March 09, 2009

Evil's Outlook goes around the league and examines which players are hot and cold and which players you should keep an eye on. As usual, we start with the upcoming schedule and then hit the top pickups and few others to consider. The outlook for week 20 suggests 112 players who are safe starts and 43 who are borderline, so adjust accordingly if your league is much smaller or larger.



1. Memphis Grizzlies (3 games: @Minnesota, @Boston, @Detroit)2. San Antonio Spurs (3 games: Charlotte, LA Lakers, @Houston)3. Los Angeles Clippers (3 games: Cleveland, @Denver, New Jersey)4. Los Angeles Lakers (4 games: @Portland, @Houston, @San Antonio, Dallas)5. Chicago Bulls (4 games: @Miami, @Orlando, @Philadelphia, New Orleans)

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (4 games: @L.A. Clippers, @Phoenix, @Sacramento, New York)2. Minnesota Timberwolves (4 games: Washington, Memphis, New York, Charlotte)

3. Dallas Mavericks (4 games: @Phoenix, @Portland, @Golden State, @LA Lakers)4. Phoenix Suns (4 games: Dallas, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, @Golden State)5. New Jersey Nets (3 games: @Golden State, @Portland, @LA Clippers)

1. J.R. Smith, Nuggets

Once again, it's been a season full of peaks and valleys for Smith. After averaging just 11.8 points and 26.4 minutes in February, he was likely dropped in many leagues. If so, you should consider picking him up ASAP. The talented guard was moved back into the starting lineup on Thursday, and this time it could be permanent. Smith is averaging 19.8 points, 5 boards, 3.3 assists and 1.8 threes in 35.8 minutes over his last four games, and he's gone to the line an impressive 21 times over the last two games. The only reason Dahntay Jones was starting ahead of him before was due to Dahntay's defense, but George Karl actually praised Smith's defensive intensity recently, and now he's being rewarded. The door to the doghouse is always open, but this time I think he might stay indoors.

2. Chris Kaman, Clippers

After missing 48 games due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot, it sounds like Kaman is set to return to action. He was averaging 14.4 points, 10 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 37.2 minutes before getting injured, so pick him up if you need center help. The obvious concern is that Kaman put those numbers up while Marcus Camby wasn't 10o percent healthy and before Zach Randolph joined the team, so there's no telling what's going to happen when all three players are healthy. But on the flipside, those other two haven't exactly been ironmen. Camby is one of the only players in the league who routinely misses games due to headaches and earaches, and Randolph has missed his share of games for personal and health reasons as well. Don't expect 15, 10 and 2 every night, but the upside is there.

3. Bobby Jackson, Kings

Over the past few days, I've picked him up Jackson in four of my five leagues, so either I'm too high on him or everyone else is sleeping. He was recently moved into Sacramento's starting lineup with Beno Udrih injured, and he's responded by averaging 13.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2 steals and 1.5 treys in 33.8 minutes over his last four games. Obviously, the veteran can still play, and with coach Kenny Natt looking for defensive intensity, I'm expecting him to lean heavily on Jackson to lead by example. MRI results on Udrih's sprained foot have yet to be released, but an article in Wednesday's Sacramento Bee painted a grim picture: "Usually, when I wake up in the morning, it just hurts. I can't really walk normal." So he can't walk normal, he's yet to practice, and he's not known for his defensive prowess. Do YOU think Beno is going to be playing 30-plus minutes anytime soon? I don't, which is why I'm naming B-Jax my No. 3 top pickup for the week.

4. Andres Nocioni, Kings

Nocioni received his first start for Sacramento on Sunday, and he responded with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 3 threes in 38 minutes. Since Francisco Garcia is dealing with a broken finger, he came off the bench and played 32 minutes. Many are going to assume that Garcia will get his starting spot back soon, but I'm not so sure. The Kings won on Sunday with Nocioni, and coach Natt is looking for his guys to play with more passion. Nocioni knows how to hustle and he doesn't back down from anyone, so it wouldn't surprise me if he stays in the starting lineup. His stats prior to Sunday weren't that special, so he's still available in many leagues. Consider picking him up if you need a forward.

