Working the Wire
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Hoops Editor
The Rockets' perfect February has suddenly developed some very deep flaws, with the news that Yao Ming will miss the remainder of the season and playoffs due to a stress fracture in his foot.
Fantasy owners will want to act quickly and put in a claim on Luis Scola. Scola was a decent pick even before this news – we wrote about his progress in last week's column. With Yao out of the mix, Scola likely becomes Houston's primary offensive option in the frontcourt. Scola is under 10 percent-owned in Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner – expect that number to rise quicker than the price of oil when the news of Yao's injury really gets around.
Then, there's a domino effect. If we assume Scola will see some minutes at center (Dikembe Mutombo isn't going to absorb all of Yao's minutes) that will open up extra minutes for the other power forwards in Rick Adelman's rotation – specifically Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes. Both are currently zero percent owned.
Don't waste a roster spot on Mutombo. As much as I love the big fella, he's listed as 41 years old. I'm not going to venture a guess as to how accurate that stat might be. The stats I can vouch for: he has yet to play more than 18 minutes in a game this season, and he's only played more than 12 once. Though he's still a formidable rebounder and shot blocker, he simply won't get enough minutes to make a difference.
A sleeper that might emerge: Jamaal Magloire. Magloire was released by the Nets and is currently looking for a job. Recent reports have indicated that Dallas is the leading contender for Magloire's services – but suddenly, Houston seems to have a much bigger need – and much bigger opportunity.
Magloire isn't the only veteran looking for a job this week. Brent Barry should hook up with a team shortly – he's reportedly considering offers from contenders like the Celtics, Suns and Mavericks. A contract with Phoenix would probably be the biggest value boost for Barry; Phoenix is suddenly short on outside shooters, so he'd be an excellent fit and could probably contribute right away.
Meanwhile, Sam Cassell is expected to get a buyout from the Clippers any day now, and to land with whichever team doesn't get Barry. The best fantasy option among Cassell's suitors is probably Denver, but the Celtics seem like the most likely destination.
Once that happens, Brevin Knight becomes the nominal starter for the Clippers, but Dan Dickau would be a Knight injury – hardly a rare occurrence – from a starting gig.
This Week's Picks:
The first set of picks is intended for players in shallow leagues. The recommendations will be players who are available in 40-70 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues on NBA.com. The second group is for deep leagues – more speculative picks, more "sleepers" – guys who are available in more than 70 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues. Feedback and questions are always welcome.
Wally Szczerbiak – CLE [SF]: The Cavs have been trying to find a consistent three-point shooter to team with LeBron James for years. Szczerbiak might succeed where Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones and others have failed – he gets a big boost in fantasy value as a result of last week's trade. He's around 35 percent owned in Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner.
Udonis Haslem – MIA [PF]: Haslem is expected to return to Miami's starting lineup for Tuesday's game against the Kings. He'll be a consistent double-double threat as Miami's starting power forward (with Shawn Marion shifting to small forward and Dorell Wright to the bench), and he's there for the taking in around 35 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Travis Outlaw – POR [SF,PF]: Outlaw gets a short-term value boost due to Brandon Roy's ankle injury – but he's worth owning in most leagues even as a bench player. He's available in just over 40 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Nate Robinson – NYK [PG,SG]: Robinson seems to have solidified his spot in the Knicks' starting lineup. He's started four straight games now and is coming off a 20-point, eight-rebound outing against the Raptors on Sunday. Assuming he can avoid getting killed in a fight with a teammate approximately twice his size, he should be a solid fantasy value for the rest of this season.
Tyrus Thomas – CHI [SF,PF]: Thomas has started three straight games since the Bulls remade their roster at the trade deadline, and has averaged 15 points, 7.3 boards, three assists, two blocks and one-and-change steals in that span. He's just over 60 percent owned.
Joakim Noah – CHI [PF,C]: The trade of Ben Wallace and Joe Smith vaults Noah into Chicago's starting lineup. He hasn't put up huge numbers in that role in his first two games (3 ppg, 2.5 rpg) but he's got a high ceiling, and is just six percent owned.
Earl Watson – SEA [PG]: We liked Watson before Seattle's trade moves – he was a pick last week – but we like him even more now that Delonte West is no longer part of the point guard mix for the Sonics. Watson's still under 10 percent owned. (Be forewarned, though, Watson is expected to miss Tuesday's game with an upper-respiratory infection.)
Brandan Wright – GS [SF,PF]: The eighth overall pick from last year's draft should get a chance to show his stuff with Andris Biedrins (appendectomy) out of the lineup. He scored eight points with eight boards and two blocks in 26 minutes of Friday's loss to Atlanta.
Erick Dampier – DAL [C]: Dampier was an absolute beast in the middle on Monday night against the Bulls, grabbing 16 boards and swatting seven shots before fouling out. Perhaps the increased workload, with DeSagana Diop out of the mix, agrees with him. He's just one percent owned.
Article first appeared on 2/26/08