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When fantasy owners are setting their weekly lineups, the simplest way to resolve a tough decision is to go with the player who has the most games. You don't need advanced metrics to determine that four games are better than three. Simple.
But now, and of all times, simple doesn't quite work. Heading into the final 10 days of the NBA season, there isn't a great amount of deviation in the schedule. A majority of teams -- 18 -- play five games. Everyone else plays either four games or six games. My advice: Don't sweat the number of games.
Yes, this is still the NBA Fantasy Forecaster, and this is final installment for the 2012-13 NBA season. It's been fun as always, but it gets a little weird from here. That's because the four NBA teams that have just four games the rest of the way have, on the whole, more attractive schedules and offer more promising fantasy free agents than the eight NBA teams with six games to go. Allow me to explain in this guide to the final 10 days of the NBA season.
Teams with 4 games (4): Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz
At a glance: While this is a short list, it's also a rather disappointing one. You'd certainly like to have more games from the Jazz, since they're fighting for the final Western Conference playoff spot and can be reasonably expected to give their key players big minutes to the end. Plus, Mo Williams is just starting to regain his form after thumb surgery cost him much of this season.
Don't sweat the short schedule. Just play 'em: Tobias Harris, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, Nikola Vucevic, Mo Williams.
Potential help: Derrick Favors (34.1 percent availability in ESPN.com leagues), Moe Harkless (21.9 percent), Jonas Jerebko (99.7 percent), Kyle Korver (36.2 percent), Rodney Stuckey (61.7 percent), Beno Udrih (74.5 percent).
Injury risks: Jose Calderon missed the April 3 game with the Boston Celtics due to a tendon problem in his arm. Apparently the injury has been bothering him for a while. The Pistons play Saturday and Sunday, which should clarify his status for the remainder of the season. Jameer Nelson (ankle) is expected to play this weekend after missing the past three games. While Nelson's return would limit Udrih's value, Udrih should still see significant minutes with Arron Afflalo's season over.
Favorable matchups: Andre Drummond continues to see limited minutes, which is at least keeping him away from the free throw line. Over four games since his return, the rookie is 1-of-12 -- yes, that's one make and 11 misses -- from the stripe. On the bright side, the Pistons visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 10 and host the Charlotte Bobcats on April 12. Cats and Cavs opponents are 1-2 in blocks. For good measure, Bobcats opponents are also tops in rebound differential. Regardless of Calderon's status, Stuckey (21.7 points and 2.0 3-pointers over his past three) should also fare well with this slate of games. While we're on the Pistons, deep-leaguers shouldn't overlook Jonas Jerebko, who's available in virtually all ESPN.com leagues. He has had 15 points or better in three of his past four and should see 25-plus minutes the rest of the way.
|Corey Brewer is in line for lots of minutes with Danilo Gallinari done for the season with a torn ACL.|
Teams with 5 games (18): Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards
At a glance: With Danilo Gallinari's season-ending knee injury, both Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler become prime free-agent adds. If I had to pick one I'd probably go with Brewer, who produced 23 points, 2 steals and 2 3-pointers against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. He's more reliable in steals and he's actually shooting 78.1 percent from the line since the break. Still, Chandler figures to have a big game or two.
Playoff factor: This list includes eight teams that have clinched postseason spots and another likely playoff participant in the Rockets. This far out, it's hard to get into specifics, but those in weekly lineup leagues should be prepared to see key players rested for at least the final night of the season (and every NBA team is in action on April 17). Certainly this applies to veterans like Paul Pierce, and of course to any Spurs player we care about. Don't assume the No. 1 seed means much to Gregg Popovich. In contrast, over the past two seasons Thunder coach Scott Brooks hasn't eased off on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook a bit in regular-season finales, regardless of the standings.
Potential help: Tony Allen (74.6 percent availability), Al-Farouq Aminu (80.9 percent), Trevor Ariza (83.2 percent), Matt Barnes (85.7 percent), Jerryd Bayless (55.6 percent), Eric Bledsoe (92.7 percent), Brewer (84.5 percent), Wilson Chandler (67.4 percent), Earl Clark (91.0 percent), Ed Davis (93.7 percent), Danny Green (27.2 percent), Jarrett Jack (15.4 percent), Amir Johnson (25.3 percent), Wesley Johnson (89.6 percent), Carl Landry (75.1 percent), Robin Lopez (56.5 percent), Shawn Marion (28.6 percent), Gary Neal (98.9 percent), Jermaine O'Neal (94.0 percent), Luis Scola (30.6 percent), Tiago Splitter (51.7 percent), Lance Stephenson (98.6 percent), Jason Thompson (68.1 percent), Marcus Thornton (36.7 percent).
Injury risks: Nicolas Batum (arm) missed the April 3 game against the Grizzlies, and is expected to sit out again Friday against the Rockets. Tony Parker (ankle) was limited to just 25 minutes and 1-of-6 shooting against the Thunder on Thursday. Batum and Parker have both had wonderful seasons, but be prepared to finish yours without them. In more promising injury news, LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) is set to return on Friday, and Kevin Garnett (ankle) should play on Sunday. Steve Nash (hamstring) is a game-time decision for Friday.
Favorable matchups: Jermaine O'Neal is playing again (15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks over his past two), and I really like his closing schedule. Nuggets, Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves opponents are all in the top six in blocks, and the Suns face these teams in four of their final five games (they get the Rockets twice). Even with the possibility that Marcin Gortat (foot) could play in the last two or three games, take your chances on J.O. if blocks is a need. In large leagues of at least 14 teams, Gary Neal is at least of slight intrigue given the uncertainty with Parker. Neal has seen at least 27 minutes in each of his past three games, and three Spurs opponents -- the Nuggets, Warriors and Kings -- are in the top eight in triples. And don't forget about Clippers role players like Barnes and Bledsoe, especially if you're in a league that allows for daily lineup changes. The Clippers play on both Saturday, April 13 (a day with only four NBA games), and Tuesday, April 16 (just three games).
Teams with 6 games (8): Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers
At a glance: Ironically, the most games seem to be wasted on the wrong teams. Six games for the Heat, and who knows how many LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will actually play. Six games for the Cavs, and Kyrie Irving may be held out of back-to-back sets. (Cleveland has a pair of back-to-backs left.) There's also little free-agent help available among this group of teams. If your league is deep enough and you're bold enough, I would seriously consider Mike Miller (12.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 3s as a starter over the past three games). Miller is available in most ESPN.com leagues, but he'll keep playing as long as the big names are sitting.
Potential help: Jimmy Butler (52.5 percent availability), Mike Dunleavy (89.8 percent), Reggie Evans (25.4 percent), Kirk Hinrich (87.9 percent), Andrei Kirilenko (20.9 percent), Miller (98.4 percent), Damien Wilkins (94.4 percent).
Injury risks: Joakim Noah (foot) is expected to play again in the regular season, but whether he sees enough minutes over the final 10 days to matter to fantasy owners is an open question. Tyson Chandler will have more treatment because he's still having trouble lifting his arms and moving his neck. As with Batum and Parker, you may have to live without these two key fantasy components.