March 25, 2010

Having trouble setting your lineup for Week 23? Tamer and Trevor lend a hand by evaluating whether to start three borderline players next week.

Nicolas Batum, SF, Trail Blazers (Through 26 games: 23.6 MPG, 9.9 PTS, 54.6 FG%, 88.6 FT%, 36 3PM, 3.7 REB, 1.2 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.6 BLK)

Batum's second season got off to a rough start when he was forced to have right shoulder surgery shortly before the opener. Since returning on Jan. 25, Batum has been a worthy waiver wire pickup given his ability to contribute in up to seven categories. Can he crack your starting lineup in week 23?

Tamer: Batum is one of those players savvy fantasy owners love. None of his stats jump out at you, so less-seasoned owners tend to stay away in favor of a player who is more dominant in a particular category. What you can't overlook about Batum is that he contributes nicely in every category except for assists. He isn't going to single-handedly win you a category but he also won't kill you in any category either (assists could be the possible exception, but I look at assists from small forwards as gravy).

I am not in favor, however, of starting the Frenchman in Week 23. One of the problems with Batum next week is that he only has three games. A lot of comparable small forward-eligible players have four games in Week 23, like Al Thornton, Rasual Butler, Carlos Delfino and Richard Jefferson to name a few. Batum may exceed this group in the shooting percentage categories but they should easily out-distance him in every other category with the extra game. Another issue I have with Batum is his inconsistency. His overall numbers look good but you have no idea what you are going to get from him game to game. He has scored six points or less in 10 games this year, he has failed to hit a three in seven games and he has grabbed two rebounds or less in 11 games. These numbers wouldn't be so bad if Batum had played in 70 games this year, but when you consider that he has only suited up 26 times all season these numbers are really a cause for concern. Winning in the fantasy playoffs is all about minimizing risk. The risk is too high next week that Batum will put up a couple of clunkers that one good game won't be able to offset. Put him on your bench because he is Fool's Gold.

Trevor: Batum is indeed the type of player that fantasy veterans look for. He does just about everything fairly well, and that kind of across-the-board production can be valuable. What I particularly like about Batum is that he will knock down a few threes without hurting you from the field, which is a rare quality to find in a waiver wire player. While the shoulder injury did sideline him for some time, the departure of Travis Outlaw has really opened up plenty of minutes. If you need help in several categories then there are few guys that are out there better than Batum. I personally added him to my squad, and have to give him a Mother Lode.

Bill Walker, SF, Knicks (Through 24 games: 18 MPG, 7.1 PTS, 55.7 FG%, 72.7 FT%, 18 3PM, 1.9 REB, 1 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.1 BLK)

Walker was not even on the fantasy radar as a Celtic since he saw the court sparingly as an end-of-the-bench player. His minutes have become more consistent since he was traded to the Knicks at the deadline, but the volume was not enough to warrant fantasy consideration. Walker's stock skyrocketed, however, when late last week it was announced that Wilson Chandler would likely be shut down for the year with a groin injury. What do we make of this unknown commodity who is suddenly in line to get major minutes?

Tamer: Walker is a perfect example of the length and unpredictability of the fantasy basketball season. If you had told fantasy owners in November that Walker would be a hot waiver wire pickup in the middle of the fantasy playoffs they would have said you're nuts. Chances are most owners would not have even known that Walker was on an NBA roster. The reality is that Walker deserves legitimate consideration to start on your fantasy team in Week 23. The Knicks have four games next week, and Walker is most likely the starting small forward for the rest of the season. Though Walker looks like a logical start, I would advise owners to leave him on the bench. The first problem is that the Knicks have tough defensive matchups next week with all four games on the road against Utah, Portland, Golden State and the Clippers. The Golden State matchup looks juicy but these four teams combined are only allowing 99.8 points per game at home (96 points per game if you take out Golden State who is allowing 111.1 points per game at home).

