Fantasy Forecaster: Bucks picking up the pace
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Maybe it's just me, but when I think of Bucks head coach Scott Skiles, the word "adaptable" doesn't come immediately to mind. In fact, in all the years he's been on the bench, adaptable and Skiles are words I've never put together. Same goes with "Skiles" and "cuddly," "Skiles" and "sensitive" and "Skiles" and "Blagojevich hair."
But I'll be darned if the hard-nosed, old-school Skiles isn't adapting big time before our eyes. Folks, your Milwaukee Bucks are runnin' like Nellie's Warriors and pushin' it like D'Antoni's Knicks. Check out what the Bucks have done the past three games: 121 points versus the Pistons, 124 versus the Rockets and 122 versus the Pacers.
Yes, that's a small sample size, skewed by the fact the Detroit game went to OT and that Indiana barely defends at all. But something's happening here.
Actually, someone's missing here: Andrew Bogut. Bogut has a stress fracture in his back and may not return this season. So Skiles is adapting, not because Charles Darwin had a birthday this week, but because without Bogut, the Bucks' only options in the post are Francisco Elson and Dan Gadzuric. And "Elson," "Gadzuric" and "NBA-caliber starting center" are some more words that simply don't go together.
"With (Bogut) out, we're going to have to play a faster pace," Richard Jefferson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "That means more shots and more possessions. Because there's so much up and down and so many points from fast breaks, it's going to make the scores a little bit higher."
Yeah, tell us fantasy owners what we already know, RJ. Seriously, because we love hearing it. Suddenly, the Bucks are oozing with fantasy value. More in a bit.
Check the grid for Week 17 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.
|Team||Mon. 2/16||Tue. 2/17||Wed. 2/18||Thu. 2/19||Fri. 2/20||Sat. 2/21||Sun. 2/22||Total games||Next week|
Dallas Mavericks (NJ, @HOU, SAC): Jason Terry, he of the broken left hand, says he wants to resume shooting next week. I'm sure Terry feels this way because A) he's tough; B) he's a good teammate; and C) it's his non-shooting hand that's mummified at the moment. Still, the snarky fantasy sportswriter in me can't resist suggesting that maybe, deep down, Terry also thinks he could don a full-body cast and fill it up against the Kings and Nets. Because maybe he could. Sacramento opponents shoot a league-high 48.4 percent and New Jersey opponents yield the third-most 3-pointers. Of course, Terry won't play in Week 17, making Antoine Wright and Jose Juan Barea fill-in considerations in leagues of at least 12 teams. Either could get you some 3s (though Wright shoots just 28 percent from distance for his career), with Wright contributing some steals and Barea some assists. Though he saw only 11 minutes versus the Celtics, Barea should play 20-plus minutes a night while Terry is out.
Milwaukee Bucks (@DET, CHI, CLE, DEN): OK, big picture: Ramon Sessions remains available in more than 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and that must change. In the three-game era of the run-and-gun Bucks, Sessions is averaging 28.3 points, 12.0 assists and 2.0 steals. Of course those numbers are too good to last. But how does, say, 70 percent of that sound to you? Sessions will be huge from here. Huge. And in light of recent developments, Charlie Bell (available in 99 percent of leagues) is a legitimate pickup for leagues of 12 or more teams. He should get you double-figure points, one-plus 3s and one-plus steals. Oh, am I supposed to talk about the schedule? Um, yeah. Again, big picture: As good as Sessions, Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva look right now, dealing them ahead of your league's trade deadline could be a shrewd move. That's because from Weeks 20-22, Milwaukee plays just eight games.
Sacramento Kings (ATL, @MEM, @DAL): The paradox with the Kings, awful as they are, is that they have fantasy free agents who can help your team. I still like Jason Thompson, even though the rookie's offense dried up going into the break. But since I've already said plenty about Thompson (who's available in 88 percent of leagues), I'll instead point you to Spencer Hawes. Available in almost 65 percent of leagues, the center-eligible Hawes is averaging 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks since returning to the starting lineup six games ago. Regardless of whether the Kings can unload Brad Miller's huge contract at the deadline, figure on Hawes seeing plenty of action from here. And even with Hawks, Grizzlies and Mavs opponents' rating as average to below-average in rejections, get Hawes if you need the blocks.
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 Gomes, SF/PF, Timberwolves (@WAS, @MIA, IND, LAL): Logically, Mike Miller should help Randy Foye carry the Minnesota offense now that Al Jefferson is done. But with Miller's maddening reluctance to shoot, Gomes might emerge as the second scoring option. Here's a guy who was averaging 1.3 3s as the third option -- and he's available in 92 percent of leagues. He could be in for a big week, too, given that Wizards opponents get the most treys, while Heat, Pacers and Lakers opponents are all in the top eight in this regard.
Jarrett Jack, PG, Pacers (PHI, @CHA, @MIN, CHI): It was probably inevitable that Indiana would pair Jack and T.J. Ford in the starting backcourt. The combo is working out fairly well for Jack, who's averaging 14.4 points and 1.8 3s in his past five games. We all have players we are particularly fond of, and for me, Jack is one of those guys. The schedule, though, is more willing to cut him some slack: Wolves opponents shoot 47.1 percent, while the Bulls allow 102.1 points a night. Plus, the Sixers aren't terrible against the 3, but they have given up treys in bunches.
Antonio McDyess, PF, Pistons (MIL, SA, @CLE): McDyess is available in 93 percent of leagues, and it figures, given the fact he averages only 7.3 points. But if you haven't noticed, Dice is doing some serious glass work of late: 11.0 rebounds in his past eight games. If you're short on boards, he might be worth reaching for in some leagues. Cavs opponents are third-worst in rebound differential and total boards, but note our theme and expect Bucks games to produce tons of rebound opportunities.
Steve Novak, PF, Clippers (@PHO, PHO, @POR): Did you know Novak is shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc this season? Did you know that Novak even plays? I figured his minutes would disappear as the Clippers got their starters back, but then Novak went off for six treys against New York this week. Sure, that was the Knicks, but in deep leagues that allow daily lineup moves, it's looking like you could do quite well plugging in this 3-point specialist. There's good and bad in this schedule. The good: Suns opponents get the ninth-most 3s, while Blazers opponents have the fifth-highest percentage from beyond the arc. The bad: The NBA schedule is pretty full on the days the Clippers play, so it'll be tough wedging Novak into your lineup.
Vladimir Radmanovic, SF/PF, Bobcats (@ORL, IND, ORL, @HOU): Gerald Wallace is expected to return after the All-Star break. Once Crash is back, the newly acquired Radmanovic will come off the bench for Charlotte. Radman could still have value as a fantasy reserve, but troll elsewhere for your 3s next week. Even with the generous Pacers on the schedule, Magic opponents get the second-fewest 3s, and Rockets opponents the third-fewest.
Marreese Speights, PF, 76ers (@IND, DEN, @MIA): Now that Elton Brand is out of the picture, Speights should get steady minutes off the bench. When he avoids foul trouble, he can be plenty productive. Speights is available in 98 percent of leagues and is definitely worth taking a chance on this week. Nuggets and Pacers opponents get the third- and sixth-most blocks, respectively, while Heat opponents have the sixth-best rebound differential.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.