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Monday, March 19th, 2007 at 11:25 am  |  23 responses

Week 21 Fantasy Update: Everybody Makes a Run

The Lakers get healthy, Danny Ainge goes berserk and LaMarcus is set for the stretch run

By Emry DowningHall 

I can’t be mad if you’ve put your fantasy team on the backburner these past few days to concentrate on your bracket. March Madness is as exciting, if not more so, then any other sporting event and deserves the attention it receives. At the same time, though, we are entering the 21st week of the fantasy basketball season, and in many leagues, the final week before the start of the postseason. So while the NCAA teams collide keep in mind that the big fellas are still doing their thing at the next level, and there are moves to be made. In other words… regulators, mount up!

Kobe Bryant has chosen the 2006-2007 basketball season as his personal soapbox to let everyone know they’re witnessing the new, team first Mamba, right? The Portland Trailblazers and Minnesota Timberwolves would most likely dissent after Bryant torched them for 65 and 50 points respectively. That’s a total of 115 points in two games. The Lakers’ slew of injuries this season sits well only with Bryant owners, who can expect accelerated stat lines the rest of the way.

In other Lakers-related news, here today, gone tomorrow fantasy contributor Brian Cook is out until late March with an ankle injury. The surprise return of Lamar Odom (shoulder) really decimated his value, and unless Odom’s injury is aggravated, do not expect much from Cook the rest of the way.

Luke Walton (ankle) was back in the lineup for Thursday night’s matchup against Denver and looked solid with 13 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. He followed up that outing with a DNP the next night in Portland due to soreness in his ankle. Thanks for coming out Luke. Walton missed 21 straight games with his injured ankle and Friday’s DNP is a clear sign that it’s still an issue. On Sunday, Walton was back in the starting lineup and said his ankle was feeling much better. Phil Jackson loves his passing and patience in the triangle, so if he can keep his ankle trouble under control, he should contribute for the Lakers.

Word on the curb is that Paul Pierce woke up Saturday morning with a text message from Danny Ainge that read: Double P, what it do playa? You see that kid Kevin Durant last night in the tournament? Dude was shittin’! That guy Oden’s not bad either! I talked to my man Stern; he said he would look out in the lottery. By the way, how’s that foot feeling? Any chance you wanna fall back and we let Gerald Green live a little? Scream at me Truth. P.S. Let me hold 30K?

While nothing is confirmed (and frankly I had no idea Ainge was that urban) there have been reports out of Boston that Pierce is considering shutting it down for the season due to various ailments that may possibly be related to his foot injury. However, Doc Rivers has mentioned that Pierce is running no risk of further injury by playing and he expects him to finish the season with the Celtics. Pierce owners have already dealt with one major injury this season, so this shouldn’t be surprising. The Celtics are knee deep in the Durant/Oden sweepstakes at this point, so it seems possible Pierce could shut it down. Keep your eye on the situation and snatch Gerald Green and Rajon Rondo if Pierce calls it a year.

A couple seasons ago Flip Murray turned some heads when he filled in admirably for the injured Ray Allen. Even in a brief stint it was enough for Flip to get noticed and get a new contract. He once again has a chance to shine as Chauncey Billups is day-to-day with a pulled groin muscle, and Lindsey Hunter is serving a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. Flip responded Friday night, knocking down 12-of-16 shots for 25 points and racking up four boards and an amazing six steals. He is likely available in your league and should be given waiver consideration down the stretch, should Billups’ groin injury force him to miss additional time. When Flip gets tick he has a habit of filling the box score. And briefly, while we’re discussing the Pistons, I gotta ask this: Was my man Lindsey Hunter really suspended for taking his wife’s diet pills? What a beating! Just picture Rasheed Wallace’s face when he heard that news.

I mentioned this in last week’s column and I want to touch on it again. For these late season playoff runs it’s imperative to have as many players as possible on your team that play four-game weeks. If you’re in a deep league, and you have some players at the end of your rotation who only play two or three games that week, consider cutting them for a waiver guy who plays four times. Keep in mind the Clippers and the Grizzlies actually both play five-game weeks down the stretch. This means guys who would normally have marginal fantasy value will be worth a look. (Depending on the size of your league see Jason Hart, Cuttino Mobley, Chucky Atkins, and Hakeem Warrick.)

If you’re looking for a complete week-by-week games played schedule, you can find it here.

If you’ve been sleeping on picking up fantasy column regular LaMarcus Aldridge because of inconsistent production this season you may have hit the snooze button one too many times. Aside from an off night on Sunday, Aldridge has recorded three straight double-doubles and has been able to keep his foul situation under control. If he somehow wasn’t snatched up in your league, please make that happen as soon as possible. Portland plays four times in week 21 and Aldridge looks like a terrific second center during this stretch.

