Well, here we are. Down to the final 5-8 games of the regular season, meaning the 2012 fantasy season is just about in the books. I won another league last week, took out Mark from Explosions in the Sky and will face Stephen Malkmus in the Rock & Roll Hoops league Finals, am down 7-2 heading into the second of a two-week battle with the Tarpleys in another, and was eliminated by Sticky in another league on Sunday. And despite having Jacoby Ellsbury and Tim Lincecum on one team, and Brian Wilson and Albert Pujols on the other, my fantasy baseball teams are hanging tough early.
I’d like to think I have all the answers heading into the final 11 days of the NBA season, but trying to figure out who is going to sit, play, play well and tank over these last few days is going to be very difficult. Here’s what we know.
Atlanta 4-2 – Zaza Pachulia is out with a foot injury and Ivan Johnson started the second half of Sunday’s game and played well. He’s a pretty risky fantasy option, but could be worth a look as long as Pachulia is out (could return Wednesday). Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague disappeared in a terrible loss, and Josh Smith was really the only starter to show up. The Hawks still have something to play for, as they could finish as the No. 4 or No. 6 seed in the East, and they simply (and inexplicably) weren’t ready for the Raptors on Sunday. Start your studs.
Boston 3-2 – Greg Stiemsma is suddenly a hot pickup after playing well for a couple weeks and he had six blocks and four steals on Sunday, winning some fantasy owners a championship. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen all sat out on Sunday, allowing Stiemsma to play a little better than usual. The Celtics are still in a dogfight for playoff seeding, but Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Stiemsma and Mickael Pietrus are going to get plenty of run down the stretch. Allen could play if this were the playoffs, but it’s starting to sound like he will play limited minutes on his sore ankle, and still has no hard target for a return date.
Charlotte 4-3 – Well, the great Byron Mullens five-game experiment was a tremendous fail, and he’s now coming off the bench behind D.J. White. White’s not exactly a fantasy force either, but Derrick Brown is suddenly the hot pickup for the Bobcats. He won’t hit threes, free throws or block shots, but has been scoring and boarding in his past five games or so, and had 15 points, seven boards and three steals on Sunday. Obviously, the Bobcats have nothing left to play for, yet Kemba Walker still can’t get the minutes he deserves. Gerald Henderson looks like a must-start at this point, but the rest of his teammates are a roll of the dice.
Chicago 4-2 – Luol Deng is dealing with a rib injury, so check on his status later on Monday. Derrick Rose is back, but the Bulls don’t appear to be in any danger of not winning the East, barring a meltdown, so Rose could still get a couple days off going forward.
Cleveland 4-3 – Much like the Byron Mullens failure, Byron Scott has put the handcuffs on Lester Hudson over the last three games, as Donald Sloan is now coming on strong. I have no idea what Hudson did to Scott’s Wheaties, but the plug has been pulled. Kyrie Irving could play Wednesday, which would be the final nail in the coffin of Lestermania. I don’t expect to see Anderson Varejao again this season, and even if we do, I can’t imagine him displacing Tristan Thompson’s minutes. I would like to think Antawn Jamison is a shutdown candidate, but he was back at it on Sunday as Luke Harangody was sent packing, back to the D-League.
Dallas 4-1 – The Mavs fought as hard as they could on Sunday but fell to the Lakers in overtime. They currently sit as the No. 6 seed in the West, but could realistically finish as high as No. 5, and as low as No. 8. I’m thinking the big names will continue to play going forward, at least for the most part, and Delonte West could be sneaky after scoring 20 points on Sunday, when Roddy Beaubois was out with a calf injury, while Brandan Wright continues to come on for the Mavs.
Denver 4-2 – Wilson Chandler actually played on Sunday, but failed to score. I guess that means he’s not out for the season with his groin injury. Kenneth Faried remains Denver’s secret weapon and they’re still playing for seeding position, and could be one of the more reliable teams going forward.
Detroit 4-2 – I have no idea why Charlie Villanueva played over Jonas Jerebko on Sunday, but it happened (and CV was roughing up Derrick Rose in this one). Rodney Stuckey went off in this one, and Jason Maxiell has been playing well, and the Pistons have nothing left to play for.
Golden State 5-2 – Klay Thompson looks like a must-start the rest of the way, along with Nate Robinson, Dorell Wright and Brandon Rush. David Lee’s out for the season, meaning those four guys could go off over the next 11 days.
Houston 5-1 – The Rockets are currently the No. 8 seed and just one game up on the Suns, and 1.5 games up on the Jazz. That means they should continue to fight in each game, but that didn’t stop Kyle Lowry from playing just 13 minutes on Sunday. Lowry’s still worth a look, but Goran Dragic is a must-start, as usual. Marcus Camby’s back is going to be a concern after he left Sunday’s game, but Patrick Patterson, and not Samuel Dalembert, appears to be Kevin McHale’s guy behind Camby.
Indiana 4-2 – The Pacers should be locked into the No. 3 seed in the East, barring a meltdown, but the Celtics are still within striking distance. Hopefully that means Danny Granger, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert will continue to get consistent run, along with George Hill, as Darren Collison has now missed four straight games with his groin injury. Even when Collison returns, I think Hill will still be worth using in most leagues.
Clippers 4-2 – The Clips are locked in the playoffs and will likely be the No. 4 seed. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin should continue to power on, while DeAndre Jordan is starting to play a little better. Randy Foye and Caron Butler are rolls of the dice, but both should continue to start. Mo Williams is back from his toe injury and might be worth a look in deeper leagues, but will also limit the minutes of Foye a bit the rest of the way.
Lakers 4-1 – The Lakers appear to be headed for the No. 3 seed in the West, as Kobe Bryant missed his fifth straight game on Sunday with a shin injury. Kobe says he’ll “definitely” be back “well before the playoffs,” but with only five games, I’m not sure that’s a true statement. He’s still very iffy for Tuesday, as well as the rest of the week. Metta World Peace is hot, Ramon Sessions is one of the waiver-wire pickups of the season and nobody is going to want to face Kobe and the Lakers in the playoffs.
Memphis 4-2 – Memphis is locked in, currently sitting at the No. 5 seed, and Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo should continue to roll. However, Marc Gasol suffered a hyperextended left knee Sunday and is due for an MRI. This would obviously be a huge blow and brings Marreese Speights back into play. Zach Randolph, who mysteriously disappeared on Sunday, is no longer a must-start player, while Tony Allen is slowly working his way back from his mouth injury. However, if Gasol’s injury is serious, Randolph would almost be forced to step up his game. As of now, I would bench Gasol if we don't get good news later on Monday.