Helping Hand (Part I)
By NBA TV's Rick Kamla
March 31 -- I'm going to cut right through the clutter this week and get down to business. There is no time for cute angles or random opining. Freaks, the time has come to clock the NBA to the point where you win a Fantasy O'Brien.
I've been racking my brain all week for the best ways to help my beloved freaks over the next fortnight, which is either the home stretch for roto owners or playoff games for head-to-headers. And the one thing that you, me, and everyone else needs is some help with lineup decisions.
For instance, Carmelo Anthony and Mehmet Okur have just three games next week (Monday through Sunday), so do you play it conservative and get what you get? Or do you get creative and start an Andre Iguodala or Manu Ginobili with four games? These are the decisions that try men's souls and these are the decisions that win fantasy leagues.
To that end, let's break down Week 23 of the fantasy basketball season for your dining and dancing pleasure...
10. Kobe Bryant, Lakers (3 gms): King Kobe the 8th is shooting 49 percent from the floor over the past week because he's playing in regular-season playoff games, and he's entering the proverbial zone.
9. Michael Redd, Bucks (4 gms): Redd is the 11-ranked 8-cat player over the past week because he's averaging 27.7 points and 4.3 threes and a bunch of other goodies.
8. Andrei Kirilenko, Jazz (3 gms): I don't care if AK47 has one game in Week 23, it's tough to bench a dude averaging 7.3 blocks over the past week.
7. Shawn Marion, Suns (3 gms): Matrix has exactly three steals in five straight games, and six outta the last seven.
6. LeBron James, Cavaliers (3 gms): LJ23 has been the second-best 8-cat player over the past week, averaging 39.3 points and 2.3 steals. But like Matrix, AK47, and King Kobe, it's a major buzzkill that they have three games in the penultimate week.
5. Elton Brand, Clippers (4 gms): Like Wade, Brand slumped to only 13th last week, but like Wade, you are Leeann Tweeden pumped about heading into a semifinal game with four games outta Brand.
4. Dwyane Wade, Heat (4 gms): Surprisingly, Wade was only the 12th-best 8-cat player over the past week, but he's the kinda fantasy player you want in the foxhole with you, especially with four games.
3. Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves (4 gms): KG, who by the way now leads the rebounding race over Dwight Howard 12.5 to 12.3 through Thursday's work, has been the No. 1 ranked 8-cat player over the past month.
2. Yao Ming, Rockets (4 gms): Yao is the third-best player in 8-cat leagues over the past week and he has averaged 27 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks since the beginning of March.
1. Gilbert Arenas, Wizards (4 gms): Despite the DNP on Tuesday, Arenas is the No. 1 ranked player in 8-cat leagues over the past week thanks in large part to 8.5 assists, 2.5 steals, and four threes per game.
10. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets (3 gms): Because Melo's been so light in the non-scoring categories of late (3.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals), you almost need a D-freak like Gerald Wallace or Marcus Camby to balance him out.
9. Jason Richardson, Warriors (3 gms): I'm not telling you to bench J-Rich, necessarily, but I am here to alert you to the fact that he was the 131st-ranked 8-cat player over the past week because of woeful shooting percentages (.322 FG%; .667 FT%) and not much else. Dude is valiantly playing through a bum ankle, though, so go easy on him.
8. Mehmet Okur, Jazz (3 gms): Thanks to 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks over the past week, Memo was the 122nd 8-cat player. The Carlos Boozer factor is in full effect.
7. Hedo Turkoglu, Magic (3 gms): Hedo was the 81st-ranked 8-cat player last week, and his averages of 2.3 assists and 0.5 steals make him a very average fantasy player.
6. Stephon Marbury, Knicks (3 gms): The fact I would start Turkoglu over Marbury in a semifinal fantasy game is a prime example of how legendarily bad the Knicks are this season. Burn some incense, baby, it stinks in here.
5. Wally Szczerbiak, Celtics (3 gms): The knee injury Wally has been playing through--basically since the trade from Minnesota--is starting to take its toll, as he's dropped from the 30s for the season to 106th in 8-cat leagues over the past week.
4. Eddie Jones, Grizzlies (3 gms): Where did Eddie's shot go? Eddie's shot...where are you? He's shooting 41 percent and averaging just nine points over the past week (rank 139th).
3. Zach Randolph, Trail Blazers (3 gms): Jarrett Jack had a lot more fantasy value than Z-Bo over the past week. Say it ain't so...
2. Ben Gordon, Bulls (3 gms): Even if you ONLY needed points and threes, I would still think twice about recommending BG in the three-game week because he literally gives you nothing else.
1. Rashard Lewis, SuperSonics (3 gms): I don't like how each new update on Rashard's sprained ankle gets this one-time All-Star that much closer to the golf course.
What's the Difference?
• In listening to Allen Iverson talk about his still-injured ankle, I am somewhat worried that he won't make it through next week in one piece. Ironically, I think the one-legged Chris Webber (20th-ranked 8-cat player last week) is a safer play than Iverson, who currently ranks as the 10th-best 8-cat player for the season. All that said, as long as Ivy is listed as a probable starter for Tuesday's game at Cleveland, you gotta start him with four games.
