Fantasy Basketball 2013: Previewing The Christmas Day Games
It’s Christmas Eve, and that means 24 consecutive hours of A Christmas Story will be on television all day tomorrow. Yeah, yeah. We get it. You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
Now where’s the remote?
Christmas day means basketball. Tons and tons of basketball. And with the fantasy hoops season in full swing, owners will be stealthily checking their phones under the dinner table tomorrow afternoon. But before you submit your lineups, find out what you need to know for each contest on Christmas day.
Merry Christmas, y’all.
Chicago has been absolutely decimated by injury all season long, and it appears the injury bug isn’t done flying around just yet. The Bulls best player, Luol Deng, hasn’t been practicing due to an Achilles injury. His status for Christmas day is in serious doubt, which will likely mean more playing time for Taj Gibson. Also, Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy would also see an uptick in minutes. Meanwhile, shooting guard Jimmy Butler, who has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, practiced on Monday, and could very well suit up for Wednesday’s contest. Point guard Kirk Hinrich also participated in practice on Monday, and barring a setback, he is expected to play on Wednesday. This would hurt the value if newly acquired D.J. Augustin, who has been playing well in recent nights. Over his last four games, Augustin is averaging 13.8 points, 2.25 rebounds, eight assists and 1.5 steals per contest, all while playing over 31 minutes. He’ll still see a handful of minutes, but it may be a committee approach from the Bulls backcourt.
Meanwhile, for the Nets, the obvious blow comes from the center position, where All-Star Brook Lopez suffered a broken foot, and is out for the remainder of the year. Lopez, arguably the best offensive center in basketball, leaves a gaping hole in this lineup, but opportunity for two particular players. Andray Blatche figures to be the biggest beneficiary for fantasy, but a younger player has become an intriguing name. Mirza Teletovic has been getting the starts in place of Lopez. In two starts, the second-year player is logging 31.5 minutes, 13 points, four rebounds and three triples per contest. I still believe Blatche is the better long-term option, and will more than likely be considered a must-start option in fantasy land. The injury-plagued season for Deron Williams continues, as the point guard sprained his ankle in Monday night’s game. He didn’t return, and could be a serious question mark for Wednesday. I’d avoid him.
There aren’t really any notable pieces of information regarding the Thunder. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, everyone will be good to go for Oklahoma City. I do particularly like Westbrook in this contest, as Raymond Felton will be out for this game, and backup Beno Udrih isn’t exactly an opposing defender.
On the other hand, the Knicks have a handful of injury news. Like I mentioned, Felton will not play in this contest, which means Udrih will continue to start for New York. He’s played pretty well since taking over the starting job, and Oklahoma City is allowing 42.89 fantasy points per game to point guards, which is good for the fifth-most in the league. The only real enemy for Udrih’s fantasy prospects is the blowout factor. The Thunder could absolutely destroy the Knicks, which will certainly limit his upside in a solid matchup. The biggest news for the Knicks, however, is the status of star player, Carmelo Anthony. He sprained his ankle during Monday’s contest, and is looking like a true game-time decision for Christmas. Considering Melo has defeated Durant head-to-head in every meeting since Durant’s rookie year, I think he’ll do anything in his power to suit up in this one, and a guy who is averaging 43 fantasy points per game, Melo should go off in this one. However, if he doesn’t play, look for Andrea Bargnani to step in.
LeBron James is expected to be fine for Christmas day, and considering he’s the best player in the planet and dominates on Christmas, I think you should play him. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade didn’t play on Monday for rest, but he should suit up for Wednesday’s contest against the Lakers. I love him in this game, seeing as the Lakers are allowing 38.95 fantasy points to shooting guards (3rd-most), 23.89 points per game (2nd-most) and 1.80 steals per game (fifth-most) to the position.
Upon writing this, point guard Jordan Farmar has been cleared to play, which means the Xavier Henry experiment at point guard is likely over with. I still like Henry, however, as he should log plenty of minutes for the depleted Lakers. However, he may draw coverage from LeBron at times, which will certainly make things difficult. Nick Young will be a good play in this matchup, as he is starting to heat up. Over his last five games, Swaggy P is averaging 21 points and three triples per game. That bodes well against a Miami club that is surrendering 26 points from beyond the arc per game.
Perhaps the first decent game of the day is between these two Western Conference foes. For the Rockets, Jeremy Lin made his return to the lineup on Monday night. He netted 20 points, while adding two rebounds, two assists and a steal in a strong 37 minutes. He’ll continue to log as many minutes as he can handle, especially with backup Patrick Beverley (broken hand) out for the next 4-6 weeks. Meanwhile, Dwight Howard is arguably the hottest player in basketball right now. Over his last five games, he’s posted four double-doubles, including two games with at least 25-15. During that span, he is averaging a ridiculous 47.7 fantasy points per game. Keep rolling with him against a Spurs frontcourt that lacks the size and athleticism to keep up with him. Also, James Harden has missed the last two games, nursing a swollen ankle. If he can’t go, Francisco Garcia will continue to start in his place. Garcia is averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, five assists and 2.5 triples during his last two starts.
The Spurs offer much less drama. Tony Parker is still the same consistent fantasy stud he was before suffering a shin injury. In his first two games back, Parker is averaging an awesome 24.5 points, two rebounds, eight assists, 1.5 steals and 16.5 shot attempts per game. He should thrive in this game against the Rockets.
This is the Mecca of fantasy games.
Two top-10 teams in terms of pace, two of the highest-scoring offenses in the league, plenty of fantasy goodness will be had in this contest. I mean, practically everyone is in play for this game. We should see a heck of a battle between point guards Chris Paul and Steph Curry. I really like David Lee in this game, too. The big man is dominating the month of December, averaging 19.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 15.5 shot attempts per game. He’s posted a double-double in each of his last nine games, and my bet is for him to continue that trend in this game. As athletic as Blake Griffin is, he is a rather weak interior defender, so I like Lee in this matchup. Also, the Clippers are coughing up 42.22 fantasy points per game to power forwards, the seventh-most in the NBA. They are also surrendering the seventh-most offensive rebounds per game (11.8).
After stuffing your face with food, sit back, relax, and watch a potential 115-108 final. The final score when these teams first met was a whopping 126-115.
Merry Christmas to fantasy owners.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.