- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Get Wesley Matthews. Then get ready to be disappointed.
This has little to do with Matthews, who's poured in 50 points in two games since replacing Brandon Roy in the Portland Trail Blazers' starting lineup. It has everything to do with the Blazers' upcoming schedule. The team is coming up on five days off, and plays only twice during the week of Nov. 22-28.
In stark contrast, one NBA team is looking at just two days off in the week ahead. It's the Atlanta Hawks, who have five games on tap. They don't even get a break on Thanksgiving.
There are no breaks with the Forecaster, but no complaints, either. Let's break down the Nov. 22-28 schedule.
The Week Ahead: Teams to Watch
"R" matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that week's matchups.
Atlanta Hawks (BOS, @NJ, WAS, @NY, @TOR): To me, a five-game week is wasted on a team like the Hawks. I guess that's my fault for not having Josh Smith, Al Horford or Joe Johnson in any of my primary leagues. But my point is you'll keep players like that active regardless of the schedule. Even Jamal Crawford is probably a week-in, week-out play in most leagues. So about all I can suggest here is to see if you can tack Mike Bibby onto the end of your lineup this week. Bibbs is shooting quite well at the moment; make that unrealistically well. The veteran is currently connecting at a rate of 48.4 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from downtown (with 1.8 3-pointers made per game). All the way back in 2002-03, when he was a budding star with the Sacramento Kings, Bibby produced career-bests of 47.0 percent from the floor and 40.9 percent from distance. But the sustainability argument goes out the window this week. Washington Wizards, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors opponents are all averaging better than 103.0 points per game, although only Wizards opponents are in the top third in 3s.
Golden State Warriors (DEN, @HOU, @MEM, @MIN): A few days ago I looked at the roller-coaster start to Dorell Wright's season. While my gut tells me that Wright is still a strong sell-high candidate, if you choose to look at it optimistically, maybe this schedule gets him back on track. Memphis Grizzlies opponents are tops in treys -- Wright, in fact, rained seven on the Griz on Nov. 3 -- while Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets opponents are fifth and eighth, respectively, in this category.
Houston Rockets (PHO, GS, @CHA, OKC): In three starts for the injured Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry is averaging just 5.3 points on 26.7 percent (4-of-15) shooting. On the bright side, he also produced 5.7 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals in that span. Lowry's never been much of an offensive player, but considering he's just starting to get in game shape after missing most of the preseason and the beginning of the regular season with knee and back problems, there is some upside here. This might be a good time to reach for Lowry (he's available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues) and pad your assist and steal numbers. Warriors opponents lead the way in thefts, while Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder opponents are sixth and seventh in dimes.
Milwaukee Bucks (@CLE, @DET, CHA): Coming off back-to-back double-doubles -- and, more importantly, back-to-back games of 30-plus minutes -- Drew Gooden's ownership is on the rise. While I question whether he'll receive consistent playing time over the long haul -- only Brandon Jennings, John Salmons and Andrew Bogut seem like sure things in Scott Skiles' rotation -- this looks like a solid three-game set for Gooden. Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers opponents are in the bottom five in rebound differential.
New Jersey Nets (ATL, @BOS, @PHI, POR): When it comes to Kris Humphries' fantasy prospects, things just got real. The Nets are reportedly talking trade about Troy Murphy, whose expiring contract is a nice bartering chip. Even without this news, I'd consider Humphries (available in about 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues) a worthy add for leagues of at least 12 teams. The 25-year-old is averaging 13.0 rebounds over his past four games, and Nets coach Avery Johnson seems to love the way Humphries goes about compiling those Kevin Love-caliber numbers. Two other things about Humphries: His teammates call him Hump, and apparently he's been seen around New York City with Kim Kardashian. Not much to tell by this schedule other than you get four games. Philadelphia 76ers opponents are eighth in rebound differential, though.
New York Knicks (CHA, @CHA, ATL, @DET) : As a second-round pick turned NBA starter, rookie Landry Fields is a nice story. And his 21-point, 17-rebound showing against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 16 is certainly an eye-opener. However, since Fields has played more than 25 minutes in just half of the Knicks' first 12 games, I still think Toney Douglas has greater fantasy potential. Douglas has apparently been playing with a strained back, which might explain why he turned in five straight games of single-digit scoring. Things might be looking up for him though -- Douglas went for 14 points with a pair of 3s against the Kings on Nov. 17. Trend-bucking owners might opt for Douglas in the week ahead, especially since Charlotte Bobcats opponents are fourth in 3s. Hawks and Pistons opponents are in the bottom five in treys, however.
Washington Wizards (PHI, @ATL, ORL) : Kirk Hinrich (11.4 points, 5.4 assists, 1.4 3s) has played well, but with John Wall expected to return this weekend, he could lose his spot in the starting lineup. How that impacts Hinrich's fantasy value remains to be seen, although Wizards coach Flip Saunders has said that he wants to use all three of his guards -- Wall, Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas -- together at times. Hinrich ownership exceeds 40 percent, but given the uncertainty, this may be a good week to wait and see. Plus, Orlando Magic opponents are last in assists.
Fantasy Find of the Week
Wesley Matthews, SG, Portland Trail Blazers (NOR, @NJ): Even though the schedule frowns here, Matthews is one of the most-added players on ESPN.com -- and he should be. When the Blazers describe Roy's knee problems as "chronic" and wonder whether he'll have to adjust his playing style, you know this is a significant injury. And for as long as Roy is out, Matthews should be the one to pick up his minutes. That said, even if Roy is sidelined for a while, don't assume Matthews will maintain this level of scoring. The Grizzlies served as his generous opposition in his first start, that 30-point, 5-trey showing on Nov. 16; again, they're the league's worst team at defending the 3-pointer. Right now, Matthews is a no-brainer as a free-agent add, provided you have a player you're certain you want to drop. But if you actually have to give up something to acquire him, Matthews remains a risky play.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your lineup-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neil Tardy looks at the fifth week of the 2010-11 NBA schedule with an eye toward fantasy-friendly matchups.