Matchups for Monday, March 9
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.
Aaron Brooks, PG, Rockets (thigh)
Kirk Hinrich, PG/SG, Bulls (knee bruise)
Allen Iverson, PG/SG, Pistons (back)
Kenyon Martin, PF, Nuggets (back)
Joel Przybilla, C, Blazers (flu)
Peja Stojakovic, SF, Hornets (back)
Marvin Williams, SF, Hawks (back)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Take some extra time to plan out your lineups this week as we enter the crucial final week of the (fantasy) regular season. If you're in a fight for a playoff spot, and not on track for 40 games played, hit the wire and pull out all the stops. Caron Butler finally returned to the court Saturday night against the Mavericks and looked impressive (20 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks). His turnover rate is still somewhat alarming, but he looks good to go from here on out. Randy Foye (hip) also had a nice return game (23 points), coming off the bench after a one-game break. It's gratifying to see Foye finally gaining the consistency owners have craved since he entered the league. He'll be a solid mid-round pick next Halloween. When it comes to your Lakers, you have to worry that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are in for some Celtics-esque rest down the stretch, just when your playoff teams need them the most. Thankfully, I would anticipate a close game at Portland on Monday night, as the Lakers size up a potential first-round foe. Peja Stojakovic (back) looks like a probable scratch for Monday. His owners should look below for one-game substitutes. (Trust me, you need all 40 games played this week.) Check Marvin Williams' status heading into lineup lock, as he left Saturday's game early with a back strain. Kenyon Martin is listed as day-to-day, but reports have him definitely sitting out Monday's game versus the Rockets. The question for Luol Deng isn't whether he'll be back Monday, but rather whether he'll be back at all. If you haven't already, start looking for other options at SF.
The statistical game of the night has to be Wizards-Timberwolves, who are playing for ping-pong balls at this point but also feature some intriguing fantasy matchups. The Wizards are the better defensive team, allowing 102.0 points per game and an opposing field goal percentage of .477. And when the Wizards are the better defensive team, you'd better believe there will be some stats to be gained for savvy owners. Because of a collective lack of defensive acumen, and the forward-looking viewpoint of both squads, we should see some players jump off the wire and put up quality numbers. For the Wizards, Andray Blatche and Dominic McGuire have both been serviceable of late, but with Blatche going back to the bench, I'd stick to McGuire and his defensive potential. On the Minnesota side, Ryan Gomes' value might take a hit with Randy Foye's return, but he's still a nice pickup, and probably for the rest of the regular season. Those craving assists might look at Sebastian Telfair, who's put up nice back-to-back games and still holds some considerable upside. Joakim Noah has been something of a disappointment over his young fantasy career, but looks to be finally putting it together in the Bulls' post-Gooden rotation. He's averaged 15 rebounds and 2.5 blocks over his past two games. Travis Outlaw continues to be one of the finest sixth men in fantasy. He's averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds over his past three games. He's usually also good for a steal and a block and will be a nice all-around contributor to start the final week of the regular season. At this point, you're probably sick of me telling you to pick up Rasual Butler, so I'll just put his past five games' numbers in parentheses (18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 3-pointers) and move on. If Marvin Williams can't go Monday, it increases the chances of a nice line from Ronald Murray. He's not as hot as he was a month or so ago, but still can be counted on for double-digit points and a couple of 3s. Aaron Brooks may have come out on the sore end of a tangle with Shaq on Friday night, but he still managed to put up the best game of his career. He's clearly gained the upper hand in his time-share with Kyle Lowry and should see his numbers climb for the rest of the season. If you're looking for a Hail Mary pass in the blocks department, Chris Andersen should be penciled in for two or three, especially in Kenyon Martin's absence. Courtney Lee is down again after a nice five-game stretch (in which he averaged 14 points and 2 3s), but could be a fantasy factor down the stretch. Anyone who starts in Orlando's backcourt is in line for some 3-point attempts. The much-improved Rodney Stuckey is still red-hot in Allen Iverson's absence and will put up nice all-around numbers against the Magic. Those in need of some cheap boards might want to give Antonio McDyess a whirl. He's been up and down of late but has double-double potential in the Pistons' revitalized lineup.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.