If you’re in need of some assistance on the waiver wire your first moves should be making sure Eddie Jones, Steve Francis and Lamar Odom have all been picked up. Both Jones and Francis had been fit for the fantasy graveyard before a buyout (Jones) and injury (Francis) paved the way for dramatic returns for the former all-stars. Odom’s season was supposed to be a wrap due to a shoulder injury, but Lamar has elected to suck it up and help the Lakers’ playoff run. If any of the abovementioned guys are available, by all means, go get ’em.

Denver’s Linas Kleiza was due for waiver wire consideration until Saturday night when the reemergence of J.R. Smith gave his production a major hit. He scored five points and only attempted four shots from the field. This is a far cry from earlier in the week where Kleiza set back-to-back career highs in scoring with 24 and 29 points. If J.R. Smith’s knee problems pop up again, keep an eye on Kleiza. He will contribute if given the opportunity to shine, but take a pass on him for now.

With Juwan Howard in the middle of a slump, Jeff Van Gundy has given the majority of the minutes at power forward to Chuck Hayes. Hayes had 14 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday night and added another double-double in a blowout win Sunday against the Sixers. If you need some support on the glass Hayes will be a solid source of rebounds and will offer value going forward, especially in Roto leagues.

What was once considered a minor ankle sprain for David Lee will now sideline the second year forward for the remainder of the regular season. Although the diagnosis is still not 100% clear, rumors of a stress fracture – the same injury that ended Jamal Crawford’s season – have surfaced. If Lee were able to return this season it would only be in the final week of the regular season, making him a prime candidate for the waiver wire. Undrafted in most leagues, Lee has been a double-double machine for owners this season and will be sorely missed during the season’s final furlong.

If you’re looking to cut ties with a couple more players this week I recommend giving the boot to Charlie Villanueva and Jason Hart. Villanueva has been a model of inconsistency this season and has been added and dropped repeatedly in all the leagues I play in. He continues to suffer from tendonitis in his right shoulder and is an extremely risky play. With Sam Cassell once again handling the rock for the Clippers, Hart’s value has been reduced. However, he is still worth keeping in mind for week 25 because the Clippers will suit up five times that week.

Week 21 marks the final week of regular season play in most leagues. If your league’s playoff position hasn’t been decided and your transaction limit isn’t maxed out, make sure you work the waiver wire and get the most games possible for your team. Just remember to do so without dropping anyone that would be a major upgrade for an opponent’s roster or you might have some people snapping on you on the message board. I know it’s late in the year, but it’s the NBA, everybody makes a run. As always, stay on point with the waiver wire and I will see you all next week.

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  • 1hush D

    first? do I win something for this?

  • Keith

    Third. Damn my counting disability!

  • http://www.customizedchopshop.com PIMPN

    ive had joe johnson all year. is he coming back??? i havent heard anything!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    Pimpn: Nothing is definite with Joe because the injury is a deep contusion and not something that will require surgery. Best case scenario he is back in 2-3 weeks, meaning late playoffs for fantasy owners. If you need to cut him for a guy you like on the wire, I would go ahead and do so …

  • http://chuckhayesfans.net Hayesfan

    Juwan Howard isn’t in a slump. He went three games hitting 13 in a row from the floor and 5-5 from the free throw line last week and last night shot 5-6 last night in Philly.

    Chuck is getting the starting nod to play alongside Yao to bring Juwan as a scorer off the bench.

    Both would be a good pickup in a deep league for both rebounding and 10-14 points a game

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    Hayesfan: Great point, it is hard to defend using slump when Howard is shooting so well from the floor. Perhaps decreased PT is more accurate (At least when compared to February) But I do agree that both should be owned in deep leagues… however, Hayes is more likely to be available on the wire while Juwan is already widely snatched up.

  • Simmy Sosa

    Anyone know anything about Okafor? I’ve got Emeka and Joe Johnson sitting on my bench right now, and I’m in third place in a very close league.

  • Jax

    I have Emeka O. What should I do with him – Kut or wait?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    Simmy and Jax: I actually responded to a Joe Johnson question earlier in the comments section so if you need some info on JJ check that out. Concerning Emeka… The Charlotte Observer reports that Okafor has begun light movement and touch drills for the Bobcats. There is no report or any kind of involvement in scrimmaging or full contact practice drills so I would guess at best he is one full week away. The good news is that any movement at all is a sign of a return … but it doesn’t sound like it’s progressing as fast as owners had hoped. Cutting Okafor depends entirely on where you stand in your league. If cutting him for a guy like Hakeem Warrick might push you into the playoffs then go for it, if you’re already set with your post season position then wait a week and check for an update next week on his status.

  • http://www.customizedchopshop.com PIMPN

    im gon sit him on the bench til the playoffs start, just in case. i would be waaaaaaaay ahead of everyone if boozer and joe wouldnt have got hurt. not to mention baron davis

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    Pimpn: If you can afford to do so that is definitely the safest play, it would be a real hurt piece if you let him go and then he came back and your opponent picked him up. So if you can afford to stash him, do that.

