It’s my pleasure to be joining Team Sheridan with a daily look at fantasy hoops. The proud owner of Jeremy Lin and Nikola Pekovic in a competitive 20-team league, my specialty is picking up free agents before they get good. Statistics are useful, of course, but they are available to everyone. Other tidbits of information (injuries and rotation shuffles) can be even more valuable in making your roster decisions.
The advice dispensed here is rarely going to concern superstars, or consistent starters, unless it’s along the lines of Derrick Rose and his back problem opening up another opportunity for C.J. Watson to start at PG. More often, we’ll talk about free agents and waiver claims. In a standard 12-team league, NBA sixth men are useful. A 16-team league utilizes all NBA rotation players and in leagues with 20 or more teams, owners must consider anyone who ever gets off the bench.
What Happened on Sunday
The Lakers barely beat the underdog, undermanned Raptors. Steve Blake got 28 minutes and played the entire fourth quarter, making him better to own than 19-minute starter Derek Fisher. The SF spot is weak, with Metta World Peace marginally better than backup Matt Barnes. Some wags on press row in Toronto claimed that Jose Calderon was auditioning for a trade to the Lakers, as the Spaniard went off for a career-high 30 points to keep his team in the game. His backup Jerryd Bayless is currently out with an ankle injury, so Linas Kleiza handled most of the bench scoring. Amir Johnson completely disappeared in his 16 minutes; sophomore Ed Davis played the entire fourth quarter. Don’t rush to pick up Davis, just monitor the situation. Until Andrea Bargnani returns from a calf injury, coach Dwane Casey will be doing a lot of lineup juggling.
The big fantasy news from Boston concerns Chris Wilcox. With the fragile Jermaine O’Neal out, and his replacement Brandon Bass sidelined for at least a week, Wilcox started, played 26 minutes, scored 11 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. Rookie JaJuan Johnson played 33 minutes, backing up Wilcox and Kevin Garnett, and chipped in a dozen points. He’s a solid short-term add in very deep leagues. The Bulls, without Rose, got a big game from Carlos Boozer, but Luol Deng, playing with a damaged left wrist heavily taped and iced, managed just 10 points.
Boy, are the Pistons a mess. Getting blown out by 21 at home is never good, but to the Wizards? Rookie Brandon Knight went 1-for-9, Rodney Stuckey and bench gunner Ben Gordon both shot 2-9. Apart from the steady Greg Monroe, I don’t want to own any Detroit players. OK, maybe a flyer on Jason Maxiell in deep leagues. Washington got 22 each from Nick Young and JaVale McGee, who has turned in two straight monster games after five his owners would like to forget. Rookie Jan Vesely came off the bench for 10 PTS, 8 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL and 2 BLK; keep an eye on him.
When Willie Green (17) is the Hawks’ leading scorer, they are in trouble. The Heat completely dominated Atlanta and the fourth quarter was garbage time, with rare appearances by players of no fantasy relevance. Throw out this game entirely. Kirk Hinrich had been showing signs of life and is still on my watch list. Sheridan suggests he could on the Lakers’ watch list, too.
The Warriors, behind 33 from Monta Ellis, beat the Rockets, but it was all good news for owners of Kevin Martin, who returned from coach Kevin McHale’s doghouse with a more typical 34 minutes and more typical line that included 9-10 FT and five triples. Sam Dalembert, also a victim of benching lately, played only 20 minutes but did show more effort, blocking three shots. For Golden State, rookie Klay Thompson hit four more threes and is potentially useful in deeper leagues.
Memphis has a large hole up front without Zach Randolph, whose recovery from a knee injury is reportedly going well. Trying to fill Z-Bo’s shoes, starter Marreese Speights did get an impressive 8 offensive rebounds, but shot just 3-11 and was a minus-14. Steady if unspectacular backup Dante Cunningham added 9 PTS and 7 REB. O.J. Mayo, normally counted on for bench scoring, went 0-for-3. Utah’s starting backcourt is not very popular in shallow fantasy leagues, but Devin Harris and Raja Bell are worth owning in some formats and playing well enough to prevent C. J. Miles and Josh Howard from getting much run.
Other significant weekend news includes Anderson Varejao’s fractured wrist. Semih Erden started in his place for the Cavs, and while mediocre guys like Samardo Samuels and Ryan Hollins may get extra run, I like rookie Tristan Thompson, coming off the bench, to have the biggest fantasy impact.
Manu Ginobili has returned to the Spurs. If his fractured shooting hand hasn’t fully healed and his minutes are limited, consider some buy-low offers to his impatient owners.
There are six games on the Monday night schedule. Possible spot plays include the Sixers bench (Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner) against the truly awful Bobcats. In Orlando, Dwight Howard will give Minnesota’s centers all they can handle. It’s possible that Darko Milicic will return, and even start, but in his absence, Nikola Pekovic has been a beast and deserves the most playing time.
The Clippers-Mavs game is exciting; fantasy owners should note that Jason Kidd is back and just maybe, Lamar Odom is finally rounding into shape. You should know already that Randy Foye has taken over at SG for Chauncey Billups, and sixth man Mo Williams will be taking more shots. Utah should beat New Orleans, as the Hornets are decimated up front. Jason Smith is concussed, Carl Landry out for three more weeks and Chris Kaman, poised to become the main man, rolled an ankle. This leaves poor Gustavo Ayon to deal with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss what else we’ve learned and with a preview of wacky Week 16, when Head-to-Head leagues become a crapshoot. Follow me on Twitter: @SheridanFantasy