Friday, March 18, 2005

Weekend Preview

We’re getting to the point in the season right now where the best fantasy basketball players are paying close attention to the standings, as well as the box score. From November until mid-March, the standings don’t really have all that much bearing on how your players are going to do. But now, players are achy and tired, everyone has some sort of nagging injury, and if the games don’t matter, some of the big names might decide against playing. So with that in mind, let’s check out the two teams with the biggest weekends ahead of them:

Orlando Magic
Games this weekend: Friday at Seattle, Saturday at Portland.
Don’t look at the firing of head coach Johnny Davis as a white flag from Magic management. Instead, it’s desperation move to try and get the players – most of all Steve Francis – to right the ship and guide this team to the playoffs. Unfortunately, they’re stuck in the middle of a 6-game losing streak, and have to finish off their West Coast swing with back-to-back games in Seattle and Portland this weekend. Already on pace with 8th-place Philadelphia, a couple of wins could move them right up against the 7th-place Indiana Pacers, who are looking at playing out the season without Jermaine O’Neal. A couple of losses, though, and they could be looking to the offseason and trying to trade Stevie Franchise.

Should they keep pace with the ... err … Pacers, and the Sixers, Grant Hill and Francis owners should breathe a sigh of relief. But if they lose both games this weekend, it could mark the beginning of the end for Hill. He’s a consummate pro, but since turning that ankle you’ve got to think he’s worried about overextending himself in meaningless games. If that’s the case, Hedo Turkoglu should be snapped up immediately, considering his outstanding play last week while Hill was out. In fact, if you’ve got room on your bench, he’s not a bad player to stash away.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Games this weekend: Friday at Memphis, Sunday vs. Houston.
The T-Wolves are another team teetering on the brink off falling out of the playoff race, and could fall for good this weekend against 2 playoff-bound teams. And they’ve got plenty of players who would be more than happy to shut it down for the year, starting with Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, who have both been huge disappointments this year. The problem with these guys shutting it down is that there are really NO young players on the T-Wolves who are ready to step up in their potential absence. This, of course, can be directly attributed to the Joe Smith penalty, as their drafts since 1999 have produced: Igor Rakocevic (one and done), Loren Woods (now with Toronto), Marcus Taylor (never played), Ndudi Ebi (0.8 ppg last year, ILed all year), Rick Rickert (never played), and Blake Stepp (never played). Yikes!

One youngster who could end up have a huge final month of the year is Eddie Griffin, who is a personal pick as a nice sleeper for next year. Despite only getting 21.1 mpg so far this year, he’s averaged 1.7 blocks and 1.1 3’s, and could entrench himself in the starting lineup at SF with a good close to the year. He might be on your waiver wire since he just came off the IL, and if so, should be grabbed. Troy Hudson and Fred Hoiberg could also see more time in the final weeks if the Wolves fall out of contention.

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