|ESPN.com: 2009||[Print without images]|
|Time||Visitors||Opp. PPG||Opp. FGP||RPG Diff.||Home||Opp. PPG||Opp. FGP||RPG Diff.|
|12:30 p.m.||Phoenix Suns||102.7||.449||+0.8|
|7:00 p.m.||Miami Heat||96.8||.440||-2.6|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||102.3||.470||+1.1|
Jose Calderon, PG, Raptors (hamstring)
Jermaine O'Neal returned from his knee injury Friday night, coming off the bench to score two points with seven boards in 17 minutes of play. He actually volunteered to come off the bench upon his return, given Andrea Bargnani's recent success, and it's difficult to gauge what his value will be when (and if) he's at full strength. He should be on your bench until he puts up a decent night. Shaq notched another double-double Friday night, his fourth in a row. He's averaging 21 and 10 since November and should be started on every team except those who are attempting to make up ground in free throw percentage. Leandro Barbosa is averaging a respectable 15.7 points and 1.4 3-pointers per game this month, making him worth starting again, although he'll need to get more minutes if he wants to come close to matching last season's numbers. Look for the relevant Thunder players (Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook) to have a leg up tonight, as they are riding their first winning streak and Miami is playing on back-to-back days. Mario Chalmers has been all over the place lately, playing in nine minutes in two of his past three contests, but 29 in the other. I'd wait and see how he's utilized and what kind of night he has Saturday before starting him with confidence.
Daequan Cook and Michael Beasley are becoming a deadly duo off the Heat bench, and it won't be long before they're vying for starting jobs. Both are worth starting in a fantasy sense right now, especially Cook, who is averaging an insane 3.8 3s per game in his past 14 contests. Chris Wilcox had been a healthy scratch in three of four games leading up to Friday night's contest, in which he had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Nick Collison was sick and Joe Smith was out with an injured knee, so it was more circumstance than anything -- although Wilcox has the tools to put up good numbers in the right situation. Wilcox's chance at having value is likely up with the Thunder, although he's been the subject of trade rumors and could make some noise for a different team in the second half. Nenad Krstic started at center in Collison's absence Friday night, but scored just eight points and grabbed five rebounds, meaning he likely won't be the savior of any fantasy teams. His blocks will come back down to earth, and he'll struggle to put up numbers matching the 16.4 points and 6.8 boards he averaged in an injury-shortened 2006-07. The starting job is likely still Collison's, and the two of them will be the Thunder's most valuable big men. Louis Amundson is desperately trying to carve out some value off the Suns' bench, but I don't see it happening even if his minutes continue to increase. Even though his 6.6 rebounds and one block per game in January translate into decent numbers over 30 minutes, his scoring is nonexistent and Amare Stoudemire and Shaq are aptly holding down the frontcourt in Phoenix.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.