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Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 21-27

1/18/2013

A month ago, I told you about the Charlotte Bobcats' struggles and explained why they are the opponent to target for fantasy owners as they set their weekly or nightly lineups.

It remains ugly in Charlotte, but I can now report that the ugliness is spreading. That sweet, sweet, exploitable ugliness.

In all honesty, as a Minnesota Timberwolves fan, I hate to see what's happening here with this injury-ravaged team. As an NBA fan -- and really, as a sports fan -- I hate to see what's happening with the Sacramento Kings.

But as fantasy owners, we can use this.

I think you know the headlines. The Wolves lose Kevin Love, and then lose him again -- along with about half their roster to injury. Sacramento's loyal fans may be losing the Kings.

Through all of the struggles, all of the ugliness, these are two teams that are slipping in the standings. Most important for us, they're slipping statistically. Since Love reinjured his hand against the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 2, the Wolves have lost six of seven games and five straight. While they remain in the middle of the pack in scoring defense, they've allowed 103.4 points per game over the past seven contests.

The Kings have won their past two games, edging two of the league's worst teams in the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards. But since news broke about their possible relocation to Seattle, the Kings have allowed a staggering 114.8 points per game. Admittedly, we're only talking about four games. But we'll really know where things are headed soon, because starting this weekend, the Kings enter a stretch in which they play nine of 11 games on the road.

It's ugly in Sacramento and Minneapolis -- and it should get uglier. And it remains ugly in Charlotte. Use it to your benefit.

Week 13 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 season-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").

As noted last week, the Los Angeles Clippers have five games in the week ahead. I think from here I'll just refer to this phenomenon where an NBA team plays five times over a Monday-to-Sunday stretch as a "Wonderful Calendar Coincidence," or WCC. For instance: This is the second of only three WCCs in the 2012-13 season, and who better than the league's deepest team to have a WCC? Yeah, I think that works. Anyway, we'll discuss WCCs, with or without official acronyms (or OAs), once more in March.

Though Chris Paul has now missed three games with a bruised kneecap, it seems likely he'll return at some point in Week 13. (Paul is considered a game-time decision for Saturday against the Washington Wizards.) Given the volume of games, I can understand holding onto Eric Bledsoe for another week. However, it is risky, given that in Paul's two most recent starts, Bledsoe played just 14 minutes and eight minutes, respectively. For a large head-to-head league of at least 14 teams, Lamar Odom could be a worthwhile add. Though he's been abysmal offensively, averaging a Manute Bol-like 3.5 points per game this season, Odom is providing legitimate contributions in several categories. Check out these January per-game averages: 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 blocks. Odom is available in nearly all ESPN.com leagues.

As for the Forecaster's near weekly mention of Matt Barnes, that ship has sailed. As of Friday, Barnes was gracing 93.1 percent of rosters.

Two NBA teams, the Dallas Mavericks and Nuggets, play just twice in Week 13.

Players to Watch

Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, New Orleans Hornets (SAC, @SA, HOU, @MEM): Speaking of players who don't produce points but do provide fantasy value, there's Aminu. The 22-year-old started this season well but then fell completely out of the rotation in late December. The reset has apparently done some good, because over his past eight games, Aminu is averaging 7.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks. The schedule suggests he can keep it going. Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs opponents rank third and fifth, respectively, in steals, while Kings opponents rank fourth in rebound differential. If you can still get him, Aminu is worth adding in leagues of at least 12 teams.

Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (LAC, OKC, @CHI, @MIL): While Jack is already rostered in 63.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues, he's pretty much a must-start for Week 13 given the news about Stephen Curry. So activate Jack, but limit your expectations, because this figures to be a tough set of games. Chicago Bulls opponents rank last in assists; Milwaukee Bucks and Bulls opponents rank 27th and 28th, respectively, in 3-pointers; and Bulls, Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder opponents rank 27th, 28th and 29th, respectively, in field goal percentage.

John Salmons, SG/SF, Sacramento Kings (@NO, PHX, OKC, @DEN): Available in nearly 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Salmons might be fantasy's top free agent at the moment. Or not. I'm honestly not sure. All I know is that even with Tyreke Evans back in the starting lineup and Marcus Thornton back in action, Salmons continues to start and play major minutes. In January, the veteran is playing 32 minutes a night while averaging 12.6 points, 3.3 assists and 1.8 3s. There are some obvious pluses with this schedule, as Hornets opponents rank fourth in assists and sixth in treys, while Nuggets opponents rank third in triples and sixth in dimes.

Tiago Splitter, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (@PHI, NO, @DAL. PHX): Not being able to read Gregg Popovich's mind, I tend to avoid writing about Spurs players in the Forecaster. The schedule is just a minimal consideration compared to Pop's obviously wise but (for fantasy owners) often inscrutable machinations. But since moving into the lineup for good on Dec. 15, Splitter's minutes and production have been fairly steady. As a starter this season, the Brazilian is averaging 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals per game while shooting 55.9 percent from the field and 77.1 percent from the line. Nothing really great there, but a lot of good production for leagues of at least 12 teams. Mavericks opponents are tops in rebound differential and Phoenix Suns opponents rank eighth in this regard, while Hornets opponents rank fifth in blocks. Again, this being the Spurs, I wouldn't overemphasize those numbers. But it is four games, so go with that.

Derrick Williams, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (@ATL, BKN, @WSH, @CHA): Williams was featured in last week's Forecaster, but with his move to the starting lineup, he's worth revisiting. Playing a season-high 31 minutes, Williams finished with 10 points (on 3-of-9 shooting), 7 rebounds and 2 blocks against the Clippers on Jan. 17. Rick Adelman may have little faith in Williams, but circumstances have changed. In a matter of weeks, the Timberwolves' season went from highly promising to hopelessly lost. So the organization may as well see what it has in the former No. 2 pick. Williams is currently available in about 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and he certainly seems like a chance worth taking in leagues of at least 12 teams. As for the schedule, the Bobcats are on it, so that makes it good. Bobcats opponents are tops in blocks, second in rebound differential and fourth in total rebounds.

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.