Fantasy Week 9 (Feb. 20-26) will be the shortest period of the season, as games only run Monday through Thursday with the NBA's All-Star break starting at the end of the week. There are only 66 games scheduled over the next seven days with most clubs slated to play twice. However, eight teams will play three times, while the Raptors and Bobcats will play just once over during the upcoming scoring period.
With so few games scheduled this week, Fantasy owners will have little room for error when setting their lineups. One bad game can put teams in an insurmountable hole, which is why it is important to pay a little more attention to matchups this week. Luckily for Fantasy owners, we have gone through this week's schedule with a fine-tooth comb and highlighted the teams with the most intriguing matchups. While we strongly recommend doing your own homework, the information below should give owners some insight on which teams have the best and worst matchups over the next seven days.
The team we feel has the most intriguing schedule this week is the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder is one of eight teams slated to play three times during Week 9, although it is the only team with three home games on the docket. Oklahoma City will open the scoring period on Monday night against the Hornets in its third and final matchup of the season against New Orleans. After a day off, the Thunder will close out the scoring period with a back-to-back set against the Celtics and Lakers on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
While facing the Lakers and Celtics in the same week is never an easy task -- especially with both teams ranked in the top five in points allowed -- the Thunder look more than up to the challenge. Oklahoma City has been one of the highest scoring teams this season, averaging nearly 102 points per game. The Thunder put up roughly 104 points per game at home and is shooting a league-best 51 percent from the field at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Despite the defensive prowess of the Lakers and Celtics, we expect Kevin Durant and Co. to score some points this week, so Fantasy owners should feel free to get most of Oklahoma City's Fantasy options active. Other than the obvious choices of Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, owners should be sure to get Serge Ibaka active in most leagues. Even Kendrick Perkins – if healthy -- and Nick Collison could be worth using in deeper formats.
Northwest: Minnesota Timberwolves (@DEN, UTA): The Timberwolves are one of the many teams slated to play twice during Week 9, although Minnesota looks to have some favorable matchups on the docket. Coach Rick Adelman's squad will begin the week in Denver on Monday night before returning home to take on the Jazz on Wednesday evening. While Minnesota will have played a stretch of five games over eight days when all is said and done, owners couldn't have asked for better matchups. Utah and Denver are ranked in the bottom tier in points allowed this season and both teams are allowing opponents to shoot more than 45 percent from the field. Minnesota has also been clicking on offense over the past week and is averaging 99.7 points over its last five games. All signs point to the Timberwolves playing in some high-scoring affairs over the next few days, so owners should not hesitate to use some of Minnesota's lower-end options. Besides must-start options Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, owners should make sure Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour are active this week. Even the head-scratching Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams could be worth using in deeper formats.
Southwest: New Orleans Hornets (@OKC, @IND, @CLE): The Hornets are slated to play three times during Week 9, including in their first and only back-to-back-to-back set of the season. All three of New Orleans contests will be played on the road, starting Monday night against the Thunder. The Hornets will take on the Pacers on Tuesday before wrapping up the first half of the season on Wednesday against Cleveland, which will conclude a grueling five-game road trip that spanned over eight days. While fatigue and depth will likely play a big factor for the Hornets this week, points could also be come to tough by. New Orleans is already averaging a league-worst 86.3 points per game on the road this season and now will have to face two of the better defensive teams. Both Indiana and Oklahoma City rank in the top five in opponent field-goal percentage, while the Hornets have scored more than 90 points just once over their last five games. However, there are still some Fantasy options worth using on the Hornets, despite their gloomy upcoming outlook. Chris Kaman has been playing well and is worth starting this week in most formats as well as Gustavo Ayon. However, owners may want to leave the consistently inconsistent Trevor Ariza reserved in most formats as well as Jarrett Jack since he is still working his way back from a knee injury.
Pacific: Los Angeles Clippers (@GS, DEN): The Clippers are slated to play twice during Week 9 and look to have some favorable matchups on tap. Los Angeles will start the week on the road at Golden State on Monday night before returning home for a matchup against the Nuggets on Wednesday. While two games don't leave Fantasy owners much room for error in case of a down performance, the Clippers should be able to score some points this week. Both Denver and Golden State are allowing more than 100 points per contest and Los Angeles has put up over 100 points against each team once already this season. Despite the light schedule, Fantasy owners should have no qualms about using most of the Clippers' main Fantasy options this week. Make sure Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan are all active for the scoring period. Even Randy Foye could be worth a look in deeper leagues.
Central: Milwaukee Bucks (ORL, @CHI): The Bucks have two games scheduled this week, although both are against two of the league's better defensive teams. Milwaukee will begin the week with its third matchup of the year against the Magic on Monday night before wrapping up the scoring period on the road at Chicago on Wednesday night. Both Orlando and Chicago are ranked in the top 10 in points allowed and opponent field-goal percentage, plus the Bucks are winless against both clubs this season. Milwaukee has also been struggling to light up the scoreboard over the past week, as the Bucks have averaged just 91 points per game over their last four contests. Playing the Magic and Bulls this week likely won't help coach Scott Skiles' club solve their offensive issues, so owners may want to try and avoid using some of Milwaukee's Fantasy options during the upcoming scoring period. Brandon Jennings' recent shooting woes make him a candidate to sit this week and Drew Gooden is dealing with wrist and knee issues, making him an injury risk. Surprisingly, Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino have been Milwaukee's two most consistent producers of late, so owners may want to consider rolling with those two this week.
Southeast: Charlotte Bobcats (IND): The Bobcats are one of two teams slated to play only once during Week 9, but at least their lone game is at home. However, it will be against the Pacers on Wednesday night, one of the better defensive teams in the league. Indiana is surrendering an average of 92.8 points per game and is allowing opponents to shoot just 43 percent from the field. Charlotte was held to just 77 points in its lone matchup against the Pacers this season and there is little reason to think that Charlotte won't have trouble scoring when these two clubs meet again. While the Bobcats are finally starting to get some key pieces healthy, they are still nowhere near full strength, which makes players like D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette risky plays with only one game on the docket. Fantasy owners should try and avoid using any of the Bobcats' Fantasy options this week -- if possible. If you have no choice, Austin, Maggette and Kemba Walker are the only players we recommend for the week.
Atlantic: Toronto Raptors (DET): The Raptors are the other team with just one game on the docket for Week 9 and just like the Bobcats, it will also be at home. Toronto will play host to the Pistons on Wednesday night in the first of three meetings between the two teams. While Detroit is not known as one of the stingier teams in the league, Fantasy owners should still try and avoid using most of the Raptors' Fantasy options where possible. Toronto has really had problems scoring points since Andrea Bargnani went down with a calf injury and receives sporadic production from most of its main options. DeMar DeRozan continues to struggle shooting the ball, while Amir Johnson and Ed Davis have been non-existent at times this season. The Raptors' most consistent producer this season has been Jose Calderon, who is the only player we feel comfortable endorsing this week. Fantasy owners should consider starting any of Toronto's other options at their own peril.