Fantasy owners know that injuries create opportunities. Certainly many of the most popular roster additions in ESPN.com leagues at the moment are getting their chance to play because a teammate is sitting out.
I'll highlight a few of these players as we dig into an enticing Week 8 schedule.
Week 8 at a Glance
"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, its opponents' numbers in those categories and its 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") and home games ("H") and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
The Los Angeles Lakers, which absolutely could use some time to regroup, play just twice in Week 8. But 21 NBA teams play four games, making this one of the sweetest schedules of the season to this point.
The San Antonio Spurs, which regularly hoist 3-pointers anyway, should see plenty more success in that regard. Their opposition includes the New Orleans Hornets, Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder, all of which rank in the top nine in triples allowed. While Danny Green seems like a logical add, watch for updates on Kawhi Leonard, who could finally return, perhaps as soon as this weekend. Leonard is available in about two-thirds of ESPN.com leagues, while Green can still be had in about 60 percent of leagues.
Another nice four-game set belongs to the Los Angeles Clippers. Owners in leagues of at least 12 teams could help themselves with Matt Barnes, who's averaging 12.8 points, 1.6 3s, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks per game over his past five contests. Eric Bledsoe -- a classic case of love the player, hate the player's minutes -- is another possibility for deep leagues. Both are available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Players to Watch
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards (ATL, @ORL, @DET, DET): Thrown into major minutes after A.J. Price sustained a broken hand, the 19-year-old Beal now seems to be "getting it." He has been playing almost 40 minutes per night over his past three games and is averaging 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 3-pointers over his past four games. In that span, Beal is shooting 85 percent from the line (17-for-20) on 5.0 attempts per game. Beal's shooting is his one concern from a fantasy perspective. While he has been OK during this four-game surge (23-for-56, 41.1 percent), Beal is still shooting just 36.2 percent from the floor for the season. It will be interesting to see how he responds to this schedule, since Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons opponents are all shooting around or just under 44 percent.
Marco Belinelli, SG, Chicago Bulls (@MEM, BOS, @NY, @ATL): With Richard Hamilton sidelined, Belinelli has started the past six games and topped 15 points in each of the past five contests. His per-game averages over that span are 19.0 points, 2.6 3s and 1.6 steals. The Derrick Rose-less Bulls need offense, so perhaps this can continue with Hamilton expected to miss another two weeks or so. However, with this set of games, I'd expect Belinelli to come in a bit below his recent numbers. New York Knicks opponents rank seventh in 3s, but Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies opponents rank 22nd and 23rd, respectively. Grizzlies and Hawks opponents are also rank in the bottom third in shooting.
Ed Davis, PF/C, Toronto Raptors (@CLE, DET, ORL): Davis has been featured prominently on this site over the past few days, and for good reason. With Andrea Bargnani out indefinitely and Amir Johnson continuing to disappoint, Davis is a strong consideration in most formats. While you may not want to settle for three games this week, with the unusual pre-holiday schedule (fewer games on Wednesdays and Fridays), Davis should fit in nicely in leagues that allow daily lineup changes. In particular, he looks like a great play against the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Cavs opponents ranking second in blocks.
Jared Dudley, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (SAC, CHA, @POR, LAC): The struggling Suns have little to offer fantasy owners at the moment, but Dudley is one player I'd buy in leagues of at least 12 teams. Available in about 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues, the capable veteran returned to the starting lineup three games ago in place of the massively disappointing Michael Beasley. This set of games looks fairly promising for Dudley; Charlotte Bobcats opponents have surged to the top in 3-pointers made, while Portland Trail Blazers opponents rank third in shooting and fifth in steals.
Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (NO, @SAC, CHA, LAL): As big a disaster as Beasley has been in Phoenix, that's about how good a fit Jack has been in Oakland. He has been far more than an insurance policy. Jack is seeing significant minutes alongside Stephen Curry for the surprising Warriors. That said, fantasy owners who are adding Jack are buying high -- the veteran is shooting 52.8 percent in December. Still, with this set of games, Jack's seemingly unsustainable accuracy could remain for a while longer. That thing I said about the Bobcats and 3-pointers? Here's a bigger thing: In December, Bobcats opponents are averaging 11.6 triples per game. The Hornets have recently improved in this regard, but their opponents still rank third in treys. Bobcats opponents are also tops in assists.
Shawn Marion, SF/PF, Dallas Mavericks (PHI, MIA, @MEM, @SA): While there's nothing about his season stat line -- averaging 10.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks per game -- that screams must-add, Marion's 80 percent availability in ESPN.com leagues strikes me as high. While the schedule doesn't give me a lot to go on -- Spurs opponents rank sixth in steals, while Philadelphia 76ers opponents rank eighth in rebound differential -- Marion seems healthy, having played 45 minutes in the double-overtime loss to the Celtics on Dec. 12. For these four games, I'd take my chances on him in most formats.
C.J. Miles, SG/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (TOR, @BOS, IND, @MIL): Though Miles is coming off back-to-back 28-point performances, I view him as a moderately risky add for the entirety of Week 8, given the prospect of a Dion Waiters return in the near future. I haven't seen anything definitive on Waiters; he could well miss all of next week. You'll have to search for updates this weekend. The other downside with Miles comes with this schedule; at least it would seem to. Indiana Pacers opponents rank 29th in 3s, while Milwaukee Bucks and Celtics opponents rank 26th and 22nd, respectively. Then again, Miles drained six treys against the Pacers on Dec. 12.
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: 3-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.