The news of Yao Ming's season-ending injury broke last week as I was writing this column, so I spent a little time in that piece discussing how the absence of an all-world center would impact the production of Houston's waiver-available players.
Now that we have a few games' worth of stats to review, let's take a second look and see who's stepping up.
Each player is listed with his Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner percent-owned stat in parentheses.
What does this tell us?
On the surface, it appears that Scola is getting t
What does this tell us?
On the surface, it appears that Scola is getting the biggest boost in value – plus 6.6 points, plus 1.5 boards, etc. But that might be deceptive… we're comparing his season averages against a three-game sample, which doesn't account for the fact that he did practically nothing for the first several weeks of the season and had become a highly productive player of late. He averaged 11.7 points and 5.9 boards for the month of February, which makes his statistical leap a bit less dramatic. On the other hand, it also indicates that Scola was a good fantasy option in many leagues before Yao got hurt… and he should certainly be owned in more than 8.6 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Same goes for fellow rookie Carl Landry, who has emerged as a David Lee style "per-minute" statistical monster since New Year's Day. His stat jump when compared with his February numbers (9.2 points, 5.5 boards in 19.3 minutes per game) isn't as impressive, but that doesn't mean he's not a useful option in deeper leagues.
The most dramatic number surge is Dikembe Mutombo's. The only stat line Mutombo was filling before Yao got hurt was the "DNP-CD" column – those season stats were achieved in just 14 games. But in the last three, he's provided the Rockets with an old-school defensive presence and fantasy owners with nearly eight boards and four blocks per game.
I still don't think he's going to be able to play 20-plus minutes per night and stay healthy, but if you need blocks, you could do far worse than to add a little finger-wagging to your team for a little while.
There's been a flurry of free agent activity this week, as teams continue to tweak their rosters and add veteran depth. The most notable player changing teams is Sam Cassell, who was waived by the Clippers and is signing with the Celtics.
Depending on your league's rules, Cassell may have dropped into the free agent pool by virtue of the fact that he was – though briefly – not a member of any team. If so, he's worth a claim. He's currently showing as around 80 percent owned in Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner, but his status hasn't been updated in the game yet.
Another interesting possibility is Theo Ratliff, who has returned to the Pistons to serve as primary backup to Rasheed Wallace at center.
Other recent signees include Jamaal Magloire and Tyronn Lue in Dallas, P.J. Brown, also by the Celtics, and Gordan Giricek with the Suns. None of the above are expected to play enough to be fantasy-relevant, even in very deep leagues, though Lue could emerge as a shooter off the bench for Avery Johnson, and there's always the possibility that a good shooter like Giricek could blow up in Mike D'Antoni's offense if given the opportunity.
The next free agents who may become available: Brent Barry, who is expected to re-sign with the Spurs as soon as he's eligible to do so, and the Birdman, Chris Andersen, who has been reinstated after serving a two-year drug suspension, and who is expected to re-join the Hornets.
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.
Tyrus Thomas – CHI [SF,PF]: Thomas is owned in just over 60 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues despite the fact that he was, until Chicago's last game, starting and playing very well. He's been supplanted by Drew Gooden for the starting spot, but the Bulls are hoping to get Thomas a consistent 20-25 minutes per game, and he's talented enough to put up fantasy-worthy numbers given that much run.
Josh Childress – ATL [SG]: February was Childress' best month of the season, as Atlanta's do-everything sixth man scored over 14 points per game for the month, to go with 4.6 boards , 1.6 dimes and 1.5 combined blocks/steals. It was also his best month in terms of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner ownership – he's up to 50 percent owned.
Travis Outlaw – POR [SF,PF]: The return of Brandon Roy didn't hurt Outlaw's numbers in Sunday's game against the Warriors – he played 30 minutes, scored 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor, and added five boards and a blocked shot. As with Childress, the fact that he's coming off the bench shouldn't scare off fantasy owners. Outlaw is available in around 40 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Josh Boone – NJN [C]: The Nets have been a big disappointment this season, but don't blame Boone. The interior defense provided by Boone and new arrival DeSagana Diop has been a real strength for New Jersey of late, holding the likes of Tim Duncan and Andrew Bogut well below their normal scoring averages. Boone has also posted double-figure scoring in three of four games… and the fourth was against San Antonio's brutal defense. He's 19 percent owned in Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner – way too low a number for a starting center who can rebound and score a little.
Earl Watson – SEA [PG]: Watson seems to have shaken off the effects of an illness that sidelined him for a couple of games; he posted 15 points with nine assists and two steals in Sunday's win over Minnesota. He's owned in 13 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
DeShawn Stevenson – WAS [SG]: Stevenson is known mainly as a defensive specialist, but his offense has improved significantly of late. He finished February with a scoring average just shy of 14 points despite being slowed by a minor knee injury towards the end of the month. He's a viable play as long as Caron Butler is sidelined – and Butler's return is at least another week away. Stevenson's 8.3 percent owned.
Travis Diener – IND [PG]: Diener is quietly putting up excellent numbers in Jamaal Tinsley's spot – in his last three games he's scored 22, 10 and 15 points and passed out 25 total assists. He's 2.4 percent owned – and that's an improvement – he was at zero last week.
Matt Carroll – CHA [SG,SF]: With Jeff McInnis (waived) and Gerald Wallace (concussion) out of the picture, Carroll has an opportunity to play extended minutes. He's made the most of it so far, averaging 16.7 points per game in his last three. He's 4.8 percent owned.