- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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A few NBA teams are getting banged up. A lot of them are getting busy.
Starting with a 12-game slate for Martin Luther King Day, Week 13 is one of the busiest seven-day stretches of the season. Twenty-two teams play four times, so if there's someone you want in your lineup, chances are the schedule is backing you. All that action should also soften the blow for owners of Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, since your studs play just twice this week.
Check the grid for Week 13 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.
Cleveland Cavaliers (@LAL, @POR, @GS, @Utah): It's surprised me through the first half of the season to see West rostered in barely one-third of ESPN.com leagues. Yes, he contributes just 12.3 points per game, but the only other players to average at least 1.3 3s and 1.3 steals while shooting better than 46 percent are named LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Jason Terry and Jameer Nelson. Safe to say the Cavs will miss West a lot more than you folks. The 25-year-old sustained a non-displaced fracture of the right wrist Thursday. While West won't need surgery, a lengthy absence is still anticipated. Sasha Pavlovic figures to replace West in the starting lineup, but Daniel Gibson could see the bigger boost in fantasy value. But if you're seeking an infusion of 3s, either is a possibility with this schedule. Lakers and Warriors opponents are fourth and fifth, respectively, in 3-pointers per game, while Warriors' and Blazers' opponents are in the top five in shooting percentage from downtown.
Los Angeles Clippers (MIN, LAL, OKC, @GS): Once you're at the top, there's nowhere to go but down. Eric Gordon is L.A.'s top option on offense at the moment, but with the Clippers finally getting healthy, the rookie has about maxed out his fantasy value. Both Baron Davis and Zach Randolph are said to be seven to 10 days from returning. And once Ricky Davis is closer to full strength, I can see Gordon's minutes slipping from the low 40s to the low-to-mid-30s. With this schedule, however, Gordon should give his owners one more big week. T-Wolves, Thunder and Warriors opponents are all in the top seven in shooting (around 47 percent), while Lakers opponents, as noted, sink the fourth-most 3s. This is also your last chance to score big with the 98 percent unowned Mardy Collins, who has amassed 15.6 points, 5.4 assists and 2.2 steals in a stellar five-start run as the fill-in point guard. Thunder, Lakers and Warriors opponents are second, fifth and eighth, respectively, in steals.
Minnesota Timberwolves (@LAC, @Utah, NO, CHI): Kevin McHale, the player: Hall of Famer. McHale the GM: Spectacularly inept. McHale the coach? He's OK. At least the Wolves are playing better and giving fantasy owners more options since McHale left the front office for the sideline. That list I made with Delonte West? Ryan Gomes qualifies, at least for this month. The 94-percent unowned Gomes is averaging 15.2 points, 1.5 3s, 1.3 steals and 47.9 percent shooting in January. Meanwhile, Rodney Carney, the former Sixer, is getting noticed by deep-leaguers, having reached double figures in three straight (with eight treys in that span). And of course Kevin Love, a guy drafted in most leagues but kicked to the curb in a few after a slow start, is averaging 10.5 rebounds in January. Seriously, Kevin is just a Love machine -- on the boards -- and he don't work in more than 30 percent of leagues. If you find him on your free-agent list, make like a Love removal machine and grab him. (Or am I the only one here old enough to know that The Cult rocks?) Minny's schedule isn't all that favorable, but Bulls and Clippers opponents do get their share of boards and blocks, while Hornets opponents get the eighth-most 3s.
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.
Ryan Anderson, PF, Nets (@NO, @SA, @MEM): Of the various players the Nets will turn to in Yi's absence, Anderson is the one who's potentially useful in deep leagues. In keeping with our theme, the rookie is capable of getting some 3s and some steals, not that he's done either with any sort of consistency. Anderson is a risky play, and aside from Grizzlies opponents being second in field goal percentage, this schedule offers little help.
