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Friday, January 30, 2009
Fantasy Forecaster: Load up against the Kings

By Neil Tardy
Special to ESPN.com

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Week 15 schedule | Weekly Lineup Recommendations | Daily Lineup Recommendations

While Sacramento owns the NBA's second-worst record, several other teams are, essentially, just as bad; the Wizards, Clippers, Grizzlies and Thunder are all within two games of the 10-37 Kings. Still, I don't think any team loses uglier than the Kings.

I suppose the fact that the Kings are being outscored by 9.1 points per game this season, the league's worst differential by a solid margin, helps shape my perception. (The Clippers are next at minus-7.8 points.) So, too, does the analysis of team stats that I do in preparation for each installment of the Fantasy Forecaster. The Kings really are bad at practically every phase of the game: second-worst in points allowed, second-worst in opponents' shooting percentage, second-worst in rebound differential. Sacramento opponents also register the fifth-most steals and the 11th-most 3-pointers.

Team stats are one thing. Game results tell a pretty interesting story as well. Consider that, in the past week alone, the Kings allowed:

• The Celtics to shoot 55 percent from the field, and Eddie House (more on him in a bit) to make 8-of-9 3-point tries.
• The Cavs to make 11 3s, including seven from Mo Williams, who finished with a career-high 43 points.
• The Raptors to shoot 53 percent, and Anthony Parker to register seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
• The Bucks' Charlie Villanueva to get 18 points and 10 boards in just 22 foul-plagued minutes, and Francisco Elson, who'd only once played more than 21 minutes all season, to bring 10 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and two blocks off the very end of the bench.

Most every week, you'll see me discuss some player and say he has a great matchup against the Kings. But even if you don't see it written here, know that I'm thinking it: If one of your players is facing Sacramento, you want that player in your lineup.

On a related note, fantasy owners can make the schedule work for them by targeting teams that struggle in one particular area. I'll examine some of these teams and their weaknesses on the flip side.

On tap:

Week 15 Schedule

Check the grid for Week 15 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.

Weekly Lineup Picks and Pans: Teams to Watch

Kevin Love
No team has had more of its shots blocked than Kevin Love's Timberwolves.
Minnesota Timberwolves (@IND, ATL, @HOU, @NO): No team gets more shots blocked than Minnesota. Wolves opponents average 6.6 rejections per game, with Bobcats opponents a distant second at 6.1. The swats will keep coming, because Minnesota's best player, Al Jefferson, is a power forward who spends most of his time in the post fighting double- and triple-teams. The 6-foot-9 Kevin Love has also been blocked tons as he learns how to score inside at the pro level. Recent results versus Minnesota: The Bucks (sans Andrew Bogut), seven blocks on Jan. 26; Joakim Noah, eight blocks on Jan. 25; DeAndre Jordan, six blocks on Jan. 19. What to look for: Assuming he's still in the lineup for the injured Tyson Chandler, Hilton Armstrong should be worth a couple of rejections when the Hornets host Minnesota on Feb. 8. As for the Feb. 4 tilt with the Hawks, I'll put the over-under on Josh Smith blocks at four.

Washington Wizards (MEM, NJ, DEN, IND): There are teams -- Toronto and New Jersey chiefly -- that can be counted on to struggle against the 3-pointer. But since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Wizards stand alone by allowing more than eight 3s per game. Recent results versus the Wizards: Daequan Cook, four 3s on Jan. 28; Kings, 12 3s on Jan. 21; Warriors, 13 3s on Jan. 19. What to look for: Mike Conley (eight 3s in his past six starts) is a good deep-league play on Feb. 2. While Carmelo Anthony should be active again, take a chance on J.R. Smith in the Feb. 6 matchup.

Chicago Bulls (@HOU, @NO, @DAL): With the oft-injured Drew Gooden in and out of the lineup and Noah in and out of his coach's good graces, opposing big men have consistently had their way with Chicago. The Bulls do allow the eighth-most blocks, but they're only a minus-0.5 in rebound differential. Recent results versus the Bulls: Love, 19 points and 15 rebounds on Jan. 25; Zaza Pachulia, 18 points on Jan. 20; Matt Bonner, 12 points and 11 rebounds on Jan. 17. What to look for: Another good opponent for Armstrong (pending Chandler's availability). And Erick Dampier has posted huge numbers against Chicago the past two seasons.

Golden State Warriors (SA, PHO, @PHO, Utah): You know Don Nelson's team: Golden State allows the most points (111.8) and the fourth-most 3s (7.5) while owning the worst rebound differential (minus-5.1). Recent results versus the Warriors: Russell Westbrook, 30 points, seven assists, three 3s on Jan. 21; Andray Blatche, 22 points, nine rebounds on Jan. 19, Maurice Evans, 21 points, three 3s on Jan. 16. What to look for: With these three opponents, the fantasy commodities are well-established. But in a very deep league, you could plug in Matt Bonner, who's shooting 47.8 percent from distance this season.

Daily Lineup Recommendations: Players to Watch

Some quick tips for owners in daily leagues. Recommendations -- start, sit or add -- are made for specific days of the coming week, based on the schedule.

Eddie House, SG, Celtics (@PHI, LAL, @NY, SA): They say once is an accident, but twice is a trend. How about three times? In this case, it's a freakishly huge accident. Given his minutes and the fact that he contributes in just one category, House has practically no fantasy value. But sinking seven, seven and then eight 3s in a span of four games will open some eyes (and get House up to 5 percent ownership in ESPN.com leagues). And the scary part is, House could do some more damage with this schedule. Lakers opponents make the fourth-most 3s, Sixers opponents make the 10th-most and Knicks opponents are third in field goal percentage. Still, I'd note the advice on House's ESPN.com fantasy profile: House tends to get more minutes in blowouts. These games, save maybe the one at the Garden, should be competitive. House might get you five or six treys for the week, but given his lack of production across the board, unless you're in a large H2H league, he isn't worth your time.

Ronald Murray, SG, Hawks (@MIN, CHA, LAC): Flip is emerging as Atlanta's sixth man, having reached double figures in eight of his past nine games. He's also averaging 1.3 steals in that span, and that's the primary reason you should consider the 98-percent-unowned Murray in leagues of at least 14 teams. From that standpoint, this isn't a favorable schedule, though Clippers opponents are 11th in steals.

Joakim Noah, PF/C, Bulls (@HOU, @NO, @DAL): While the eight blocks against Minnesota stands out, Noah has been reasonably effective in his past five games, averaging 8.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. There are few positives with this schedule, but Rockets opponents do get the seventh-most rejections.

Luis Scola, PF/C, Rockets (CHI, @MEM, MIN): Despite averaging 19.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in his past six games, Scola remains available in more than two-thirds of ESPN.com leagues. Scola was supposed to come off the bench this season, but given the tenuous health of Ron Artest, Shane Battier and (to a lesser extent) Yao Ming, he's started every game. With Grizzlies opponents first in shooting percentage (and Wolves opponents seventh), Scola should be in for another productive week.

Ramon Sessions, PG, Bucks (@NJ, DET): Three words: Add and hold. With Michael Redd's season-ending knee injury, Sessions, who remains available in 61 percent of leagues, is a must-add. Even in a weekly lineup league where (given Milwaukee's two-game slate) you'd likely reserve him for Week 15, you should roster Sessions now. Just recall that when Redd missed most of November with an ankle injury, Sessions averaged 15.7 points, 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals.

Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.