Matchups for Sunday, February 1
Start 'em, sit 'em
Sunday's injury report is scant, as eight healthy teams attempt to steal some attention from the Super Bowl. The Kings/Thunder contest should be a fruitful one in the fantasy sense as two unimpressive defenses that allow tons of points collide. Be sure to start anybody you own in that matchup as the total score should be well over 200 points. Jermaine O'Neal scored 16 points with eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks Friday night, and more importantly played almost 30 minutes. If he can sustain a 30-minute-per-game rate off the bench, O'Neal will still have value, although he should be benched on certain nights when the schedule is a little fuller and you have more options. For Sunday, there are only four games on the schedule, though, so starting pretty much every player on your roster is likely the best strategy, unless you're significantly behind in a category or on pace to exceed your games-played limit. Zydrunas Ilgauskas returned to the Cavs' lineup Friday and scored 20 points with 11 boards in just 29 minutes. He seems ready to perform at a high level after missing 13 games and should be back in your starting lineup. His return does hurt the value of Anderson Varejao, however, who will be relegated back to a bench role and likely see a decline in stats with his decline in minutes. Richard Hamilton played through a sore groin Friday night, scoring 14 points in 29 minutes, and it looks like it might be a lingering groin issue that hurts his value more than being sent to the bench. Make sure to check and see whether Kendrick Perkins is suspended for his flagrant foul on Jason Maxiell on Friday night.
Jason Thompson has double-doubles in each of his past two contests, and has scored in double figures in 11 straight games. He's proving that his early-season success wasn't fluky, and is worth adding in most formats and undoubtedly worth starting against the Thunder if you own him. Eddie House is so inconsistent it's painful, and with Tony Allen around I don't like House too much for the long term. For Sunday though, he should have success against the Timberwolves, who allow opposing players to shoot 37 percent from behind the arc, "good" for 24th-best in the league. With Desmond Mason out for the season, the Thunder turned to a rookie to round out their backcourt in Kyle Weaver. Weaver is a plus defender and plays hard, but isn't the type that will put up good statistics. I don't see him being worth adding any time soon. Mason's injury has also allowed Chucky Atkins to play 14 and 18 minutes in the past two games, and even though he's not worth picking up, he's one more injury away from having impact in the 3-point department, as he's always done when given the minutes. Sebastian Telfair has quietly posted a great month, averaging 10.4 points, 6.1 assists, 1.1 3s and 1.3 steals while shooting 80 percent from the line. His field goal percentage is still awful, though it is up to 37.6 this month compared to 29.8 in December, and he faces the tough Celtics' defense. Still, he's been good enough to be worth starting in deep formats, unless you're specifically hurting in field goal percentage. Don't be too dismayed by Kevin Love's meager 18 minutes off the bench Friday, as he was still able to score 14 points and nab nine boards in the limited time by fouling out. It should be only a matter of time before he finally claims a starting spot, and when that happens he'll be a bountiful source of rebounds. Start him if you own him Sunday, even against the Celtics. Mickael Pietrus' first two contests back from injury were night-and-day performances, as he scored 27 points with 10 rebounds, four assists, three 3s, one steal and one block Tuesday, then followed it up with a four-point clunker Thursday. Monitor this performance closely, especially if he's available in your league as he is in 36 percent of ESPN leagues.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.