Kelenna Azubuike, SG/SF, Warriors (WAS, OKC, CLE, LAC): It's a tribute to Don Nelson that a guard-eligible player who's averaging almost 14 points and five boards a night can go 73 percent unowned in ESPN.com leagues. It's understandable that fantasy owners generally avoid riding Nellie's roller coaster, but Azubuike's minutes and production have been reasonably steady. Now, once Golden State gets Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis back (and it's close), minutes could be tougher to come by, but I'm thinking that's more of a problem for C.J. Watson and Anthony Morrow. So I note, however tentatively, that this schedule -- even with Cleveland on it -- should suit Azubuike. Wizards opponents are third in shooting percentage, third in 3s made and sixth in rebound differential, while Thunder opponents are fifth in shooting percentage and Clippers opponents are seventh in rebound differential.
Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Trail Blazers (MIL, CLE, WAS): With Rudy Fernandez battling a foot injury, Bayless was the one who replaced Blake in the starting lineup at New Jersey on Thursday. I guess you could call it a Brandon Roy-like performance, as Bayless got to the line 11 times (making all 11) while going 6-of-9 from the field. Blake's shoulder will keep him sidelined for at least a week, so Bayless, who was starting to get more playing time anyway, is viable for deeper leagues. While Bayless' shot might not always be there (he was 1-for-11 in Philly the night before), I'll just take what this tiny sample size yields and note that Bucks opponents attempt the third-most free throws.
Kirk Hinrich, PG/SG, Bulls (@NY, ATL, TOR, @MIN): That chill we're currently getting in the Upper Midwest is partly from an Arctic high moving through and partly from the already-disgruntled Larry Hughes moving further to the end of the Chicago bench. Since returning from injury, Hinrich has been productive backing up Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon; the 28-year-old is coming off consecutive games of 12 points and three 3s. For a name player, Hinrich is relatively available; he's nearly 40 percent unowned. This is a good week to add and activate him, with Knicks opponents tops in points and shooting percentage and Raptors opponents way up there in 3s and assists.
Kyle Lowry, PG, Grizzlies (DET, @CHA, @NY, NJ): Lowry hadn't topped 15 points in any of his first 37 games, but on Jan. 13, versus the Cavs of all teams, he put up 25 with seven assists and 15-of-16 foul shooting. Just for the heck of it, let's momentarily ignore those Ramon Sessions-to-Memphis trade rumors and call it a trend. So how does the coming week look for the 99 percent unowned Lowry? Well, he is going against the Knicks, and Nets opponents yield the sixth-most assists and fourth-most free-throw attempts. But perhaps Lowry's outburst is best explained by O.J. Mayo's hip pointer. If you figure that Mayo's injury could linger, you might see Lowry being productive in the short-term.
Von Wafer, SG, Rockets (DEN, Utah, @IND, @DET): I still can't believe it. Here's a guy in his fourth NBA season who's already on his fifth team. He earns the final roster spot in training camp and then, just like that, the three or four guys ahead of him all get hurt or continually play poorly. Now Wafer starts and looks like, I don't know, Ray Allen without the free-throw accuracy? It's just a surreal stretch for the 23-year-old, who in January is averaging 16.1 points, 2.3 3s and 57 percent shooting. Figure Wafer gets more attention this week, especially with Pistons opponents getting the fewest 3s and Nuggets, Pistons and Jazz opponents being below-average in field goal percentage. Still with Nuggets and Pacers opponents averaging seven-plus 3s, the 97 percent unowned Wafer can probably give you a lift from downtown.
Nick Young, SG, Wizards (@GS, @SAC, @LAL, @POR): If Wafer's numbers aren't sustainable, whatever can be made of Young, who is "merely" shooting 71.7 percent (43-for-60) in his past four games? Preposterous as it sounds, this schedule says he keeps it going. Warriors and Kings opponents are third and fourth in field goal percentage; Blazers opponents are ninth. Also note that Young has three 3s in each of his past two games. Lakers and Warriors opponents are fourth and fifth in 3s, while Kings, Warriors and Blazers opponents are in the top five in shooting percentage from beyond the arc. The outlook for the week after next isn't bad, either. Yes, the rebound, assist and hustle numbers are practically infinitesimal. But the 93 percent unowned Young can help you, especially if the 3s keep coming.
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.