- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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I want to tell you about this hot point guard add. No, not the now universally owned Jeremy Lin -- though I will be present for the Lin-sanity when he and the New York Knicks face Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves this weekend.
The point guard to whom I refer is D.J. Augustin. Augustin, who's missed almost three weeks with inflammation in his right big toe, could return as soon as Monday, and as I write this, he's actually unrostered in about a third of ESPN.com leagues.
Between Augustin and Manu Ginobili, who's expected back this weekend, it's nice to finally be discussing players getting healthy. But whether it's a result of players leaving or returning to their teams, lineups are ever-changing. And that makes this forecasting business all the more tricky.
For instance, Augustin's welcome return means I'm unsure what to say about Reggie Williams. Earlier this week I was excited to tell you about Williams, the former Golden State Warriors reserve who turned in back-to-back 21-point outings for the Charlotte Bobcats. The key though was Williams logged 39 and 37 minutes in those games against the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 4 and Boston Celtics on Feb. 7. The Bobcats desperately need an outside threat like Williams, so I expect he'll continue to see decent minutes as a reserve. He could even stick as a starter over Corey Maggette for the time being. But that heavy playing time won't hold up.
The Bobcats do have four games in the week ahead, with the matchups against the Toronto Raptors on Feb. 17 and Indiana Pacers on Feb. 19 providing the most promise. Raptors opponents are fourth in 3-pointers, while Pacers opponents are ninth. So Williams might help -- but you'll have to watch how Bobcats coach Paul Silas doles out minutes with a slightly deeper roster.
That's kind of the theme for this week. A handful of players look good against the schedule, but there are other circumstances you'll need to watch and consider before adding them.
Week 6 at a Glance
This week's marquee team is the Suns, who have five games, including three in a row from Feb. 13-15, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday. (The Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers also play back-to-back-to-back this week.) While the Suns' key players are generally rostered, Channing Frye could be available in shallow leagues, so we'll focus on him. Frye has gotten hot again, averaging 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 3s and 2.0 blocks over his past three games, and his week starts with a couple of great matchups. Golden State Warriors opponents are third in 3s, and Denver Nuggets opponents are second in triples and first in blocks. Schedule quality tails off from there, but of course the quantity can't be beat. Add Frye if you can -- he's available in about 35 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
One player who could come up big is Ramon Sessions. That of course depends on how Kyrie Irving progresses in his recovery from a concussion. But if Sessions starts, he's a must-add, even with the Cleveland Cavaliers playing only three times and, on paper, with only one strong matchup against the Sacramento Kings. Kings opponents are fourth in assists and fourth in field-goal percentage. Sessions is available in about 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
If Tony Allen, who's had hip and knee problems, can get back on the court, he'd be a solid play with the Memphis Grizzlies drawing the Nuggets and New Jersey Nets (sixth and eighth in steals allowed, respectively) among their four games. You'll also want to watch for news on Derrick Rose's back, which could direct you to Rose's backup, C.J. Watson. Two of the Chicago Bulls' three opponents, the Nets and the Kings, are in the top four in assists against, while Celtics opponents are 10th in steals.
"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
Chase Budinger, SF, Houston Rockets (@MEM, OKC, MIN, UTA): In his past three games Budinger is averaging 16.7 points and 5.3 rebounds while going 10-of-19 from downtown. He'll be challenged to maintain that hot shooting, given that Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz opponents in the bottom 11 in 3s. Another concern is that, with Rockets coach Kevin McHale unhesitatingly going with the hot hand, Budinger's minutes have fluctuated wildly of late: he saw just nine against the San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 1 and eight against the Wolves on Feb. 4. Still, Budinger is worth a look in leagues at least 12 teams.
Rudy Fernandez, SG, Denver Nuggets (PHO, @DAL, @MEM, @OKC): Funny how things change in a week. Just seven days ago, none of us had Jeremy Lin rostered, and I was touting the depth of Denver's lineup. The Nuggets look pretty weary right now, and they're definitely missing Danilo Gallinari. Fernandez, who's available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues, is one player who will have to step up over the next month. In the first two games without Gallo, Fernandez had 17 points and two 3s against the Dallas Mavericks and nine points and five assists versus the Warriors. Most significantly, he logged 29 and 37 minutes in those contests. Suns, Mavs and Grizzlies opponents rate between seventh and 11th in 3s, so this should be a good set of games for Rudy. The same could also be said of Arron Afflalo, who's available in almost 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers (@DAL, WAS, @POR, SA): Foye started when Chris Paul missed some games in January, and he's apparently back in the lineup for good now that Chauncey Billups has been lost to a ruptured Achilles. In seven starts this season, Foye is averaging just 11.3 points while shooting just 38.2 percent, but he's also accumulated 2.1 3s and 1.7 steals. He should do some damage here, as Mavs opponents are tops in steals and seventh in 3s, while Washington Wizards opponents are fifth in 3s. Foye is still available in almost 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Chris Kaman, PF/C, New Orleans Hornets (UTA, @MIL, @NY): The Hornets have been trying to trade Kaman, but injuries to Jason Smith and Carl Landry have forced the team to put him back in the lineup. Having sat out for seven straight games, Kaman may be a bit rusty: he only shot 34.4 percent (10-of-29) in the first two games after his return. But he also produced 13.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Jazz opponents are eighth in rejections while Milwaukee Bucks opponents, not having to deal with Andrew Bogut, are fourth in rebound differential. Kaman is available in about one third of ESPN.com leagues.
Jason Thompson, PF, Sacramento Kings (@CHI, @NY, @DET, @CLE): While DeMarcus Cousins has thrived under new coach Keith Smart, another Kings big, Thompson, has also benefited. Since moving into the starting lineup on Jan. 18, the 25-year-old averaging 10.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 0.5 steals while shooting 53.3 percent. He's also posted double-doubles in four of his past six starts. That'll play in leagues of at least 12 teams. The biggest thing to watch with Thompson is his fouls, and he'll have to deal with some pretty good big men in the week ahead. But with Cavs opponents third in blocks and Detroit Pistons opponents fourth in steals, there's at least a chance Thompson contributes a bit more in the hustle categories. He's available in about 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
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.