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Fantasy hoops outlook


Rodney Carney is hot, and I'm expecting Barbosa to be a Top 30 player the rest of the way. Who else can help you out?

And down the stretch they come...

Most leagues combine Weeks 24 and 25, so this is my last outlook for the season. As always, I've listed the number of games each team plays during this period, followed by five teams with poor and favorable schedules.

If you're still reading, then you're likely a) still in the running for a league prize, and b) wondering which players might be able to help you out for the final week-and-a-half. That's great news, so if you're looking for help, I've listed three players who should be owned, three top pickups, and nine other potential plays. I've put a lot of time and effort into these outlooks, so hopefully they've been beneficial to some of you. Good luck!



Four games: DEN, MIL, WAS

1. Washington Wizards (4 games: @Cleveland, @Toronto, Toronto, @Boston)2. New Jersey Nets (5 games: @Boston, @Detroit, Orlando, Charlotte, @New York)3. Dallas Mavericks (5 games: Utah, New Orleans, @New Orleans, Minnesota, Houston)4. New York Knicks (5 games: @Chicago, Detroit, @Orlando, @Miami, New Jersey)5. Philadelphia 76ers (6 games: @Charlotte, @Chicago, Cleveland, @Toronto, Boston, @Cleveland)

1. Toronto Raptors (6 games: Atlanta, @Indiana, Washington, Philadelphia, @Washington, @Chicago)2. San Antonio Spurs (6 games: @Oklahoma City, Portland, Utah, @Sacramento, @Golden State, New Orleans)3. Orlando Magic (6 games: @Houston, Memphis, New York, @New Jersey, @Milwaukee, Charlotte)4. Minnesota Timberwolves (5 games: @LA Clippers, @Golden State, Phoenix, @Dallas, Sacramento)5. Detroit Pistons (5 games: @New York, New Jersey, @Indiana, Chicago, @Miami)

1. J.R. Smith, Nuggets

Can someone please explain why in the world this guy is still available in some leagues? In case you missed it, Smith was on fire last week, making a ridiculous 22 threes in just 45 attempts from beyond the arc. Over those four games, he also averaged 22.8 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals in 26.5 minutes. I could understand the trepidation if he was a 3-point specialist like Steve Novak, but Smith has been a solid contributor in steals and assists all season long. So I'll say this: I hope that none of you are able to pick this guy up right now, because if you are, your league is a joke!

2. Francisco Garcia, Kings

We all know that 'Cisco had a disappointing start to the season, but he's really turned it on in the second half. In 22 games since the All-Star break, Garcia is averaging 15.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.8 threes in 35.4 minutes while shooting 49% from the field and 85% from the line. Those are the stellar all-around stats I was expecting from him this season, yet he's still flying under the radar in some leagues. The Kings are also relying on him heavily, as he's played 40+ minutes in 3 straight games. As if you needed any more incentive to pick him up, Kevin Martin has missed two games in a row with an ankle injury. With six games left, Garcia is going to finish the season strong.

3. Louis Williams, 76ers

Lou Williams was my No. 2 pickup for week 9 and my No. 1 pickup for week 22, so he should be owned in most leagues by now. If not, I highly recommend grabbing him. He scored a modest 14 points on Sunday, but he was just 4-of-15 from the field, so if he had knocked down a few more shots he could have easily scored 20 points. With Thaddeus Young out, the 76ers need Lou to play more minutes and hoist up more shots and he'll have no problem doing that. A recent Rotoworld blurb said that Williams "could stand to put up some decent scoring numbers, but don't expect much in other categories." I beg to differ.

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Williams grabbed three steals and made a pair of treys on Sunday, and is now averaging 1.2 of each whenever he gets 27+ minutes per game. And while he's totaled only four assists over his past ttwo games, he's averaging a solid 3.9 dimes per contest when he gets the same amount of playing time. And since Philly has already clinched a playoff spot and Andre Miller is dealing with a calf injury, don't be surprised if the youngster plays more point guard to finish out the season. Philly has a tough schedule from here on out (six games left, but four are on the road and three are against Cleveland or Boston), but I'm expecting Williams to stuff the stat sheet and be a reliable starter the rest of the way.

1. Leandro Barbosa, Suns

Barbosa was injured on Mar. 18 and he missed the next seven games, so he was likely dropped in many leagues as a result. If he's still available, I suggest adding him ASAP. He returned on Friday to score 15 points in just 15 minutes, and then he upped the ante on Sunday by dropping 24 points and two treys in just 24 minutes. While his point-per-minute pace will surely decline, his playing time is likely to soar over the next week and a half. That's because the Suns are now 99.9% out of the playoff race, so the agless wonders (Nash, Shaq, and Hill) are surely going to spend more time on the pine from here on out. Jason Richardson also left Sunday's game with a thigh injury, so Leandro could easily lead the team in scoring from here on out, and we all know that he's capable of raining threes and grabbing steals in bunches. Frankly, I'll be shocked if LB isn't a Top 30 fantasy player the rest of the way.

