Here's one thing I've discovered about post-lockout basketball: A five-game week is no longer a big deal.
I'm talking about an NBA team playing five games in a week. Now, in a typical 82-game season, it's not that uncommon for teams to lace it up five times over a seven-day span. But only rarely would fantasy owners see a team with five games contained in a single weekly, Monday-to-Sunday scoring period. In fact, it happened all of three times all of last season.
And it really is no big deal. I say that because, for this week anyway, fantasy owners have few options for taking advantage of these schedules. It's not like you can go out and grab Kevin Durant in free agency for this occasion. So if you have key players on these teams, enjoy. Otherwise, five games isn't enough incentive to make, say, the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins or the Bucks' Mike Dunleavy worth adding in standard leagues. No, when it comes to these teams, there isn't a lot out there. There just isn't much you can do.
Except get Marvin Williams.
Now entering his seventh NBA season, Williams is still best known as the player taken ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul in the 2005 draft. He averaged just 10.4 points in 65 games for the Hawks last season, and given that he's never averaged more than 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals or 0.6 blocks in any season, Marvin Williams dropped off the fantasy radar around 2007.
But in his first game this season, Williams scored 14 points and added nine rebounds against the New Jersey Nets on Dec. 27. The next night, he had 17 points and eight boards against the Washington Wizards. Williams also contributed a pair of steals in each game.
Of course you're excused if you write this off to small sample size. However, note that, in early June, with the NBA on the brink of the lockout, Williams opted to have surgery to alleviate an isolated bulging disk. Apparently his back had been bothering him for some time. Williams said he was immobile for nearly 12 weeks following the procedure, but once camp finally opened, everyone with the Hawks noticed the change. He was in better shape, more active, and more aggressive, and that's carried into the start of this season. Williams seems to be a new player, a player who's available in about 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues. A player who's heading into a week of five games.
Get Marvin Williams.
Week 2 at a Glance
Not only are four NBA teams playing five games, 23 teams have four games, including the Sacramento Kings, who play three straight from Jan. 3 to 5 (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). The only teams that will disappoint you as far as the schedule goes are the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, who play three times, and the Los Angeles Clippers, who, absurdly, have just two games.
There's actually a player with a short schedule who I really like. He'll come up soon in this quick list of players to watch for Week 2.
"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, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as its 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 to 10 for that week's matchups.
Players to Watch
Marcin Gortat, C, Phoenix Suns (GS, @DAL, POR, MIL): Health makes all the difference in player performance. Marvin Williams is finally healthy. Meanwhile, Gortat, who's had quite a fantasy following since his move to the Suns last season, isn't healthy. Gortat is playing with a broken right thumb, and after his first two games (8.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.5 blocks) it's fair to wonder if the injury is affecting him. It's tough to bench a player of Gortat's potential, but if you're considering it, note that Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers opponents were all in the bottom seven in blocked shots last season. (Of course the Mavs aren't exactly off to a championship-caliber start.)
Spencer Hawes, C, Philadelphia 76ers (@NOR, DET, TOR): The 23-year-old has put together two nice performances (9.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.5 blocks), and I for one am buying it. And Hawes -- who's available in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues -- should do well in these three games. New Orleans Hornets opponents have 15 blocks in their first two games, while Detroit Pistons opponents have 12. Interestingly, Toronto Raptors opponents are dead last in blocks so far, but in 2010-11, they were eighth-best.
Gerald Henderson, SG, Charlotte Bobcats (@CLE, @NY, ATL, @IND): The Bobcats don't have a lot of offensive talent, so Henderson (16.5 shot attempts in his first two games) should continue to chuck it, even though he won't maintain his 51.5 percent shooting percentage. The hot-starting Hawks and Indiana Pacers make this a fairly tough week for him, but at 65 percent availability in ESPN.com leagues, the third-year player is worth adding.
Richard Jefferson, SF, San Antonio Spurs (@MIN, GS, DAL, DEN, @OKC): OK, here's someone else with five games I'd consider adding. Jefferson was a sizzling 13-of-20 (65.0 percent) over his first two games, including a 6-of-11 success rate (54.5 percent) from downtown. Unsustainable as that is, Jefferson should give you plenty of 3-pointers in the week ahead. Last season, Minnesota Timberwolves opponents were second in treys, while Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors opponents were eighth and ninth, respectively. Of course, things do change from one season to the next. Wolves opponents are actually second-worst in 3s so far in 2011-12. Still, the quantity is there.
James Johnson, SF, Toronto Raptors (@NY, CLE, NJ, @PHI): Johnson isn't a scorer. He isn't even a starter. But he is getting minutes, and if he keeps filling up the stat sheet like this or anything close to it (7.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 2.5 blocks in his first two games), he'll have fantasy value in many leagues. So far, Cleveland Cavaliers opponents are fifth in blocks and 10th in steals, while New Jersey Nets opponents are ninth in steals. Johnson is available in 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
J.J. Redick, SG, Orlando Magic (@DET, WAS, CHI, @SAC): I'm surprised Redick is owned in nearly 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues, considering he helps you only in 3s. In daily lineup leagues, Redick could be a decent play against the Pistons and Wizards, but cumulatively, this is a so-so set of games. Kings opponents are last in triples, while Chicago Bulls opponents are only 27th. And what I said about things changing from one season to the next? Well, not everything changes. Last season, Bulls opponents were last in 3s, while Kings opponents were only 23rd.
Brandon Rush, SG, Golden State Warriors (@PHO, @SA, @LAL, UTA): The Pacers didn't have many minutes for Rush, but he's looking like a good fit coming off the bench in Oakland. Rush's scoring has been up and down over his first three games (12, 5 and then 19 points), but he's been right around 27 minutes each night. With his ability to hit 3s and contribute in the hustle categories, Rush could help in leagues of at least 12 teams. Utah Jazz and Suns opponents were third and sixth, respectively, in buckets from downtown last season.
Marvin Williams, SF, Atlanta Hawks (@MIA, @CHI, MIA, @CHA, CHI): Williams doesn't shoot treys, and until recently at least, he's never brought much in the hustle cats. However, since he does have four takeaways in his first two games, I'll point out that Bulls opponents are third in steals so far. And I'll point out, again, five games. Even if most of them are against the consensus top two teams in the Eastern Conference, five games is five games. Get Marvin Williams.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your lineup-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.