- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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The week ahead is fairly ordinary, in the sense that most NBA teams are playing four games, while a few are playing three. But, for once, no one has as many as five games nor as few as two. No team plays three in a row, either.
However, the week ahead also is pretty interesting, because if you're looking to fill the last spot or two in your lineup -- particularly in leagues of at least 12 teams -- help is available. I guess that's the one sort of positive thing about a season in which we're dwelling on injured players. Injuries make holes in our rosters, but they also can offer opportunities to repair our teams through free agency.
We do have a lot of names to cover. I'm not sure there's a must-get free agent here, but some players are set up well with the schedule. Again, though, you'll want to consider injuries when making your lineup calls. I'll explain as I go.
Week 6 at a glance
Are the Denver Nuggets the NBA's most fantasy friendly team? Their box scores are generally stat-stuffed, since no team scores more points than the Nuggets and only three allow more points. Plus, they're arguably the league's deepest club. Heck, as I write this, two of their reserves -- Al Harrington and Andre Miller -- are checking in around 50th on the ESPN.com Player Rater.
While Harrington and Miller -- not to mention Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Nene -- are universally owned, either Arron Afflalo or Rudy Fernandez could be worth a spot play this week. I actually prefer Fernandez, Afflalo's backup, because of his ability to bunch 3-pointers. Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks opponents range from seventh to 13th in treys. Of course, Afflalo, who seems to be fully recovered from a groin problem, can provide 3s as well, and he might be the safer play in shallower leagues.
The Milwaukee Bucks are another team with two potential adds for leagues of at least 12 teams. The deep-league flier is Mike Dunleavy, who's averaging 14 points and 1.2 3s over his past six games. Toronto Raptors opponents are third in triples. Meanwhile, the inconsistent but intriguing Ersan Ilyasova is drawing slightly broader interest. (He's now rostered in 15 percent of ESPN.com leagues.) Ilyasova has at least nine boards in six of his past nine, and Phoenix Suns and Raptors opponents are near the top in rebound differential over the past 10 games. On the other hand, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers opponents are in the bottom seven in rebound differential for the season. But then again, Ilyasova had his 19-rebound game versus the Houston Rockets on Jan. 25, and Rockets opponents are 29th in rebound differential. The Turk is pretty near impossible to evaluate against the schedule.
Finally, I would love Kyle Korver (averages of 14 points and three 3s in his past three starts) for this week were it not for the fact that the Chicago Bulls are sounding pretty hopeful about Luol Deng's return. Korver as a starter could feast on this schedule, which starts with the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats. Nets and Bobcats opponents first and third, respectively, in shooting percentage, while Hornets opponents are averaging 104.0 points over their past four games. Again, though, if Deng is present, pass on Korver.
"R" matchup ratings are based on 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, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as its 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 to 10 for that week's matchups.
Players to watch
Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Toronto Raptors (@WAS, MIL, BOS, LAL): An ankle injury cost Bayless about three weeks, but now that he's healthy, he seems to have moved past Leandro Barbosa as the Raptors' third guard. In his past four games, he's averaging 15.8 points and two 3s. While not a favorable schedule overall, Washington Wizards opponents are seventh in shooting and eighth in 3s.
Trevor Booker, PF, Washington Wizards (TOR, NY, MIA, @DET): The Wizards' response to Andray Blatche's injury was to put prospect Jan Vesely in the starting lineup, but as long as he can carve out 20 to 24 minutes per night, Booker will continue to have fantasy value in leagues of at least 12 teams. In the four games since Blatche went down, Booker is averaging 10 points, 6.5 rebounds and, most significantly, 1.8 blocks. Unfortunately, you might feel dejected by the lack of rejections with this set of games. Only New York Knicks opponents are above average in blocks.
Vince Carter, SG, Dallas Mavericks (@DEN, @MIN, POR): Back-to-back 21-point outings against the San Antonio Spurs and Suns Jan. 29 and 30 have fantasy owners noticing VC again -- he's now rostered in more than 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Enjoy it while it lasts, because the minutes might not be there for Carter long term. Jason Kidd could be back next week, and the Mavs seem intent on seeing what Rodrigue Beaubois can do, whether it's as a starting point guard or a backup shooting guard. Of course, Jason Terry will get his minutes, and Delonte West is available, too. At least Nuggets opponents are second in 3s. I told you that team was chock full of fantasy fun.
Ed Davis, PF/C, Toronto Raptors (@WAS, MIL, BOS, LAL): Davis replaced a struggling Amir Johnson in the starting lineup and recorded his second straight double-double -- 10 points and 12 rebounds, along with two blocks -- against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 1. As long as Andrea Bargnani remains sidelined, Davis is a solid play in leagues of at least 12 teams. Wizards, Bucks and Celtics opponents are all in the top seven in rebound differential, while Celtics opponents are also ninth in blocks.
Jared Dudley, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (@ATL, @MIL, HOU, @SAC): In three games since returning to the starting lineup, Dudley is averaging 16.7 points, two steals and two 3s. Available in about 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Dudley might be your best option in free agency. The schedule, however, says this might not be the week to plug him in. Atlanta Hawks and Rockets opponents are only 26th and 28th, respectively, in steals, while Hawks, Bucks and Sacramento Kings opponents are all in the bottom third in 3s.
Jordan Farmar, PG, New Jersey Nets (CHI, DET, @DET, SA): With MarShon Brooks, DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Morrow all sidelined, Deron Williams' backup made his first start Feb. 1, scoring 15 points in 31 minutes against the hapless Detroit Pistons. Morrow's injury, at least, doesn't seem long term, so it remains to be seen whether Farmar will stick as a starter. Regardless, he has been playing steadily more as the season has progressed. Two more matchups with the Pistons might be reason enough to use him. Pistons opponents are second in shooting, third in steals and ninth in 3s.
Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, Utah Jazz (@NY, @IND, OKC, @MEM): Hayward has reached double figures in four straight. That might not sound like much, but he managed 10 points in only six of his first 17 games, and he has started every game this season. It all comes down to consistency, but Hayward offers the promise of points, 3s and steals. This might be a good week to see whether he's finally settled in. Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers opponents are fifth and seventh, respectively, from beyond the arc, while Knicks opponents are seventh in steals.
Greivis Vasquez, PG, New Orleans Hornets (SAC, CHI, POR): Starting for an injured Jarrett Jack, Vasquez produced 16 points, five assists and two steals against the Spurs on Feb. 2. That came a night after he racked up 20 points and 12 dimes in mostly garbage-time minutes against the Suns. You shouldn't make too much of those performances, especially since Jack isn't expected to be out long. On the other hand, with Eric Gordon on the shelf and Gordon's primary replacement, Marco Belinelli, not doing much, a Jack-Vasquez backcourt isn't out of the question. Vasquez, who's available in about 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues, is worth watching at least, although this three-game set offers little. Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers opponents are in the bottom five in both 3s and steals.
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your lineup-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.