- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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This is the ESPN.com NBA Fantasy Forecaster. I thought I'd state that up front because this installment of the Forecaster may seem more like Trainer Tardy's Fantasy Hoops Injury Report. (Disclaimer: I am not a physical therapist. I don't even have any gauze in the house.)
I'll come to the point: If you participate in an ESPN.com fantasy hoops league in which lineups are set on a weekly basis, you need to know that the next two weeks -- Feb. 14-20 and Feb. 21-27 -- are treated as a single scoring period. This was done to work around NBA All-Star Weekend, which of course consumes four days in the middle of this two-week block.
I think in most respects, fantasy owners will find it easier to make lineup decisions for this extended scoring period. Every NBA team plays four, five or six games over the next two weeks. The greater number of games in this upcoming "week" gives fantasy owners extra incentive to play their best players. Four games this week is like three games in a normal week. Six games this week is like four games in a normal week. Don't overthink this.
That said, owners who are relying on injured players will probably be in for some headaches. Case in point: Joakim Noah. Do you activate him? Maybe. I'll elaborate in a bit.
One tool that can really help you through this stretch is the ESPN.com NBA weekly schedule grid. Actually, this handy chart is always useful, but for this scoring period you'll be able to see at a glance the team-by-team schedules going into and coming out of the All-Star break (e.g., the Atlanta Hawks play twice the week of Feb. 14 and four times the week of Feb. 21).
Of course you'll also want to refer to the Forecaster schedule grids in which we rate schedules for each NBA team. But again, just so you have this information at a glance, here's the breakdown of games over the next two weeks:
Teams with five games (16) -- Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards.
"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.
Players to Watch
Chuck Hayes, PF/C, Houston Rockets (DEN, PHI, @DET, @CLE, NJ, @NOR): If you're looking for lineup fill-ins, the group of teams playing six games is a natural starting point. There are a few popular free-agent adds in this group, starting with Hayes. Even though he's only 6-foot-6, Hayes has been a valuable fantasy center for about a month now, and over his past five games he's averaging 11.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. Hayes is available in more than 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues, though if you're expecting a lot of steals from him you could be disappointed in the short term. While Cavaliers opponents are seventh in take-aways, Nuggets, Sixers, Pistons, Nets and Hornets opponents are in the bottom 11 in the category. Nuggets and Cavs opponents are fourth and eighth, respectively, in blocks, however.
Greg Monroe, PF/C, Detroit Pistons (ATL, IND, HOU, @IND, @PHI, UTA): Monroe is another under-appreciated post player. Like Hayes, this rookie is available in about 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues. The seventh overall pick has blossomed since moving into the starting lineup in mid-January. Monroe is averaging 10.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and a 61.7 percent shooting as a starter. This schedule doesn't give you a lot to go on, but Rockets and Pacers opponents are fifth and sixth, respectively, in blocks.
DeJuan Blair, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (@NJ, @CHI, OKC, NJ, MEM): In his season and a half in the pros, Blair has teased fantasy owners with a handful of huge performances, which were generally followed up by weeks of near uselessness in the fantasy realm. But with five double-doubles in his past six games, it appears that the 21-year-old has arrived, and Blair's recent playing time reflects his increasingly consistent contributions. Blair has logged at least 23 minutes in 10 of his past 11 games, and he's topped 28 minutes seven times in that span. The Spurs will still go away from him in certain matchups, making Blair very tough to gauge by the schedule. However, owners who think ahead will want Blair for the stretch run. Not much stands out for the short term, though, other than Grizzlies opponents being ninth in steals. Blair has at least one take away in 11 straight games.
Jose Juan Barea, PG, Dallas Mavericks (SAC, @PHO, UTA, @WAS, @TOR): A sneaky add for leagues of at least 12 teams, Barea is averaging 15.7 points, 3.8 assists and 1.8 3-pointers over his past five games. Eventually Barea will probably lose time to Rodrigue Beaubois, but he'll need time to get up to speed, so J.J. should get you through these two weeks. Suns, Raptors and Wizards opponents are in the top seven in shooting percentage and top nine in assists. These three teams are 10th, 11th and 12th, respectively, in 3-pointers made.
As I said, owners with injured players have some tough calls to make for this stretch. Depending on the size of your league and the content of your roster, it may make sense for you to activate a player who will miss a game or two of the Feb. 14-27 "week."
Joakim Noah, PF/C, Chicago Bulls (CHA, SA, @TOR, MIA, @MIL): All indications are Noah (thumb) will make his return right after the All-Star break. So if you use Noah this period, you potentially could get three games from him. In most situations, it probably isn't worth the risk, but that Raptors and Bucks opponents are ninth and 10th, respectively, in blocks makes it at least a little tempting. Then again, Heat opponents are dead last in rejections.
Marcus Camby, C, Portland Trail Blazers (@MIN, NOR, LAL, DEN, ATL): With Camby (knee) you have the advantage of checking on his availability through the weekend. Though he's been ruled out for Friday, he could play Sunday against the Pistons or Monday against the Timberwolves. It'd be nice to have him for this stretch, since Nuggets and Wolves opponents are fourth and seventh, respectively, in blocks. But see what news comes out over the weekend. While I'm on the Blazers, don't even think about activating Brandon Roy until you know he's playing.
Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks (@DET, @NY, @LAL, @PHO, @GS, @POR): Horford (back) is out through at least Saturday, and at this point could be considered iffy for next week. The good news is the last four of these games come on the back side of the break. Again, monitor the news on Horford this weekend.
Mo Williams, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers (LAL, HOU, NY, PHI): Williams (hip) is expected to return to the lineup on Friday. He'll come off the bench initially, so in most leagues it would be prudent to leave him on the bench. With Williams back in the mix, Ramon Sessions' run could be nearing an end. As well as Sessions has played of late, I'd be leery about committing to him for two weeks here.
Emeka Okafor, C, New Orleans Hornets (@GS, @POR, LAC, @MIN, HOU): Okafor could miss the two games (Warriors, Blazers) before the break, but I think I'd roll the dice here and assume that he'll play at least the last three games of this set. Rockets, Wolves and Clippers opponents are all in the top 12 in blocks.
Michael Beasley, SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (POR, LAC, @MIL, MEM, NOR, GS): Given that Beasley (ankle) has tried to play through injuries for a few weeks now, it wouldn't surprise me to see him sit out the rest of the first half of the season. But that still leaves you with four games (and fairly good matchups) for a hopefully healthy Beasley coming out of the break.
Rudy Gay, SF/PF, Memphis Grizzlies (PHI, @DEN, @MIN, SAC, @SA): You should be OK to use Gay (toe). Of these five games, only the Sixers contest comes ahead of the break. But check for updates on his status this weekend.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your lineup-related questions at email@example.com.
6hAdam Rubin and Kieran Darcy