Fantasy Week 18: Yao Shuts Down

by February 27, 2008

By Emry DowningHall

Rockets fans took a sledge hammer to the gut on Tuesday afternoon when it was reported that Yao Ming is going to miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his foot.

This is devastating news to the Rockets organization and fantasy owners alike, who’ve been enjoying a very productive season from the big fella.

This injury is going to incite a myriad of questions regarding Yao’s ability to stay healthy for a full NBA season and the risks involved in building your team around a super-sized center. Not only that, but it’s going to make it that much harder for Tracy McGrady to even make the playoffs, let alone get out of the first round in the super competitive Western Conference.

The fantasy implications of this injury revolve around Luis Scola. He was already coming on strong for the Rockets before Yao called it a season, and should average a double-double going forward. Beyond Yao, Dikembe Mutombo is the only true center Houston has on their roster, and since he’s 64 years old, I see Scola sliding into the five slot on most nights.

This will leave plenty of time at power forward for Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry. Both guys are undersized at the position but, Rick Adelman’s options are pretty limited at this point so he’s got to move forward with what’s on the table.

I had a slot to play with in one league and added Landry to clean the glass. He shoots a high percentage and has been a pleasant surprise for Houston this season. Keep your eye on how the Rockets breakup the playing time as either Landry or Hayes could start at the 4 and provide value the rest of the season, but for now, Landry looks like the better add.

With Lebron James calling the shots in Cleveland, GM Danny Ferry pulled off an 11-player, 11th hour, deal before last Thursdays deadline. Whether the trade will provide LBJ with the supporting cast he needs to get past the Pistons and Celtics remains to be seen, but on paper it appears the Cavs bolstered their front line as well as their bench.

Of the players dealt I expect Delonte West, and Wally Szczerbiak to benefit the most. West was shuffled around far too much in Seattle and wasn’t comfortable with his role. He’s a combo guard who can defend, knock down the open jump shot, as well as dish. With Daniel Gibson out at least another 3 weeks in Cleveland, West will be thrown into the fire and asked to produce. He should be added in all formats for owners in need of backcourt assistance.

Szczerbiak reminds me of that older guy who keeps showing up at your pickup games. You don’t want to add him to your squad because his lateral movement is all but shot due to that bulky knee brace and he doesn’t play a lick of D. However, he still feels he’s got the green light, and if he squares his shoulders to the basket, his stroke is still pretty wet.

That’s what Wally Szczerbiak brings to a NBA franchise these days. Catch and shoot. If you need points and threes, he’s going to get open looks with Lebron penetrating and he can still knock them down. He’s still a much better option for the Cav’s than Damon Jones and deserves a look in most formats.

When the Bulls shipped Joe Smith and Ben Wallace out of town, it should have opened the door for plenty of tick for both Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. The only issue there is, they got Drew Gooden back in the deal and he’s going to take time from both guys. Gooden’s value should remain very similar to what it was in Cleveland, while Tyrus Thomas is worth adding because of his shot blocking and rebounding ability. Noah’s poor shooting from the field and the line make him a player you should leave alone for now, but keep an eye on how he develops the rest of the way.

The same goes for Larry Hughes and Thabo Sefolosha. These guys are talented enough to contribute to a fantasy roster but Chicago has Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon and there’s simply not enough minutes to produce.

I had Bonzi Wells targeted as a sleeper at the start of this season because of how he had responded in Rick Adelman’s system in Sacramento, but things never panned out in Houston.

Wells was traded to the Hornets, along with Mike James in a deal that sent Bobby Jackson back to the Rockets. Wells becomes an intriguing fantasy option the minute he manages to steal Morris Peterson’s starting job. Byron Scott has said that Peterson is his guy but honestly, other than Quentin Richardson, Peterson has to be billed as the worst starter in the league, and Wells should fall into his job shortly.

SLAM readers understand what Wells is capable of when given an opportunity to contribute, and his toughness could be a real asset for the Hornets. I’m not suggesting you run out and add him right away, but be aware of his production and add him once he’s earning consistent minutes for the New Orleans.

When Wally was shipped out of Seattle, Sam Presti was maneuvering more minutes, shots, and cap space for Jeff Green and Kevin Durant. Durant is already owned in your league but Green likely isn’t. He’s in the starting lineup now and although it’s still a learning process for the youngster he’ll flirt with a double-double average the rest of the year.

Beyond the trade developments, the waiver wire is even thinner than usual this week. Owners in desperate need of a center could add Johan Petro, Joakim Noah, or Joel Przybilla, but none of those options are terrific alternatives to what you’re likely working with now. Jamario Moon has also returned to form in Toronto and deserves a look while Hakim Warrick has also cemented a starting role in Memphis and is producing.

Owners in need of assists should take a look at Brevin Knight who’s going to be the starting point guard for the Clippers after the team finalizes Cassell’s buyout. Knight has a hard time putting the ball in the basket but he’s going to get minutes by default and will tally assists and steals for patient owners.

Brandon Roy’s ankle injury has him slated to miss at least two games this week. This is good news for Roy owners because initially it appeared to be a much more serious injury. If you’re in a daily league and want to add Travis Outlaw as a plug-in starter, he should offer consistent value in Roy’s absence.

Gilbert Arenas called his own projected comeback date of March 2nd, “unrealistic” and added that he’s, “no where close to returning.” This barrage of bad news caused me to cut ties with Agent Zero in a league I had been holding him all season. He hasn’t set a new date for his attempted comeback.

As much as dropping Gilbert crushed me after hanging on for so long, my playoff position in the league is slipping and while Arenas may very well return in time to help owners make a playoff run, if you’re on the outside looking in, it doesn’t do you any good.

However, if you’re in position to coast into the playoffs and can afford to leave him parked on your bench, with a real possibility he wont return at all, that’s the safest play. Nothing would be worse than dropping Arenas only to have him added by another owner and force you to match up against him in the playoffs.