Injuries are particularly tough on fantasy NBA owners. Fantasy baseball and football games typically have much larger rosters, allowing players to draft backups of fragile superstars; the typical fantasy NBA league has a three-man bench - just enough room to keep one backup guard, forward and center.
So when a key player goes down with a significant or season-ending injury, the waiver wire is usually the place to go.
Unfortunately, you can't just grab the injured man's backup and assume he'll get the same opportunities. More often than not, his shots will go to his team's other key contributors - usually, players that are already owned in fantasy leagues. But every once in a while, an injury creates an obvious waiver-wire opportunity... you just have to act fast to take advantage.
There are two such situations this week.
The season-ending injury to Greg Oden means Joel Przybilla will step in as Portland's starting center. Przybilla isn't much of a scorer - and most of Oden's touches on offense will likely go to players like Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. But Przybilla is an accomplished rebounder and shot-blocker (11.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per 36 minutes for his career), which means he'll help in two of the categories where Oden excelled. Unfortunately, Przybilla is an awful free-throw shooter - but he typically doesn't get enough attempts to really impact the category much.
Przybilla is owned in just 7.4 percent of ESPN NBA.com Leagues - and that percentage is up 6.3 since last week.
Danny Granger's injury - a torn plantar fascia in his right foot - will sideline Indiana's all-star forward for a month at minimum, and is the type of injury that can linger. His replacement in the starting lineup will likely be Dahntay Jones. Signed as a defensive specialist, Jones has been much more for Indiana, contributing better-than-expected numbers in scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounds (3.8) with just under one steal and one block per game and good percentages from the field (.447) and the line (.819). He won't replace Granger's three-point shooting (.2 made threes per36 minutes this season) but then, who can? There's a reason Granger was a top-six pick in most leagues.
Jones is owned in 34.8 percent of ESPN NBA.com leagues - a number that is down significantly since other injured Indiana players - most notably Mike Dunleavy - returned to the lineup.
The most popular adds in ESPN NBA.com Leagues this week:
The first set of picks is for players in standard leagues - guys who will typically be available in your average 10 team/15 player roster league. The second group is for owners in very deep leagues, and will be based more on speculation than actual numbers. The third batch of players will be guys I've mentioned in previous columns that still seem to be available in a lot of leagues and worth a look.
All "percent owned" stats are taken from ESPN NBA.com Fantasy Basketball - your mileage may vary.
Tyson Chandler (36% owned) - Is Chandler finally starting to find his niche in Larry Brown's system? He posted his first double-double of the year in Friday's loss to the Nets and blocked four shots in the effort (though he followed that up with eight points, twelve boards and no blocks in the next two games combined.)
Larry Hughes (33.2% owned) - Hughes has been a big part of the Knicks' strong play this month, averaging over 15 points, five assists, four boards and a steal in his last five games.
Tayshaun Prince (27.8% owned) - Expected to return to the lineup this weekend.
Chris Duhon (16.7% owned) - Like Hughes, Duhon's strong play has been a big factor in the Knicks' 4-1 December. You can't count on him for consistent scoring (he followed up a 25-point outburst in Friday's win over the Hawks with 13 points in his next two games combined) but is averaging over six assists and a steal in five December games. His numbers will improve further if he gets out of a season-long shooting slump and starts hitting the three at his career-average rate. (He's at .266 this season, but is a .358 three-point shooter for his career).
Dorell Wright (0.3% owned) - Miami coach Erik Spoelstra used Wright to check Sacramento's Tyreke Evans over the weekend, even giving the 6-7 swingman minutes at the point. Wright responded with his best game of the year, scoring 19 points and handing out five assists with one steal, one block and one three. A sign of things to come?
Jerryd Bayless (0.3% owned) - Could have a larger role off the bench with Rudy Fernandez (back) sidelined for a month or more. Or, could be used in a trade to bring in much-needed healthy bodies, which might also mean more playing time.
Mickael Pietrus (5.2% owned) - Pietrus continues to play well and solidify his grasp on the starting small forward spot in Orlando. He won't put up big numbers, but has been hot from three (13 made threes in three December games) and will get you some boards, blocks and steals. He posted new season highs in scoring twice this month, but those game against the suspect defenses of New York and Golden State.
Earl Boykins (1.6% owned) - The recently-signed Boykins has become a key crunch-time player for the Wizards, and has scored in double figures in three straight games, with an average of over four dimes per game in that span.
Luke Ridnour (14.6% owned) - Continues to put up good numbers off the bench for Milwaukee.
James Harden (9.4% owned)
Article first appeared on 12/9/09