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There's just over one month remaining in the regular season - a crucial time for fantasy owners trying to finish in the money. Unfortunately, many NBA coaches won't make things easy for you.
A couple of things to think about as you plan for the stretch drive:
Extra rest for aging superstars
Tim Duncan was dominant Thursday night, carrying the Spurs to a narrow 92-91 win over Dallas with a 28-point, 19-rebound explosion. Of course, there's a good reason Timmy had a little extra jump in his step - he skipped San Antonio's previous game entirely. He didn't even make the trip to Minnesota. Pay close attention to updates on players like Duncan, especially during back-to-backs and stretches with three games in four nights.
The season-ending injury
The closer we get to the end of the season, the likelihood that an otherwise minor injury will be deemed "season-ending" increases substantially. Savvy fantasy owners can take advantage of that fact. A short-term injury like the one Kobe Bryant suffered this week creates an opportunity to get a couple of games out of someone like Jodie Meeks. However, if Bryant was to be sidelined for the rest of the year, his replacement would become a lot more valuable.
Personnel decisions and playoff positioning
Playoff-bound teams may opt to shelve key guys for the rest of the year in the hopes they'll be at full strength for the postseason - the Knicks and Amar'e Stoudemire, for example. Lottery squads may opt to shut guys down so as not to risk further injury or to improve their chances of landing the top pick. But teams fighting for playoff berths - or seeding - are likely to keep their rotations intact.
In the East, the top eight is more or less set. Milwaukee would be the last playoff team if the season ended today, and the Bucks have an eight-game edge over ninth-place Toronto. In the West, the Warriors (6th), Rockets (7th), Lakers (8th), Jazz (9th), Mavs, and Blazers (tied, 10th) are separated by six games total. There's still time for a lot of movement among those teams.
Do the math
When trying to make up ground in a category, it is important to understand how the stats for that column are tabulated. In most leagues, FG% and FT% are counted as an overall team percentage. The team's total number of shots made is divided by the total number of attempts.
The problem is this: as the number of shots and attempts get larger, the harder it becomes to move the overall team percentage very much. And in leagues that use rotisserie-style scoring - where the percentages are figured using full-season stats, those shot and attempt numbers are getting pretty big at this point.
So, if you're looking to make up ground in a category, you might have a better luck concentrating on the counting categories - points, boards, steals, etc.
Picks for the Week
All percent-owned stats are from Yahoo! Your league’s mileage may vary.
Tyreke Evans (89%) - Are we finally starting to see Evans realize the potential he showed as a rookie? Maybe ... he has averaged nearly 24 points in his last three games.
Ricky Rubio (80%) - It appears Rubio is getting closer to 100% after last season's knee injury. Since the All-Star break, he's averaging over 13 points, nine assists, and three steals per game.
Pau Gasol (79%) - The Lakers plan to move Gasol back into the starting lineup when he returns from his foot injury next week, and with Kobe hurting, they could make him a big focus of the offense.
Rodney Stuckey (24%) - Stuckey will have an expanded role for the next couple of weeks as Brandon Knight recovers from a badly sprained ankle.
Nick Young (18%) - Back after missing seven games with an ankle injury, Young should win the starting job back from Damien Wilkins before too long.
Marcus Camby (14%) - Camby may not be 100% healthy, but the Knicks are getting desperate. The 38-year-old center played 19 minutes against Portland Thursday and could see more action as long as Tyson Chandler (knee) is sidelined.
Brandan Wright (10%) - Wright is averaging 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks over his last six games, and seems to be replacing Chris Kaman in coach Rick Carlisle's rotation.
Donatas Motiejunas (6%) - Motiejunas has been playing very well since he was moved into Houston's starting lineup. He scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting with five rebounds, two three-pointers and a block in 28 minutes Wednesday, and should have a significant role for the Rockets down the stretch.
Kenyon Martin (2%) - Martin has gone from 10-day contract signee to key contributor as the Knicks scramble to replace Amar'e Stoudemire's production.
Chris Copeland (2%) - With Carmelo Anthony hurting and Stoudemire out for the season, the Knicks need scoring from the frontcourt badly. Copeland struggles on the defensive end and doesn't rebound well, but he can get buckets.
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