Working the Wire
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Hoops Editor
Last week in this space, I wrote about injuries as the main source of useful fantasy players at this point of the season.
This week, we'll put that theory to the test.
The Injury: Dirk Nowitzki suffered the dreaded "high ankle" sprain as well as a sprained knee during Sunday's game.
The prognosis: The ankle injury is being called "moderate" while the knee injury is "slight." Initial estimates had him returning in as little as a week to two weeks but short of a pilgrimage to Lourdes, high ankle sprains don't typically heal that fast.
The options: You'd generally expect him to be shelved for 3-4 weeks with this sort of injury but the season ends three weeks from today.
Dallas is in a particularly tough spot. They're currently sitting in seventh place in the West and are very much in danger of falling out of playoff position. At the same time, they really can't risk losing Nowitzki for the playoffs, should they qualify. So the scenarios might break down like this:
Option 1: Josh Howard and the Jasons, Kidd and Terry, pick up the pace and give Dallas a little breathing room. If that happens, they can give Nowitzki an extra week or so to get healthy before their opening round playoff series.
Option 2: Dallas collapses completely, making Nowitzki's return a moot point. (Seems unlikely.)
Option 3: They tread water, hovering in the seventh/eighth seed range and wind up needing Nowitzki to come back as soon as possible.
A two-week recovery would mean he'd play in the Mavs' final six games, returning for their matchup at Phoenix on April 6. After that, they have home games against Seattle and Utah on the 8th and 10th, a road trip to Portland and Seattle on the 12th and 13th, and close out the regular season against the Hornets in Dallas on the 16th.
The fantasy implications: The obvious beneficiary, numbers-wise, is probably Brandon Bass, who will most likely start in Nowitzki's place. Bass is averaging around eight points and 4.4 boards in 20 minutes per game if his playing time is increased to around Nowitzki's 35 mpg, he could become a nice fantasy option. Bass is currently owned in under two percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues, so he's there for the taking just about everywhere.
Of course, he won't replace the numbers that make Nowitzki so valuable as a big man the three-point shooting or the assists. The guys that will really need to step up if Dallas is going to hang on to a playoff spot Kidd, Howard, Terry aren't going to be available on the wire.
But Jerry Stackhouse is, in over 98 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues, and he still has the ability to fill it up. Stack posted scoring totals of 17 and 19 in the Mavs' last two games; he may have been a decent option even before Nowitzki got hurt.
If you need to dig even deeper, veteran guys like Devean George and Malik Allen might be called upon to step up and play the backup frontcourt minutes in Bass' usual role but the numbers you'll get from one of them probably don't merit consideration you can find better solutions elsewhere.
Kenyon Martin DEN [PF]: K-Mart's minutes have dropped off a bit in the last month from 35-and-change in February to just over 30 in March. His numbers have tailed off as well, which explains the fact that he's available in around 40 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues. But even in fewer minutes, Martin is producing enough this month -- 14.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game - to merit a roster spot.
J.R. Smith DEN [SG]: Smith scored a team-high 27 points off the bench in Denver's win over Memphis on Monday further strengthening his hold on the sixth man/third guard spot for George Karl's Nuggets. Smith's talent has never been a question the issue has always been whether or not he'd keep his head on straight or work his way back into Karl's doghouse. Right now, the head is straight, and the shots are falling. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Jamario Moon TOR [SF]: Moon has been dominant on the boards recently, averaging 13 in his last three games.
Leon Powe BOS [SF]: The Celtics have the top spot in the East more or less wrapped up, so look for them to start resting their regulars a bit more than usual and giving reserves some run. Powe is a very efficient player, generating 25.6 points and 13.1 rebounds per 48 minutes so extra playing time could mean nice numbers, especially for a guy that's zero percent owned right now.
Eddie House BOS [SG]: I'm recommending House for the same reason as Powe it only makes sense for Boston to rest the big guys a bit to keep them fresh and healthy for the playoffs. That reasoning is even stronger with House and to a lesser extent, Tony Allen because Ray Allen is suffering from a nagging heel injury and may need a couple of games on the bench to get right.
Smush Parker LAC [PG]: Brevin Knight is trying to play through a stress reaction in his left leg one can only wonder why, as the Clippers have been out of the playoff mix for some time now. When Knight is limited or can't go, Dan Dickau and recently-signed Smush Parker split the job, with Smush the more productive half of the platoon. In the last three games, with Knight unavailable, Parker has played 27 or more minutes and averaged 8.3 points, 6.6 assists and over a steal per game. He also has the ability to get hot from three, though he hasn't shown that as a Clipper just yet.
Chris Quinn MIA [PG]: It's hard to recommend any member of the Miami Heat right now you never know when they'll post a score in the mid-50s. But Quinn should be a short-term starter, with Jason Williams sidelined with a thumb injury for at least a week. As J-Dub's fill-in on Monday, Quinn had 24 points, four assists, four rebounds and four steals in 38 minutes of action.
Luke Ridnour SEA [PG]: As if you don't have enough choices at the point it looks like Earl Watson's finger injury is still fairly significant the Sonics signed veteran guard Eddie Gill to a 10-day contract to provide some depth in the backcourt. That means Ridnour will continue to start, probably for the rest of the season.
Article first appeared on 3/25/08