Matchups for Friday, April 11
All times ET.
Key: Opp. PPG = Points per game allowed to opponents. Opp. FGP = Field goal percentage allowed to opponents. RPG Diff. = The difference between a team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
Ron Artest, SF, Kings (thumb)
Josh Boone, PF/C, Nets (knee)
Drew Gooden, PF, Bulls (abdomen)
Richard Hamilton, SG, Pistons (hip)
David Lee, SF/PF, Knicks (back)
Tracy McGrady, SG/SF, Rockets (shoulder)
Luke Walton, SF, Lakers (hamstring)
Mo Williams, PG, Bucks (abdominal)
Start 'em, sit 'em
It's the last Friday of the NBA regular season, which means it's crunch time in your fantasy playoffs. The trick is to find teams whose players are motivated to win, but with 13 of 16 playoff spots already clinched, this might seem like a moot point. However, there still is enough at stake to stimulate the fantasy economy. In the Eastern Conference, the Celtics, Pistons and Magic are firmly locked into the top three seeds, so expect those teams to continue resting key players, sometimes for entire games. Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince have played barely 24 minutes a game recently. Expect to see even less of Richard Hamilton due to his sore hip. The Magic seem more inclined to play their starters, and Jameer Nelson has bounced back from injury by averaging 14.7 points, 5.0 assists and 1.3 steals in his past three games. Only four games separate the Cavaliers, 76ers, Wizards and Raptors for the fourth through seventh seeds, and since no one wants to play the Celtics or the Pistons in the first round, expect all four of these teams to keep the pedal to the metal. Productive big men will include Zydrunas Ilgauskas (16.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his past five games) and Rasho Nesterovic (18.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in his past five). The Hawks and Pacers are vying for the eighth seed, so look for their stars to shine. In the wild Western Conference, only two and a half games separate the top six seeds, so play all your usual Hornets, Spurs, Lakers, Jazz, Rockets and Suns. For 3-point gunners finding their range, look to Raja Bell (2.4 3s and nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc in his past five games) and Peja Stojakovic (3.4 3s and 19.6 points in his past five). Of the three teams competing for the last two playoff spots -- the Mavericks, Nuggets and Warriors -- none are in action Friday. For teams that are lottery-bound, be cautious about playing injured players who might decide to shut down early.
Focusing on teams with something to play for, the following players are recommended pickups for Friday's games and the final week, based on their stats over the past five games: the Cavaliers' Delonte West (14.0 points, 5.6 assists, 1.8 3s and 1.6 steals), the Lakers' Vladimir Radmanovic (14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.2 3s) and the 76ers' Louis Williams (12.8 points, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals). Luther Head (15 and 16 points in his past two games) has ignited the Rockets lately and will face the Suns in what should be a high-scoring game. Also consider Rodney Stuckey (16.4 points, 5.0 assists and 1.4 steals in 28.6 minutes his past five games), who is the major beneficiary of the Pistons' plan to rest Billups and Hamilton. Larry Hughes has averaged 20.0 points in three games against Cleveland since being traded to the Bulls -- including 25 on April 3 -- so expect another big game as Chicago hosts the Cavs on Friday.
Tony Targan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com