Matchups for Sunday, Dec. 21
All times are ET.
Key: Opp. PPG = Points per game allowed to opponents. Opp. FGP = Field goal percentage allowed to opponents. RPG Diff. = The difference between a team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
Tim Thomas, SF, Knicks (virus)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Zydrunas Ilgauskas returned to action Friday night after missing three games with a sprained ankle. He scored 23 points and snared six rebounds, so be sure to get him back in your lineup, although I've had a sinking feeling over the past couple of seasons that Ilgauskas' lack of serious injuries since the early part of his career seems too good to be true and, one of these seasons, he's going to fall apart. The ankle isn't too serious, although in the leagues in which I own Ilgauskas, it's starting to feel like I'm playing with borrowed time. There are two statistically lopsided matchups Sunday, first between the Knicks and the Celtics, then the Cavs and the Thunder. The Knicks are allowing 107.3 points per game and are outrebounded like crazy, but their fast pace and high number of possessions per game makes it a good thing for both teams anytime you see New York on the schedule. Josh Howard is still rounding back into form but is a must-play when healthy; it's key to get him back in your lineup if he isn't already, especially against the Wizards, who allow an insane 48.1 opponent field goal percentage. Richard Hamilton and Allen Iverson combined for 68 points overall and 17-for-17 shooting from the stripe Friday night against the Jazz. AI is a no-brainer, but in 13 percent of ESPN leagues, Hamilton is unowned. If yours is one of them, snatch him immediately and feel confident starting him regularly, as his December stats (21 points per game, 1.5 3s per game, 55.5 percent shooting from the floor, 89.6 percent shooting from the stripe) are closer to what you should expect from him than his 16 points per game in November. Rodney Stuckey getting the starting nod and shifting the rest of the lineup up has had positive fantasy value for several players, and Rip is one of them, now that he's playing small forward.
Kendrick Perkins scored a career-high 25 points on 12-for-15 shooting with eight rebounds Friday night, and his six double-digit scoring games so far in December are more than he's had the rest of the season combined. The combination of the momentum from Friday's huge night and playing the Knicks should equal an above-average performance from Perkins on Sunday. Flip Murray scored 20 points with three 3s in 22 minutes in Friday's contest and is always a risky play who can earn you a big scoring night. With Sunday's light schedule, you can afford to spot-start him if you've got him, although on a night with more games and more options, he's bench/waiver material. If you have rotating roster spots, the strategy of utilizing them on light days is key. The Thunder are riding the high of their third win of the season and signing Nenad Krstic (who will have fantasy impact almost immediately), and Desmond Mason has been playing his best basketball of the season. He started Friday night in place of Damien Wilkins, and scored seven points with 10 rebounds and a steal. He doesn't shoot 3s and is an option only in very deep leagues, although if he continues to start, he'll etch out minimal value in points, rebounds and steals. It looks like Antonio McDyess will earn about 25 minutes per game, enough to give him value in deep leagues. He averaged 8.5 rebounds, 0.7 blocks and 0.8 steals with 48.8 percent shooting in 29 minutes per game last season, so expecting slightly less from him is a fair bet.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.