Matchups for Thursday, April 3
All times are ET.
Key: Opp. PPG = Points per game allowed to opponents. Opp. FGP = Field goal percentage allowed to opponents. RPG Diff. = The difference between team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
Daniel Gibson, PG, Cavaliers (ankle)
Drew Gooden, PF, Bulls (abdomen)
Cuttino Mobley, SG, Clippers (heel)
Tim Thomas, SF/PF, Clippers (Achilles)
Beno Udrih, PG, Kings (back)
Ben Wallace, C, Cavaliers (back)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Strike up the band in Clipper land: Mr. Brand is finally at hand! The Clippers should get Elton Brand back from his season-long Achilles injury on Thursday. Expect some major rust until he plays his way back into game shape, but Brand could get all the time he can handle with Chris Kaman out indefinitely. In the short term, look for Al Thornton (24.8 points his past four games) and Corey Maggette (24.0 points his past five) to continue to carry the scoring load for L.A., especially with Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas hurting. The Bulls-Cavaliers matchup loses a bit of its post-trade luster with the likely absences of Drew Gooden and Ben Wallace. The currently fourth-seeded Cavaliers still have much to play for, as only 3 1/2 games separate them from the seventh-place 76ers, so expect heavy minutes from Zydrunas Ilgauskas (18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in his past five games) and, of course, LeBron James. For the Bulls, run with Kirk Hinrich (a respectable 12.2 points, 7.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.8 3s in his past five), Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, but sit or even cut Larry Hughes after he shot 0-for-6 from the field on Tuesday versus Boston. The Rockets visit the Trail Blazers, who are a tough 25-11 at home. Expect LaMarcus Aldridge to bring his A-game after averaging 20.7 points in March, his best offensive month of the season. For Houston, Rafer Alston is still scoring well (16.8 points in March), but his field goal percentage reverted to a scary 38.9 percent last month. Luis Scola has been on target, shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 89.3 percent from the line with 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in his past five.
Without Brandon Roy, the Trail Blazers will have a tough time finding their way offensively. Several Portland players have the potential to pick up the scoring slack, but Travis Outlaw (20, 9 and 26 points his past three games) is the most versatile, despite his inconsistency. If you need rebounds, Joel Przybilla is a rebounding machine, averaging 16.6 boards (and 1.4 blocks to boot) his past five games. Speaking of boards, Anderson Varejao has been averaging 10.4 his past five games and could get significant minutes if Ben Wallace remains out. However, Cav-eat emptor: Varejao has been scoring a Wallace-esque 4.0 points per game while shooting only 33.3 percent from the field his past five games. Delonte West is coming off his best game as a Cavalier -- 18 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks versus the 76ers on Sunday -- and should continue to get plenty of time with Daniel Gibson not yet 100 percent. Tyrus Thomas exploded for a season-high 24 points in 37 minutes against Boston Tuesday and should keep playing if Drew Gooden remains out. Ditto for Joakim Noah, who is probably the better pickup despite inconsistent scoring. Noah's averaging 10.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.2 blocks in his past five games. Andres Nocioni is a bit riskier given his limited minutes, but he has been a decent source of points, 3-pointers and blocks lately. Beno Udrih is the latest King to be bitten by the injury bug. Anthony Johnson is starting at point guard for Udrih, but Francisco Garcia (13.8 points, 1.6 steals, 1.8 3s in his past five games) is a more fantasy-worthy beneficiary of Udrih's injury.
Tony Targan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.