Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Need Wins? Play Stars.

Fantasy basketball … playing time … blah blah blah. You know the drill. Now it’s time to take advantage of that. Eastern Conference teams fighting for their playoff lives are going to ride their stars as much as they can from here on out. And really, there are only two teams that are safe, the Heat and the Pistons. No one else is assured of anything. The Cavs and Wizards have slumped to the point where they are both only three games from being the #8 seed, and five games from being out of the playoffs altogether. Everybody wants in, and nobody wants to play Miami or Detroit in the first round, so be ready to see lots of stars. I have a rather big headache, so sorry if today’s post is uninspiring.

Washington Wizards
Those of you worried that Gilbert Arenas will be affected by Larry Hughes’s return … stop worring. With Jarvis Hayes banged up and Juan Dixon and Hughes both needing to shake off a bit of rust, Gilbert will continue to see 40+ mpg. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Hughes and Antawn Jamison see close to 40, too. The Wiz need to right their ship and will look to their stars to make this happen.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Obviously, LeBron will be on the court almost all the time. Almost 43 mpg in February, and even though his numbers were down across the board, he’ll be out there, he has something to prove, and he should be a top-5 player. Zyrdunas Ilgauskas just can’t play 40 minutes, but he was up to nearly 37 in February, and as long as he keeps playing like Kareem, he’ll see as much time as he can handle. Jeff McInnis might also see a lot more PT than usual; he’s seen 40+ in 3 of the last 5. If Drew Gooden didn't see even 35 mpg with Anderson Varejao out, well, y'know.

Chicago Bulls
Kirk Hinrich is the only one who will see a big spike here. As I said earlier this week, he’s a great bet for the last 6 weeks. He’s #30 on the Rater this year and should be a third round pick for many years to come.

Orlando Magic
Hard to tell with this team. You’d expect Steve Francis to see lots of time, but it doesn’t make much sense when he’s playing like crap. Grant Hill is probably the one to benefit the most. His ankle has held up so far, so he should be good to go. Not counting the blowout against the Pacers, he’s averaged 40.3 in his last three. He is the team’s best player, and they’ll need him.

Indiana Pacers
Hard team to get a read on. You’d expect Jermaine O’Neal to get lots of extra PT, but he’s banged up, and it’s tough to count on a big guy for 40+ minutes. Stephen Jackson is very capable of playing 40+ minutes, but he just hasn’t played well enough to warrant it. Still, he brings good things to the table fantasy-wise, and I’m looking for a nice last month for him with his most PT of the year.

Philadelphia 76ers
Allen Iverson goes without saying. I really don’t see anyone else seeing that much of a bump. And I realize that AI is already seeing 42 mpg, but honestly, I expect a lot of 45 minutes games from him down the stretch. Him, Gilbert Arenas and LBJ are the three players I expect to log the most minutes down the stretch. Chris Webber, will stay around 38 or so, and that’s best for everyone.

Boston Celtics
There are going to be lots of 44-minute games from Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker. Just like the old days.

New Jersey Nets
Same old thing with Vince Carter and Jason Kidd. They really can’t play anymore than they already are. And as it becomes less likely the Nets will make the playoffs, I don’t expect VC to see more time on the bench, but definitely Kidd.

Toronto Raptors
They’ve tightened up their rotation a bit on this three-game winning streak, but no one player is going to see tons of time. Although if there was one, it might be Jalen Rose, who seems to be on one of his quests to prove that he’s not just an overpaid swingman. Enjoy it, but he’s still an overpriced swingman.

New York Knicks
Again, the Knicks have no choice but to play Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford 40+. If you need 3s, get Crawford before your trade deadline tomorrow.

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