Matchups for Thursday, Dec. 20
All times Eastern.
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.
Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
Thursday's Lakers-Cavaliers game is a marquee matchup, both in fantasy and reality. Each team allows more than 100 points per game, and with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in the house, it could be a shootout. Both Kobe and LeBron have thin supporting casts, but you could play Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and Luke Walton (who scored 15 and 12 his past two games) for the Lakers. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (averaging 16.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in his past five games) is the only other sure start for the Cavaliers, but you could take a chance on hot-and-cold contributors like Daniel Gibson, Drew Gooden (losing minutes to Anderson Varejao) and Larry Hughes, who has come crashing back to earth after a hot start. The Nets' Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter and Jason Kidd are their only fantasy studs, but a young dynamic duo might be waiver-worthy this week, as mentioned below. The Heat rely heavily on Dwyane Wade, but did you know the team leader in minutes is actually Udonis Haslem, who averaged 19.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 44 minutes his past five games? Haslem still is a free agent in more than 20 percent of ESPN leagues. If you're looking for an edge in rebounds, the Rockets (plus-3.4 rebounding differential) should clean the glass against the Nuggets (minus-3.2). While many Rockets struggled against Detroit and Dallas, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady should have big games in Denver. The Nuggets' Kenyon Martin continues to have a hot hand, averaging 15.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks his past five games.
The Nets' Sean Williams made the most of his start Tuesday, going off for eight blocks, seven rebounds and 11 points against the Kings. Williams is owned in only 8 percent of ESPN leagues but will be a hot commodity, especially since he is eligible at power forward and center. Teammate Josh Boone has put together a few decent starts at center, averaging 8.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and one block in 28 minutes his past five games, but his 25.0 free-throw percentage during that stretch is downright scary. Shane Battier could be worth a look, especially if Rafer Alston remains out. Battier is a multi-category contributor and continues to get steady minutes. He shot nearly 50 percent from the field his past five games, including 9-of-16 from 3-point range. Nene Hilario should be cleared to resume full basketball activity Friday, according to the Denver Post. While this won't help you for Thursday's game, you might want to stash Nene on your bench for now. Sasha Vujacic scored 14 and 19 points his past two games for the Lakers and has been getting minutes in crunch time. He is a decent source of 3-pointers and is a 91 percent free-throw shooter for the season.
Tony Targan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com