- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Apparently one of the more popular cable TV shows is a sitcom called "Hot in Cleveland."
While I've not seen it, I'm guessing that the show isn't about the Cleveland Cavaliers.
NBA fans know the Cavs' cringe-inducing storyline all too well. LeBron James takes his talents to South Beach. After the uproar comes and subsides, the remaining Cavaliers hang in there for the season's first month. They shock the Boston Celtics on opening night and manage a 7-10 record through November. Then the Miami Heat blow into town and blow out James' old team, and things immediately unravel.
If you've not been keeping track, the Cavaliers have won exactly one game since LeBron's early-December return. That's a single win out of 23 games. It's not hot in Cleveland. It's just ugly.
Just look at what's happened lately. On Jan. 5, the Toronto Raptors thumped the Cavs 120-105. Two nights later, the Cavs started a five-game road trip. During that gruesome West Coast swing, the Cavs surrendered 14 treys to the Golden State Warriors, 13 to the Phoenix Suns, 10 to the Los Angeles Lakers in that epic 55-point rout, 10 to the Utah Jazz and 13 to the Denver Nuggets. That's a total of 60 buckets from downtown for Cavs opponents, or 12 per game. In their past seven games, the Cavaliers have yielded a jaw-dropping 115.7 points and 10.3 steals and allowed the opposition to shoot at least 47.0 percent in each game.
You simply can't follow this display and not feel for the Cavaliers and their fans -- unless of course you're a fantasy hoops owner.
Yes, the Cavaliers are a tremendous matchup. I hesitate to say that the Cavs are the best matchup going, if for no other reason that once you've hit bottom, you can only go up. Snark aside, even though Anderson Varejao is lost for the season, the team is getting healthier. Daniel Gibson is back in the lineup and Joey Graham (quad) and Christian Eyenga (ankle) could soon join him. Anthony Parker (back) is practicing again and Mo Williams (hip) should return in a couple of weeks. Every little bit helps.
Still, the Cavs should remain among fantasy's most favorable matchups, along with the likes of the Suns, the Warriors, the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. And with each of these teams playing four times in the week ahead, fantasy owners can look forward to tons of excellent matchups.
"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.
The Week Ahead: Teams to Watch
Indeed, judging by the schedule, this should be a good week. In all, 21 teams have four games, while only the Portland Trail Blazers are limited to two.
Chicago Bulls (MIL, ORL, IND): Kurt Thomas has done an admirable job of filling in for Joakim Noah, and in fact the veteran has been so productive of late he's starting to draw interest in deep leagues. Thomas isn't a scorer, of course, but in his past five games he's averaged 7.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. With Andrew Bogut and Dwight Howard looming, this probably isn't the week to try Thomas, though he did get a season-high 18 boards the last time he faced the Indiana Pacers.
Cleveland Cavaliers (@NJ, @BOS, DEN, @ORL): The Cavs' roster, decimated as it is, still has some fantasy-worthy players. See if you can add Gibson, who made four 3s against the Suns on Jan. 19 after missing five games with a left ankle sprain. Boobie is available in almost 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues. While Williams remains out, Ramon Sessions (18.3 points, 7.7 assists and 1.6 steals in his past three) is another good free-agent get. He can be had in nearly 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Unfortunately, the Cavs draw one of the few tough slates this week. Celtics and New Jersey Nets opponents are in the bottom third in 3s, while Celtics and Orlando Magic opponents are in the bottom third in assists and field goal percentage.
Memphis Grizzlies: (@TOR, @NJ, @PHI, WAS): It sounds like Tony Allen (knee) is getting close to a return. In his past seven games before being sidelined, Allen averaged an incredible 3.9 steals. While it's not a given that the minutes will be there for him when he returns, Allen is worth watching in leagues of at least 12 teams. Raptors and Washington Wizards opponents, for what it's worth, are both in the top eight in steals.
Milwaukee Bucks (@CHI, ATL, @TOR, NJ): Corey Maggette can help you as long as John Salmons (hip) is sidelined. He averaged 23.0 points and 37.0 minutes in the first two games that Salmons missed. Also note that Carlos Delfino (concussion) is expected to make his return this weekend. While he probably won't play much in the short term, Delfino is potentially the third-best fantasy play, behind Brandon Jennings and Bogut, on a fully healthy Bucks team. Jennings, by the way, continues to rehab his broken left foot but has yet to be cleared for practice.
Minnesota Timberwolves (HOU, OKC, @UTA, TOR): Dogged by various injuries -- the latest of which is a left ankle sprain he sustained against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 19 -- Darko Milicic's availability stands at nearly 50 percent in ESPN.com leagues. The sprain isn't thought to be serious, though, so grab Darko if you can, especially as he heads into this set of games. Houston Rockets and Raptors opponents are both in the top nine in blocks. Milicic has averaged 3.2 rejections in his past six games.
Orlando Magic (DET, @IND, CHI, CLE): Ryan Anderson is starting to settle in for the revamped Magic. In his past seven games, Anderson is averaging 15.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.3 3s. In case I hadn't made it clear, Cavs opponents are far and away tops in triples -- although Detroit Pistons, Pacers and Bulls opponents are all in the bottom 11 in 3s. Though Anderson is a popular get right now, he remains available in more than 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Utah Jazz (@LAL, SA, MIN, @GS): While I'm not a fan of one-trick players like C.J. Miles, the schedule says plug him in in leagues of at least 12 teams. Lakers, Timberwolves and Warriors opponents are all in the top 10 in 3s, while San Antonio Spurs opponents trail only the Cavaliers in shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Miles is averaging 16.2 points and 2.4 treys in his past five and is available in 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your lineup-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.