- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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You nailed your draft. You got the key players you targeted. In the later rounds, you led the league in those grudging "nice pick" affirmations from your fellow owners. Congratulations. Now, your work is ... just beginning.
Setting a lineup from week to week, or day to day, may not be as challenging as navigating draft day or working out a blockbuster trade in the midseason. Still, you have a bench for a reason. Sometimes your role players play starring roles. In head-to-head leagues, the right lineup call can salvage a tough week, or turn a winning week into a rout. And have you ever been in a roto league that wasn't decided till the last day of the season? Probably more of us have than haven't. Point is, the little decisions matter.
And that's the purpose of the Fantasy Forecaster: to help you with those decisions that, added up from now until April, amount to something significant. Each week I'll present the upcoming schedule for all 30 NBA teams, and tell you what it means. I'll dive into some defensive statistics, and tell you what those mean. Then I'll make a few lineup suggestions based on this information.
This week's forecast calls for 26 weeks of standings-monitoring, waiver wire-checking and trash-talking. The fantasy hoops season is here. It's about time.
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On tap: It's easy to see how the 2007-08 NBA season ended with Kevin Garnett shrieking like a banshee giving birth to triplets. From start to finish, Boston was the league's best team. And the C's excelled primarily because of their D. Fantasy owners had to take notice of the Celtics. When your fringe players went against them, you benched them if you had another option. And with your stars, you tempered your expectations.
There are a couple of interesting things about Boston's defensive prowess. First is the fact that the Celtics excelled in so many defensive metrics. Among the 30 teams, Boston opponents were 29th in points scored, 30th in shooting percentage, 30th in 3-point shooting percentage, 29th in total rebounds, 29th in assists and fourth in turnovers. Making these numbers all the more noteworthy is the fact that, prior to last season, only Garnett and the since-departed James Posey were considered strong defenders.
While you won't see a turn-around like Boston's in 2008-09, I think there is a team out there that should be transformed defensively. That team is the Milwaukee Bucks. Of course I'm not suggesting that the Bucks are either a title contender or in the class of stingy clubs like the Celtics, Pistons and Spurs. I just feel they'll be much better defensively this season. The reasons are that they have much to improve upon, and that Scott Skiles is their new coach. No way will Milwaukee opponents shoot 48 percent and yield almost 104 points a night with Skiles on the sideline. Fantasy owners will have to look elsewhere for favorable matchups.
Another reason to watch the Bucks out of the gate is that they're the only team with four games in Week 1. More on that following the schedule grid.
Check the grid for Week 1 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.
Milwaukee Bucks (@CHI, @OKC, TOR, @NY): The Bucks already have their longest road trip out of the way, having traveled to China in the preseason. Now to start the regular season, they find themselves away for three of four. Fantasy owners should enjoy this trip though. When the Sonics left Seattle, the city got to keep the team name and logo. Meanwhile fans in Oklahoma City got the players that allowed more than 106 points per game last season. Meanwhile, Toronto allowed the second-most 3-pointers in 2007-08, and New York allowed the third-highest shooting percentage. So expect good things from Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut (assuming he gets over his ankle problem), Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva. And look out for as this fellow suggests, allow Luke Ridnour to jump-start your team in assists.
Miami Heat (@NY, SAC, @CHA): Making too much of preseason performances is generally ill-advised, but things don't look good in Charlotte right now. The Heat round out Week 1 with the Bobcats, after opening up with the Knicks and Kings. Michael Beasley will undoubtedly frustrate fantasy owners with inconsistent play during his rookie season, but he's worth activating this week.
Indiana Pacers (@DET, @BOS): While eight other teams play only twice in Week 1, Indiana draws the Eastern Conference's best in Detroit and Boston. It depends on the composition of your team and the size of your league, of course, but Danny Granger is the only Pacer I'd consider an automatic start this week.
Phoenix Suns (@SAC, NO, POR): Not an easy start for the Suns, what with the Spurs, Hornets and Blazers being three of the league's top eight scoring defenses in 2007-08. But Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire owners will deal with it.
A couple of quick suggestions for owners in daily leagues to get through those days when the NBA schedule is full. Be sure to find a way to get these guys into your lineup in Week 1.
Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Knicks (Oct. 29 @ Heat): Robinson, who's been a double-digit scorer throughout the preseason, is one of my fave sleepers. However, at least until he produces consistently in categories other than points and 3s, you should probably pick your spots with him. This would be a spot. The Heat may win more games this season, but with Mark Blount in the middle and rookies Beasley and Mario Chalmers apparently headed for significant minutes, this team will probably regress on the defensive end. Yes, my specs are rose-colored when it comes to Robinson, but I don't see why he couldn't put up 3-4 3-pointers and 20-plus points in South Beach.
Louis Williams, PG, 76ers (Oct. 29 vs. Raptors): Philly was the league's worst team from behind the arc in 2007-08. So they'll give Williams opportunities on the perimeter, starting on opening night against a Raptors team that surrendered 7.6 3s per game in 2007-08.
Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls (Nov. 1 vs. Grizzlies): The injury to Larry Hughes just opens up the door further for the first overall pick. Make sure you play Rose against a Memphis team that allowed the third most points and assists per game last season.
Mickael Pietrus, SG/SF, Magic (Sat., Nov. 1 vs. Heat): I have mixed feelings about Pietrus. It appears he'll start, but one reason the Magic want him in the lineup is to guard opponents' top scorers. A night of chasing Kevin Martin around isn't necessarily conducive to big offense, but I'd take the chance here. Kings opponents averaged 8.1 steals and 5.5 blocks per game in 2007-08, and Pietrus is nothing if not a hustle cat machine.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Neil Tardy previews Week 1 of the NBA season, where the new-look Bucs team starts things off with the league's only four-game schedule.