Walker's biggest assets are points, threes and field-goal percentage, which could all take a hit in Week 23. Another problem I see is relying on a player in the playoffs who has never received big minutes in the NBA. Walker could easily play 30 minutes a night and produce very little for your fantasy team (his five-point performance on 2-of-8 shooting from the field in 29 minutes last Sunday is a perfect example). Even worse, the easily agitated Mike D'Antoni could get fed up with Walker if he is playing poorly and give J.R. Giddens big minutes instead. You are better off going with a small forward eligible player next week who may not have Walker's upside but is more reliable (Brandon Rush and Quentin Richardson come to mind). He gets a Fool's Gold from me.

Trevor: I'll admit, thus far Walker hasn't exactly made the best of his opportunity to join the Knicks starting lineup. This may be one of those situations that I have been talking about all year, where the opportunity to produce doesn't mean anything if the talent just isn't there. That being said, along with the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns, the Knicks offense has a way of inflating stats. If there is a chance that Walker will put up solid numbers during his career the most likely time is now. It's true that there are more reliable options out there, but there are few who have opportunity that Walker currently does. I'll admit that it's a big risk, but I'm going to give Walker a Mother Lode vote.

Grant Hill, SF, Suns (Through 70 games: 30.4 MPG, 11.6 PTS, 48.1 FG%, 83.2 FT%, 26 3PM, 5.5 REB, 2.4 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.5 BLK)

Hill, incredibly, has become a durable player late in his career after having his prime marred by injuries. He has played in at least 70 games for a third consecutive season which has allowed him to be a consistent, reliable fantasy player. Is he worth a starting spot in Week 23?

Tamer: At this stage in his career Hill is not nearly as dynamic as he was in his late 20s but oddly enough he is actually a better fantasy player in many respects. Hill frustrated fantasy owners early last decade because he was an early round pick due to his talent but he would play in only a handful of games due to injury. Now Hill is not as spectacular but he is dependable, which is half the battle in fantasy basketball. Interestingly, his injury history has actually made him undervalued, as well, because owners are always expecting Hill to go down with a major injury. The owners that have remained loyal to Hill have reaped the benefits because he has provided value by either being a late round draft pick or a waiver wire pickup.

Next week Hill is a good play with four games on the Suns schedule. In addition, unlike Walker and Batum, Hill is a known commodity and is very consistent from game to game. For instance, over his last 16 games he has scored in double figures 12 times, grabbed at least five rebounds 14 times, and recorded either a block or steal in a game 13 times. His field-goal percentage has struggled a bit as of late (44.9 percent in March), but the law of averages says he is due for a few good shooting nights since his shooting percentage this season is 48.1 percent. Hill won't be the reason you win in Week 23 but he also won't be the reason you lose, and there is something to be said for that. Plug Hill in, let your superstars do their job and you should be in good shape. He gets a Mother Lode from me.

Trevor: I completely agree with Tamer on this one. Hill is the type of fantasy player who isn't going to blow you away with his production but he will live up to expectations. Even without D'Antoni, the Suns offense is still very conducive to stuffing stat sheets, and Hill has used this to his advantage. Across the board he is solid if not spectacular, and is prone to having big rebounding nights every now and then. I compare Hill to a Shane Battier-style glue guy for your fantasy roster, which any fantasy veteran knows is an important role to fill. If you have room on your roster Hill would be a great guy to hedge your bet on. He gets a Mother Lode from me.

*All stats up to date as of 3/23/10

Want a chance to be published on ...and win a copy of MLB2K10? ... and a Buffalo Wild Wings hooded sweatshirt? Then you need to," Fight for your Write!"

Be sure to check out FANTASY SCORECARD, the fantasy baseball season preview special brought to you by RotoExperts and Free the Fan. The show airs at noon ET on Friday, March 26 at

Do you have a different opinion from Tamer and Tom? Do you need help with your fantasy basketball team? Get in touch with them at and

You May Like