- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Before getting into the forecasting, let's do a bit of backtracking. Last week, I listed NBA teams that should make for the most favorable matchups for the remainder of this season. Well, two other teams belong on this list: the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
First, this fantasy analyst's sad tale of his favorite team, the Timberwolves. The boys from Minnesota have spiraled since losing Ricky Rubio. If you check the past 10 games table (below), you'll see that the Timberwolves have yielded 106.6 points a game. That figure is slightly misleading because it includes that incredible 149-140 double-overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 23. Remove that outlier, though, and the Wolves are still allowing 103.2 points over their past 10 contests that didn't include Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden combining for 110 points.
The Cavs also are wilting in this demolition derby of a season. As you can see from the aforementioned table, they've surrendered 103.8 points over their past 10, better than only the Wolves and Sacramento Kings. In addition, five of the past seven Cavs opponents have shot at least 49 percent.
Speaking of the Cavs, guess who plays a ton of games in the week ahead?
Week 16 at a glance
The Cavaliers are one of four NBA teams that play five times from April 9-15. They're joined by the Boston Celtics, the Charlotte Bobcats and, for the second straight week, the Memphis Grizzlies. While there are no must-have fantasy free agents here, these teams do offer some possibilities for leagues of at least 12 teams.
With Kyrie Irving (shoulder) likely to miss the entire week, Cleveland's backcourt is down to a three-man rotation consisting of veteran Anthony Parker and unproven youngsters Donald Sloan and Lester Hudson. I don't want to make too much of Parker's most recent outing (27 points on 11-of-14 shooting versus the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday), but of the three, the 36-year-old has the most value. The Cavs play the Indiana Pacers twice along with the Bobcats, Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic. Bobcats and Wizards opponents are second and seventh, respectively, in shooting percentage, while Pacers opponents are eighth in 3-pointers. I realize there are better, or at least safer, free-agent options in most leagues, but I believe Parker can produce at least 70 points with a half-dozen treys and steals in the week ahead.
Avery Bradley has impressed the Celtics enough that they started him over a healthy Ray Allen against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, but it doesn't seem like his game translates well to fantasy. Over his past seven games, Bradley is averaging 14.4 points and 1.1 steals while shooting better than 50 percent, but that's about it. Three of Boston's opponents -- the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and Bobcats -- are in the bottom eight in steals. On the other hand, New Jersey Nets and Bobcats opponents are Nos. 1 and 2 from the field. The C's also face the Miami Heat, whose opponents are second in 3s and seventh in steals.
Meanwhile, Byron Mullens will apparently finish the season as a Bobcats starter. Mullens posted back-to-back 20-point performances against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday and the Raptors on Tuesday but had just eight points in 22 minutes in a blowout loss to the Hawks on Wednesday. Mullens' schedule looks pretty good, though. Pistons, Cavs and Wizards opponents are all in the top seven in shooting, while Celtics opponents are a plus-5.1 in rebounds over their past 10 games.
"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, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, and its opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played and home games (T / H) and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that week's matchups.
Players to watch
J.J. Barea, PG/SG, Timberwolves (PHO, @DEN, LAC, OKC): With Luke Ridnour sidelined by a badly sprained ankle, Barea tallied 15 points, three 3-pointers and eight assists (along with seven turnovers) against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. Denver Nuggets opponents are tops in treys and second in assists, but with major minutes, Barea should accumulate stats against anyone. Just keep in mind some of the stats he could accumulate include missed shots and turnovers. Barea is available about in about 75 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Charles Jenkins, PG, Warriors (@DEN, @POR, DAL, @LAC): Though Jenkins was recently slowed by injury, he seems to have surpassed Nate Robinson in Oakland -- much to my chagrin. Even though I expected Robinson to thrive for the rest of this season, it makes sense that the Warriors would want to see what they have in their rookie. What's tough is figuring out his fantasy value, given his limited experience. About all I can tell you is that he hasn't been attempting 3s, so that greatly reduces the appeal of the Nuggets matchup. Still, Jenkins is shooting better than 50 percent over his past eight games, and Nuggets opponents are sixth in field-goal percentage, while Portland Trail Blazers opponents are eighth.
Kevin Seraphin, PF, Wizards (@CHA, ORL, @NY, CLE): Seraphin has been terrific (15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 55.1 percent shooting) in the absence ofNene (foot), who's doubtful for Friday. While his place in the starting lineup may be tenuous, Seraphin seems worth the gamble, given the lingering nature of plantar fasciitis injuries. With Cavs and Bobcats opponents third and eighth, respectively, in rejections, his mini-drought of four games without a block should see a quick end. Seraphin remains available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
J.R. Smith, SG/SF, New York Knicks (@CHI, @MIL, WAS, MIA): Smith has played better since Mike D'Antoni's departure, and he has played more since Jeremy Lin got hurt. With Baron Davis lasting just 19 minutes against the Magic, Smith finished with a team-leading nine assists. As I've often said, the opposition is of minimal consideration with Smith, but for what it's worth, Heat and Bucks opponents are second and fourth in triples. At 70 percent availability, Smith might be your league's best free-agent option (but I've said that before).
Delonte West, PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks (SAC, @GS, @POR, @LAL): Jason Kidd could return soon, but until then, West is a sneaky deep-league play with these matchups. Kings opponents are tops in assists, while Warriors opponents are third in treys. West is available in more than 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Terrence Williams, SG/SF, Kings (@DAL, @NOR, @OKC, POR): Williams is in a similar situation to West, in that his value is tied to the status of Marcus Thornton (calf). As long as Thornton remains sidelined, Williams is worth playing. Most inviting about this schedule is that Mavs and Thunder opponents are second and sixth, respectively, in steals. Williams is averaging 1.3 takeaways over his eight-game tenure with the Kings.
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: 3-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.
10hPat McManamon and Jeremy Fowler