Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: April 4-13

Updated: April 1, 2011, 8:09 PM ET
By Neil Tardy | Special to ESPN.com

Two quick words before we examine the final 10 days of the 2010-11 NBA schedule.

1. Congratulations. That is, congrats to owners playing in a head-to-head league final this coming week, or those already doing so. And good luck to all in pursuit of fantasy championships.

2. Thanks. Your questions and comments throughout the season have been appreciated. Hopefully my responses have provided some help.

All season long, the schedule grid has been an important feature of the Forecaster. At a quick glance, owners have been able to gauge NBA matchups for each team, and each individual game. To accommodate the 10-day "week" that concludes the regular season, ESPN.com spreadsheet guru Tristan Cockcroft has modified the schedule grid below. The schedule ratings are based on algorithmic computations, and adding three days to the weekly schedule has skewed these numbers a bit. I'd like to give you a better explanation, but I flunked out of high school trigonometry.

In short, individual game ratings were computed as they have been throughout the season. However, for this week, take the overall team ratings in stride. Every NBA team plays five or six games the rest of the way, and given the fact that numerous star players will be rested in the final few games, a lot will happen that's outside the norm anyway. Finally, sincere thanks to Cockcroft for his help with the Fantasy Forecaster throughout the season.

Teams to Watch

Houston Rockets (SAC, @NO, LAC, DAL, @MIN): Chuck Hayes' percentages haven't been much to behold lately -- he's shot 3-of-11 in three of his past seven games -- but the undersized center is still big in other categories. In March, Hayes averaged 8.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks. Only five games here, but Sacramento Kings opponents are third in shooting percentage and third in steals, while Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers opponents are first and fifth, respectively, in steals. Hayes, who's available in more than 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues, could help in leagues of at least 12 teams.

Los Angeles Lakers (UTA, @GS, @POR, OKC, SA, @SAC): Hard to imagine now that the Lakers were reportedly shopping Ron Artest ahead of February's trade deadline. The inscrutable Artest has been integral to the Lakers' second-half dominance, but of course, the fact that he's finally making shots again is what has him back on owners' radars. In each of his past four games, Artest has scored in double figures while shooting at least 50 percent. Even better, he's averaging 2.3 3-pointers and 2.5 steals during that span. There are good matchups here -- Golden State Warriors and Kings opponents are second and third in steals, while Utah Jazz opponents are third in 3s -- so I can understand the interest in Artest, who's available in about 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Keep in mind, though, that the 31-year-old, among other Lakers stars, could see some downtime toward the end of the regular season.

Memphis Grizzlies (LAC, SAC, NO, @POR, @LAC): Good to see fantasy owners finally boarding the Tony Allen bandwagon. After notching back-to-back 20-point games this week -- with a combined eight steals against the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors -- Allen has been added in almost 15 percent of ESPN.com leagues during the past seven days. However, his availability remains about 75 percent. Yes, the Grizzlies play five times, not six, but Allen should be fine, considering that Kings and Clippers opponents are third and fifth, respectively, in steals. Since the All-Star break, Allen is averaging 14.0 points, 2.4 steals, 0.7 blocks and shooting 57.5 percent. For what it's worth, I'd take him over Artest in a heartbeat.

Milwaukee Bucks (@ORL, @MIA, @DET, CLE, TOR, @OKC): At this point, the Bucks are a long shot to make the playoffs, and by the time they complete the Sunshine State two-fer, their fate could be sealed. To be honest, I'm not sure what this means to Drew Gooden's fantasy value the rest of the way. All I know is that Gooden, playing in just his second game since mid-January, racked up 22 points and 11 rebounds against the Toronto Raptors on March 30. The other big number with Gooden? He's available in more than 85 percent of ESPN.com leagues. There's some risk involved, but if you need boards, Gooden could well be your best free-agent option. It shouldn't hurt that Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors opponents are all in the top eight in rebound differential.

New Jersey Nets (MIN, @DET, NY, @TOR, CHA, @CHI): The Nets are a prime example of what I mean about this week's team ratings. I'd call this a terrific schedule -- even getting the Chicago Bulls in the season finale plays to the Nets' favor. There are a couple of Nets players you could score in free agency, starting with Anthony Morrow. Morrow has endured an up-and-down season, but he's turned in three big outings out of his past four, averaging 20.8 points and 2.0 3s in that span. And what lies ahead for the young sharpshooter? Timberwolves and Charlotte Bobcats opponents are second and seventh, respectively, in 3-pointers, while Detroit Pistons and Raptors opponents are 1-2 in field goal percentage. On top of that, Morrow just knocked down four from beyond the arc against the New York Knicks on March 30. The other Net to watch, if you're in a roto league or a H2H final where you're allowed in-week roster moves, is Jordan Farmar. While Deron Williams returned in that game against the Knicks, the Nets are expected to shut him down soon. In 13 starts this season, Farmar is averaging 13.0 points, 8.9 assists, 1.6 3s and 1.2 steals.

Phoenix Suns (@CHI, @MIN, @NO, @DAL, MIN, SA): Jared Dudley moved into the starting lineup three games ago, but really he's seen significant playing time for more than two weeks now. In his past nine games, he's averaging 15.1 points, 1.4 3s and 1.4 steals while playing at least 29 minutes eight times. I'd say about the only drawback to adding Dudley -- whose availability is still about 80 percent -- is that it seems logical that the lottery-bound Suns will sit the worn-down Steve Nash before the end of the season. This is actually a tough set of games. Bulls opponents are last in 3s while Hornets opponents are last in steals. But there are those two tilts against the Timberwolves.

Toronto Raptors (@NY, CLE, @PHI, NJ, @MIL, MIA): James Johnson is virtually unowned in ESPN.com leagues, but as a Raptors regular he's reliably produced in the hustle categories: 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks in his 17 starts. The schedule doesn't give him much love here -- although Cavs opponents are fifth in blocks and 10th in steals -- but Johnson has value in leagues of at least 12 teams.

Washington Wizards (DET, @IND, @BOS, ATL, BOS, @CLE): I suppose Jordan Crawford's 38.1 percent shooting is the reason he remains available in about 45 percent of ESPN.com leagues. The rookie has had some cold shooting nights, but he's coming off his best game yet: 39 points and five triples against the Miami Heat on March 30. In his 10 starts, Crawford is averaging 21.2 points, 4.2 assists, 1.6 3s and 1.5 steals. As noted earlier, Pistons opponents are tops in field goal percentage, while Cavs opponents are fifth in this regard. And while Boston Celtics opponents are just 28th in shooting, Crawford could catch the C's in playoff prep mode.

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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