Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Mavs should thrive beyond the arc

Updated: December 18, 2008, 1:41 PM ET
By Neil Tardy | Special to ESPN.com

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D.J. Augustin is the most-added player in ESPN leagues, but his upcoming schedule and, in particular, the Jason Richardson trade, set off some alarms. These alarms, incidentally, sound like a (Raja) Bell. Speaking of repetitive noise, I remain on the Jose Juan Barea and Mario Chalmers bandwagons.

The forecast calls for considerable talk of recent trades and the frontcourt players affected by them. Let's get to it.

On tap:

Check the grid for the schedule of each NBA team for this week. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.

Team Mon. 12/15 Tue. 12/16 Wed. 12/17 Thu. 12/18 Fri. 12/19 Sat. 12/20 Sun. 12/21 Total games Next Week
Warriors ORL   @IND   @ATL @CHA 4 4
Nuggets @DAL @HOU    CLE @PHO   4 4
Celtics Utah   @ATL   CHI   NY 4 4
Nets @TOR   Utah   DAL MIA   4 4
Mavericks DEN   @TOR   @NJ   @WAS 4 4
Jazz @BOS   @NJ   @DET @CHI   4 3
Kings MIN @POR    @HOU @NO   4 3
Wizards IND   @DET   PHI   DAL 4 3
Pacers @WAS   GS   LAC @PHI   4 3
Raptors NJ   DAL   @OKC @SA   4 3
Bobcats @ATL CHI    @MEM GS   4 3
Bulls   @CHA LAC   @BOS Utah   4 3
Bucks @MIA   @PHI   @NY LAC   4 2
Clippers   @OKC @CHI   @IND @MIL   4 2
Knicks @PHO @LAL    MIL   @BOS 4 2
Hawks CHA   BOS   GS   DET 4 2
Hornets   @MEM SA    SAC   3 4
Spurs    @NO @ORL   TOR   3 4
Rockets   DEN    SAC @MIN   3 4
Lakers   NY    @MIA @ORL   3 4
Thunder   LAC    TOR   CLE 3 3
Timberwolves @SAC   CLE    HOU   3 3
Heat MIL     LAL @NJ   3 3
Magic @GS    SA   LAL   3 3
Cavaliers    @MIN   @DEN   @OKC 3 3
Pistons    WAS   Utah   @ATL 3 3
76ers    MIL   @WAS IND   3 2
Suns NY    @POR   DEN   3 1
Grizzlies   NO    CHA    2 4
Trail Blazers   SAC   PHO     2 4

Cleveland Cavaliers (@MIN, @DEN, @OKC): This isn't a bad week to look beyond LeBron James and Mo Williams, especially now that Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Daniel Gibson are hurting. With Gibson out, Delonte West and, in a deep enough league, Wally Szczerbiak could help. Timberwolves and Thunder opponents shoot better than 47 percent, while the Nuggets yield a slightly below-average 6.3 3-pointers. Big Z is expected to be sidelined through the weekend after spraining his left ankle against the Sixers, but should his injury linger, Anderson Varejao is an option. Ben Wallace (2.8 blocks per game in his past five) is a plug-in as well, given that each of these teams allows more than six blocks a night.

Dallas Mavericks (DEN, @TOR, @NJ, @WAS): The Raptors, Nets and Wizards are three of the NBA's four worst teams in 3-point defense. While that mostly suggests that Jason Terry is in for another glorious week, it gives me an excuse to mention Jose Juan Barea again. Barea isn't a major threat from downtown, but he continues to contribute as the Mavs' starting shooting guard, averaging 16.8 points, 4.8 assists and 50 percent shooting this month. Barea ownership is still short of the 5 percent plateau, so get in on this. At least as long as Josh Howard remains sidelined, Barea should be rostered in most leagues.

Toronto Raptors (NJ, DAL, @OKC, @SA): Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon aside, Toronto can be a frustrating team for fantasy owners. Just when you think Andrea Bargnani is a lock for 1.5 3s and blocks a night, the 23-year-old is coming off the bench again. And just when you've forgotten about Jamario Moon, he's back in. Starting in place of Bargnani versus Indiana on Dec. 10, Moon gave us one of those lines (17 points, 8 boards, 2 steals, 3 blocks and a 3-pointer) that's every bit as cool as his name. Will it last? That isn't for the schedule to say. But the schedule does tell us that New Jersey allows a stunning number of 3s, while Oklahoma City makes it easy to pad one's hustle stats.

