- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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Matchups for Monday, Dec. 8
All times 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.
Start 'em, sit 'em
Emeka Okafor finally had an off night against the Cavaliers on Friday night, but many players have been having off nights against the Cavs. (Playing Cleveland is not quite as bad as playing Boston, but it's getting there.) Still, Okafor is in perfect position to have a big night against Joel Anthony and the center-deficient Heat. It has been reported that Gerald Wallace could miss a game or two this week because of a death in the family. Check to see if there's been an update on his availability going into Monday night's game. If I owned him, I'd look for another option either way because he's been ice-cold as of late. Udonis Haslem has been a nice little fantasy success story this year, playing just enough center to gain eligibility at the 1, then getting shifted back to his natural position at the 4. He's had three consecutive double-doubles and is even starting to block the occasional shot. The Thunder draw the Warriors, and I am salivating at the possibilities for Kevin Durant, who should benefit from Golden State's narcoleptic defensive philosophy. The Thunder stat I find most interesting is that Jeff Green has outranked Durant on the Player Rater in the past 15 games. Green has become uncharacteristically aggressive on the offensive end since the end of P.J. Carlesimo regime and is starting to display his Danny Grangeresque potential. Earl Watson is deferring his shots to Russell Westbrook but should be a nice play in what portends to be a night when the Thunder will score more than 100 points. Despite all this, I'd still sit or outright cut Nick Collison, who apparently doesn't count Scott Brooks as a fan. Stephen Jackson will undergo an MRI on Sunday to determine the severity of an injury to his non-shooting hand. He's too good to just sit blindly, so stay close to ESPN's injury report nearing post time (lock-your-lineup time) Monday. Many of you probably are too young to remember there was a time when Rafer Alston was one of the top fantasy guards in the land. Well, the longer Tracy McGrady sits, the more these tired eyes will start to see misty visions of 2004. He's a binge producer and is prone to ice-cold spells, but he should be started in all leagues for the foreseeable future. Alston won't get you 20 points a night, but he's fantastic at across-the-board production. Jameer Nelson came back ahead of schedule from a hip injury Friday night and produced a solid performance (15 points, 7 assists and 4 steals). He should be plugged back into lineups at ramming speed. A stomach bug failed to slow Zach Randolph's offensive rampage Friday (21 points, 9 rebounds). But with Chris Kaman projected to return Monday, Randolph's and Marcus Camby's time near the top of the Player Rater probably will end soon.
Gerald Wallace's probable absence will lead to more minutes for the Bobcats' bench. I'm betting D.J. Augustin will have a good night in a slightly expanded role, as he's shown he can play well alongside Raymond Felton. Beyond that, it's inordinately difficult to recommend anyone else from the Bobcats' reserves. There's still a statistical hole in their lineup at power forward that Sean May is (over)filling at the moment. I'm hoping that as he plays his way into shape he'll become a fantasy factor early in 2009. Mario Chalmers has rediscovered his ability to put the ball through the hoop (3-for-6 from behind the arc Friday night) and is stringing together some very efficient stat lines as a result. With Chris Quinn nursing an injury, he should get all the minutes he needs to produce for owners. Russell Westbrook cracked 30 points Friday, and I don't see how he doesn't end up as the second-best rookie guard this season behind Derrick Rose. He'll get a ton of minutes from here on out, and is still owned in only 24.5 percent of leagues! If you can't carve out the time in your day to pick him up, it's time to reshuffle your priorities. I'm keeping an uncomfortably close eye on Brandan Wright, who's starting to play himself into Don Nelson's heart. Yes, Nelson is mercurial with how he allots his playing time, but don't forget that the Warriors traded Jason Richardson for Wright, and pride dictates that Wright's role will expand as the season progresses. Sheer logic dictates that Luis Scola should be the better start against Memphis, but I just have a feeling that Carl Landry will prove himself worth a nice spot start. Landry has been on a statistical upswing in the past two weeks, has been fantasy-worthy despite playing only 25 minutes a night, and matches up nicely against Memphis' frontcourt. .Marc Gasol (21 points, 7 rebounds Friday night) continues to outproduce Darko Milicic despite playing behind him in the rotation. Hubie Brown couldn't convince me as to how and why Darko should be starting ahead of Gasol. It just seems cosmically and existentially irresponsible. I like both Eric Gordon and Courtney Lee (matched up against each other) in the late game.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
John Cregan previews Monday in the NBA from a fantasy perspective.