It's March Madness time. But I'm not talking about the Big Dance. With just a couple weeks remaining before the fantasy playoffs begin, the Lab is here to help you with the mad dash toward the end of the regular season. Let's move right to the latest injury updates:
PG/SG Joe Johnson, Atlanta, He's out three weeks and possibly for the rest of the season with a deep bruise in his calf. F/C Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana, Knee sprain, out at least two games SF/PF Ryan Gomes, Boston, Foot sprain, day-to-day G/F Jason Kapono, Miami, High left ankle sprain, out indefinitely PG/SG Dwyane Wade, Miami, Separated left shoulder. Wade is rehabbing the injury and could return for the final two weeks of the season SF/PF Lamar Odom, LA Lakers, Torn labrum, out indefinitely. Season-ending surgery for Odom is a very real possibility G/F Wally Szczerbiak, Boston, Ankle surgery, out for season SG Jamal Crawford, New York, Ankle injury, out for season PG Shaun Livingston, LA Clippers, Major knee surgery, out for season C Yao Ming, Houston, Broken leg. He could play Monday but later in the week seems more realistic PG Tony Parker, San Antonio, Strained hip flexor, day-to-day PG Sam Cassell, LA Clippers, Strained groin, day-to-day SG Ray Allen, Seattle, Bone spurs in ankle; he's playing through the pain F/C Emeka Okafor, Charlotte, Slightly torn left calf, out indefinitely PG Earl Boykins, Milwaukee, Torn right thumb ligaments, out three weeks G/F Stephen Jackson, Golden State, Turf toe, day-to-day SG J.R. Smith, Denver, Knee surgery, day-to-day. He will likely to return late in the week SF/PF David Lee, New York, High ankle sprain, day-to-day. He could return Tuesday F/C Boris Diaw, Phoenix, Back spasms, day-to-day SF/PF Andres Nocioni, Chicago, Plantar fasciitis, out about three weeks SF Luke Walton, LA Lakers, Sprained ankle, out but listed as day-to-day SF Richard Jefferson, New Jersey, Ankle surgery, slowly returning to action PF Sean May, Charlotte, Bone bruise of the knee, slowly returning to action PF Vladimir Radmanovic, LA Lakers, Separated shoulder, out indefinitely
Onto the ever-important game count for Week 20: Four games: BOS, CHA, DAL, DET, HOU, LAC, MIA, NJN, ORL, PHI, PHO, POR, SAC, TOR, UTA Three games: ATL, CHI, CLE, DEN, GSW, IND, LAL, MEM, MIL, MIN, NOK, NYK, SAS, SEA Two games: WAS
This week's schedule offers an interesting dichotomy: The majority of the four-game teams play at least two, and even three teams with top-10-ranked defenses. Fourteen of the teams with three games face a total of seven top-10 defenses. Thus, if your player is on a team with a three-game week, they are likely going to have an easier time compared to the players with four games.
There are two exceptions: Portland and Toronto. Though they each play a game against a top-four defense, the team's other games are against bottom-10 defenses in terms of points allowed per game. That's good news for Chris Bosh, T.J. Ford, Jarrett Jack, Zach Randolph and Brandon Roy.
The Celtics, Jazz and Kings each play three top-10 defenses and one mid-level defense. The Suns and Nets get one bottom-level defense to balance their three tough defenses.
As for the easier schedules, the Cavs, Nuggets, Hornets and T-Wolves each have two games against weak defenses. None of those squads must contend with a top-10 defense. (I'd try to start players from these three-game teams.) On the other hand, the Grizzlies play three games and face two top-10 defenses in Cleveland and Chicago, so it's best to avoid starting anyone on that team other than Pau Gasol or Mike Miller.
Lastly, unless you own one of Washington's big three of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, it's best to avoid the Wizards' two-game week.
Now let's get to the Lab's infamous Lineup Fixer Sixer. Every week we scan the waiver wire and name six waiver-wire caliber players who can give your team a boost this week. The selected players all have four-game schedules so you increase the odds that they'll have a big game or two. Here's the Lab's six selections for Week 20's Sixer:
G/F Anthony Parker, Toronto: Does his name sound familiar? Parker was fantasy relevant a few weeks ago but likely axed from rosters the instant owners found out his sprained ankle would cost him multiple games. Now that the former Euroleague star is healthy again and the Raptors own the league's most favorable four-game schedule, Parker's versatility is worth considering.
SF Richard Jefferson, New Jersey: The Nets' swingman is back after a long layoff for ankle surgery. He's slowly working himself into game shape but with two games under his belt, he's ready for more minutes. Jefferson is a scorer who always has a very high field goal percentage and helps you across the board with rebounds, assists and steals. He's a great daily league pick since he plays on light scheduling days of Monday, Thursday and Sunday.
G/F Eddie Jones, Miami: With each member of the Heat's starting lineup getting snuffed out on a seemingly weekly basis, Jones once again finds himself in a familiar spot as Miami's starting two-guard. While we turned the clocks back for Daylight Savings Time this weekend, EJ won't be turning back the clock to when he was an All-Star. Alas, he'll have to settle for being a key cog responsible for scoring, threes, steals and assists as Miami hopes to reach the playoffs without Dwyane Wade.
SG Willie Green, Philadelphia: It took Rodney Carney's partially torn labrum to get Green and his offense back into the starting five, and coach Mo Cheeks couldn't be happier. Green has started the last six games; the Sixers have won all of them. It's within Green's talent to post 20 points on a nightly basis and he's averaged 16.0 points in his starts this year. While his peripherals aren't that exciting, it's likely you won't see a higher scorer on the wire.
G/F Matt Harpring, Utah: He's not the sexy choice but looks aren't important here. His hard-nosed style delivers results and that's all fantasy fans should care about. Since the All-Star break, the Georgia Tech alum is averaging 16.0 ppg (51.5 FG%, 76.8 FT%), 5.0 rpg, 2.4 apg and 1.0 spg.
PF Sean May, Charlotte: He's missed about half the season with a bone bruise on his twice surgically repaired knee but it's hard to deny May's talent on the low block when he's healthy. Plus, the Carolina product loves the month of March! In his first game back on Saturday, May came off the bench to produce 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes. With Emeka Okafor out indefinitely, May has a serious chance to be a scoring force this week.
Be sure to come back next Monday for a Week 21 preview even though you'll probably be waist deep in the NCAA tournament. While your brackets will most likely fail you, you can't go wrong if you keep Fantasy Ball above all.