5. Carl Landry, Rockets

Landry returned to action recently, and he's averaged a respectable 12.8 points, 4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks in 25.4 minutes over his last five games. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but his real value lies in his accurate shooting: 22-29 from the field and 20-24 from the line over the same time span. For the season, he's now shooting a sparkling 57.2 percent and 83.6 percent from the line. That makes him the only player in the league shooting over 55 percent from the field and over 80 percent from the line, which has to count for something.

Anthony Randolph, Warriors

His minutes have been sporadic, but Randolph is starting to show fantasy owners what he's capable of. In his last five games, the 19-year old is averaging 10 points, 7.8 boards and 2.4 blocks in just 25 minutes. Believe it or not, his best performances came against Utah and Detroit, so it wasn't like he was padding his stats against the Knicks and Wizards. Of course, he's still a risky play due to Don Nelson's quirky rotation, but if anyone is going to see an increase in minutes down the stretch, it's going to be the talented rookie.

Marco Belinelli, Warriors

Much like Randolph, Belinelli is slowly starting to earn more minutes. Over his last four games, he's averaging 11.5 points, 2.3 assists and 1.8 threes in just 26.5 minutes. Those numbers aren't great, but he proved earlier in the season that he could be a solid fantasy starter if he got 30-plus minutes. Now is the best time for the Warriors to evaluate Belinelli's current level of play and future ceiling, so it wouldn't surprise me if his playing time continues to rise.

Danilo Gallinari, Knicks

The Knicks dropped two more games over the weekend and have fallen to 13th place in the Eastern Conference. Does that mean the Gallinari era has officially started? Over his last three games, the rookie is averaging 12.7 points and 3 treys in 21 minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, Mike D'Antoni recently said that minutes for Quentin Richardson will be "hard to come by" the rest of the way. Obviously, this supports the notion that N.Y. wants to give Danilo more playing time. Don't expect too much, but if you need threes he's worth picking up.

Darrell Arthur, Grizzlies

The rookie out of Kansas is starting again for Memphis, and I'm assuming more minutes will be coming his way down the stretch. He's averaging 21.4 minutes, 8.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1 block over his last five games, which means he could put up solid numbers if he starts getting more playing time. If you're in a deep league and need some boards, give him a look.

Team outlooks

Atlanta Hawks (4 games)

After arguing with his coach and playing just 22 minutes on Friday, Josh Smith erupted for one of his best games of the year on Saturday (19 points, 12 boards and 4 blocks). Is this a sign that he's ready to end the season strong? On the flipside, Marvin Williams hurt his back and played just 26 minutes on Saturday, so check his status before starting him. Al Horford has been rock-solid recently, averaging 15.8 points, 10 boards and 1.4 blocks in his last five games.

Start: Joe Johnson, J-Smoov, Mike Bibby, HorfordBorderline: M. Williams, Flip Murray

Boston Celtics (3 games)

Rajon Rondo has been a rock this season, but he sat out Sunday's game with an ankle injury, and Boston might rest him longer. Check on his status before finalizing your lineup this week. Stephon Marbury started in his place, but he had just 4 points and 0 assists in 21 minutes. Kendrick Perkins has racked up 46 boards and 9 blocks in his last five games, so start him this week with Kevin Garnett still out. Speaking of KG, hopefully this is the last week you have to keep him on your bench.

Start: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, PerkinsBorderline: RondoBench: GarnettWatch: Leon Powe, Eddie House, Marbury

Charlotte Bobcats (3 games)

Surprisingly, Charlotte has won six games in a row and is just one game behind Chicago for the 8th spot in the East. Gerald Wallace has finally picked up his play, going for 44 points, 20 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 threes in his last two games. Raymond Felton is also hot, averaging 17.8 points and 9 dimes on 54 percent shooting in his last five. With just three games this week, D.J. Augustin and Vlad Radmanovic should be benched.

