- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Playing in the NBA takes ability. It also requires opportunity. Sometimes opportunity comes when a starter is injured. Often it comes by simply impressing the coach.
In short, if a coach has a player's back, fantasy owners should keep an eye on that player. Especially when the coach in question is Mike D'Antoni.
In training camp, second-round draft pick Landry Fields quickly won over fantasy's favorite coach. Just before the regular season, D'Antoni installed Fields as the New York Knicks' starting shooting guard.
Really, it seems obvious now.
Fields got his chance, and lately, he's gotten quite comfortable. In his past 11 games, the rookie is averaging 12.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 53.6 percent. Thus explains why Fields is now the most-added player in ESPN.com leagues.
I recently tried to steer you away from Fields, which was unfortunate. But I did -- and still do -- see potential in Toney Douglas, who's been hindered by back and quad injuries. Plus, those steals caught me by surprise, since Fields managed just three thefts in his first eight games.
Nonetheless, Fields, who can still be had in more than 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues, is a nice option. Besides D'Antoni's endorsement, the upcoming Knicks schedule also suggests continued success for Fields. More on that shortly.
"R" matchup ratings are based on 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, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as its 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 to 10 for that week's matchups.
The Week Ahead: Teams to Watch
Once again, no hassles with the schedule. All 30 NBA teams play three or four games the week of Dec. 6.
Atlanta Hawks (@ORL, NJ, @SA, IND): I discuss Mike Bibby far too much, considering the veteran averages just 10.6 points and 3.7 assists per game. But because Jamal Crawford can't scoop up all of Joe Johnson's lost minutes, Bibby also should be in line for more playing time. In the Hawks' first full game without Johnson, Bibby played 33 minutes -- that's almost five more than his season average -- and finished with 15 points, six assists and four 3-pointers. Granted, that line came against the Memphis Grizzlies, who yield the second-most treys, but the minutes matter. Bibby had topped 30 minutes in only three of his previous 10 games. Available in about three-quarters of ESPN.com leagues, Bibby is well worth adding, even if this schedule works against him in a big way. Orlando Magic, New Jersey Nets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers opponents are all in the bottom 12 in 3s.
Dallas Mavericks (GS, NJ, UTA): Well, minutes are supposed to be crucial to a player's fantasy worth. Apparently, though, Shawn Marion is the exception. Despite playing almost six fewer minutes than he did last season, Marion's numbers are pretty close to those he registered in 2009-10. He's been especially productive of late, averaging 15.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals in his past five games, a run that's pushed his ownership to about 25 percent. As long as he's seeing only 25 minutes a night, you're going to have to endure some empty lines from Marion on occasion. Definitely stay away from him in head-to-head leagues here. Utah Jazz opponents are last in field goal percentage, while Nets opponents are 29th in steals.
Denver Nuggets (@CHA, @BOS, @TOR, @NY): J.R. Smith opened some eyes by totaling 50 points, eight triples and 18 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. Consider, though, the circumstances -- Carmelo Anthony played just three minutes against the Suns because of the flu, and an ejection ended his night early against the Bucks. Given a choice -- and you might have a choice, considering each is available in about 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues -- I'd opt for Arron Afflalo here. Although he isn't producing big numbers (12.6 points, 1.5 3s) overall, Bobcats opponents are sixth in 3s and second in blocks (Afflalo can swat a few), while Toronto Raptors and Knicks opponents are fourth and fifth, respectively, in shooting percentage.
Indiana Pacers (TOR, @MIL, CHA, @ATL): Although he's averaging only 5.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, Josh McRoberts is starting to look like a decent across-the-board option in leagues of at least 12 teams. During his past five games, the fourth-year pro is averaging 2.2 blocks, 1.0 steals, 0.8 3s and even 3.4 assists. If you need blocks in a deep league, he's worth a try for this week. As noted, Bobcats opponents are second in rejections, and Raptors and Bucks opponents are above average in this regard.
New York Knicks (MIN, TOR, @WAS, DEN): One other thing Fields has going for him is this schedule. Raptors opponents are fourth in shooting percentage and seventh in steals, while Wizards opponents are second in shooting percentage and fourth in rebound differential. As for the Timberwolves ... well, just review this.
San Antonio Spurs (GS, ATL, POR): After a slow start, George Hill has hit double figures in six straight games. The timing is good for the Spurs, since starting point guard Tony Parker is starting to struggle (perhaps that divorce is starting to hit home for him). Given his limited fantasy value, it's tough to recommend Hill in any three-game week, but you could get a boost in roto. Golden State Warriors opponents are second in steals (Hill has 15 takeaways in his past 10 games), while Portland Trail Blazers opponents are second in shooting.
Toronto Raptors (@IND, @NY, DEN, @DET): As Seth Landman astutely notes, Ed Davis is intriguing. The rookie is especially intriguing on a Toronto Raptors team that needs a boost on the boards following the loss of Reggie Evans. Of course, Davis has only the one NBA game under his belt, and given that the game was an absolute annihilation of the Wizards, it'll take a little more time to see whether he's truly a fantasy factor. But just in case someone out there in a very deep league is looking for a shot-blocker, I'll point out that Nuggets and Pacers opponents are first and fifth, respectively, in rejections. The 6-foot-10 Davis blocked a pair of shots -- to go with 11 points and six rebounds -- in his Dec. 1 debut versus the Wizards.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your lineup-related questions at email@example.com.
14hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne