|ESPN.com: 2012||[Print without images]|
If you're like me, locked in a vicious existential struggle for a couple of fantasy hoops championships, the next few days are going to be a mildly ornery ride for your co-workers, loved ones and/or beloved pets.As always, this is the most challenging time of the season for owners who are trying to lock up titles. This is due to the high amount of rotational turnover we're seeing as teams shut down for the year, tank or rest stars for the playoffs. We've already witnessed a Dwyane Wade-less and Chris Bosh-less Heat, a Derrick Rose-less Bulls, a Kobe Bryant-less Lakers, and an Andray Blatche-less Wizards. OK, so that last one isn't very serious. In fact, the Wizards might actually be better without him. But I'm sure we're all feeling the same general pain here. I've already discussed the tanking/lottery teams in some detail over the past few columns. This week I want to concentrate on playoff-bound teams (although I will pause to tell you to grab Sundiata Gaines ASAP). A brief glance at the NBA standings will reveal that a shocking number of teams are still jockeying for position. But by this weekend, certain spots will begin to ossify, and the resting of fantasy studs will only intensify. Let's focus on teams that will look to rest their stars at the first available opportunity, in order of teams most likely to rest their players:
|The "Big Three" could see their minutes get cut back in the waning days of the regular season.|
Players likely to sit: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer.If the Bulls win tonight, they'll effectively clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and probably the best overall record in the NBA. So I'd look for Rose and Deng to suit up this evening. But if they win, both players could be semi-shut down for the rest of the regular season. And unlike the Heat, the Bulls have plenty of serviceable fantasy options.
|Richard Hamilton looked plenty healthy versus the Charlott Bobcats on Wednesday.|
Players likely to sit: Darren Collison, David West, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert.Yes, it's because of an injury, but we're finally seeing George Hill supplant Collison at point guard. Hill has responded by averaging 15 points, 5 assists and about 1.5 3s per game since April 9. Hill is locking down the starter gig and is still available in about 60 percent of ESPN leagues. If David West sits, Tyler Hansbrough should see his minutes climb into the 25-28 mpg range. That should be all he needs to provide 10 points, 5-6 rebounds and 1-2 steals per game (the steals are an added bonus from the PF slot). And Leandro Barbosa is fine as a desperation play for those in need of 3s and steals from a shooting guard.
Players likely to sit: Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Tony Allen.
|Zach Randolph likely will remain a key part of Memphis' rotation.|
The Spurs are surging and resting at the same time, which makes for a malodorous fantasy combination. Not a single Spurs player has averaged more than 26 minutes per game over the past week, and a staggering 11 players have averaged between 17-26 minutes per game.It's an All-Star Game-style rotation that has been tough to predict from game to game. But when in doubt, I'd look for the younger Spurs to step up over the final stanza. Both Daniel Green and Gary Neal have been nice backcourt surprises, producing well in limited minutes. If the Spurs lock up first place, I could see both logging more than 25 minutes per game. Despite his limited role, Kawhi Leonard has been one of fantasy's more intriguing rookies this year. He's a future 1-1-1 player, someone capable of averaging a 3-pointer, steal and block per game.
Players likely to sit: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett.Boston will probably need to keep its foot on the gas until the final game, but Avery Bradley has already proven a capable fill-in for Ray Allen. And Greg Stiemsma provides more short-term value in the blocks department than anyone you'll find on the free-agent wire.
Players likely to sit: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion.Dallas is still battling for a playoff position, but if that solidifies, I think you could see an 80-100 percent turnover in their starting lineup over their final couple of games. Delonte West, Brandan Wright, Brendan Haywood and Rodrigue Beaubois could all receive extended playing time. West is already flashing value (and solid second-grade-level comedy chops), but Brandan Wright still has upside to burn and will have at least 1-2 nice games over the final week.