The stretch drive of the fantasy hoops season is always noteworthy for its key pickups (hello, Toney Douglas!), but this season's final weeks bring some interesting issues with players being dropped.
For instance, a handful of owners in ESPN.com leagues actually cut ties with Andray Blatche this week after that inexplicable episode with Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders. To those owners, I can only ask: Would it hurt to have given it a day?
Many more owners wouldn't wait to assess the impact of Chris Paul's return to the New Orleans Hornets. I can more easily relate to these folks -- especially since I said earlier this week that if fantasy owners had to make a choice at point guard, they should take Douglas over Darren Collison.
I haven't changed my opinion -- and, of course, that wasn't exactly a bold statement on my part. Douglas starts now, and Collison doesn't. And Douglas, since his emergence in mid-March, is averaging 19.3 points, 4.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 3.0 3-pointers while shooting 54.3 percent. The accuracy seems a bit unreal, but I take some comfort in his consistency. Only once in his past seven games has Douglas scored fewer than 16 points. And on top of that, the Knicks play 10 times during the final two-plus weeks. So Douglas, who's somehow still available in about 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues, is a no-brainer of an add.
But back to Collison, and the owners who may already regret dropping him. Yes, Collison is currently the fifth-most dropped player in ESPN.com leagues, even though with Paul in the lineup, he's twice topped 30 minutes off the bench. He went for 16 points and eight assists versus the Dallas Mavericks on March 22, followed by 17 points and seven assists against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 24.
Unless you have access to Paul's medical records, I'd say any assessment of Collison's value the rest of the way is only guesswork. Obviously Paul hasn't played well in his first two games back (just 6-of-17 combined against the Mavs and Cavs), but he says he's fine physically, and he did play 31 minutes in his second game after going only 21 in the first. Barring a setback, Paul's minutes should increase in the coming week, leaving less time for Collison.
My best guess with Collison? It wouldn't hurt to give it another week, especially if you're in a league of at least 12 teams. One thing I do know is that the Hornets' schedule looks good. More in a bit.
Week 23 at a Glance
In this critical week for fantasy owners, the NBA gives you its version of balance: a schedule with 14 teams playing four games and 16 playing three, with no two-game booby prizes. Not surprisingly, the Golden State Warriors are one team to watch in Week 23. As I previously suggested, Reggie Williams (20.8 points and 2.2 3s in his past five games) can score if given the chance, and you have to like his chances in a three-game set that concludes with games against the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks. Raptors opponents are fourth in scoring and third in treys, while Knicks opponents are fifth in scoring and sixth in shooting percentage. Another Warrior I've somehow neglected to mention is Anthony Tolliver. While Tolliver's overall numbers are padded a bit by a couple of huge games, the fact is he's averaging 13.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 3s and around a steal and a block in March. Both Williams and Tolliver are available in about 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) 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 cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's matchups.
The Forecast: It's Their Week
Darren Collison, PG, New Orleans Hornets (LAL, WAS, @MEM, @NJ): Short and sweet: Each of these four opponents is in the top 12 in assists allowed. If Collison gets enough minutes, he'll give you plenty of helpers.
Drew Gooden, PF/C, Los Angeles Clippers (@MIL, @TOR, @DEN, NY): Here's Gooden as a Clipper: 14.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, near 50 percent shooting. And the most astounding number: He's available in more than 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Knicks opponents are third in total rebounds, and Milwaukee Bucks opponents are ninth. Take Gooden and give yourself 30-some boards for your H2H matchup.
Spencer Hawes, PF/C, Sacramento Kings (@IND, @MIN, POR): The soon-to-be 22-year-old Hawes is at last showing some consistency, averaging 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists (yes, really) and 3.0 blocks in his past five games. The presence of the Minnesota Timberwolves alone makes this a favorable schedule, but note that Portland Trail Blazers opponents are 30th in total rebounds and 28th in blocks.
James Singleton, PF, Washington Wizards (@HOU, @NOR, CHI, NJ): I can recommend Singleton from cruel experience -- he's the guy who's almost single-handedly destroying me in our ESPN Writers' League H2H playoff. While playing at least 35 minutes in three of the past four games, Singleton has gobbled up 51 rebounds. Though he produced 19 points (in addition 21 boards) against the Indiana Pacers on March 24, you shouldn't expect a lot of offense from the 28-year-old. But again, you're looking at about 30 boards in a H2H. Each of these opponents is in the top 11 in total rebounds. Singleton is almost unrostered in ESPN.com leagues.
The Forecast: They're Weak
Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, New York Knicks (@UTA, @POR, @GS, @LAC): After a lengthy scoring slump, Gallinari has clearly gotten his second wind. He's scored in the 20s in four of his past five games while averaging 3.0 triples in that span. Chances are you'll keep Gallinari active, and I don't blame you. I'll just note that Gallinari's home/away splits are a bit harsh. On the road, he's averaging just 12.2 points and shooting 40.1 percent, though he's still giving you 2.0 3s.
George Hill, PG/SG, San Antonio Spurs (@NJ, HOU, ORL, @LAL): After totaling just 23 points in a three-game span, Hill has responded with back-to-back 20-point performances. Available in more than 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Hill can help you in percentages and 3-pointers. However, New Jersey Nets, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers opponents are each 20th or worse in treys.
Wesley Matthews, SG, Utah Jazz (NY, GS, @LAL): Matthews has been steady as Deron Williams' backcourt mate, but he's one of those players who best fits as an end-of-the roster option in a deep league that allows daily lineup changes. With that in mind, if you have the roster space, give him a shot on Monday against the Knicks. Though he's apparently battling knee problems, Matthews is averaging 12.3 points, 1.2 3s and 1.3 steals in March.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.