- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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Matchups for Sunday, February 8
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.
Andris Biedrins, C, Warriors (ankle)
Andray Blatche, PF/C, Wizards (knee)
Yi Jianlian, SF/PF, Nets (finger)
Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, Jazz (ankle)
Brad Miller, C, Kings (hip flexor)
Jameer Nelson, PG, Magic (shoulder)
Bobby Simmons, SF, Nets (abdominal strain)
Craig Smith, PF, Timberwolves (rib)
Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, Bobcats (rib/lung)
Raja Bell, SG, Bobcats (groin)
Steve Blake, PG, Blazers (shoulder)
Marquis Daniels, SG/SF, Pacers (back)
C.J. Miles, SF, Jazz (illness/shoulder)
Chris Paul, PG, Hornets (groin)
DeShawn Stevenson, SG, Wizards (back)
Start 'em, sit 'em
To my fellow heathens who are often in front of the television consuming sports on Sundays instead of engaging in philanthropic or religious endeavors, life has changed significantly with the NFL season in the books. Luckily, the NBA steps its game up, and Sundays are now full of action and one of the best days of the week for professional hoops. And it all starts this Sunday with LeBron versus Kobe. Thank you, basketball gods. Andris Biedrins' owners don't share those sentiments, however, as he sprained an ankle in Friday's contest and couldn't put weight on it afterward. X-rays came back negative, but the severity is unknown, so if you own him it's time to start looking long and hard for a stopgap until he returns. Kevin Martin dropped 37 points for his second time in three contests Friday, including 18 free-throw attempts, the fourth time in six games he's had double-digit attempts from the stripe. He isn't a five- or six-category guy, but his strength in points, 3s and free-throw percentage make him so dominant that it offsets his low rebound and assist totals. The Thunder allow opponents to shoot 47.1 percent against them, so look for his hot streak to continue after his recent rough shooting stretch (Friday was the first time since Jan. 24 that Martin shot 50 percent or better from the floor). Al Harrington has gone bonkers since regaining a spot in the starting lineup for Mike D'Antoni, and over his past four games is averaging 30.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 3s and 3.3 steals. Don't expect stellar efficiency, but Harrington certainly fills up the box score. Manu Ginobili has said he expects to play against the Celtics, and with his talent I'd get him in your lineup anytime there's a chance he'll be on the floor. Danny Granger should go wild from behind the arc against the Wizards, who allow the most 3-pointers per game of any team in the league. Paul Millsap went 0-for-3 from the floor en route to two points and eight rebounds in just less than 30 minutes of play Friday night. He's undoubtedly cooled off since December, when he averaged 18.6 points and 11.5 rebounds, and with the impending return of Carlos Boozer, Millsap has likely hit his high point in value for the season. Luckily, he faces the Warriors on Sunday night, who allow a league-leading 111.2 points per game, so a bounce-back scoring night is likely for Millsap. With Brad Miller out for the next couple of games, start Spencer Hawes with confidence, as the Kings will be doing the same.
Here's a fun matchup: The league's leading 3-point shooting team, Orlando, facing the second-worst 3-point team defensively, New Jersey. Look for the Magic's gunners to have a field night, and J.J. Redick and Anthony Johnson have an ideal matchup to show what they can do with their increased minutes now that Jameer Nelson is gone. I think Redick will have at least three from distance and is worth adding if you need a 3-point specialist, since it looks like he's finally going to get a shot at extended floor time. With both DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler out of action Friday night, Javaris Crittenton started in the backcourt for the Wizards alongside Mike James. Yikes. Crittenton shows promise, with his impressive height and length for a point guard, but he is inexperienced on the professional level. He did have 10 points and seven assists in his fill-in performance, and he has potential down the line, but I'm not touching him in the deepest of leagues this season, especially with his lack of a 3-point shot. Kyle Weaver remains in the starting lineup for the Thunder, although he provides no fantasy contribution whatsoever. What he does, though, is give the Thunder defense and hustle that keeps him on the floor, evidenced by his 34 minutes and plus-12 plus/minus rating in Friday night's game, highest on the team. This doesn't mean he'll have fantasy value, but it does indicate he'll stay on the floor, blocking Earl Watson and Chucky Atkins from increased minutes. Nick Collison has played well at center for the Thunder recently, and after Friday night's 21-point, 13-rebound effort he's averaging 14 points and 12 boards over his past three contests. The Kings are poor defensively, both in points allowed and rebound differential, so start him if you've got him, and know that Collison is a solid option if you're in need of a waiver-wire center. D.J. Augustin returned to action Friday night after missing 10 games with an abdominal strain and was able to knock down two 3-pointers in just 16 minutes of play. Once he's at full strength, he'll be a fantasy force in 3s, assists and steals once again, especially if they end up shipping off Raymond Felton. Keep him on your bench until he's notching 25-30 minutes per game, though; until then he'll only be a threat in the 3-point department.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne