Add J.R. Smith and Mike Conley
NBA teams are battling for playoff position, and little is decided. This is good news for fantasy owners.
• Dwight Howard, Magic: 21 points (9-12 FT), 23 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals at Atlanta.|
• Dwyane Wade, Heat: 33 points (15-17 FT), 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 3-pointers, 2 steals at Washington.
• J.R. Smith, Nuggets: 34 points (12-20 FG), 7 3-pointers, 3 assists, 2 steals versus Clippers.
• Vince Carter, Nets: 4 points (2-10 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists at Chicago.|
• Eric Gordon, Clippers: 7 points (1-10 FG), 2 assists at Denver.
• Antonio McDyess, Pistons: 4 points (2-9 FG), 5 rebounds, 3 assists at Philadelphia.
As long as NBA teams have something to play for over the final week and a half, your star players will keep playing regular minutes. And sometimes, you might even get a little extra. For instance, in Philadelphia, the 76ers wanted to clinch a playoff spot at home, so coach Tony DiLeo played both Andre Iguodala (31 points, nine rebounds) and Andre Miller (a triple-double) for the entire second half against the Pistons. Although the Sixers got their win over Detroit, expect them to keep pushing for fifth or even fourth place in the East. Atlanta will likely get in the 4-5 playoff matchup, but the East's sixth-place team (probably Miami or Philly) must contend with Orlando or Boston in the first round.
Speaking of the Magic, they seem motivated to get that second spot in the East. Not sure what Dwight Howard owners love more about Saturday's massive line: the double-20s in points and boards, or the fact that he went 9-of-12 from the stripe against the Hawks.
Really, no team's playoff position is completely secure. Even the Cavs and Lakers, who both comfortably lead their conferences, are vying with each other for home court throughout the postseason. I'm sure by the last night or two of the regular season, some big names will get a night off. It happens every year. But for the most part, it looks like you'll be able to count on your key players down the stretch.
Under the boards
Something tells me I'm going to draft J.R. Smith too early this fall. I can't help it. He is just 24, and at his best, he's practically unguardable. Seven more triples against the Clippers, and Smith needed only 26 minutes to do it. Incredibly, he can still be had in more than 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues. The only problem with adding Smith and teammate Chris Andersen is that the Nuggets play just four more games. But it's not a deal-breaker. If you need 3s, you have to get J.R. if he's there. And if you need blocks, Andersen, at 87 percent available, is probably your best option. As I note in the current Fantasy Forecaster, the schedule is unkind to other top free agents as well. For instance, Ramon Sessions is putting up crazy numbers (16 points and 11 dimes Saturday) for the second straight April. But the Bucks, like Denver, have only four games left. Again, though, if you need assists, it's hard to pass on Sessions, who's available in 38 percent of leagues. That's now two starts and two double-doubles for Brendan Haywood, but the Wizards are another team that's down to four games. If you need a center, take Haywood (98 percent available), but if you're looking for boards in general, first try Anthony Randolph (91 percent available). Vince Carter tweaked his left Achilles tendon in practice Friday, and it showed against the Bulls. But despite managing just four points in 28 minutes, V.C. will apparently go against the Sixers today. Here's a name for you deep-leaguers: Ryan Anderson. In his best showing since joining the Nets' starting lineup four games ago, the rookie went for 17 points, 10 boards, two steals and a 3-pointer against Chicago. Anderson is virtually unowned in ESPN.com leagues. While the Grizzlies are headed for the NBA lottery, Mike Conley could provide some serious help to a fantasy team making a championship run. The Memphis point guard had another terrific night Saturday, with 17 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four 3s against Milwaukee. Despite being one of the most popular adds on ESPN.com, Conley remains available in 70 percent of leagues.