- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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At this moment, the top free agent in fantasy hoops could be a backup guard who's averaging just 25 minutes per game and is rostered in only 6.9 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
I'm talking about Mo Williams. And while Williams is averaging a useful 6.0 assists, 2.0 3-pointers and 1.5 steals per game so far this month, the reason I mention him has everything to do with the Portland Trail Blazers' upcoming schedule. In Week 13 (Jan. 20-26), the Blazers have five games: at the Houston Rockets, at the Oklahoma City Thunder, home to the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves, and then back on the road against the Golden State Warriors.
In addition to the quantity factor, Williams matches up reasonably well against this opposition. For instance, Rockets and Thunder opponents rank fourth and sixth, respectively, in steals, while Thunder opponents are sixth in treys. It also doesn't hurt that Timberwolves opponents are tops in field-goal percentage.
I can see rostering Williams as a temporary fill-in in any format. If he keeps up his recent averages, that's a nice chunk of dimes, triples and takeaways for a weekly head-to-head dual. However, it isn't as if Williams is your only option. Week 13 is one of the meatier schedules we'll see all season. Beyond the Blazers, 21 NBA teams play four times in the week ahead. Seven teams have three games, while the Utah Jazz hit the court just twice.
Week 13 at a Glance
It's hard to believe that just a week ago, J.J. Redick was available in almost half of ESPN.com leagues. Redick has been on fire in his first two games back, going 18-for-29 from the field (62.1 percent) and sinking eight 3s -- including seven against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 15. While there aren't any more Redicks sitting in free agency, I believe another returning guard can be a factor in Week 13. Mario Chalmers could return this weekend after missing four games with an Achilles problem. The Miami Heat's four-game set features a home matchup with the Lakers, who've allowed a preposterous 113.3 points and 11.4 steals over their past 10 games. Also on the schedule are the Hawks (Atlanta opponents are averaging 9.1 steals over their past 10) and the Boston Celtics (C's opponents are averaging 8.0 3s over their past 10). Chalmers is available in about 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Another team to watch is the New York Knicks. Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin both suffered ankle sprains Thursday and will miss at least part of Week 13. With that in mind, it might be worth checking into the availability of Tyson Chandler, who's now unrostered in about 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Chandler has been dealing with a pretty nasty upper respiratory infection, but assuming he can get healthier over the weekend, expect his stats to spike along with his minutes. In Week 13, the Knicks host the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Bobcats and Lakers. Sixers opponents are tops in blocks, while Bobcats opponents are sixth in this regard. And Lakers opponents lead the way in rebound differential. This is a glorious set of games for Chandler, or even Andrea Bargnani (who's available in about one-third of ESPN.com leagues).
"R" matchup ratings are based upon 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, their opponents' numbers in those categories, and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the right lists the team's total number of games scheduled ("G") as well as home games ("H"), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
Players to Watch
D.J. Augustin, PG, Chicago Bulls (LAL, @CLE, LAC, @CHA): The Toronto Raptors castoff has been seeing significant minutes with the Bulls. While Kirk Hinrich remains the starting point guard, Augustin has garnered slightly more playing time -- slightly more than 30 minutes -- over the past six games, and is averaging 7.5 assists and 1.7 triples in that span. Augustin's shooting (just 38.0 percent in his Bulls tenure) is a problem for fantasy owners, but with this schedule, he seems a decent bet to do more good than harm. Cleveland Cavaliers, Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers opponents all rank in the top five in dimes, while Cavs opponents are second in 3s. Augustin, incidentally, is available in about 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Nene, PF/C, Washington Wizards (PHI, BOS, @PHX, @UTA): Fantasy owners should appreciate Randy Wittman's sense of timing. With the Wizards entering the busiest portion of their schedule, the coach reinserted Nene into the starting lineup on Jan. 13 against the Bulls. The brittle big man has since put together back-to-back games of 19 points and multiple blocks while playing 34 and 36 minutes. Nene can still be had in about one-third of ESPN.com leagues. This being a four-game set that includes the 76ers -- again, Philly opponents register the most rejections -- is enough to view this schedule in a positive light.
Wesley Johnson, SG/SF, Los Angeles Lakers (@CHI, @MIA, @ORL, @NY): Say this for the free-falling Lakers: They're providing some unexpected sources of fantasy value. Johnson is the latest to step into this mix; over his past five games, the former lottery pick is averaging a gaudy 16.0 points, 1.8 3s and 1.4 steals while seeing no fewer than 31 minutes per night. While Johnson's 1-1-1 potential makes him intriguing, fantasy owners apparently haven't forgotten that the fourth-year pro has never shot better than 40.7 percent in a full NBA season; Johnson remains available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues. As a jaded Timberwolves fan (really, there is no other kind of Wolves fan), I surely have my doubts about Johnson, but at least he's getting an opportunity. And with Heat and Knicks opponents in the top seven in 3s, and Bulls and Heat opponents in the top eight in steals, Wes is a chance worth taking in Week 13.
Mike Scott, PF, Atlanta Hawks (MIA, @ORL, SA, @MIL): Speaking of chances worth taking, I believe Scott also qualifies. With Paul Millsap occupying Scott's natural power forward position, it'd be a stretch to say that the 6-foot-8 youngster is established in the Hawks' rotation. Nonetheless, Scott is coming off back-to-back games of 28 minutes, and he's scored in double-digits in six of his past seven games. With the struggling Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks on this schedule, Scott is a sneaky play in deep leagues of 14 teams or more. Bucks opponents are averaging 9.2 3s over their past 10 games, while Magic opponents are scoring 106.2 points over their past 10.
4hThomas McKean, ESPN Stats & Information