- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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Matchups for Monday, Jan. 26
All times Eastern
Key: Opp. PPG = Points per game allowed to opponents. Opp. FGP = Field goal percentage allowed to opponents. RPG Diff. = The difference between a team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
Steve Blake, PG, Trail Blazers (shoulder)
Tyson Chandler, C, Hornets (ankle)
Baron Davis, PG, Clippers (tailbone)
Al Horford, PF/C, Hawks (knee)
Yi Jianlian, SF/PF, Nets (finger)
Chris Kaman, C, Clippers (foot)
Zach Randolph, PF/C, Clippers (knee)
Ron Artest, SF, Rockets (ankle)
Shane Battier, SF, Rockets (foot)
Charlie Bell, SG, Bucks (ankle)
Andrew Bogut, C, Bucks (back)
Marcus Camby, PF/C, Clippers (ankle)
Mardy Collins, PG/SG, Clippers (calf)
Eddy Curry, C, Knicks (knee)
Rudy Fernandez, SG, Trail Blazers (foot)
Shawn Marion, SF/PF, Heat (groin)
Tracy McGrady, SG/SF Rockets (knee)
Yao Ming, C, Rockets (knee)
Steve Nash, PG, Suns (back)
Marreese Speights, PF, 76ers (knee)
David West, PF, Hornets (back)
Start 'em, sit 'em
It's hard to believe I'm writing this, but considering the age of the Suns' key players, Steve Nash's sore back and an inconsistent rotation, I'm not sure the team has a single night-in, night-out fantasy starter at the moment. That's a mighty fall considering how Phoenix dominated the fantasy landscape just two years ago. Marvin Williams returned Friday night and nearly posted a double-double (11 points, nine rebounds), thereby setting us up to be let down once again with his marginal stat lines. Shawn Marion (groin) is at best a 50-50 shot to play Monday, and even if he plays, he probably will be only a shadow of what he was before his injury. Of course, even that shadow is only a shadow of his former self. Confusing, but true. With the Rockets having four starters listed as day-to-day, Luis Scola (25 points, seven rebounds Friday night) and Rafer Alston (17 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) could be in for big outings versus the Knicks, who have a NOS-like effect on fantasy numbers (as in, they jack 'em up, for those of you unfamiliar with the term). I don't want to be a buzz kill here, but it might be time to sell high on Chris Duhon. His back is starting to bark, and although I'm sure he'll play through it thanks to necessity, you might be looking at his peak value for the season. Consider dealing him if a Knicks fan is in your league. I find Knicks fans tend to overpay for their own, especially one they whiffed on in their drafts. Just because Elton Brand is back doesn't mean you should just drop everything and put him back in your lineup. He was struggling before he went down, and he'll need a few games just to get back to even that level. If you have better options, I'd stick with them, if even just on Monday against the miserly Hornets. One better option could be Thaddeus Young, who has upped his game a notch during the past three weeks (14.4 points per game in January). Look, I know I'm hard on Peja Stojakovic, but I'm hard on anybody who gets drafted three rounds too high because of waning name value and the fact that he scores points but does little else. So when Stojakovic posts a double-double (10 rebounds last week against the Nets) that doesn't involve turnovers, I must applaud the effort. He has expanded his game (and stats) since David West and Tyson Chandler went on the shelf. Ever since Randy Foye entered the league, I have been his biggest fan, waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for him to be the Dwyane Wade Lite we all knew he could be. There have been percolations before, but the past three weeks have me on the verge of being a true believer. I cut Mike Miller on Monday for Eric Gordon, but he has been showing signs (12 points, nine rebounds, five assists Friday) he's about to make a minor comeback. Michael Redd owners will have to follow his injury status to see whether he will be able to play Monday against the Timberwolves. It's not looking good. Devin Harris will gut it out through his latest injury, but I'm beginning to wonder whether he'll be a nightly roller-coaster ride thanks to his style of play (a la Dwyane Wade).
You can find a lot of faults in Andray Blatche's fantasy game, mostly his squandering of raw talent. But one thing you can't find fault with is his 29.2 minutes-per-game average in his past five games. Anyone on a team as baleful as the Wizards with even a dollop of ability will produce when given minutes, and Blatche is meeting those meager expectations. If you're trolling for 3s, Daequan Cook will help, but keep in mind you'll get absolutely nothing else. A cursory look at Mario Chalmers' January numbers (7.4 points, 4.4 assists) might suggest he has hit the debatable rookie wall, but in reality, he has been hobbled by a hamstring injury. Chalmers' game lives and dies by his field goal percentage, and he's shooting 52 percent from the field in his past three contests. But the steals alone (78 for the year) make him a nice short-term add. I've always kind of rooted for Carl Landry to carve out a steady diet of minutes -- probably out of sheer frustration with the enigma that is Luis Scola. He's earning a chance to do that again thanks to the injury bug that has struck the Rockets. The perpetually undersized but always streaky Nate Robinson is on another tear (16.6 points, 4.6 assists in his past five games). More importantly, his minutes-per-game rate is climbing, increasing the chance he'll have one of those binge box scores for which he's so famous. I don't know about you, but I am keeping a telescope aimed at Danilo Gallinari 's progression. I think he could be a big-time second-half sleeper. There aren't many fringe fantasy players I've loved more over the years than James Posey, who had seven 3-pointers Friday and will have permission to fire at will against the Sixers. Take it from me; he's a surefire one-game option. As someone who's considering making a trade offer to get Charlie Villanueva, it's personally offensive to me to see he's unowned in almost 60 percent of leagues. The battle for playing time between Nenad Krstic and Nick Collison might be one of the more narcoleptic struggles in the annals of sport, but it does bear watching if Krstic gets the upper hand. Give him 30 minutes per game, and he will produce. I'd just like to say I picked up Eric Gordon before his 41-point outing Friday night. It might not be winning basketball, but for a fantasy writer, a Gordon-Kevin Durant duel is definitely must-see TV.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
John Cregan previews Monday's NBA games from a fantasy perspective and takes a closer look at Elton Brand's expectations.