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Many folks have ideas about improving the NBA All-Star Game. (Start here.) But when it comes to All-Star weekend, one thing is just fine as is: timing. The NBA's mega-stars gather right after the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl and just ahead of pitchers and catchers reporting. Even though the Daytona 500 is the same day as the All-Star Game, I still think David Stern is pretty good at finding those soft spots in the calendar.
It's not just the for-real players and coaches who can use a break about now. Go back to early October, when you were boning up for draft day, and it's been a solid four months of player evaluation, trade negotiation and lineup scrutinizing. Fantasy owners likely need a breather, too. (And, just maybe, if you get a move on, you could use the coming downtime to, say, do something special for your significant other ahead of Valentine's Day?)
The point is, with Week 16's abbreviated schedule, a lot of your lineup calls are made for you. Twenty-six of the 30 NBA teams play twice in the next week. The other four clubs -- the Jazz, Magic, Nets and Timberwolves -- have just a single game. What to do? Short answer: Play your best players, and/or your healthiest players. And if that doesn't get you a complete lineup, fear not. The Forecaster never takes a week off. Read on.
Check the grid for Week 16 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.
Charlotte Bobcats (LAC, WAS): Though there are just 28 games league-wide in Week 16, some teams' schedules are as a sweet as chocolate hearts. Start with Larry Brown's Bobcats. First they draw the Clippers, who have allowed 115.5 points per night while dropping four straight to start a seven-game Eastern swing. Then it's the Wizards and their league-worst 3-point defense. If you're looking for a player to add, consider D.J. Augustin, who's available in 85 percent of ESPN.com leagues. After missing 11 games with an abdominal strain, the rookie is expected to make his return this weekend. Yes, Raymond Felton is stacking up dimes and Raja Bell is knocking down treys, but Augustin should regain enough minutes to help deep-leaguers. With Gerald Wallace down, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Cats put all three guards on the court on occasion.
Orlando Magic (DEN): Jameer Nelson's injury has thrown some uncertainty into what was one of the NBA's most predictable teams from a fantasy standpoint. How many minutes can veteran Anthony Johnson handle? How much will the newly acquired Tyronn Lue play? For this week, stick with Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, but watch Orlando's shooting guards. Mickael Pietrus just regained his place in the starting lineup, but it was rookie Courtney Lee who put up big numbers (21 points on 9-of-10 shooting) in the blowout of the Clippers. For what it's worth, either the 35-percent-available Pietrus or the 99-percent-available Lee could get you a couple of 3s in their one game. Denver opponents make the eighth-most buckets from downtown.
San Antonio Spurs (@NJ, @TOR): One team that remains completely predictable is the Spurs. San Antonio's fantasy relevance pretty much starts and ends with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Still, it's worth noting that the Raptors and Nets opponents make the second-most 3s (Toronto is right there with Washington, in fact, allowing 8.2 treys per game). In a league with 12 or more teams, you might consider Roger Mason (71 percent available), Michael Finley (95 percent available) or Matt Bonner (99 percent available) as an end-of-the-lineup fill-in.
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.
Ryan Anderson, PF, Nets (SA): Anderson moved into the Nets' starting lineup after Yi Jianlian went down, but only recently has he started doing something with the opportunity. The rookie's topped 15 points in three of his past four games while averaging 7.5 rebounds in that span. Did I mention he can hit 3s? Or that he's 99 percent unowned? Yi should remain sidelined for at least a week out of the break, so it might be start to add Anderson now, even if you likely won't want to activate him for the one game against the Spurs.
Mike Conley, PG, Grizzlies (NO, @PHI): Conley returned to the starting lineup eight games ago, and in his past four he's averaging 13.0 points, 7.0 assists and 1.8 3s. Available in 93 percent of leagues, Conley draws a Hornets team that will likely be without Chris Paul and a 76ers team that allows the sixth-most assists.
Samuel Dalembert, C, 76ers (PHO, MEM): It isn't just Elton Brand's pending shoulder surgery that gives Dalembert renewed fantasy relevance. He finally seems healthy after dealing with knee and ankle issues. In back-to-back games this week, Dalembert went for 14 points, seven boards and three blocks against the Celtics and 18 points and 20 rebounds versus the Pacers. You don't want to make too much of that small sample, but Dalembert has been averaging more than 2.0 blocks over the past month. Of course he'll have Shaquille O'Neal to deal with, but the Grizzlies are seventh-worst in rebound differential. Though he's one of the most-added players on ESPN.com, Dalembert remains available in more than 20 percent of leagues.
JaVale McGee, PF/C, Wizards (@ATL, @CHA): The 98-percent available McGee is taking advantage of Andray Blatche's absence, averaging 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, a steal and a block over his past three. He's worth adding in deep leagues if you need the rejections; Charlotte opponents get the second-most blocks.
Mike Miller, SG/SF, Timberwolves (TOR): In January, Miller was as cold as, um, the dead of winter. He shot 38.9 percent while averaging just 6.0 points. But against the Hawks on Feb. 4, Miller took 10 shots and made seven of them. The former number might actually be more significant than the latter; Miller last reached double figures in attempts on Dec. 17. There are whispers that Miller simply isn't happy in Minnesota, but if you're looking for a low-risk, high-reward candidate, Miller, who's available in 20 percent of leagues, might be your guy. Again, it's only one game, but Toronto is a disaster against the 3.
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Bulls (DET, MIA): Kittens and string, fantasy hoops sportswriters and hustle cats. Same giddy reaction all around. Thomas, who's available in 85 percent of leagues, is averaging 2.3 blocks and 1.2 steals in his past nine games. He also has five double-doubles (and one game of 11 points and nine boards) in that span. While this schedule doesn't suit him -- Pistons opponents are 30th in blocks and 27th in steals, while Heat opponents are 24th and 23rd, respectively -- I'd take my chances on Thomas.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.