- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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Matchups for Friday, March 20
Devin Harris, PG, Nets (shoulder, deltoid)
Josh Howard, SF, Mavericks (ankle)
Manu Ginobili, SG, Spurs (ankle)
Allen Iverson, PG/SG, Pistons (back)
Leon Powe, PF, Celtics (knee)
Brian Scalabrine, PF, Celtics (concussion)
Ray Allen, SG, Celtics (elbow)
Renaldo Balkman, SF/PF, Nuggets (groin)
Andris Biedrins, C, Warriors (ankle)
Caron Butler, SF, Wizards (hamstring)
Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics (knee)
Richard Hamilton, SG, Pistons (groin)
Eddie House, PG/SG, Celtics (ankle)
Yao Ming, C, Rockets (flu)
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Pacers (calf)
Peja Stojakovic, SF, Hornets (back)
Dwyane Wade, SG, Heat (hip)
Rasheed Wallace, PF/C, Pistons (calf)
Start 'em, sit 'em
One look at that hefty injury report and it's easy to tell it's spring, the time of year when fantasy championships are won. NBA team lineups and minute distributions are wacky because of players wearing down, injuries, coaches resting players in preparation for the playoffs and other coaches giving young players minutes since the playoffs are out of reach. With the fantasy trade deadline having passed, though, a primary way to get unexpected value is by capitalizing upon injuries, as well as the apathy of other owners. I don't have the word count to highlight everybody, but look at that injury report and determine who'll benefit most from the player's absence. Ray Allen, Caron Butler, Yao Ming, Kevin Martin, Troy Murphy, Dwyane Wade all of these guys might sit Friday, and if they do, we have a large enough sample size to determine who'll benefit most. If everything goes well in Friday's shootaround, Kevin Garnett should rejoin the Celtics' lineup. Even if he plays just 20 minutes, he's worth having in your lineup. Start him, especially with Leon Powe set to miss several weeks and the rest of the Celtics' frontcourt roster ravaged by injuries. At least Rajon Rondo is back, and with a vengeance, averaging 26.5 points and 10 assists in his past two contests while carrying the Celtics. It's common knowledge at this point that the Warriors allow opposing scorers to shine; their up-tempo style causes them to surrender points at a high clip. But all those shots also can lead to a lot of misses, and it's often ignored that they also allow teams to ransack the boards. Philly is already a solid rebounding team, and I'd look for Samuel Dalembert to have a good night on the glass. His six-rebound effort Wednesday was his first in single digits in his past five games, and he should rebound, both literally and figuratively, against Golden State. After his 35-point, 10-rebound, five-3 and two-block performance Wednesday night, it's safe to say Danny Granger is back in form. Make sure he's back in your lineup as well, as one of the ways fantasy owners are burned when there are this many injuries is by not getting players back in their lineup once those players are healthy again. Baron Davis dropped 20 assists against the Wizards on Wednesday, reminding us all how impressive his numbers can be when things are clicking. He's facing a young backcourt in Arron Afflalo and Rodney Stuckey, so another throwback night should be in the cards for "Boom Dizzle."
Thabo Sefolosha's defense (three steals, four blocks Wednesday night) keeps him on the court; his 2.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game in March are dominant defensive statistics for a guard. That combination undoubtedly makes him worth starting if you need help in those often difficult-to-address defensive categories, so take a close look at Thabo if you need steals and blocks. Earl Watson has lost his role as backup point guard at least temporarily, as he's been a healthy scratch in his past three games while coach Scott Brooks gives Chucky Atkins a shot to back up Russell Westbrook. Atkins could surface with some value in extremely deep leagues and hover around one 3-pointer and one steal per game if he continues to see increased playing time. Mike Miller's season with Minnesota has been strange, and most of the season he has been painfully disappointing. But he's once again showing that he can be a reliable fantasy option who puts up stats in multiple categories, as he's averaging eight rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 3s per game in March. He has played the role of sixth man the past two contests, although he played more than 33 minutes per game in each, so he should be considered a solid starting option again. The Clippers' Steve Novak is perhaps the most noteworthy fantasy player of late, averaging 17.7 points and 5.3 3s per game in his past four contests. He's owned in just 1.1 percent of ESPN leagues and is an ideal option if you're in desperate need of 3s because you can slot him in at the power forward position and get them from a spot where you typically don't. Chris Douglas-Roberts might prove to be a draft-day steal for the Nets if he is capable of consistently putting up performances like Wednesday night's 14 points, seven assists and three steals effort off the bench. With Devin Harris banged up, CDR should continue to see increased floor time, and he's worth a look in deep leagues. Arron Afflalo has shined with Richard Hamilton and Allen Iverson sidelined, scoring 16 and 24 points, respectively, in his past two contests. A matchup with the Clippers, who allow opponents to score nearly 104 points per game, provides a good opportunity for his success to continue, although his value for the rest of the season will be strictly dictated by Rip's health and how coach Michael Curry manages his minutes. For Friday, Hamilton is doubtful, making Afflalo a strong spot-start. James Singleton's recent surge in value can be heavily attributed to Josh Howard's injury, which looks like it might be an issue for the rest of the season. Singleton averaged 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, one steal and 0.7 blocks in his past three games, faces a favorable matchup against the Pacers, and since Howard's injury is serious, he should have value for the foreseeable future.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Josh Whitling previews Friday night's NBA action from a fantasy perspective.