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The NBA is calling this "Green Week" (while attempting to take in some extra green in the process). I suppose there's a message here for fantasy hoops owners who are vying for championships: Changes are needed, and they're worth the extra effort.
Along those lines, the Forecaster format will change this week and next. This week, player recommendations will be geared (even more than usual) toward H2H league owners. The assumption is that you've advanced to your league's championship round and that your final "week" covers the last 10 days of the NBA season (April 6-15). Perhaps your H2H league allows daily transactions, but more likely, you set one lineup to cover this final period. In next week's Forecaster, we'll turn our attention to roto formats and look at last-minute finds who can help owners get through the season's final three days.
Some general comments about the 10 days ahead: Most NBA teams play five or six games, but the exceptions are unfortunate ones. The Bucks, Nuggets and Wizards play just four times from April 6 to 15. That's a shame, considering that Ramon Sessions (the second-most-added player in ESPN.com leagues) is coming off two monster games and Chris Andersen (he of the eight blocks versus the Jazz) is in line for more minutes with Kenyon Martin injured again. It also makes me leery of any Wizards player, whether it's Gilbert Arenas, who's available in 15 percent of leagues, or the nearly universally available Brendan Haywood, who registered a double-double against the Cavs in his first start of the season. In shallow leagues at least, you should have better options.
Another thing: The biggest name isn't necessarily the best choice. As teams lock in playoff position, they're more likely to rest their stars. If your star is Tim Duncan, sure, you have to keep him in the lineup, even though he's likely to sit at least two of the Spurs' final six games. But what about Manu Ginobili, with his limited minutes and injury-checkered season? Again, in a shallow league, I'd look elsewhere for those 3-pointers.
Check the grid for Week 24 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.
Memphis Grizzlies (POR, @ORL, PHO, @LAL, @PHO, ATL in weeks 24-25): In the spirit of NBA Green Week, I'll be recycling some names I've used in past Forecasters, starting with Forecaster fave Mike Conley. In his past four games Conley is averaging 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.5 3s and 2.0 steals -- and that includes that 0-of-8 stinkfest in Portland. Conley might have an off night, but he should help you almost across the board from here, especially with two cracks at Phoenix. (Suns opponents are second in steals and third in treys.) If you're fortunate, you might even find Marc Gasol (16 percent available) in free agency.
Sacramento Kings (LAL, HOU, @LAC, SA, @DEN, @MIN): That Jason Thompson is still available in more than 80 percent of leagues is a head-scratcher to me. In his past 10 games, the rookie is averaging 14.8 points, 10.1 boards, 1.2 blocks and 56.1 percent shooting. And pounce on Francisco Garcia (available in 30 percent of leagues) if you still can. He's averaging a stupid 18.8 points, 3.2 3s, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks over his past five. For that matter, the 60 percent available Beno Udrih has been pretty decent of late, too (11.8 points and 6.6 assists over his past nine). Granted, Lakers, Rockets, Spurs and Nuggets opponents are all in the bottom eight in field-goal percentage, but these teams are also all looking ahead to the playoffs.
Some quick tips for owners in daily leagues. Recommendations -- start, sit or add -- are made for specific days of the coming week, based on the schedule.
D.J. Augustin, PG, Bobcats (PHI, @OKC, @CHI, @NJ, @ORL): Augustin is playing well right now, and I'm thinking that if (when?) the Bulls beat out the Bobcats for the eighth spot in the East, Augustin will play more. He should be good for 15 points and a couple of 3s on a nightly basis the rest of the way.
Wilson Chandler, SF, Knicks (@CHI, DET, @ORL, @MIA, NJ): Chandler's numbers took a dive from mid-January through February, when he scored in single digits 11 times in 20 games. But the 21-year-old was solid in March, averaging 15.1 points, 7.1 boards, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks. I still wish that Mike D'Antoni would reign in the lad from beyond the arc (Chandler shoots just 31.5 percent from downtown on an excessive 3.7 attempts per night), but he might actually get you some 3s over the final two games. Nets and Heat opponents are fourth and fifth in treys. Chandler is available in about half of leagues.
Keyon Dooling, PG, Nets (@BOS, @DET, ORL, CHA, @NY): I kind of like Dooling starting next to Devin Harris, but the schedule isn't so keen on it. Celtics, Pistons, Magic and Knicks opponents are in the bottom seven in 3-point-shooting percentage. But at 98 percent availability, Dooling is a tempting add.
Ronald Murray, SG, Hawks (@TOR, @MIL, IND, MIA, @MEM): A nice schedule for Flip, who's averaged 14.0 points and 1.3 3s since the break. Raptors and Heat opponents are second and fifth, respectively, in treys.
Anthony Randolph, SF/PF, Warriors (MIN, HOU, @Utah, SA, @PHO): It looks like only foul trouble will limit the youngster now. Randolph is still available in 95 percent of leagues, despite averaging 11.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over his past five. T-Wolves opponents, I may have mentioned, are tops in rejections.
Brandon Rush, SG/SF, Pacers (TOR, @ATL, DET, CLE, MIL): Encouragingly for the rookie, who was shooting less than 40 percent for most of the season, Rush is connecting at 54.5 percent from the field (42 of 77) rate over his past five. He might have some trouble keeping that going against this schedule, though. Cavs opponents are 29th in shooting percentage, while Hawks and Pistons opponents are 22nd and 21st.
J.R. Smith, SG, Nuggets (OKC, @LAL, SAC, @POR): As I said, it's too bad that Denver is down to four games. Still, Smith is on the biggest roll of his career; he's made at least two 3s in 12 straight games while averaging an obscene 3.6 triples in that span. Even with this schedule (Thunder and Kings opponents don't get as many 3s as you think), Smith, who is available in 44 percent of leagues, can still make a difference.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.