  • http://www.customizedchopshop.com PIMPN

    yep. i picked up lamar odom last week cuz some fool dropped him. hahahahahahahahahaha

  • Vince/Pippen Lovechild

    Hasn’t Juwan Howard been in a slump for about 8 years??

  • Bird PANTS

    With the NCAA tournament in full swing, I’ve got to admit I’ve been watching college ball more than the NBA lately. The question I have for you is: You have the #1 pick in this year’s draft, and assuming Kevin Durant and Greg Oden both declare, who would you go with? And since this is a fantasy column, who would you predict to have a bigger fantasy impact as a rookie in the L??

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    BirdPants: That’s not an easy question for me to answer … i appreciate you making me think. As far as who I go with #1 that entirely depends on my roster. I’m sure you have heard that before but I really feel this is a unique situation where both guys represent unique niches that can really give a team a chance to compete. Even with Durant’s incredible shooting touch and upside I think I would be more apt to go with Oden simple because of his size and the lack of centers in the league. At the same time the game is changing and this year the two best teams, arguable the three best teams have no true center. (PHX, DA, SA) So it honestly is a very tough call … but I give a slight edge to big Oden. As far as fantasy goes … I have concerns about Durant’s body in the NBA and his ability to rebound but I seem to be the only one. If he fills out just a bit and can bang a little down low I give it to him because he has the ability to score, shoot from deep, board, dime all day, steal and block. The kid is a problem. Oden might have a better immediate impact next year, but I think Durant will also be a solid contributor. I’m also going to predict that both come out for the NBA. Great question though … could go either way.

  • C

    With the tourney in full swing I think it is good to talk about the Oden and Durant debate. No question they are #1 and #2 in the draft. What are your feelings on other young draft picks that will most likely make the jump. Do you think someone like Glen Davis, or Brandan Wright, who are probably lottery picks fair next year in the fantasy make-up. Do you see them, or anyone surpassing the hyped up Durant and Oden? Also, what about guards coming out this year? Do you feel guys like Lofton, Law, or even Kruger have any potential for contribtion in fantasy next year?

  • C

    Also, your opinion entirely. Do you feel this draft class is the best draft class of all time? I feel it has all the potential in the world to be. What year would you compare this years draft class too in the past? How big of an impact could this draft have on fantasy for the following year? As you could probably tell I am out of the playoff race for this year, so I am gearing up for next year.

  • Bill

    Come on Em, you know you would pick Aaron Gray with the 1st pick in the draft.

    BTW sweet text message from Danny “street” Ainge

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    C: Thanks for reading and those are some good questions. Let me say off the bat that I’m not a huge fan of drafting rookies. It’s so tough to tell not only how they will adapt to the NBA style of play and physical nature of the league but also how they will fit in with their teams, not to mention the infamous rookie wall. I’m not sure about Big Baby but Wright will certainly be a fantasy contributor at some point, although I wouldn’t necessarily expect anything from him his rookie year in the league. As far as the guards coming out, again, no, I don’t think they will have a major impact. Best case scenario is the type of season that Roy had for the Blazers… and even then you could argue that Roy was bolstered by the injury he suffered that allowed him to rest. Honestly, the attitude with rooks has got to be wait and see… I have a real quick trigger on the waiver wire so there are usually a number of guys I look at at the beginning of the season…

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    C II: Wow, you’re making me work this week, lol. I appreciate the questions. Keep them coming, hope I can help: I think based on potential… yes, this has a chance to be one of the best draft classes of all time. However, to say that before anyone gets picked or even picks up a summer league ball is just guessing … Take the 2003 draft … Clearly guys like LBJ and Melo are career fantasy studs but it’s the gems like Josh Howard, Leo Barbosa, or even a Boris Diaw that were picked at the end of the first round that will make the biggest impact as far as the depth of the draft and how that stacks up. No matter what tho it will impact fantasy drafts because people will be reaching for Oden and Durant and that will push established guys later in the draft. If you really wanna come up off the rookies do so by drafting solid all around fantasy producers when others reach for maybes….

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    Bill: I might take a shot at Gray in the mid first to late lottery depending on how he does in the camps. Although even then I feel like I am reaching … nothing against Gray but big white centers don’t exactly have a great track record in the NBA.

  • Scott Polyniak

    Yo its Scott via Peach from Maryland. I just learned of your writing for Slam! today and I’ve enjoyed it thus far. Especially the melanin deficient comment for Dave Lee. Keep dropping the vitals

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    Scott: Whatsup bol, I hope those hops are still right, I’m about to catch a put back on ya next time we hoop. Come back to philly, we could use your grindin!

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