By Shannon McKeown
RotoWire Staff Writer
Tanking Season's About to Begin
If it's your first go-around in fantasy basketball consider this article a warning.
The race for the top lottery pick has begun.
With the trade deadline past us, and the contenders clearly separated from the pretenders, many NBA squads will start tanking the season in hopes of landing Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet or Arizona State's James Harden. If you've never heard of those three players, you will come draft day.
Like the 17th week of the NFL season or the last few weeks of the MLB season, the final stretch of the NBA season can cause teams to sit some of their regular players. Sometimes players are legitimately hurt, other times the teams just don't seem to be putting that much effort into winning.
As a fantasy owner, not having players who are affected by the negative swings in playing time is key to winning the playoffs. And if you have to deal with an unexpected loss of a key contributor, you better find out who will be stealing his minutes.
With that in mind, here are a few deep sleepers that could spark a fantasy squad to victory when teams start "resting" some of their regulars in a few weeks:
DeAndre Jordan (LAC) – The Clippers have a few high-priced stars - Baron Davis, Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman - who could all see some extra rest down the stretch. None of these three are known as a pinnacle of health, and at 13-43, the Clippers don't have much to play for except lottery position. If Camby or Kaman, who hasn't played since Nov.26, goes down for the remainder, Jordan will benefit. He flashed his potential on Sunday with 15 points, 12 boards and three blocks and filled in brilliantly for an injured Camby earlier this season.
Donte Green (SAC) – Even worse than the Clippers, Sacramento take the prize for worst record in the Association with a 12-45 mark. When the Kings shipped John Salmons and Brad Miller to the Bulls last week, it was the official waving of the white flag for the squad. All they have left to do is play their young players and hope for a high draft pick. Green will have trouble finding playing time over Andreas Nocioni and Francisco Garcia in the short-term, but his PT should pick up as the end of the season nears. He was phenomenal in the Summer League, leading to the Kings exchanging Ron Artest for him, and could be an electric scorer in the NBA. As a volume scorer, Green needs to see plenty of playing time and lots of shots to be effective, but those two things should be headed his way soon.
Nick Young (WAS) – As much as Gilbert Arenas owners would appreciate him returning for the final few weeks of the season, it just doesn't make sense for the Wizards at this point. Washington has struggled to an Eastern Conference worse 13-43. With Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Arenas locked up for the next handful of years, the Wizards' best bet would be tanking in hopes of landing a solid post presence via the draft. Of all young players on the Wizards roster, Young would benefit the most from the team resting the graybeards. He's already went on a few scoring sprees earlier in the season, and would have a green light with the studs out.
Keep in mind that these players are likely a few weeks away from seeing their roles change, but it's never to early to keep an eye on the waiver wire.
Let's take a look at some movers and shakers around the rest of the league.
Around the League
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again - unless they're extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level.
Yi Jianlian (NJ) – Yi, who returned from a broken finger last week, has rejoined the starting lineup. He came off the bench in his first three games back and yielded unimpressive returns, but the move back into the starting unit should give him more minutes and better production.
Leandro Barbosa (PHO) – Amare Stoudemire's eye injury has created a hole in Phoenix's offense, and so far, Barbosa has done his best to fill it. Barbosa has started both games since Stoudemire left the lineup, averaging 29.5 points and three 3-pointers per. He's also benefiting from coach Alvin Gentry deciding to revert back to a run-n-gun offense.
Von Wafer (HOU) – With Tracy McGrady (knee) lost for the season, Wafer will once again be a prominent cog in the Rockets rotation. He blew up in early January while McGrady and Ron Artest were sidelined and will now have a chance to replicate that success. If you're in need of points and threes, Wafer will give you a boost.
Aaron Brooks (HOU) – The Rockets trade of Rafer Alston opened the door for Brooks to join the starting five. In two starts, he's averaging 13 points, five boards and 5.5 dimes. Kyle Lowry may steal some minutes down the road, but Brooks is a solid addition for any fantasy squad in need of point guard production.
Spencer Hawes (SAC) – Another young player benefiting from moves prior to the trade deadline. The departure of Brad Miller has given Hawes the opportunity to finish the season as the starting center for the Kings. With Miller out of the way, Hawes should be a nightly double-double threat.
Johan Petro (DEN) – Nene Hilario suffered a bruised knee on Sunday, leading to Petro's ascension to the starting center position. In his first start, Petro scored nine points, grabbed 10 rebounds and swatted two shots. He'll compete with Chris Andersen for minutes, but should help in the big man categories while Nene is sidelined.
Nene Hilario (DEN) – Nene owners' worst fear came to fruition on Sunday, when he fell to the floor, clenching his knee in pain. Fortunately, the MRI showed no structural damage, only a bone bruise. He's expected to miss at least a week, but with a player who has missed an average of 48 games the past four seasons, a week seems like wishful thinking.
Chris Kaman (LAC) – Kaman's impending return has been a week away for what seems like the past two months. The latest reports have him returning around the first of March, but as mentioned earlier, it doesn't make much sense for the Clippers to bring him back.
Carlos Boozer (UTA) – Boozer finally returned to the lineup on Monday, and he even started. He logged an unimpressive 21 minutes, scoring two points and grabbing five boards. He's definitely worth a roster spot, and will be brought along slowly by the Jazz, but we might not see the Boozer we're used to this season.
Kevin Garnett (BOS) – The Big Ticket fell victim to a knee strain last week and is expected to miss two-to-three weeks. The Celtics have managed to win their first two games without KG and could opt to limit him down the stretch if they keep winning. He'll still be a fantastic fantasy option once he returns, but limited minutes may cut down on the first-round production you've become accustomed to.
Mickael Pietrus (ORL) – It's been a tough week for Pietrus, who first lost his starting spot to rookie Courtney Lee and is now sidelined with a wrist injury. The injury is to the same wrist he fractured earlier this season and could keep him on the shelf for a while.
Paul Millsap (UTA) – The return of Boozer is going to hit Millsap the hardest, right? It didn't on Sunday, as Millsap scored 16 points and grabbed 12 boards, but Boozer was clearly limited. Once Boozer returns to top form, Millsap will struggle to see enough minutes to continue posting double-doubles on a nightly basis.
Joakim Noah (CHI) – Noah is on the other side of the coin from the aforementioned Hawes. The Bulls acquisition of Miller from the Kings should ultimately push Noah to the bench. Even if Noah manages to keep hold of the starting spot, Miller will cut into his minutes enough to cause a negative impact.
Article first appeared on 2/24/08