Philadelphia 76ers (MIL, @WAS, IND): The Sixers are struggling, but at least Lou Williams is coming around. The guard's still shooting only 37.4 percent for the season, but he's averaging 16.5 points and shooting 51.2 percent over his past four games. You probably recognize that the Wizards, who allow the second-most 3s and second-highest opponents' shooting percentage, are a great matchup for Williams (and for Thaddeus Young, who needs to get it going again). As for the Bucks and Pacers, it's a toss-up. Indiana allows nearly seven 3s a night, but holds opponents to under 45 percent from the floor, while Milwaukee gives up one fewer 3 but allows near 46 percent shooting.

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.

D.J. Augustin, PG, Bobcats (@ATL, CHI, @MEM, GS): Expect Raja Bell, and not Augustin, to take J-Rich's place starting next to Raymond Felton. You know that Larry Brown appreciates defense, and defense is Bell's strength (though there are widespread suggestions about him slipping in this area). Augustin will obviously continue to get his minutes (he averages 26 as a sub), but don't be seduced by the 28 points he put up in New Orleans or the 10 dimes he dropped in Dallas this week. Of course the schedule favors D.J. with the Grizzlies and Warriors, who allow opponents to shoot in the 47 percent range, but Hawks opponents are under 45 percent from the field, while the Bulls allow the second-fewest 3s.

Mario Chalmers, PG, Heat (MIL, LAL, @NJ): I cited Chalmers here last week, but the repetition is justified because the rookie is only 26 percent-owned in ESPN leagues, and this schedule plays to his strengths in a huge way. Lakers and Bucks opponents get the third- and sixth-most steals, respectively, while Nets opponents continue to drain a league-high 8.7 treys per game. You probably know that Chalmers is among the league's steal leaders (ahead of Gerald Wallace and LeBron James, among others), but he's also averaging 2.2 3s over his past six games.

Nick Collison, PF/C, Thunder (LAC, TOR, CLE): The 28-year-old recently lost his starting gig, but quick as you can say, "Chris Wilcox is hurt again," the minutes are back. So far, Collison is taking advantage, posting 13.0 points, 8.3 boards, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals over his past three games. With Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook all improving but still missing lots of shots, this should be a good situation for him. The same can be said of matchups with the Raptors and Clippers, who are 30th and 26th, respectively, in rebound differential.

Juan Dixon, SG, Wizards (IND, @DET, PHI, DAL): Even though the Wizards acquired two point guards this week, Dixon could be running the show (such as it is in D.C.) for the time being. The 29-year-old is coming off two good efforts -- 16 points and seven assists versus Detroit and 17 and seven, with four steals, against Boston. Given the playing time, Dixon is capable of averaging one-plus 3s and steals. Restless owners in deep leagues could get something from him this week, with Pacers and Sixers opponents averaging better than eight steals and Pistons opponents shooting better than 46 percent.

Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, Kings (MIN, @POR, @HOU, @NO): Not much is going right in Sacramento, but at least Garcia's return to action roughly coincided with Kevin Martin's latest injury. As long as he's starting, Garcia is a viable fantasy option, a view supported by this schedule. Timberwolves and Blazers opponents top 46 percent shooting, while the Hornets allow nearly seven 3s a night. Plus, Garcia should be able to take advantage of his shot-blocking ability, with Rockets and Wolves opponents amassing the second- and third-most rejections.

Eric Gordon, SG, Clippers (@OKC, CHI, IND, MIL): Since putting up 25 and 24 points in his first two starts, Gordon has struggled. The rookie is averaging just 8.7 points on 36.5 percent shooting over his past six games. This schedule offers some hope, however. Thunder opponents shoot 47.7 percent, fourth in the league, while Thunder, Pacers and Bucks opponents top eight steals per game.

Larry Hughes, SG, Bulls (@CHA, LAC, @BOS, UTAH): Four seasons ago, Hughes was a fantasy stud, averaging 22 points and almost three steals a game. While the Hughes of the present is nowhere near that player, this is the best he's looked since '05. In his past nine games, Hughes is going at a 15.7-point, 2.4-trey, 1.3-steal clip. Despite the imposing presence of the defending champs, this schedule isn't all bad. Bobcats, Clippers and Jazz opponents all shoot in the 45 percent range, and each of these teams (even Boston) allows at least seven steals per night.

Morris Peterson, SG/SF, Hornets (@MEM, SA, SAC): Mo Pete is another choice for deep leaguers, particularly for his matchup with the Grizzlies on a light Dec. 16 schedule. Peterson hasn't been starting since his return from injury, but with Rasual Butler misfiring from the field again, it could be a matter of time. Memphis and Sacramento opponents are in the league's top five in shooting percentage, and even Spurs opponents manage a middling 45.6 percent from the floor. In addition, Kings opponents collect the third-most 3s.

Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

Neil Tardy | email

Fantasy Basketball
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com