• Although Seattle's three-game week is a bit of a buzzkill, I do favor picking up Damien Wilkins. Depending on what happens with Lewis over the weekend (he's unofficially listed as questionable for Friday's game and probable for Sunday's game), Wilkins could be a great source of steals if he's in the starting lineup. He's played 26-plus minutes 14 times this season, and he's averaging 2.1 steals in those games, including a seven-steal game a couple weeks ago.
• I can't believe I'm saying this based on his treatment from coach Maurice Cheeks in recent weeks, but I think Samuel Dalembert is going to be a startable player this week because his playing time is on the rise and Philly plays four games. Steven Hunter comes off a four-minute game, so the flip-flop is on. Entering Friday's work, the Sixers were up just 1.5 games on the Bulls for the final playoff spot in the East, and they play each other twice this week. You gotta love having players in regular-season playoff games.
• Steve Nash really takes this stuff to heart, doesn't he? After going 0-for-5 and scoring zilch in Monday's 38-point loss to the Nets, Nash shot 9-of-10 in Tuesday's loss to Milwaukee and 6-of-9 in Thursday's win on Reggie Night. Gotta love the hippies...
• Nash is going to win his second straight MVP award, matching Tim Duncan's back-to-back trophies in 2002 & 2003. And since we're on the subject of Duncan, he's starting to play like Duncan again, isn't he? Over the past three games, with Manu Ginobili looking...okay, and Tony Parker dealing with a leg injury, Duncan averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, and 55 percent from the floor. Now that's the Duncan we know and love. Psst...the Spurs play four games in Week 23. Rock on...
• Morris Peterson's name may not strike fear into your opposition this week, but after dealing with four of his fantasy-friendly lines your opponent will be begging for mercy. Obviously, his value goes up sans Chris Bosh, but there isn't much higher to go. Over the past week Mo-Pete has been the 23rd-ranked 8-cat player thanks to 22 points, five rebounds, 3.3 threes, 1.3 steals, 47 percent from the field, and perfection from the line (10 for 10). Get him in there.
• Wanna hear a crazy stat? Over the past week, Nenad Krstic is the highest ranking Net on the 8-cat charts. Krstic is 37th, Jason Kidd is 45th, Vince Carter is 47th, and Richard Jefferson is 54th. If you think you've had fun with the Nets over their most recent 10-game winning streak (by the way, people are not making a big enough deal outta the fact New Jersey has two 10-game winning streaks in the same season), wait till you see the Nets with four games in the fantasy semis and finals. The word "hero" will be uttered from Amsterdam to Amherst when talking about the Nets Big Four over the next fortnight.
• Want notarized validation that Mike Dunleavy Junior is a better baller with Baron Davis on the sideline? You do? You seriously do? All right, here ya go. In seven games since BD went down for the count, Dunleavy is averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.5 threes, 52 percent from the floor, and 82 percent from the line. He's light on the D, but that's six outta eight cats covered nicely, and Golden State plays four in Week 23.
• What to do with Charlie Bell? Hmmm? What to do with Charlie Bell? Well, we'll know a lot more after Saturday's game against the Pacers. Terry Stotts made no promises about TJ Ford's playing status for that game when asked by reporters earlier in the week. Ford has missed the past three games with a quad strain, and third-stringer Charlie Bell has taken the job and taken over, averaging 17-7-10 in those three games, including a 19-10-13 triple-double against the Suns. This is where fantasy meets reality, freaks. The Bucks are 2-1 with Bell in the starting lineup. If they can emerge from the weekend 4-1, or even 3-2, with Bell at the controls, that success in a playoff race would make it tougher for Stotts to switch it up. Either way, Bell has played himself into at least 25 minutes a night, and probably more, so I think he's a strong start in Week 23 with four games.
• Amare Stoudemire and Jermaine O'Neal were not successful in their returns from knee and groin injuries, respectively, but both deserve the warrior tag for going above and beyond the call of duty to help their teammates. I fear we've seen the last of Amare until this summer's Olympic tryouts in July--if then. As for JO, he'll make another comeback attempt, but it probably won't be until the after-the-fact games (April 17-19) or Game One of the Pacers' first-round series.
• I love that Rick Adelman plays only seven or eight guys a night, but I hate how every night it's a different hero with the Kings. Mike Bibby and Brad Miller have been solid, and both are sweet plays with four games in Week 23, but they have ranked 32nd and 50th, respectively, in 8-cat leagues over the past two weeks. In other words, could Ron-Ron please stop shooting? Please?! Dude went 10-for-50 in a three-game stretch before rallying with a 4-for-11 against the mighty Blazers on Wednesday night. I've got a four-letter word for Ron-Ron...diva. I've also got a new sport for Ron-Ron...tennis.
NBA TV fantasy expert Rick Kamla's Living the Fantasy column appears weekly on NBA.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org