Under the Radar
I would never wish any harm to a professional athlete, despite potential positive fantasy implications for my team(s) or making my predictions look good as a fantasy writer. As the old clichť goes, though, injuries are part of the game. Earlier this year I listed three players whom I saw in fantasy-friendly positions should the starter ahead of them become injured. The three players who I mentioned as immediate pickups should the opportunity arise were - Ty Lawson, DeAndre Jordan and Goran Dragic. When I wrote this, I mentioned that I considered these players to have a good amount of upside meaning that even if they didnít get a chance to shine this season, owners in keeper-leagues should take note. All three players were also playing behind teammates who arenít considered spring chickens and some have less-than-stellar injury histories - Chauncey Billups, Steve Nash, Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman.
Everyone knows about the Billups injury; Lawson went on a nice spurt where he averaged 19 points and 7.2 assists over five games. Lawson suffered a sprained ankle himself, which shelved him for a fourth consecutive game Wednesday. You can imagine my surprise when I found that a combination of injuries to Chris Kaman (back) and Marcus Camby (illness) thrust DeAndre Jordan into the starting lineup for the Clippers on Tuesday night. He responded with an outstanding fantasy line - 23 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. The outlook for his playing time got even better Wednesday afternoon when the Clippers announced that Blake Griffinís knee injury will cost him the entire season. So now we have Griffin out, Kaman out indefinitely (back) and Marcus Camby a prime trade target for a contender (I keep mentioning Portland). With all this news itís doubtful the Clippers make a run at the playoffs. Entering Thurday nightís slate of games they had the 12th best record in the West, making Camby expendable. Jordan makes for a great long-term speculative pickup in all leagues with bench spots immediately (see below). Oh, and Iíll feel pretty bad if somehow Steve Nash is sidelined for an extended period and you find me writing about Goran Dragic at some point this season.
Speaking of Steve Nash, heís putting together quite the season, isnít he? Well, lately he really hasnít been himself, and thereís no reason in particular why. In five January games, his turnovers look like this: 6, 7, 6, 6, 7, for a whopping average of 6.4 turnovers a game. Four of the five games were at home against non-elite teams - Houston, Sacramento, Miami, Milwaukee and Memphis. Luckily for owners in leagues counting turnovers his scoring and assists have made up for poor on-court decisions.
Now onto our weekly look at player minutes, roto categories that waiver-wire players can help with and new position eligibility.
DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC - I already talked about my affinity for Jordan, let me give you some stats about him. First, he plays with a top-tier point guard in Baron Davis, which gives him a lot of easy looks inside of 10 feet. This has helped account for his 63.3-percent field goal shooting the last two seasons. Over the last two seasons Jordan has played more than 20 minutes in 16 games and has averaged 2.8 blocks in those games. My guess is heís picked up some pointers in practice from Kaman and Camby about the fine art of shot blocking. Heís also fresh, averaging just over 11 minutes a game this season. Heís an immediate pickup in deeper leagues and a solid speculative pickup in standard 12-team leagues.
A.J. Price, PG, IND - The Pacers finally benched the ineffective T.J. Ford and gave Price a shot with the second unit. Price has done a decent job in that role, averaging 20.8 minutes, 13.4 points and 3.2 assists over his last five games. Heís shot outstanding from the free-throw line this year (90.5 percent) and averages just under a three-pointer made per game (.8). I canít think that Indiana envisions Earl Watson as the point guard of the future when Price has considerable more upside. Heís not worth a pickup in standard 12-team leagues yet, but watch to see if he earns more playing time as the season goes on while the Pacers fall out of the playoff race.
Marcus Williams, G, MEM - Williams is another player who doesnít deserve a pickup right now, but should be watched closely. Starter Mike Conley complained of a variety of injuries (back, shoulder, groin) that held him out of Saturdayís game. The Grizzlies turned to Williams to fill in, and he put up a Rajon Rondo-lite line-seven points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals in only 28 minutes. Then a miracle happened. Conleyís injuries healed to the point where he was able to log 31 minutes on Tuesday night, relegating Williams back to the bench. Conley has posted similar or worse numbers across the board this year compared to last, and Iím guessing that the Grizz expected him to take a big step forward in his third year. Donít be surprised if Memphis hands the keys to the offense to Williams at some point this year making Williams a nice pick up.
Here are some players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Hakim Warrick, F, Luke Ridnour, G, Jodie Meeks, G - The devastating injury to Michael Redd has opened up playing time for these three. Warrick is the best play of the bunch, especially if you play in a league which requires a small forward spot. He should get about 30 minutes a night, and a 15-point, eight-rebound average sounds like a good prediction. Note that I left Charlie Bell off this list; he had ample opportunity to make something happen last year after Redd went down, and nada. Ridnour doesnít have a lot of upside, but heís got eight straight games in double-digits and is shooting a career-high 50.5 percent from the floor this season, so I canít ignore him. Meeks is the darkhorse of the group and with so many rookies coming out of nowhere this year, would it be surprising to see him fantasy-relevant at some point? Heís someone to just keep an eye on for now.
J.J. Redick, G, ORL - Redick has take Vince Carter's spot in the lineup while he deals with a shoulder injury. Redick has averaged 15.2 games over the last four, which include eight three-pointers made. He has also shot 17-for-19 (89.5 percent) from the free-throw line during that span. Remember that Carter is expected back soon but Redick makes a nice play at shooting guard until he returns.
Jon Brockman, F, SAC - Brockman was given the start last Saturday and responded with 12 rebounds in 38 minutes. The bad news is he hasn't quite replicated that stat line since. He got into trouble against Orlando on Tuesday (four fouls in 13 minutes) and isn't quite the scorer. That said, he led the Pac-10 in rebounding last year (11.5 per game) and will shoot in the mid-50 percent range from the floor. Take a look in deeper leagues if you need rebounding.
Every league has different rules regarding eligibility. Always check your rules to make sure your league recognizes the new position a player may be eligible to play.
Ray Allen, BOS - Now eligible at small forward
Article first appeared on 1/14/10