Fantasy Basketball, Week 4
Injury dilemma or newfound opportunities?
by Charles Peach
In fantasy sports, certain themes repeat themselves, probably none more often than ‘injury equals opportunity.’ When a star player goes down, like Chris Paul did last week, the fan inside of us feels upset that our lives will be temporarily void of the player’s inspiring highlights. If you’re a fan of the team, the New Orleans Hornets in this case, then you are truly devastated and already contemplating a losing season. The faster you train yourself to look at injuries from a fantasy owner’s perspective before a fan’s perspective the more successful your fantasy team will become.
Rookie Darren Collison is the player who gains the greatest opportunity from Paul’s terrible situation. He’ll likely hold the starting point guard spot while Paul recovers. Marcus Thornton is another rookie who will see more time for the Hornets and second-year guard Bobby Brown called the opportunity, ‘my prerogative.’ Well, I don’t know about that, but every little step he takes I will be there.
Unfortunately, the sprained ankle seemed to be of the severe variety. Paul could miss up to a month and if the team continues to add losses to their 3-8 record during that stretch it would be foolish to rush him back with little at stake.
The injuries don’t stop in New Orleans. Devin Harris is still out with a groin injury and isn’t being hurried along by the Nets, who are well on their way to a top-three pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. In his place, Rafer Alston rewarded his fantasy owners with a triple-double on Friday night. Travis Outlaw could be out for two months with a stress fracture in his left foot so Rudy Fernandez will get first dibs on those minutes. Eric Gordon also missed last week because of a groin injury and he’ll continue to rest for at least six more games. Rasual Butler, Kareem Rush, and Ricky Davis are getting time at the open guard spot, however Al Thornton has stepped up his offense during Gordon’s absence.
The Sixers’ Marreese Speights was enjoying somewhat of a breakout season until he learned that he has a partial tear in his MCL which is expected to keep him out six to eight weeks. No player should come out of nowhere as a fantasy option in this situation but it should force Elton Brand to get into gear. Samuel Dalembert will also be relied to do more at the Center position.
In ‘Waiver Wire Pickups’ you will see more players who’ve achieved fantasy relevance because of injuries to teammates. Before we get to that I briefly want to discuss the importance of adding and dropping players and when it is best to do so. In my 12-team league we have 14 players on our roster. At the moment, the last two guys on my roster are interchangeable. I constantly swap them in and out for free-agents depending on match-ups. For instance, last week I faced a strong rebounding team so I picked up Joel Przybilla for the week. Chris Andersen is another player like Przybilla who is often on the waiver wire and can help you for short stints. There are specialists out there for every category so examine your match-up for the week and acquire accordingly. For assists, Kyle Lowry and Earl Watson are good short-term options. For three-pointers, you could go with Marco Belinelli, Daniel Gibson, or a Golden State Warrior. So remember, when the categories are close after Saturday night’s games look at who’s playing on Sunday who could push you over the top and get you the win. *If your league sets a number of maximum moves you should limit your use of this strategy.*
Waiver Wire Pickups
Udonis Haslem – He’s probably only available in smaller leagues but he is a must own in 12-team leagues. Five double-doubles off of the bench so far this season, including a 28 and 12 performance without Jermaine O’Neal in the lineup on Saturday.
Dahntay Jones – He is also unlikely to be on your wire, but in case he is pick him up. He averaged 18.4 points in his last five and he also can rebound and block.
Raja Bell – He just became a Golden State Warrior. He brings with him something called ‘defense’ which Nellie will have to let him explain to the team when he arrives. To your fantasy team however, he brings three-pointers. When he played with the up-tempo Phoenix Suns he was a useful fantasy player, hitting about 2.5 threes per game. If you are suffering in the threes category Bell could be a very useful acquisition… if Nellie remembers he’s on the roster.
Andres Nocioni – Since his arrest for driving with a little too much Malbec in his system the Kings have won four straight and he contributed 13.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1 steal, and nearly two threes during that stretch.
Will Bynum – Richard Hamilton continues to miss time and Bynum is making the most of his minutes, averaging 21 points in his last three games while shooting 63 percent.
JJ Hickson – Welcome to the starting lineup, kid. The Cavs have won all four games which he has started and he averaged 19 points in his last two.
Corey Brewer – He can really mess up your field goal percentage. But if it’s already messed up you should get him because he’s second in the League in steals.
Ryan Gomes – He is rounding into a dependable fantasy option averaging 11 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1 steal per game this season. Even when Kevin Love returns, he should continue to hold similar value.
Carl Landry – Averaging 14.2 points and 5.6 rebounds on the season, shoots great percentages and gets you a block per game.
George Hill – He’s benefiting from injuries to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Gregg Popovich apparently wants to increase his workload. Track his progress. He can hit threes; pass, rebound, steal, and he averaged 17 points in his last three games.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – He has worked his way back into a starting role so keep your eye on him. He could be valuable in defensive categories; rebounds, steals, and blocks.
Taj Gibson/Brad Miller – The rookie or the vet? Who will prevail? Both of these guys have had big games in the absence of Tyrus Thomas. Monitor the competition between these two to see who Vinny Del Negro favors because Thomas will be out another month.
Brandon Rush – Slow start to the year for Rush but his last two games were solid; 10.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and one steal.
Earl Watson – Don’t run out and scoop Lil’ Earl just yet but keep your eye on him. The only thing stopping him from being a very worthy fantasy player is the forever injury-prone TJ Ford.
Eric Maynor – The rookie from VCU put together two very good performances in place of Deron Williams. Williams isn’t expected to miss any more time though, so Maynor won’t be a fantasy option. But now you know where to turn if something Chris Paul-like were to happen to DWill.
Other Fantasy Notes
– Stephen Jackson got what he wanted. Now he’s in Charlotte. I would expect his numbers to take a hit just because he’s going from the highest scoring team in the League to the lowest. Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw and Ray Felton can all expect to take less shots per game now that Captain Jack is in town.
– Rashard Lewis has finished serving his suspension and should be in the starting lineup tonight when the Magic host the Bobcats. His return will send the likes of Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus, and Ryan Anderson back to the waiver wire.
– Antawn Jamison is set to make his season debut on Wednesday. Andray Blatche has played very well so far this season but it Jamison’s return will inevitably cut into his production. Try to deal Blatche while you can.
Fantasy Line of the Week
Brandon Jennings (vs GS) 55 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 21 of 34 field goals, 7 of 8 threes
Like there was any other choice! He basically declared himself the Rookie of the Year. Oh, and the Bucks are actually winning. 5-2. Be prepared to see his name amongst the league leaders in scoring for years to come.