January 17 Games
NYK @ DET in London: This is an extremely rare 3:00 EST start on a Thursday. Be sure not to leave Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith on your bench! Tyson Chandler (illness) is questionable, which makes Greg Monroe an excellent fantasy play either way.
If Chandler can’t suit up, Kurt Thomas would probably start at C and Amare Stoudemire will see his ‘maximum’ 30 minutes. We have no idea how fit or effective Iman Shumpert will be in his season debut, but the door is wide open for him to become the starting SG once his rebuilt knee can handle the minutes. If undrafted rookie Chris Copeland is still available in your league, he is (at least temporarily) the starting SF and a good source of points and threes.
The Pistons’ second unit is full of fantasy goodies. Teenage rookie Andre Drummond is a keeper-league prize and Rodney Stuckey an effective sixth man. From time to time, Charlie Villanueva and Will Bynum go on scoring binges. Apart from this being a ‘home’ game thousands of miles from Detroit, where the crowd might join Spike Lee in rooting against them, the problem will be stopping Melo; Jason Maxiell and Tayshaun Prince may be in for a long night at the spectacular O2 Arena. Brandon Knight could perform well enough against Jason Kidd to be useful in daily leagues.
LAC @ MIN: It’s another coup for Chris Sheridan to add Andy and Brian Kamenetzky to his talented roster. Brian raves about the Clippers in his first column for Sheridan Hoops, and who am I to disagree? Eric Bledsoe has stepped right in for Chris Paul (bruised kneecap) and Jamal Crawford stepped right up with 30 points off the bench in Houston. Matt Barnes is a rare seventh man who helps fantasy teams in every category. The shorthanded, disappointed Timberwolves now rely on Nikola Pekovic for offense. Kevin Love (hand surgery) will be back in time for Head-to-Head playoffs and is a nice trade target if you are rebuilding in a keeper league. The Russian Connection has the flu; neither Alexey Shved nor Andrei Kirilenko practiced yesterday and both are questionable. If J.J. Barea can avoid back spasms, he could be worth using.
MIL @ PHO: Even the craziest losing streak must end eventually. Milwaukee has lost 24 of its last 24 in Phoenix. If you were born since February 21, 1987, the Bucks have never won there in your lifetime. Unless Jared Dudley (wrist) returns and Michael Beasley has a third straight productive game, that all changes tonight. Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders are too young to care about ancient history. They got stymied by a pair of fired-up Lakers superstars last game and are good bets to bounce back.
MIA @ LAL: Have the Lakers found their mojo? It’s hard to imagine Chris Bosh (or Udonis Haslem) slowing down Dwight Howard, and if Kobe Bryant turns his new defensive-stopper attention to Dwyane Wade, the Heat could be in trouble no matter how many points LeBron James scores. This back-to-back is the end of a disappointing six-game road trip for Miami. Steve Nash is a must start, with Pau Gasol possibly returning from a concussion to regain his job from Earl Clark.
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