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. 11 (with games from Monday through Thursday) and Feb. 18 (games from Tuesday through Sunday) are combined into one scoring period. This edition of the Forecaster covers this two-week stretch. The next Forecaster will be posted on Friday, Feb. 22.
By that time, I expect Bradley Beal will again be rostered in most leagues. Beal is expected to return to action this weekend, and I consider him a free-agent prize. Keep in mind that he's recovering from a sprained wrist, an injury that clearly affected his performance before he finally sat down. Beal was hurt on Jan. 18 against the Denver Nuggets, and in the six games that followed, he averaged just 8.8 points on 37.5 percent shooting (21-of-56). However, in the nine games prior, the rookie put up stellar numbers: 19.2 points and 2.9 3-pointers per game. Over his five-game absence, Beal's availability has soared to 80 percent in ESPN.com leagues. I wouldn't hesitate to add him, especially with his upcoming schedule (more on that shortly).
Weeks 16-17 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, 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 1-10 for that week's matchups.
Players to Watch
Lavoy Allen, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers (LAC, @MIL, @MIN, MIA, @NY): I noted last week that Nick Young is an underrated fantasy commodity. Seeing as he remains available in 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues, I still believe this to be the case. But if you missed out on Young, the injury-riddled Sixers have more to offer -- at least for leagues of 12 or more teams. Now that a hamstring problem has Thaddeus Young sidelined for the bulk of February, both Dorell Wright and Allen played more than 30 minutes in the Sixers' dreadful loss to the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 6. While Wright was decent in that game -- 9 points on 4 of 8 shooting, along with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks -- he's shooting just 37.5 percent from the field this season. So I'll focus on Allen. Basically, here's a chance to land some blocks in free agency. Though he's playing just 23 minutes per game this season, Allen is averaging 0.9 blocks per game. Do the math and you can figure that, with significant minutes, Allen should be worth close to 1.5 blocks per game for the near future. The only problem is this schedule. Miami Heat opponents rank last in blocks while Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and Knicks opponents all rank in the bottom nine. At least Minnesota Timberwolves opponents have the eighth-most rejections.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards (@MIL, @DET, TOR, DEN, HOU): Assuming Beal is fully healthy, he should fare well with this set of games. Nuggets and Houston Rockets opponents rank second and fourth in 3s, respectively. Admittedly, Toronto Raptors and Bucks opponents rank only 26th and 27th, respectively, in this regard, but Raptors opponents are also sixth-best in overall field goal percentage.
Jeff Green, SF/PF, Boston Celtics (@CHA, CHI, @DEN, @LAL, @PHX, @POR): The game in which the Celtics lost Rajon Rondo serves as the starting point for a nice run for Green. Over his past seven games, starting with that double-overtime, doubly disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 25, Green is averaging 14.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. Those are only decent numbers -- especially if you figure the rejection rate is unsustainable -- but where Green can truly help is at the line. Over this seven-game stretch, he's shooting 82.8 percent (24-of-29), which comes out to a healthy 4.1 attempts per game. For what it's worth -- and I'm honestly not sure it's worth a lot -- these opponents rank from 10th (Nuggets) to 24th (Portland Trail Blazers) in terms of getting to the stripe. The point is that Green is another fairly available player (80 percent availability) who can contribute in leagues of at least 12 teams. While we're on the Celtics, this set of games looks reasonably promising for the guards who are pitching in without Rondo. At least with Charlotte Bobcats and Nuggets opponents -- who rank first and second, respectively, in 3s -- on the schedule, I'd take a flyer on Courtney Lee, who's reached double figures in three of his past four games. He's available in more than 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Byron Mullens, PF/C, Charlotte Bobcats (BOS, @IND, @ORL, DET, CHI, DEN): In October, I speculated that Mullens would outperform Ryan Anderson this season. Well, that was simply crazy -- though I maintain that Anderson is one of the most overrated players in fantasy. (Look at his numbers as a reserve: many 3s but little else.) But we're discussing Mullens. After missing six weeks with a sprained ankle, Mullens returned Feb. 4 against the Heat. In 28 minutes off the bench, he produced 12 points, 9 rebounds and a couple of 3s. A couple of nights later, Mullens posted 15 points in 18 minutes in a blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. With those efforts, figure Mullens to return to the starting lineup after the break, if not sooner. And figure that his ghastly 37.4 percent shooting this season (including 31.8 percent from downtown) will remain a problem. Mullens' accuracy is so bad that I'm not sure it outweighs his positive production, but there is quite a bit of good with a healthy Mullens. He'll obviously give you tons of 3s and solid boards, but this season he's also averaging 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. You'll have to decide if your roster can withstand the hit in field goal percentage. Despite the presence of the Nuggets, Mullens could miss even more shots than usual with this schedule, given that Pacers and Chicago Bulls opponents rank last and next-to-last, respectively, in 3s.
Kyle Singler, SG/SF, Detroit Pistons (NO, WSH, MEM, @CHA, @IND, IND): With the departure of Tayshaun Prince, Singler is set as the Pistons' starting small forward. Coach Lawrence Frank has nothing but good things to say about Singler, and he should see major minutes the rest of the way. Still, I'm not sure Singler has much value beyond large leagues. The Pistons don't run plays for him, so he appears limited offensively. Singler has made at least one 3 in seven straight games, which is something to keep in mind in daily lineup leagues for those matchups against the Bobcats as well as the New Orleans Hornets. Hornets opponents rank seventh in treys.
Marreese Speights, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers (MIN, SA, NO, @ORL, @MIA): As we've seen during stretches with the Sixers and Memphis Grizzlies, Speights can score and board when given the opportunity. That is certainly the case now that he's moved to Cleveland. Though he's still coming off the bench for his new team, Speights is averaging 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks. Having to contend with bigs like Nikola Pekovic, Tim Duncan (if healthy), Nikola Vucevic, Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez, Speights should continue to see around 24 minutes a game, if not more, for the Cavs.
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.