- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Matchups for Thursday, Feb. 5
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 a team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
Start 'em, sit 'em
The Jazz just can't get healthy. Deron Williams rejoined Utah's lengthy list of injured players when he sat out Monday's game versus Charlotte due to a bruised right quad and resulting knee inflammation. According to the Deseret News, D-Will has said he's unsure whether he can go against Dallas. While Kevin Garnett wasn't with the team for Tuesday's win in Philadelphia, he is expected to work out Wednesday. Check for updates, but it sounds like KG will leave his sick bed in time for the Lakers showdown Thursday. After seeing Kobe Bryant rack up 61 points on the Knicks on Monday, I got to wondering how he responded when Andrew Bynum went down last season. As you might expect, Bryant's numbers increased -- 31.4 points per game after the injury versus 27.0 with Bynum healthy. However, contrary to past reputation, Bryant was no ball hog. In fact, sans Bynum in 2007-08, Bryant's field goal attempts declined while his assists increased slightly. He again should be among fantasy's top two or three players from here on out. You can't drop Elton Brand, can you? After nine scoreless minutes Tuesday, Brand sat out the second half versus Boston because he couldn't get his injured right shoulder loose. Brand, who tried playing with a brace (something he hadn't done the previous five games), is expected to consult with team physicians Wednesday.
The Pacers own the league's third-worst scoring defense, and they seem determined to make a run at No. 2. In the past 10 days, Indiana has yielded 135 points to the Magic, 122 to the Knicks and 116 to the Timberwolves. This leaves a number of plug-in possibilities among Sixers reserves, but Lou Williams is the best choice. Available in 92 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Williams could be worth 15 points, three or four assists and a couple of 3-pointers against the Pacers. Making the matchup all the more favorable is that Indiana opponents make the second-most trips to the line while Williams, despite averaging only 22 minutes a night, is second on the Sixers in free throw attempts. Another seriously underowned player in ESPN.com leagues is Trevor Ariza. Of course, Boston is a tough matchup, but with Bynum out and Lamar Odom starting, Ariza figures to lead Lakers reserves in minutes. Available in 94 percent of leagues, Ariza finished with 13 points and eight boards against the Knicks on Monday. He's capable of approaching those numbers most nights. Should Deron Williams sit again, Ronnie Price will become a reasonable fill-in with Thursday's light schedule. In Monday's start, Price had 12 points, three steals and a 3-pointer. The 25-year-old is averaging 7.9 points, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 16 starts this season. With that sub-40 percent shooting, though, Price probably isn't worth the trouble unless your league has at least 12 teams. Along those lines, if you are absolutely desperate for assists in a large head-to-head league, Brevin Knight is a possibility. The veteran had seven dimes backing up Price on Monday. Again, Garnett should play Thursday, but note that Glen Davis has done well in KG's absence. Big Baby recorded his first career double-double (12 points and 11 boards, plus two blocks) at Philadelphia.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Neil Tardy previews Thursday's NBA schedule from a fantasy perspective.