Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Brief Clippers' schedule still valuable

Updated: December 22, 2008, 10:54 AM ET
By Neil Tardy | Special to ESPN.com

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Week 9 schedule | Weekly Lineup Recommendations | Daily Lineup Recommendations

Now that we're a couple of months into the season, I've developed a routine with the Fantasy Forecaster. I study the coming week's schedule, I see who's playing who and I think carefully about what information matters to you, the hands-on fantasy owner.

Then I write something about D.J. Augustin.

I wasn't going to mention the Bobcats rookie again, but with Charlotte's Week 9 schedule, the lad could go from under-appreciated to overvalued in a hurry. I'll tell you how in a bit.

Despite my fascination with Augustin, plenty else is happening. The holidays are upon us, and you won't see another schedule like this all season. Some teams have an itinerary rivaling Kris Kringle's, while others will barely see the court. For those of you in weekly lineup leagues, you should know that six teams play two or fewer (yes, fewer) games in Week 9. I'll highlight some of these squads in the next section. And, for every fantasy owner, I bring you news of free-agent gems. It's just more convenient for me than sending you all gift certificates for the holidays.

On tap:

Check the grid for Week 9 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.

TeamMon. 12/22Tue. 12/23Wed. 12/24Thu. 12/25Fri. 12/26Sat. 12/27Sun. 12/28Total gamesNext Week
GrizzliesLAL@DAL  IND@SA44
NetsHOU@IND  CHA@CHA 44
NuggetsPOR@POR  PHI @NY44
Rockets@NJ@CLE  @NOUtah 44
Celtics PHI @LAL@GS @SAC43
Hornets LAL @ORLHOU @IND43
Mavericks MEM @POR@Utah @LAC43
SpursSACMIN @PHO MEM 43
Trail Blazers@DENDEN DAL TOR 43
Warriors@ORL@MIA  BOS @LAL43
Lakers@MEM@NO BOS  GS42
Bulls @DET  @MIA@ATL 34
MagicGS  NO @MIN 34
Pistons CHI  OKC@MIL 34
Raptors@LAC   @SAC@POR 34
Timberwolves @SA  @NYORL 34
Wizards @CHA @CLE OKC 34
Bobcats WAS  @NJNJ 33
Cavaliers HOU WAS  MIA33
Heat GS  CHI @CLE33
Kings@SA   TOR BOS33
Pacers NJ  @MEM NO33
Thunder @ATL  @DET@WAS 33
Jazz @MIL  DAL@HOU 32
76ers @BOS  @DEN  24
ClippersTOR     DAL24
Hawks OKC   CHI 24
Knicks    MIN DEN23
Bucks Utah   DET 22
Suns   SA   13

Los Angeles Clippers (TOR, DAL): You know, the Clippers don't look half bad. Even with a two-game week, you'll make do with Baron Davis (8.2 assists, 1.8 steals), Marcus Camby (12.4 rebounds, 3.0 blocks) and Zach Randolph (24.3 points, 9.9 boards in L.A.). And in a sufficiently deep weekly lineup league, I'd be OK with Eric Gordon. The 19-year-old (he turns 20 on Christmas) is averaging 1.8 3s as a starter, and the Raptors allow the third-most buckets from downtown.

Philadelphia 76ers (@BOS, @DEN): You know about Boston's D, but do you know which team allows the third-lowest shooting percentage, behind the C's and Cavs? It's Denver. I could see sitting any Sixer for Week 9, including Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala, if you have better options. If not, hang your hat on the fact that Nuggets opponents are above average in assists and steals.

Milwaukee Bucks (Utah, DET): While the Pistons aren't the team you're used to seeing, they're still 11th in scoring defense and third in 3-point defense. I'd probably pass on every Buck this week, even Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson.

Phoenix Suns (SA): There isn't much to say about the Suns and their one game in Week 9. You'll go with Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash and hope they go off on Christmas Day. But the funny thing with the Suns is they play only three times in the 12 days after Christmas. Their schedule the rest of the way, though, is super-crazy.