Start: G. Wallace, Emeka Okafor, Boris Diaw, Felton, Raja BellBench: Augustin, Radmanovic

Chicago Bulls (4 games)

One of the biggest post-trade surprises has been Joakim Noah putting up excellent stats despite the addition of Brad Miller. At this point, Noah, Miller andTyrus Thomas are also solid starters. Luol Deng has missed three games in a row, so make sure he's on your bench. John Salmons has put up stellar stats in his absence, although he's made just 3 of his last 16 shots from behind the arc.

Start: Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Salmons, Ty Thomas, B. Miller, NoahBorderline: Kirk HinrichBench: Deng

Cleveland Cavaliers (4 games)

Cleveland plays the Clippers, Suns, Kings and Knicks this week (three of whom are near the bottom in points allowed), so start your Cavs this week. LeBron James is just 10-30 in his last two games, so expect him to bounce back this week. With 24 dimes and 13 steals in his last four games, Delonte West is suddenly an excellent option again. Anderson Varejao is averaging a respectable 9.2 points, 6.4 boards and 1.6 steals in his last five games, but keep an eye on Joe Smith stealing some of his playing time away.

Start: LeBron, Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, D. West, VarejaoWatch: J. Smith

Dallas Mavericks (4 games)

Just when Josh Howard was getting back in my good graces, his ankle acted up again. He's seeing a specialist on Monday to find out more, so I recommend benching him for the week ahead. Of course, this is great news for Jason Terry owners, as The Jet went off for 33 points and 5 treys on Saturday with Howard out of the lineup. James Singleton's playing time has plummeted recently, so feel free to drop him and J.J. Barea.

Start: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, TerryBorderline: Antoine Wright, Brandon Bass, Erick DampierBench: J. HowardDrop: Barea, Singleton

Denver Nuggets (3 games)

Anthony returned from a one-game suspension to score 90 points in three games, so hopefully he's ready to lead Denver to a strong finish. Smith is starting again, so he looks like a safe start now. The same can't be said for Kenyon Martin, who is dealing with a bad back and simply can't be trusted. He should rebound eventually, but if better options are available, feel free to drop him. As long as he's out, Chris Andersen remains a decent play in deep leagues.

Start: Chauncey Billups, Anthony, Nenê, SmithBorderline: AndersenBench: K-Mart

Detroit Pistons (4 games)

If you needed further proof of Allen Iverson's negative impact on Detroit, consider that his team has won four of its last five games since A.I. went down with his back injury. Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton have have seen their stats soar since, and both are must-start players once again. However, Iverson thinks he can return soon, so I don't suggest dropping him.

Start: Stuckey, Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyessBench: Iverson

Golden St. Warriors (3 games)

What has gone wrong with my beloved Warriors? The team has dropped six of their last seven games, and Nelson isn't making many people happy these days. Despite his plans to "evict" Jamal Crawford, the guard has scored 57 points and made 7 treys in his last two games. Andris Biedrins has missed 2 games in a row for personal reasons, but I like his chances of returning this week since Golden State has returned for a homestand. With just three games this week and anyone liable to be benched, there aren't many safe plays in Oakland these days.

Start: Stephen Jackson, BiedrinsBorderline: Corey Maggette, Crawford, Ronny Turiaf, A. Randolph, BelinelliBench: Monta Ellis, Kelenna Azubuike

Houston Rockets (4 games)

You might assume that Yao Ming is starting to wear down, but he's racked up 59 boards and 17 blocks in his last five games. Luis Scola has also been a double-double machine, and he doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves from most fans. Ron Artest continues to be rock solid with Tracy McGrady out, and he's even shooting over 52 percent from the field in his last five! As I mentioned above, Carl Landry is worth a look in deeper leagues.

