Forecaster: March 14-20


As I recently wrote about the Ty Lawson-Raymond Felton pairing with the Denver Nuggets, I made a rather obvious observation that can be boiled down thusly: Timeshare. Fantasy. Bad.

However, to this point at least, things aren't so bad in Denver. Sure, on the Felton side, the guy has gone from fantasy elite one week to backup status (in fantasy and reality) the next. Adding to the despair of Felton owners (and, perhaps, Donnie Walsh) are the new questions about what might have been.

Still, buck up, Felton owners: Your guy is at least playing more than 30 minutes a night with his new team. He's still producing 6.1 assists and 1.3 steals, and those shooting numbers with the Nuggets -- an atrocious 25.0 percent from downtown and an inexplicable 46.2 percent from the line -- just have to improve.

As for Lawson, at this crucial point on the fantasy schedule he might be the best thing you have going in free agency. After averaging 5.3 points and 6.3 assists in his first three games with Felton, Lawson has produced 17.0 points, 8.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 3-pointers over his past four. Though these efforts have gotten the attention of fantasy owners, Lawson remains available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues. His upcoming schedule isn't the most helpful, but Lawson does have four games in the week ahead.

Lots of other players have four games ahead, too.

"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.

Teams to Watch

Ah, the stretch run: The games generally pile up from here, giving fantasy owners tons of options. Eighteen NBA teams play four times during the week of March 14-20, and every team has at least three games.

Chicago Bulls (WAS, NJ, @IND): Carlos Boozer could miss up to a week with an ankle sprain. While the Bulls could replace Boozer with Taj Gibson or Kurt Thomas, in a league of at least 12 teams I'd take a flier on Gibson. In 18 starts this season, Gibson is averaging 10.2 points, 6.7 boards and 1.8 blocks. Indiana Pacers opponents are sixth in rejections.

Denver Nuggets (@NOR, @ATL, @ORL, @MIA): As noted, a fairly tough schedule for Lawson. Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic opponents are in the bottom nine in treys; New Orleans Hornets opponents are dead last in steals -- with Miami Heat and Hawks opponents 23rd and 24th in this regard -- and each of these opponents rate 18th or lower in assists. On the plus side, Heat and Hornets opponents are 12th and 14th, respectively, in 3s.

Houston Rockets (PHO, CHA, BOS, UTA): Something else I said two weeks ago: Chase Budinger could average 15.0 points, 1.5 3s and 1.0 steals as a starter. Over his five games, Budinger has in fact produced 15.2 points, 1.4 3s and 1.0 steals. Since apparently I'm some sort of Nostradamus on all things Budinger, I'll add that he has a good chance to do better in the week ahead. Utah Jazz, Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns opponents are in the top nine in treys, which should make up for the fact that Boston Celtics opponents are only 29th in buckets from downtown. Budinger is available in about 65 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Indiana Pacers (NY, @BOS, CHI, @MEM): If Lawson isn't available, Tyler Hansbrough might be the next best free-agent find. Hansbrough returned to the starting lineup March 9 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and, save for a couple of bad shooting nights, he's been pretty steady since the break, averaging 15.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals in his first 10 games of the second half. Odds are this schedule looks the same to you as it does to me: tough matchups with the Celtics and Bulls and more favorable ones with the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies. Hansbrough, by the way, is available in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Los Angeles Clippers (@MEM, PHI, CLE, PHO): Though Eric Gordon's re-injured wrist makes Randy Foye fantasy-viable again, Foye is really struggling from the floor right now (just 29.4 percent over his past four games). But he should pick it up here, since Cleveland Cavaliers and Suns opponents are in the top five in shooting, while Cavs, Grizzlies and Suns opponents are in the top nine in 3s.

Memphis Grizzlies (LAC, @NY, IND): From here, we'll cover potential adds for leagues of at least 12 teams, starting with Tony Allen. It seems as if Allen has just enough bad, low-minute games to scare off fantasy owners. But as long as Rudy Gay remains sidelined, Allen will have at least as many productive nights as not. Consider that in nine games since the break Allen has scored 16 or more points in five games and 10 or fewer in the other four. Put it all together and it's a solid line: 14.2 points, 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks on 57.5 percent shooting. Allen should be rostered in way more than 4.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and while you probably should look elsewhere in a head-to-head matchup next week this isn't a bad schedule for a three-game set. Clippers opponents are fourth in steals, while Pacers opponents have amassed 49 thefts during Indiana's five-game losing skid.

Philadelphia 76ers (@UTA, @LAC, @SAC, @POR): Already a reliable source of 3-pointers (1.9 as a starter this season), Jodie Meeks is stepping it up defensively. In eight games since the All-Star break, he's averaging 1.5 takeaways. So between the points, 3s and steals, it appears there's something here for deep-leaguers. This West Coast swing should suit Meeks, too. Clippers and Jazz opponents are third and fourth in 3s, while Clippers, Kings and Jazz opponents are all in the top eight in steals. Meeks is available in 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Sacramento Kings (GS, CLE, PHI, @MIN): A thought for those in daily lineup leagues: Samuel Dalembert has been starting alongside DeMarcus Cousins lately, and he has a couple of great matchups here. Cavs opponents are fourth in blocks, while Wolves opponents are seventh in this regard. However, in games with the smallish Golden State Warriors and Sixers, Jason Thompson might be the better play. Of late, Thompson has been reasonably productive when given the chance. With Dalembert saddled with foul trouble, Thompson came off the bench with 16 points and six boards against the Magic on March 9. Dalembert is available in about half of ESPN.com leagues, while Thompson is free in almost all leagues.

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