- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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I'm looking at the numbers, but at the moment the calendar offers the most meaningful figures. It's still early, folks.
So let's start with a brief review. The Fantasy Forecaster is your weekly guide to setting your lineups. In this corner of ESPN Fantasy universe, players are evaluated not only by the stats they produce, but by the competition they face from week to week. And we aim to be all-inclusive: Whether you play in a roto league or H2H, in a shallow league of 10 teams or a deep league of 14-plus, whether you set your lineups every week or every day, there should be something for you here.
But as I said, it's early. The numbers are based on scant data, and scant data can be misleading. For instance, would you have guessed that, through Thursday, San Antonio is 28th in the Association in scoring defense? Yes, it's skewed, a bit, because the Spurs had to go to double-OT in Minneapolis the other night to gain their first win. They allowed 125 points in the process. Still, for a franchise that's been third, first and second in scoring defense over the previous three seasons, it's surprising that San Antonio has allowed at least 98 points in each of its first four games. The Spurs really might not be as dominating on D as they once were. But it's early.
A team whose numbers I take a bit more seriously at this stage is Phoenix. I admit, I wasn't sure how much Terry Porter could change with this group of veterans, but so far the Suns have limited opponents to 98.2 points, compared to 102.9 points for the 2007-08 season.
Phoenix games simply aren't as frenetic under Porter as they were under Mike D'Antoni. The Suns are taking 72.2 shots per game so far (and shooting a way-too-good-to-last 55.4 percent as a team), more than 10 fewer than last season. Suns opponents launched 90 shots per game last year but have taken only 81 through five games this season.
But there's something else about this year's Suns team that you should know. Meet me on the flip side of the schedule grid, and I'll clue you in.
Quick click by section:
Check the grid for Week 3 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.
Miami Heat (NJ, POR, WAS, @TOR): The Heat are proving to be a fun team for fantasy owners. In addition to fantasy studs Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion, there's lotto pick Michael Beasley, fellow rookie Mario Chalmers and his absurd 3.8 steals per game and Udonis Haslem gaining center eligibility and unprecedented fantasy value. All should thrive in Week 3, as the Blazers and Wizards are both allowing opponents to shoot 50 percent, while the Wizards, Nets and Blazers are all surrendering more than 100 points per game. For deep leaguers, the erratic but talented Daequan Cook (37.5 percent shooting but 2.3 3s per game) is an intriguing play Nov. 10 vs. the Nets.
Detroit Pistons (@SAC, @GS, @LAL, @PHO): While fantasy owners ponder the meaning of Allen Iverson's arrival -- does Rodney Stuckey start, or Richard Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince come off the bench? -- Week 3 could offer enough touches for everyone. The Kings, thanks to their 0-4 road trip to start the season, own brutal defensive stats: 108.6 points allowed, opponents shooting 50.6 percent and averaging 8.0 3s and 10.2 steals. The Warriors, as you might imagine, are allowing 101.6 points per game, while the Suns, despite slowing it down, are yielding 8.6 3-pointers per game. But daily leaguers should pass on Stuckey, Prince and possibly Hamilton when the Pistons visit the Lakers on Nov. 14. L.A. opponents are shooting only 39.3 percent so far.
New Jersey Nets (@MIA, IND, ATL, @ATL): What's up with this schedule? The Hawks. Early as it is, I can't help but notice that Atlanta is first in the league in scoring defense and third in opponents' shooting percentage (39.9). And that was Chris Paul and the Hornets who couldn't break 80 at home on the Hawks earlier this week. So you might want to sit Devin Harris -- who's struggling at 30.3 percent anyway -- for those two games. On the other hand, deep-leaguers will want to have Yi Jianlian and perhaps even Brook Lopez active against the Pacers on Nov. 12 -- Indiana opponents are averaging 7.3 blocks per game.
New Orleans Hornets (LAL, POR, @HOU): Three tough games here. The Lakers are allowing only 85 points a game, while Houston yields the fewest 3s (2.6) per game. And Portland shouldn't be as bad as defensively as its 51.4 opponents' shooting percentage suggests. Of course you'll play Paul, David West and Tyson Chandler. The tough call here is Peja Stojakovic. Play him versus the Lakers (who, oddly, allow 7.8 3s per game) and sit him against the Rockets if you have a better option.
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.
Marquis Daniels, SG/SF, Pacers: Someone needs to say it -- may as well be me. Daniels is owned in just three percent of ESPN leagues, and it's a crime. As long as Mike Dunleavy is sidelined, Daniels -- he of the 14.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks -- is a starter. And Dunleavy could be out a while. Indiana doesn't have the most favorable schedule, but the Pacers do play four in Week 3. Do yourself a favor and add Daniels.
Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Knicks: I like Nate, and the Week 3 schedule -- at San Antonio, at Memphis, versus Oklahoma City and versus Dallas -- likes him more than you might imagine. The Spurs (surprise) are allowing 6.8 3s per game, and the Grizzlies aren't much better than that. The Thunder, interestingly enough, are holding opponents to 92.0 points, but in a weekly league I'll take my chances.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Bucks: Another thing with the Spurs: they've allowed 24.5 assists through their first four games, second-most in the league. So even with a full schedule Nov. 12, deep-leaguers should try to get Ridnour -- who seems to be past his back problems -- into the lineup.
Kevin Love, PF, Timberwolves: Depending on your league, Love and his 1.5 blocks (while averaging only 24 minutes) is a decent fill-in this week. While the Wolves have just three games in Week 3, the Nuggets and Warriors are allowing more than 6.5 blocks so far. Portland opponents, on the other hand, are getting the fewest blocks.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.