Start: Yao, Artest, Aaron Brooks, ScolaBorderline: Shane Battier, LandryWatch: Von Wafer, Kyle Lowry

Indiana Pacers (3 games)

You know Troy Murphy is having a career year when 11 points, 13 boards 2 threes and a block is considered an off night. Danny Granger might return this week, but you should weigh your options carefully. Mike Dunleavy had season-ending surgery last week, so Jarrett Jack will be a solid starter the rest of the way. Keep an eye on the rookie Roy Hibbert in case the Pacers fall out of playoff contention.

Start: Murphy, T.J. Ford, JackBorderline: Marquis Daniels, GrangerBench: Jeff Foster, Brandon RushDrop: DunleavyWatch: Hibbert

L.A. Clippers (3 games)

Eric Gordon (35 points, 6 assists, 5 treys) returned to action in a big way on Saturday, so he should be safe start for the week ahead. The same can't be said for Baron Davis and Marcus Camby, who both missed the game and are questionable. Zach Randolph also returned after his ailing father passed away, but he expects to miss Saturday's game at Denver for the funeral, which would give him just two games this week. Chris Kaman is supposed to return on Tuesday, but starting him right away would be a very risky move. Mike Taylor has been playing well lately, and in case you missed it, he threw down one of the sickest dunks of the season on Wednesday. And here's another sweet practice dunk.

Start: E. Gordon, Al ThorntonBorderline: B. Davis, Camby, Z. Randolph, KamanBench: Ricky DavisWatch: M. Taylor

L.A. Lakers (4 games)

The Lakers start the week with three killer road games at Portland, Houston and San Antonio, so don't expect monster numbers from Kobe Bryant and company. Lamar Odom has totaled just 8 points on 4-for-15 shooting in his last three games, but he should bounce back soon. If you have an extra roster spot and Andrew Bynum was dropped, consider picking him up in case he returns.

Start: Kobe, Pau Gasol, OdomBorderline: Derek FisherBench: Bynum, Trevor ArizaWatch: Luke Walton

Memphis Grizzlies (3 games)

Don't look now, but Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are suddenly the two best fantasy players in Memphis. Over his last four games, the younger Gasol is averaging an impressive 21.3 points, 9.8 boards, 4 assists and 2.8 rejections (that's basically Pau plus more blocks)! Meanwhile, Conley exploded for 31 points and 9 dimes on Saturday. Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are still solid starters, but they're no longer carrying Memphis. Darrell Arthur grabbed 12 boards on Sunday, but I don't suggest starting him yet. With three games on the road at Minnesota, Boston and Detroit, Memphis has one of the toughest schedules for week 20.

Start: Gay, Mayo, Conley, M. GasolBench: Hakim Warrick, Arthur

Miami Heat (4 games)

Dwyane Wade shot just 9-for-23 from the field and was ejected for the first time in his career on Saturday, but he's still averaging a ridiculous 35.3 points, 10.7 assists, 2.7 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 1.6 threes on 55.9 percent shooting over his last 10 games! Michael Beasley has racked up 57 points and 19 boards in his last three contests, so feel free to roll the dice. Jamario Moon isn't putting up any eye-popping stats, but he's getting plenty of playing time and is worth consideration in deeper leagues. Daequan Cook dropped 27 points and 6 treys on Phoenix last week, but with the Heat recently signing Luther Head, there's even more competition for minutes.

Start: Wade, Jermaine O'Neal, Udonis Haslem, Mario ChalmersBorderline: Beasley, MoonWatch: Cook, Head

Milwaukee Bucks (3 games)

Richard Jefferson dropped a season-high 35 points on Saturday, and he's averaging 26.6 points over his last five games. Villanueva is shooting just 39 percent over his last four games, so hopefully he snaps out of his funk this week. Ramon Sessions isn't getting tons of playing time due to Luke Ridnour, but he's still managed to average 15.2 points and 7.8 assists in 31.2 minutes over his last five. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is hot again, but I only suggest starting him if you need boards and steals.

