Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 20-26

Updated: December 17, 2010, 4:34 PM ET
By Neil Tardy | Special to ESPN.com

Joakim Noah and Rajon Rondo owners will have to get used to being without their guys. The rest of us will have to get used to the NBA's holiday schedule.

That sounds a bit gloomier than I meant it to. (Forgive me, I did have Noah in two leagues.) But even with Rondo's two-week absence and Noah's two-plus-month forced hiatus, fantasy owners have their replacements, Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson, to fall back on. And even if you missed out on those two, other fantasy finds are emerging.

As for the schedule, just accept that you'll have multiple players appearing in just two games this week. There simply aren't that many games, and it's the same for everyone in your league.

The Week Ahead: Teams to Watch

With the NBA shutting it down on Christmas Eve -- and with Christmas Eve landing on a Friday this year -- there's a sizable hole in this schedule. Thirteen NBA teams play just twice during the week of Dec. 20-26. The Toronto Raptors have only one game. However, there is a marquee group of teams playing four games: the Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs and Gibson's Chicago Bulls.

Boston Celtics (PHI, @ORL): As I said, if you're in a weekly lineup league, you're going to have active players with two games. So you may as well go with Robinson this week. What's notable about Nate averaging 16.0 points and 5.4 assists as a Celtics starter is that he's shot extremely well -- 56.4 percent overall and 50.0 percent from 3-point range. Given the competition here, though, it's advisable to lower your expectations. Philadelphia 76ers opponents are just 28th in both shooting percentage and 3s made. The struggling Magic have slipped of late, but opponents are still only 21st in shooting and 19th in 3s. Incidentally, as of Friday, Robinson was available in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Chicago Bulls (PHI, @WAS, @NY, @DET): For this week, you can't beat this schedule for quantity. But don't expect Noah-like production from Gibson in the weeks ahead. The Bulls are a pretty deep team, and even if Gibson is the first option to replace Noah, he isn't the only one. The Bulls could occasionally go small and use Luol Deng at power forward -- something they've done already this season. And even though they've barely played so far, Omer Asik and Kurt Thomas could get some time in the post against tough bigs. Plus, Gibson is bound to have more foul-plagued, nothing nights -- he's gone scoreless in two of his first 14 starts and finished with just two points in another. But I'll cease with the nitpicking and note that Gibson as a starter is averaging 11.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 0.9 steals. He can help in most leagues, though the schedule isn't totally helping here. Knicks opponents are 28th in blocks, while Sixers opponents are 21st. Gibson, by the way, can still be had in more than 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Milwaukee Bucks (@POR, @LAL, @SAC): At this rate, by the end of the season the Bucks will have deployed more different starting lineups than Milwaukee has bars. OK, I exaggerate, but Milwaukee is a fun town (in those few weeks of summer when it's warmer outside than it is in your beer mug). What's not fun for fantasy owners is trying to get a handle on Bucks players other than Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings. Chris Douglas-Roberts is the latest newcomer to the starting five. He racked up a team-best 21 points -- along with two steals, a block and a couple of treys -- while playing 40 minutes against the Spurs on Dec. 15. Coach Scott Skiles has said Douglas-Roberts will be the starting small forward for now, so, for now, CDR is worth a look in leagues of at least 12 teams. There isn't a lot to say about this schedule other than the fact that Sacramento Kings opponents are seventh in shooting, but it is three games. That makes it good for this week.

Minnesota Timberwolves (@LAC, UTA, @CLE): Usually we discuss the upcoming schedules, but in the case of Martell Webster, I think it's instructive to look back. Yes, Webster, after missing the first 24 games with a back injury, is off to a quick start. But he registered those numbers -- 17 points, five rebounds and a pair of 3s, and 12 points and three triples -- against the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns. It'll be tough for Webster to keep getting that kind of production in only about 25 minutes a night, and considering that the Wolves also have Wesley Johnson and Corey Brewer on the wing, it's hard to see him getting more playing time. Also consider that Michael Beasley was in foul trouble in both games, leading to more minutes for Webster, Johnson and Brewer. All that said, Webster could get you a bundle of 3s this week. Cleveland Cavaliers opponents are now No. 1 in buckets from downtown, while Los Angeles Clippers opponents are fourth in this regard.

Orlando Magic (@ATL, DAL, SA, BOS): Even though there are four games here, don't expect a lot from Rashard Lewis, not with Atlanta Hawks, Spurs and Celtics opponents all in the bottom nine in 3s, and Dallas Mavericks opponents 24th in shooting. For that matter, why do owners still expect much of Lewis, in general? Sure, he's still averaging 1.8 3-pointers, but his other numbers -- 12.2 points, 41.9 percent from the floor, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks -- are feeble. And yet, Lewis remains rostered in 98 percent of leagues. Believe me, 1.8 3s isn't that hard to replace. Daniel Gibson (40 percent availability) is averaging 1.8 3s for the season and 2.4 3s in December. Brandon Rush (80 percent availability) is averaging 1.7 3s overall and 2.8 3s this month, while shooting better than 46 percent. Stephen Curry's replacement, Reggie Williams, has as many makes from downtown (19) in his past four games as Lewis has in his past 11. Lewis is his team's fourth option on offense, and he's giving you nothing meaningful in any other category. Not only is he no longer an elite player for fantasy, he's no longer worth a roster spot in standard leagues. Please, cut the cord.

Utah Jazz (@CLE, @MIN): Though he averages 1.4 3s, C.J. Miles' overall numbers are actually pretty comparable to those of Lewis. That's me continuing my indictment of Lewis, as opposed to offering an endorsement of Miles. Miles is one of those streaky shooters who generally doesn't perform up (or down) to the quality of his opposition. Nonetheless, I'll mention again that Cavs opponents are tops in 3s, and add that Timberwolves opponents are second in treys surrendered. Really, while I'm on the Jazz, what's truly noteworthy for fantasy owners is that Mehmet Okur is set to return to the lineup on Dec. 17 against the New Orleans Hornets. While he won't play a lot right away coming off of his Achilles injury, it's not a bad idea to stash him on your roster. Okur is available in 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Fantasy Find of the Week

Spencer Hawes, C, Philadelphia 76ers (@CHI, @BOS, @DEN): In his past five games, Hawes is averaging 12.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. I'm honestly not sure whether to take his improved play seriously, but I'm seriously tempted here. Yes, the Celtics are a harsh matchup, but Denver Nuggets and Bulls opponents are second and fourth, respectively, in blocks. This seems like an opportune moment to try a player who's available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your lineup-related questions at editor_njt64@yahoo.com.

Neil Tardy | email

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

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