Are you ready to play two?
With NBA All-Star Weekend a week away, ESPN.com head-to-head leagues move to a special schedule over the next two weeks. The weeks of Feb. 10 (with games Monday through Thursday) and Feb. 17 (games Tuesday through Sunday) are combined into a single scoring period. This edition of the NBA Fantasy Forecaster covers this two-week period (Week 16-17). The next Forecaster column will be published Feb. 21.
Week 16-17 at a Glance
This extended stretch is one of relative parity as far as the schedule goes. Twenty NBA teams have five games, while seven others -- the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards -- play six times. A quick breakdown of these seven teams follows.
Meanwhile, three teams -- the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers -- have just four games. Do the math though and you'll see that it's not worth getting overly hung up on the number of games. By proportion, having four games in this two-week window, when most teams play five, is less of a disadvantage compared to a typical seven-day week, when a handful of teams play only twice while the rest have three or four games. Needless to say, owners of Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and the soon-to-return Chris Paul will happily start their studs.
Of the teams playing five games, the Los Angeles Lakers offer substantial intrigue for Week 16-17. Not only is Steve Blake the most-added player in ESPN.com leagues, two of his teammates -- Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar -- are also on this list. Frankly, I think folks are going a bit overboard on Blake based on his triple-double against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 5. That game being the second of a back-to-back, Nash didn't take the court in Cleveland. And as I'll explain in a bit, the Cavs are one sweet matchup right now.
Don't get me wrong. As fantasy free agents go, Blake is worth grabbing in most formats. But I'd prefer Nash, even knowing he won't play every night. And note that the Lakers' schedule in Week 16-17 -- all home games against the Utah Jazz, Thunder, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets -- is free of back-to-backs.
"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; their performance in home/road games, depending on where the game is to be played; as well as their 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.
Teams with 6 Games
Note: Each of these teams plays twice before the break, then four times coming out of All-Star Weekend.
Atlanta Hawks (@CHI, @TOR, @IND, WSH, @DET, NY)
Available players: DeMarre Carroll (rostered in 55.4 percent of leagues as of Friday); Mike Scott (2.9 percent); Louis Williams (15.2 percent).
Outlook: Carroll has entered the fantasy mainstream based on an eight-game stretch in which he's averaged 15.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 3-pointers and 2.0 steals. Impressive stuff, to be sure, but note that the career 44.3 percent shooter is connecting at an insane rate of 57.8 percent from the field in this span. While this schedule has its highlights -- Pistons opponents are tops in shooting and third in steals, while New York Knicks opponents are fifth in 3s -- Carroll's accuracy can be expected to slide with Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Raptors opponents all in the bottom eight in field-goal percentage.
Charlotte Bobcats (DAL, @BKN, @DET, DET, NO, MEM)
Available players: Gerald Henderson (rostered in 88.8 percent of leagues as of Friday); Josh McRoberts (3.6 percent).
Outlook: From a fantasy standpoint, there isn't much to say about the Bobcats other than Kemba Walker is back and Al Jefferson, who averaged 23.9 points and 11.3 boards in January, has been as nasty as this bone-chilling winter. But if you have Henderson, you may as well activate him for Week 16-17; Pistons, Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans opponents are all in the top six in shooting.
Cleveland Cavaliers (SAC, @DET, @PHI, ORL, @TOR, WSH)
Available players: Jarrett Jack (rostered in 21.6 percent of leagues as of Friday); C.J. Miles (2.8 percent); Dion Waiters (42.3 percent); Anthony Bennett (5.8 percent).
Outlook: During their six-game game losing streak, the Cavaliers have allowed 110.8 points, 51.6 percent shooting and 10.3 3-pointers. Cavs opponents are also a plus-5 in rebound differential during that span. From the start of this season, the Sixers have provided by far the best and most exploitable fantasy matchups. But the Cavs, who seem more dysfunctional by the day, are now part of this discussion. To be honest, the only fantasy free agent on this team who holds any intrigue for me is Bennett. Last year's first overall pick has scored in double figures in three of five games, and it figures he'll get as much playing time as he can handle from here.
Denver Nuggets (@IND, @MIN, PHX, @MIL, @CHI, SAC)
Available player: Randy Foye (rostered in 84.1 percent of leagues as of Friday).
Outlook: Foye may struggle with this schedule -- Pacers, Phoenix Suns and Bulls opponents are all in the bottom six in triples. Then again, the schedule may not be the primary concern for owners who've invested in Foye. Between the fallout with Andre Miller and Nate Robinson's season-ending knee injury, the Nuggets are down to Foye and the inexperienced Evan Fournier at shooting guard. So it's worth wondering if Denver will make a move ahead of the NBA's trading deadline. If the Nuggets stand pat, Foye should remain a solid fantasy contributor -- he's averaging better than 40 minutes since Robinson went down. But if Foye is on my roster, I'd be exploring trade options.
Detroit Pistons (SA, CLE, CHA, @CHA, ATL, DAL)
Available players: Rodney Stuckey (rostered in 24.4 percent of leagues as of Friday); Kyle Singler (0.3 percent).
Outlook: Singler has started the past two games while topping 30 minutes in three straight outings. However, given the established options in this offense, his fantasy upside seems minimal. With this set of six games, Stuckey is an end-of-the-lineup option for leagues of at least 12 teams, though only the floundering Cavs are a notably favorable matchup.
Toronto Raptors (NO, ATL, @WSH, CHI, CLE, ORL)
Available players: Amir Johnson (rostered in 47.0 percent of leagues as of Friday); Terrence Ross (34.1 percent); Greivis Vasquez (32.8 percent).
Outlook: Even with six games, this schedule doesn't offer any obvious reasons to gamble on the banged up Johnson or the up-and-down Ross.
Washington Wizards (@MEM, @HOU, TOR, @ATL, NO, @CLE)
Available players: Martell Webster (rostered in 14.9 percent of leagues as of Friday).
Outlook: With this set of games, Marcin Gortat and Nene should help you in blocks more than they'll hurt you at the line. Memphis Grizzlies, Rockets, Pelicans and Cavs opponents are all in the top 11 in rejections.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.