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 (WAS, @NJ, NJ): Just look at this. You have a guy dropping 2.2 3s per game in December with three shots at the league's two most pitiful teams in 3-point defense. Pardon my pigeon French, but looking at this set of games I can only think, trey magnifique. Even limited to 25-28 minutes a night behind Raja Bell, Augustin should put up big numbers. Now is a fantastic time to grab the rookie (he's still only 40 percent owned), wait till after New Year's, and then explore trade possibilities. Why move him? Because while I do like the 3s, the assists and the machine-like precision from the line -- and I am aware of the Raymond Felton trade rumors -- Augustin's lack of steals and, especially, his low field-goal percentage, bother me.

Shane Battier, SF, Rockets (@NJ, @CLE, @NO, Utah): Battier doesn't exactly fly under the fantasy radar, but with his late start to 2008-09, he remains unowned in 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues. While this isn't a favorable schedule -- even with Nets opponents averaging a staggering 8.4 3s -- Battier is slowly rounding into his one-plus steal, block and trey form. Get him while you can.

Marco Belinelli, SG, Warriors (@ORL, @MIA, BOS, @LAL): How could Don Nelson keep ignoring this guy? He's got "'nelli" right in his name. OK, that doesn't matter, but the previously buried Belinelli is becoming a fantasy factor for the injury-riddled Warriors. In his past six he's averaging 15.0 points, 1.8 3s and 53.7 percent shooting. While upheaval is the norm in Oakland, Monta Ellis being at least another month away implies a measure of job security. If you need the 3s, the 99-percent unowned Belinelli may be your best option in free agency. This schedule, however, is a mixed bag: Heat and Lakers opponents top seven 3s per game, but Magic and Celtics opponents are among the least productive from downtown.

Matt Bonner, PF/C, Spurs (SAC, MIN, @PHO, MEM): Bonner is unowned in 96 percent of leagues, but valued by Gregg Popovich. To my surprise, the coach even gave Bonner 20-plus minutes the other night against Dwight Howard and the Magic. Though his 48.5 percent success rate from beyond the arc should slide, as long as Bonner starts he should maintain his nine-point, six-rebound, one-plus 3 pace. This shouldn't be a problem in the short-term, as the Kings, Suns and Grizzlies opponents are in the league's top third in 3-pointers.

Courtney Lee, SG, Magic (GS, NO, @MIN): With Mickael Pietrus sidelined, Lee is getting a steady 24 minutes off the bench in December. If you're in a deep league and scrapping for steals, you should consider the rookie -- he's averaging 1.4 swipes this month (along with 1.0 3s). As far as the schedule goes, no numbers for you -- just a reminder that the Warriors and Timberwolves are playing as poorly as anyone at the moment.

Brook Lopez, C, Nets (HOU, @IND, CHA, @CHA): On the ever-so-slim chance you're wondering what this space would be like without Augustin, I have three words for you: Brook, Brook, Brook. Here's another rookie who is seriously undervalued (22 percent owned) in ESPN.com leagues. As a starter, Lopez is averaging 2.3 rejections, and this schedule should make him Camby-esque. Opponents are all in the top seven in blocks against the Rockets, Pacers and Bobcats.

J.R. Smith, SG, Nuggets (POR, @POR, PHI, @NY): I guess with Smith you'll never completely know. There will probably always be the occasional night where he goes 1-for-5 in 10 minutes before George Karl banishes him to the bench. But by his standards, the 23-year-old has been pretty steady of late. And by any standard, Smith's December numbers -- 15.9 points, 1.9 3s, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 49.4 percent shooting -- scream Jim Cramer-like, "Buy." Rest assured, the 31 percent owned Smith can be had. While none of these teams allow many 3s, Blazers opponents shoot 39.1 percent from 3-point range (second in the league), while Knicks and Sixers opponents are third and ninth, respectively, in steals.

Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, Pistons (CHI, OKC, @MIL): The Pistons apparently came out on the wrong end of the Billups-for-Iverson deal (at least for now), but that's hardly Stuckey's fault. The 22-year-old is averaging 13.4 points, 8.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.9 3s this month. Call this schedule generally favorable, with Thunder opponents sixth in scoring and Bucks opponents fourth in steals. And here's a not-so-gentle suggestion: Do yourself a favor and get Stuckey. No way should he be unrostered in two-thirds of ESPN.com leagues.

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