Matchups for Thursday, Dec. 18
All times are ET.
Key: Opp. PPG = Points per game allowed to opponents. Opp. FGP = Field goal percentage allowed to opponents. RPG Diff. = The difference between team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
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7:30 p.m.: Spurs-Magic
All times Eastern
Dwight Howard, C, Magic (knee)
Start 'em, sit 'em
The Magic are 2-0 without Dwight Howard, but of course they -- like Howard's fantasy owners -- anxiously await his return. That could come Thursday. Howard says that his left knee is still sore but that he's been pain-free for several days. In fact, the 23-year-old lobbied to play Monday in Oakland, but the team thought it best to keep him sidelined. Howard, incidentally, had two monster games against Tim Duncan and the Spurs in 2007-08, averaging 29.0 points and 18.5 boards. Two games into his Suns career, Jason Richardson is doing what you'd expect -- about 18 points, lots of 3s and a few boards. The Blazers don't allow many 3s, but they are seventh-worst in opponents' 3-point percentage (37.9). So J-Rich, who's pushing 46 percent from beyond the arc this season, should be in for a good night.
If Howard does go, you might not see much of Matt Bonner. Bonner has started the past seven games at center for the Spurs, but the more post-centric Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto are probably Gregg Popovich's best options for planting fouls on Howard. Another problem with the Magic matchup for Bonner (and Roger Mason) is that Orlando allows a league-low 5.0 3s per game. The 3-percent-owned Bonner (11.5 points, 7.2 boards, 2.0 3s in his past six) is a good add -- just not for Thursday. Should Howard sit again, Marcin Gortat would get another start. Despite a 16-point, 13-board outburst against the Warriors, Gortat can't be counted on for offense. The 7-footer does have seven blocks in his two starts, but with his going against Duncan, I would expect mainly a heap of foul trouble. Matt Barnes (12 percent owned) looks like Thursday's top plug-in prospect. Though Richardson replaced him in the Suns' starting lineup, Barnes still received 27 minutes Monday against the Knicks. Leandro Barbosa, on the other hand, played just 18. Another fill-in option is Rudy Fernandez (55 percent owned) against the Suns, who allow the ninth-most 3s.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.