Start: R. Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva, SessionsBorderline: Mbah a MouteBench: Andrew Bogut, Ridnour, Francisco Elson

Minnesota Timberwolves (4 games)

Minnesota gets to stay home all week long, and it should score plenty of points with contests against the Wizards, Grizzlies, Knicks and Bobcats. Did you know that Ryan Gomes has scored 20-plus points in seven of his last 10 games? Unfortunately, Mike Miller is still reluctant to jack up shots, but he's doing plenty else to help out fantasy teams. After missing two games with a groin injury, Sebastian Telfair is back and playing well, so feel free to start him this week.

Start: Randy Foye, Kevin Love, M. Miller, Gomes, Telfair

New Jersey Nets (3 games)

The Nets have three road games this week, but starting against the Warriors and finishing against the Clippers isn't bad at all. Devin Harris continues to roll, averaging 29 points, 9.9 dimes, and 2 steals over his last eight games. Vince Carter has been up and down lately, but he's made 8 treys in his last three games and is still a must-start player. Sean Williams blocked four shots in just 19 minutes on Sunday, so keep an eye on him if you need a leather-slapper (see the Shawn Bradley card).

Start: Devin Harris, Carter, Brook LopezBench: Yi Jianlian, Bobby SimmonsWatch: S. Williams

New Orleans Hornets (4 games)

Peja Stojakovic has missed two games in a row with back spasms, but he could return this week. Julian Wright replaced him in the lineup and went for 20 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 1 three in 34 minutes. Of course, it was just the second time all season that he'd played 24-plus minutes, so you can't get too excited about it. I'm not sure why it took them so long to get going, but David West has been a stud and Tyson Chandler is finally back to his solid self.

Start: Paul, D. West, T. Chandler, Rasual ButlerBorderline: Stojakovic, James PoseyWatch: J. Wright

New York Knicks (4 games)

The Knicks are just 7-22 on the road this year, and with four away games this week, that means they're about to officially fall out of playoff contention. Just when it seemed like David Lee's season couldn't get any better, he set season highs with 7 assists and 5 steals on Sunday! D'Antoni might want to see how Gallinari and Wilson Chandler play together, which would hurt the minutes of Al Harrington (just 23 on Sunday). Chris Duhon's stats have been way down recently, so consider benching him if you have better options.

Start: D. Lee, Harrington, Larry Hughes, Nate Robinson, W. ChandlerBorderline: Duhon, Gallinari

Oklahoma City Thunder (3 games)

The Thunder are being extra cautious with their young stars, as both Kevin Durant and Jeff Green have missed four games in a row. Durant is no longer wearing a protective boot, and Green says his back is feeling fine, but both guys are risky plays for the week ahead. Thabo Sefolosha had been playing great, but he also missed a game with a knee injury and was sub-par on Sunday. With those guys ailing, Nenad Krstic has become a big-time scorer again, averaging 18 points, 6 rebounds and a block over his last four contests.

Start: Russell Westbrook, Sefolosha, KrsticBorderline: Durant, Green, Nick CollisonBench: Earl Watson, Weaver

Orlando Magic (4 games)

Dwight Howard has made 18 of his last 20 free throws, but he's still barely over 60 percent from the line this season. After a brief slump, Rashard Lewis appears to be back on track, averaging 19.6 points and 2.6 treys on 50 percent shooting over his last five games. Courtney Lee is still starting, but he's totaled just 14 points in his last three games. Keep him on the bench and wait for Mickael Pietrus to get hurt again.

Start: D. Howard, Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Rafer AlstonBench: C. LeeWatch: Pietrus

Philadelphia 76ers (3 games)

Andre Miller continues to get the job done, scoring 20-plus points in his last five games while making 59 percent of his shots. Iguodala had just 9 points and 6 turnovers on Sunday, but he should bounce back no problem. If you need steals, Thaddeus Young has picked up 9 of them in his last four games. Sam Dalembert is struggling once again, so get him on your bench this week.

