- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Check the grid for Week 10 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.
Chicago Bulls (@NJ, ORL, @CLE, MIN): When Tyrus Thomas went down, Andres Nocioni stepped up. Thomas is back, but with Drew Gooden's ankle sprain, Noce continues to excel. In his past four games, the 28-year-old is averaging 17.8 points, 6.5 boards, 2.5 3s and 55.1 percent shooting. Thomas, meanwhile, returned from a concussion to post 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks at Detroit on Dec. 23. Nocioni is a tricky play for Week 10, however. since Gooden could return Dec. 31 against Orlando. Another issue is that Noce is scheduled for an MRI on Friday after taking an inadvertent elbow from Aaron Gray. As for Thomas, who's 91 percent unowned in ESPN.com leagues, I consider him the best free agent available. The Week 10 schedule, with Orlando and Cleveland bracketing New Year's, isn't particularly favorable, even though Timberwolves opponents average a league-high 6.4 blocks per night and Nets opponents are eighth in rejections. Cavs and Magic opponents, however, are last and third-to-last in blocks.
Indiana Pacers (ATL, @NY, SAC): They say that winning is contagious. Then there are the Pacers, who have just been … contagious. A team-wide viral infection has caused Danny Granger, Marquis Daniels and Troy Murphy to miss multiple games. On top of that, T.J. Ford, who recently missed a game with a groin problem, has now been felled by back spasms. For that reason, the 86 percent unowned Jarrett Jack should continue to see plenty of minutes. He, and maybe even rookie Brandon Rush (who just went for a career-best 22 points versus the Nets on Dec. 23), are viable fill-ins for Week 10. Only the Warriors allow more points than the Knicks and Kings.
Oklahoma City Thunder (PHO, GS, DEN): You can count on one hand the number of Thunder victories this season. It doesn't help when a couple of Oklahoma City players are playing with one hand. First Chris Wilcox missed a couple of games with a dislocated finger; now Nick Collison has a broken left thumb. With the Warriors allowing the most total rebounds and having the worst rebound differential, I like Wilcox -- who's coming off a 19-and-12 outing at Atlanta on Dec. 23 -- for deep leagues. If Collison (who is day-to-day) is active, you'll like him against Golden State and Denver. Warriors and Nuggets opponents record the third- and fifth-most rejections, respectively.
Some quick tips for owners in daily leagues. Recommendations -- start, sit or add -- are made for specific days of the coming week, based on the schedule.
Steve Blake, PG, Trail Blazers (BOS, NO, @LAL): Lost amid Greg Oden's ballyhooed debut and Brandon Roy's rising star is Blake. The 28-year-old was mentioned in this space a few weeks ago, and his play has only improved since then. Unowned in 85 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Blake is averaging 12.4 points, 5.1 assists, 2.4 3s and 1.6 steals in December. Despite the marquee teams on this schedule, he should keep it going. The Hornets, while strong in most defensive metrics, allow the eighth-most 3s. And the Lakers, even though they limit opponents to 43.6 percent shooting, yield the fourth-most assists, fifth-most 3s and sixth-most steals.
Daequan Cook, SG, Heat (CLE, @ORL, NJ): The second-year pro is 99 percent unowned, and it's understandable. Cook averages fewer than 10 points, he shoots just 38.2 percent from the floor, and his fantasy value starts and ends with his success from beyond the arc. However, he has drained at least three from downtown for six games running, and over his past four he's averaging 16.0 points on 56.8 percent shooting. Here's a good week to see if the 21-year-old has turned a corner. While Nets' opponents continue to lead the league in 3s by a wide margin, Cavs opponents get the fewest points, and Magic opponents get the fewest treys. If Cook holds his own here, he becomes a legitimate add for leagues of 12 or more teams.
Mike James, PG, Wizards (@HOU, @NO, @BOS, CLE): You knew James wasn't shy. In five starts in D.C., he has more field-goal attempts than Caron Butler. During that span James is averaging 16.8 points, 2.6 3s and 1.6 steals. Now, if you think about the 4-23 Wizards playing the 33-year-old James rather than Javaris Crittenton, the young point guard they recently acquired, you can see that this might not last, that perhaps Washington is showcasing James for a trade. For now, though, James is 98 percent unowned, and he can help you -- but tread lightly for Week 10. The Cavs, Celtics and Hornets are 1-2-3 in scoring defense. That actually makes the Rockets and their No. 8 defense (94.0 points allowed) the week's weak link.
Anthony Parker, SG, Raptors (@GS, DEN, HOU, ORL): The saying in sports is that a player isn't supposed to lose his job to injury. However, after Parker sat out a pair of games earlier this month, he found himself coming off the bench behind Jason Kapono. Of course, Parker wasn't playing that well prior to his injury. After shooting nearly 48 percent in his first two seasons with the Raptors, Parker is struggling to touch 40 percent in 2008-09. It'll be tough to turn that around this week, even with Golden State on tap. While Warriors opponents shoot 47.1 percent, Nuggets, Rockets and Magic opponents are in the bottom seven in field-goal percentage.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Bucks (@SA, @HOU, CHA, @CHA): Ridnour is getting comfortable in Milwaukee, and it's about time that owners got comfortable with the idea that the 28-year-old has fantasy value. In December, Ridnour is averaging 11.4 points, 6.3 assists and 2.2 steals while shooting 45.8 percent. His helper total might slip in the week ahead, since the Spurs, Rockets and Bobcats all allow fewer than 20 assists per game, but with the Bucks playing four times in each of the next five weeks, Ridnour should be a steady contributor for weekly lineup leagues.
Marreese Speights, PF, 76ers (@Utah, @LAC, @DAL, @SA): In the three games since Elton Brand went down, Speights is averaging 15.0 points, 3.0 blocks and 64.5 percent shooting. I'll continue to wonder if the ex-Florida Gator can steer clear of foul trouble, but the numbers speak for themselves. The 99 percent unowned Speights is a must-add. The schedule, though, is mostly mum on Speights. Spurs opponents get the fifth-fewest blocks, while the Jazz, Clippers and Mavs are all around average in that regard.
Beno Udrih, PG, Kings (LAC, @DET, @IND): In his second season in Sacramento, Udrih is dishing more dimes (5.0 compared to 4.3 in 2007-08) and picking more pockets (1.4 steals versus 0.9 last season). Considering that, along with his 11.9 points and 46.5 percent shooting, and Udrih should probably be owned in more than 49 percent of ESPN.com leagues. As for the schedule, there's mostly good news ahead: Clippers opponents get the fifth-most assists, while Pacers opponents get the third-most steals. Pistons opponents, however, are last in steals and 21st in assists.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Neil Tardy takes a look at the upcoming NBA schedule and highlights teams and players with favorable matchups.