargnani, who has a hyperextended left knee, could be back for Atlanta. It makes sense to spot-start Bargnani on Friday at Indiana, but the Hawks, Mavs and Celtics are allowing fewer than six 3-pointers per game.
Utah Jazz (POR, @ PHO, @ POR, SEA)
Lineup locks: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko
Outlook: The Jazz are another team playing four times in five days. This schedule seems favorable for Mehmet Okur, but expect, well, anything. The erratic Turk has just 16 points total in his past two games -- this coming after he scored 42 points in the previous two games.
Teams with three games
Unless otherwise noted, stick to your locks from here.
Boston Celtics (SAC, MIL, @ TOR)
Lineup locks: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Outlook: This might be a good week for deep leaguers to play James Posey, who has sunk eight 3-pointers in his past three games. Posey's minutes have been fairly steady (at least 20 minutes in 11 of his past 13 games), and the Kings, Bucks and Raptors range from so-so to astonishingly bad at defending the 3-pointer.
Charlotte Bobcats (LAC, ORL, @ ATL)
Lineup locks: Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor
Outlook: Jason Richardson is averaging 3.0 3-pointers over his past 12 games, but your team's field goal percentage could take a hit if you play Richardson this week. The Clippers, Magic and Hawks are each holding opponents to less than 34 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Chicago Bulls (SEA, @ IND, NY)
Lineup locks: Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni
Outlook: Is there hope for Kirk Hinrich? We should know in a week. After getting 16 points, six assists and three steals Saturday against Boston, Hinrich gets this fantasy-friendly schedule.
Cleveland Cavaliers (IND, @ NJ, PHI)
Lineup locks: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Outlook: Cleveland fans thought James in a Yankees hat looked bad, but that's nothing compared to the sheer ugliness of the King Jamesless Cavs. However, James is expected to return Tuesday against Indiana. This is great news not only for LeBron owners, but Ilgauskas owners, too. During James' five-plus-game absence, Ilgauskas is averaging just 9.0 points and 7.7 rebounds. On the bright side, with the regular blowouts, Mike Brown has been able to give Big Z some rest.
Denver Nuggets (NO, @ SA, POR)
Lineup locks: Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby
Outlook: Kenyon Martin is coming on. In four December games, he's averaging 16.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.8 steals while shooting 62.8 percent from the field. He could have a big game against the Blazers, who are fourth-worst in rebound differential.
Houston Rockets (@ PHI, DET, DAL)
Lineup locks: Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady
Outlook: Bonzi Wells is starting to get regular minutes (29 a per over his past four games), but his poor shooting could hurt deep leaguers this week. The Sixers and Pistons limit opponents to around 44 percent from the floor.
Los Angeles Lakers (SA, @ GS, LAC)
Lineup locks: Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum
Outlook: In the seven days leading into Thursday's game with San Antonio, the Lakers play just once. So that should help Bynum get over that virus thing.
Washington Wizards (MIN, @ MIA, SAC)
Lineup locks: Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler
Outlook: Roger Mason is averaging 25 minutes and 2.3 3-pointers in his past three. He's a sneaky play with the Timberwolves, Heat and Kings all average to below-average at defending the 3-pointer.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball writer for ESPN.com.