2. Rodney Carney, Timberwolves

Has Carney finally developed into a solid player? Over his past four games, the athletic freak is averaging a solid 35.5 minutes, 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks. Oh yeah, and he's drained three treys on a whopping 8.3 attempts per contest! Where did the extra minutes and shots come from? Well, Randy Foye has missed four games in a row with a hip injury, Craig Smith has missed four in a row with a calf injury, and Kevin Love is currently out with the flu. Someone in Minnesota has to score points (and jack up threes), and we found out this year that Mike Miller would rather not be that person. Factor in Minnesota's favorable schedule the rest of the way (they get to face the Clippers, Warriors, Suns and Kings), and Carney is suddenly a very valuable pickup.

3. D.J. Augustin, Bobcats

My terrible luck continues. I grabbed Augustin over a month ago in hopes that he'd get more playing time down the stretch. Instead, the Bobcats kept winning (thus staying in the playoff race) and D.J. didn't get enough minutes to be reliable. So I dropped him on Mar. 29. But just like the girl you did't notice until she got her braces off, Augustin is suddenly much more attractive. That's because Charlotte has lost three games in a row now (almost mathematically out of it) and the man in front of Augustin (Raja Bell) is suddenly injured. As a result, the rookie scored 22 points in 29 minutes on Sunday, his highest scoring performance in nearly two months. To make matter worse for me, the guy who picked up Augustin is the guy I'm battling for the league title. So it's too late for me, but maybe DJ can still help out your squad.

Brendan Haywood, Wizards

After missing the first 75 games of the season with a wrist/hand injury, Haywood finally deemed himself ready to play. He had just two points and two rebounds on 1-of-6 shooting in his debut, but bounced back with two straight double-doubles right after, totaling 30 points, 22 boards, and one block on 12-of-21 shooting. A lot of people would name Haywood their No. 1 pickup for the week as a result, but not me. That's because Washington only has four games left, and half of them are road games at Cleveland and Boston (yuck). Still, the veteran should be considered if you need center help.

Glen Davis, Celtics

I'm really not a fan of "Big Baby," but he's earned a mention here thanks to his solid recent play. Over his past five games, Davis is averaging 13.6 points on 51% FG shooting, 8.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.4 blocks in 35.2 minutes. It sounds like Garnett is going to sit out another week, so Baby could continue to put up similar numbers. I just hope you're not counting on him for blocked shots.

Shaun Livingston, Thunder

First of all, I'd like to give a shout out to Sam Presti for being the No. 1 GM in the NBA. Secondly, let's give Livingston a round of applause for his hard work and determination in coming back from his terrible knee injury suffered two years ago. It was a long road back, but Shaun signed a multi-year contract with OKC last week after spendng three weeks with their D-League team. Presti evaluated him up close and obviously believes that his skills are up to par if he's willing to sign him for several years. And based on his first two games, that appears to be the case. Playing 27 minutes in each of the Thunder's past two games, Livingston has made 10-of-13 shots from the field while totaling 20 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block. He's not going to supplant Russell Westbrook in the starting lineup, but OKC is doing the right thing by giving him minutes to prove himself. If you're a gambling man, give the former top prospect a look.

Peja Stojakovic, Hornets

Peja finally returned last week, but his stats thus far (51 minutes, 13 points, 33% FG shooting in two games) have been pretty forgettable. Still, the Hornets really need him to step up because James Posey is likely out for another week with his elbow injury. So if you're desperate for threes, you've got to consider the man who's made 882 treys in his career -- just cross your fingers is all I'm saying.

Nicolas Batum, Blazers

Batum has been wildly inconsistent this season, but that's to be expected from a 20-year-old rookie. And surprisingly, his shooting has improved drastically over the last few weeks. After shooting just 41.4% FG, 34.5% 3P, and 74.2% FT before the All-Star break, those numbers have improved to 54.8% FG, 42.9% 3P, and 87.5% FT in 16 games since Mar. 1. Portland is one of just a few teams with six games remaining, so the rookie is worth considering in ultra deep leagues.

Marreese Speights & Reggie Evans, 76ers

Lou Williams isn't the only Sixer to benefit from Thaddeus Young's injury. The veteran Evans has moved into the starting lineup, while the rookie Speights is also getting more playing time. In his past three games, Marreese has totaled just 26 points, 13 boards and one block, but he's capable of much more. I also like him because he's shooting a respectable 77.5% from the line, so he won't hurt your FT% like other big men. Meanwhile, Evans has pulled down 26 boards in his last 3 games, and should only be considered if you're in a tight race for rebounds. Just remember that Philly has a very tough schedule, so use these guys with caution.

Drew Gooden & Michael Finley, Spurs

I mentioned Gooden last week, but he deserves another look because his value appears to be on the rise. He had perhaps his best game in a Spurs uniform on Sunday, going for 15 points and 5 boards on 7-of-12 shooting in 27 minutes. More importantly, Tim Duncan had a terrible game, scoring just six points in 27 minutes. After the game, coach Gregg Popovich said that Duncan's health is going to be evaluated daily from here on out, which means that his playing time will surely be reduced the rest of the way (with possible DNP's). That opens up the door for Gooden to produce, and he's proven to be more than capable in the past. In a similar situation, Finley could also benefit from Ginobili's bum ankle. After Sunday's game, Manu flew back to San Antonio to have his ankle examined, which is a terrible sign for Spurs fans and Ginobili owners. In his past five games, Finley is averaging a solid 12.6 points and 2.6 threes. When you consider that the Spurs have my No. 2 most favorable schedule the rest of the way, that makes both veterans solid pickups in deep leagues.