This article is part of our Category Strategy series.
Under the Radar
By Kevin Payne
RotoWire Staff Writer
As the NBA season winds down, fantasy owners can improve their team's chance of winning or improving by taking a look at few things. First, a few teams with players waiting on the waiver wire have favorable schedules from a fantasy perspective. The Sacramento Kings have five games remaining against teams usually involved with high-scoring affairs: Golden State (2), Phoenix (2) and Denver (1). Potential players on your waiver wire include Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes and Beno Udrih. The Memphis Grizzlies are another team with favorable fantasy matchups: Phoenix (2), Golden State (1) and Sacramento (1) - the team ranked 29th in points against per game. Players from the Grizzlies that may be available include Mike Conley and Hakim Warrick.
In leagues counting cumulative stats, see how many games each team actually has left. It's smarter to start a lesser player who will play a couple of extra games over a better player. Finally, keep an eye on teams that will shut down their stars after clinching a playoff berth. Teams out of the playoff race may also choose to rest their best players with nothing left to play for. A great example is the Washington Wizards resting injured Caron Butler, giving a young guy like Andray Blatche more playing time.
Now onto our weekly look at minutes, categories and player eligibility.
Here is the list of players who have seen an increase in playing time the last few games or expect to see an increase in the upcoming schedule.
Andray Blatche, F, WAS - Blatche is seeing more court time with teammate Caron Butler out with a hamstring injury. He's played 31 and 32 minutes, respectively, his last two games, scoring 29 points and grabbing 22 rebounds. Blatche also averages more than a block per game and is an attractive option as long as Butler is on the bench.
Kelenna Azubuike, G, GSW - The former Kentucky Wildcat is the latest beneficiary of the coaching enigma that is Don Nelson. He's averaged 37 minutes his last four games and contributes across the board in fantasy stats. Only owned in 27 percent of fantasy leagues, Kelenna could help fantasy squads as the playoff season is upon us. Azubuike could return to the bench depending on who Nelson fancies that day, but start him while he's getting the minutes.
Drew Gooden, F, SAS - Gooden finally appears to be healthy after battling a groin injury for much of the season. He is now playing for the Spurs and will gradually build up his minutes as he gets back to game speed. Gooden is a nightly threat to average 11 points while pulling down eight rebounds when completely healthy. He will also get many open looks on offense when opposing teams double Tim Duncan. Watch to see how Greg Popovich uses him going forward.
Ryan Hollins, C, DAL - Erick Dampier has been battling a sore knee, opening the door for Hollins. He's the darkhorse pick for this week, and gave a glimpse of what he can do with a 13-point, seven-rebound performance Friday against Atlanta. Keep an eye on him; at 7-foot you can expect some rebounds and blocks if he stays out of foul trouble.
This is a list of players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Nick Young, G, WAS - The guard is back to seeing substantial minutes for the Wizards. He's recorded seven straight games of scoring in the double-digits, including hitting the 20-point mark twice. He does not do much else on the court (averaging less than two rebounds and two assists per game this season) but is a viable scoring option in deeper leagues.
Arron Afflalo, G, DET - Afflalo has seen an increase in playing time with Rip Hamilton nursing a groin injury. Afflalo has been particularly good from downtown, making 10 three-pointers over his last four games. He's averaged 14.2 points, three rebounds and a steal per game in that stretch and will continue to see significant minutes while Hamilton is out.
Rebounds and Blocks
Joel Przybilla, C, POR - The "Vanilla Gorilla" has stepped up his game while Greg Oden is slowly returning from an injury. Joel is by no means a prolific scorer, but the man can post solid stats with rebounds and blocks. He has played more than 33 minutes in his last four games and posted at least 11 rebounds and two blocks in each. Przybilla also shoots from less than six feet, accounting for his 64-percent field goal shooting this season. Expect Portland to be cautious with Oden with the playoffs on the horizon, and Joel to continue to be a force in the paint.
The following players have received eligibility at a new position in the NBA.
Article first appeared on 3/25/09