Crashing the Boards
By Derek VanRiper
The holiday season wasn't kind to a number of NBA teams, as stars around the league have been hit with a barrage of injuries. Chris Paul (ankle), Jason Richardson (hand) and Yao Ming (leg) are just a few of the league's elite currently out of commission. Lamar Odom (knee) has had a setback during the rehabilitation of his knee injury, Paul Pierce (foot) is still wearing a boot for at least another week and Chauncey Billups (calf) is expected to sit for two weeks. Even the defending champion Heat continue to be ravaged by injuries, with Dwyane Wade (wrist) missing the last three games and even coach Pat Riley (knee/hip) expected to miss time with surgery on the horizon.
The good news? At least Miami can expect the return of Shaquille O'Neal (knee) in the next few weeks. Few other teams suffering from injuries will return an impact player of Shaq's ability, but as far as the fallout, there are opportunities to improve the old fantasy squad with some mid-season breakout players.
Here are a few players that should help out over the next few weeks for owners currently licking their wounds:
Drew Gooden, F, Cleveland: Forwards who pitch in 12 points and eight boards on a nightly basis have a place in most leagues. Gooden has contributed around this level throughout his five-year career and since he also adds just under a steal and a block per game, while maintaining serviceable shooting percentages, he should have a place on your roster if you need help on the glass from a multi-category player. He's quietly dropped in 11.4 points, with 9.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game over the last five.
Juwan Howard, F, Houston: With Yao Ming expected to be out until February, the 33-year-old Howard has emerged as a viable rebounder and interior scoring option for the Rockets. Over the last five games, he's produced near his career averages, with 15.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. During that stretch, he's shooting 91.3 percent from the free-throw line, so there is no need to worry about getting hurt in that category.
Devin Brown, G, New Orleans/Oklahoma City: Brown's ability to pull down boards combined with his guard-eligible status put him on the Crashing the Boards radar this week. Signed by the Hornets two weeks ago with injuries sidelining Peja Stojakovic, Chris Paul and Bobby Jackson, Brown has seized the opportunity of playing over 32 minutes per game in the Hornets' last five contests, averaging 12.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals. He's far from a long-term option, but he'll get decent minutes until Jackson and Stojakovic are back in action.
Damon Stoudamire, G, Memphis: Am I overreacting to last night's 16-assist effort? Not entirely. Stoudamire isn't going to have the help on the floor every night to put up big numbers, but over his last five games, he's pitched in 7, 8 and 16-assist performances for the Grizzlies. The increased production has been tied to the improved offensive output under interim head coach Tony Barone. Plus, there is always the possibility he'll be traded to a legitimate playoff contender.
Jannero Pargo, G, New Orleans/Oklahoma City: Chris Paul isn't expected to return until at least the end of January, opening the door for Pargo to play big-time minutes. In 39.2 minutes of action over the last five, Pargo has dished out 5.8 assists to go along with a nice 15.8 points. Tread lightly in leagues where turnovers (3.0) and his low field-goal percentage (40.6 percent) are penalized.
Devin Harris, G, Dallas: I've already touted Harris as a waiver-wire pickup once this season. Averaging 4.1 assists per game in addition to 1.2 steals (1.6 over the last five games) and 10.7 points give the third-year man out of Wisconsin enough productive categories to make an impact.
Jorge Garbajosa, F/C, Toronto: Bringing more to the dance than just the ultimate trash-talking name, Garbajosa has racked up seven steals in his last two games. He's day-to-day right now with a calf injury, but once he's healthy he can be a valuable asset in thefts and boards. He's available in virtually every league, so you should have little problem waiting for him to get healthy before affording him a roster spot.
Jason Kapono, F, Miami: The injury train leveling the Miami Heat has offered a great opportunity to Kapono, as he's helped pick up the offensive slack with Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O'Neal sidelined. Kapono does a lot of damage from the three-point line, connecting on 12-of-17 treys in his last five games and shooting 54.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Gerald Green, F, Boston: Green continues to be a major point of disagreement between head coach Doc Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge, but conflict aside, Green has game. Even in limited minutes, Green can be a reliable contributor in the three-point category. He's connected on 12-of-26 (46.1 percent) over the last five games while scoring in double figure in three of those contests.
Andrea Bargnani, F, Toronto: I'm not ready to crown Bargnani as anyone's mid-season fantasy savior, but the first-overall pick in this year's draft is beginning to show some promise. Bargnani has connected on a four triples in two of his last three games, while stepping his overall production with increased minutes (27.2) in the Raptors' last five games. Keep an eye on him if you're hurting in the frontcourt over the next few weeks.
Dorrell Wright, F, Miami: Wright didn't even need the injury train to derail in Miami in order to push his way into the starting lineup. An athletic defender, Wright has shown flashes of his tremendous potential in coach Pat Riley's system, blocking six shots in a loss to the Nets last week and grabbing 14 boards in a loss to Chicago. He's clearly an all-around contributor (still inconsistent at times), as evident by his 13.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.8 steals in Miami's last five.
Andrew Bynum, C, Los Angeles Lakers: Kwame Brown is expected to miss about a month of action with a severe ankle sprain, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson is leaning towards giving Bynum the starting job back in the meantime. If Bynum can avoid early foul trouble, he should maintain at least a timeshare with Ronnie Turiaf. Even in a limited role, Bynum has managed to average 1.5 blocks per game this season. His numbers are significantly better when he starts (8.5. points and 6.3 rebounds) as opposed to when he comes off the bench (6.1 points and 4.2 rebounds).
Article first appeared on 1/4/07