I came this close to telling you about DeAndre Jordan last week. Honestly, I did.
At the time, Jordan was coming off one of his better performances of the season. On Dec. 29 against the Utah Jazz, he finished with 14 points (making all five of his field goal attempts), five rebounds and seven -- count 'em, seven -- blocked shots.
Of course, all those rejections are a natural attention-grabber. But it wasn't just that. After replacing the injured Chris Kaman in mid-November, Jordan had struggled through the majority of his first 13 starts. However, over a nine-game stretch leading into that Jazz game, the 22-year-old averaged 8.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks -- not great, but certainly meaningful for fantasy. It seemed Jordan, who spent just one season at Texas A&M and who had averaged only about 15 minutes per game in his first two NBA seasons, was finally getting acclimated to the pro game.
So that seemed like perfect fodder for a column on fantasy hoops for this column on fantasy hoops. But then I took a look at the schedule and noticed that the Los Angeles Clippers had only two games in the week ahead. Ever-adaptable as I am, last week I wrote about the promising (but as yet unproductive) rookie Al-Farouq Aminu instead. I figured I'd get back to Jordan the week after.
Well, Jordan is certainly something to talk about now. After blocking seven shots against the Jazz, he recorded another six rejections against the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 2. Then he completely went off Wednesday, putting up 14 points, 20 rebounds and six more blocks against the Denver Nuggets.
Needless to say, averaging 11.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.3 blocks in that little three-game span has made Jordan a highly sought-after player. However, Jordan remains available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues. (Incidentally, Kaman isn't thought to be all that close to a return, so don't let his status keep you from moving on Jordan.)
The point of this story? Sometimes you shouldn't sweat those two-game weeks. And that's good advice for the week ahead.
"R" matchup ratings are based on a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as its opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H) and lists the overall rating from 1 to 10 for that week's matchups.
The Week Ahead: Teams to Watch
Judging by the schedule, this seems more like NBA Week 1 than midseason. Four teams -- the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and Jazz -- play just twice, while only eight NBA teams have four games.
Cleveland Cavaliers (@LAL, @UTA, @DEN): Daniel Gibson (ankle) will be sidelined at least through next week, so fantasy owners should continue to see significant minutes and solid production from Ramon Sessions. In his past four games, in which the Cavs were missing either Gibson or Mo Williams, Sessions has averaged 17.5 points, 6.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 92.9 percent foul shooting (on seven attempts per game). Los Angeles Lakers and Nuggets opponents are sixth and seventh, respectively, in assists, although Jazz opponents are only 28th in this regard. On the other hand, Jazz opponents get to the line 27.8 times per game, third most in the league.
Denver Nuggets (PHO, MIA, CLE, @SA): If you're in a shallow league, check into Al Harrington, whose availability has crept past 20 percent in ESPN.com leagues. Harrington missed five games with a broken thumb but scored 15 points in 31 minutes against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 6. With Kenyon Martin's knee still an issue, Harrington should play plenty off the bench. Cavaliers opponents are tops in 3-pointers while Phoenix Suns opponents are second in field goal percentage -- that alone is reason enough to get Harrington active.
Detroit Pistons (@CHI, MEM, @TOR, SAC): It's nice to see Tracy McGrady playing well again; in starting the past four games, T-Mac has averaged 13.3 points, 6.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds. However, with Rodney Stuckey expected to return over the weekend, it's hard to say what McGrady can offer fantasy owners going forward. But if you want to roll the dice, you could do OK here. Toronto Raptors opponents are first in shooting, while Kings opponents are sixth. Memphis Grizzlies opponents are fifth in 3s.
Los Angeles Clippers (MIA, @GS, LAL): It will be interesting to see what transpires when Jordan puts his shot-blocking skills up against the Miami Heat. As you can imagine with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade running the show, Heat opponents don't get many blocks. In fact, Heat opponents are not only 30th in rejections, but they're a full block per game behind Dallas Mavericks opponents, who are 29th. The plus for Jordan with this schedule is that Warriors opponents are third in rebound differential.
New York Knicks (@POR, @UTA, SAC): With all the other fantasy goodness Mike D'Antoni's Knicks have to offer, it might be unrealistic to expect another player to emerge in the absence of Danilo Gallinari. But if I had to pick one possibility, it'd be Toney Douglas. Douglas has yet to approach his torrid start to the season (16.5 points, 2.5 steals and 1.8 3s in his first six contests), but he's played nearly 30 minutes in each of his past two games while totaling five steals in that span. The schedule, however, doesn't point to a Douglas resurgence; Portland Trail Blazers, Jazz and Kings opponents are in the bottom 10 in steals, and Kings opponents are just 28th in 3s. Douglas is available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Sacramento Kings (@WAS, @BOS, @NY, @DET): In six games since returning to the starting lineup, Francisco Garcia is averaging 12.8 points, 2.3 3s, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals. Omri Casspi (10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 3s) also has played fairly well off the bench in that span. Either is worth a look in a league of at least 12 teams this week -- just don't expect a lot from downtown. Boston Celtics opponents are just 29th against the 3, while Washington Wizards, Knicks and Pistons opponents are in the middle of the pack in this regard. However, Wizards, Knicks and Pistons opponents are in the top seven in field goal percentage and in the top 11 in steals. Incidentally, Garcia is available in about 85 percent of ESPN.com leagues, while Casspi is available in more than 95 percent of leagues.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your lineup-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.