Start: Andre Iguodala, A. MillerBorderline: T. YoungBench: Dalembert, Louis Williams, Marreesse Speights

Phoenix Suns (4 games)

Phoenix has lost four in a row and are dangerously close to falling out of the playoff race. It's tough to blame Steve Nash, who's averaging 28 points, 11.3 dimes, and 2.3 treys in his last three games. Did you pickup Matt Barnes after I recommended him two weeks in a row? He's made 16 treys in his last five games and is posting solid all-around stats, so start him with confidence. The Suns close out the week with games against the Thunder and Warriors, so expect lots of points all around.

Start: Nash, Shaq, Jason Richardson, Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Grant Hill

Portland Trail Blazers (4 games)

The Blazers have won four of their last five games, with Brandon Roy averaging 25.2 points on 60 percent shooting from the field in those games. Travis Outlaw is also hot, averaging 16.7 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.3 blocks in his last three games. Greg Oden remains out, so Joel Przybilla will continue to be a serviceable option at center.

Start: Roy, LaMarcus AldridgeBorderline: Steve Blake, Outlaw, PrzybillaBench: Oden, Rudy Fernandez

Sacramento Kings (3 games)

Sactown won their 14th game of the season on Sunday, and coach Kenny Natt has finally decided to hold his players accountable. Since Francisco Garcia is playing with a broken finger, he was replaced in the starting lineup by Nocioni on Sunday. Both guys played 32-plus minutes and had solid lines, so consider starting both in deep leagues. With Udrih out (and no timetable for his return), B-Jax looks like a solid starter right now.

Start: Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes, Garcia, B. Jackson, NocioniBorderline: Jason ThompsonBench: Udrih

San Antonio Spurs (3 games)

The Spurs don't have a great schedule this week, having to face the Bobcats, Lakers and Rockets. As a result, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are the only safe plays. Timmy had one of the worst games of his career on Friday, recording 9 turnovers and fouls compared to just 10 points and rebounds. However, he bounced back with 17 points, 15 boards and 2 blocks on Sunday. Roger Mason has been very up and down, so only start him if you need treys.

Start: Duncan, T. ParkerBorderline: MasonBench: Manu Ginobili, Matt Bonner, Michael FinleyWatch: Drew Gooden

Toronto Raptors (3 games)

Chris Bosh has been on a tear ever since Shaq called him "the RuPaul of big men," averaging 29.3 points on 50 percent shooting from the field in his last four games. Of course, Toronto has also lost five in a row, so perhaps his contributions are overstated. After shooting over 50 percent from beyond the arc in both December and January, Jose Calderon has missed his last 11 threes. New signee Pops Mensah-Bonsu had 7 boards, 4 fouls and a block in just 11 minutes on Sunday, so perhaps he's found a new home.

Start: Bosh, Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Jamario MarionBorderline: Anthony ParkerBench: Jason Kapono

Utah Jazz (4 games)

Utah is riding an 11-game winning streak, and they could claim the No. 3 spot in the West before we know it. Deron Williams is still red-hot, and it looks like he's ready to carry some fantasy teams down the stretch as well. Carlos Boozer missed Sunday's game with a sprained ankle, but he's expected to return on Tuesday. AK-47 owners wouldn't mind if Boozer sat out longer, since his stats have suffered since Boozer returned. Kyle Korver has been stealing minutes away from C.J. Miles, so keep an eye on him if you need threes.

Start: D. Williams, Mehmet Okur, Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie BrewerBorderline: Paul MillsapWatch: Kyle Korver

Washington Wizards (4 games)

With five-straight losses, Washington's terrible season continues. Caron Butler returned from a hamstring injury on Saturday to record 20 points, 9 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks. It looks safe to start him, but the Wizards could easily give him more rest down the stretch. His return also sends Andray Blatche back to the bench, making him a risky start this week. Oddly enough, Dominic McGuire is averaging more assists (5.2) than points (5.0) over his last five games.

Start C. Butler, Antawn JamisonBorderline: McGuire, Blatche, Darius SongailaBench: Gilbert ArenasWatch: Mike James, Javaris Crittenton, JaVale McGee

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