The Hoops Lab
Situations to watch
Bulls re-visisted: The Bulls keep showing up in this space because they are either so interesting or such a mess, depending on how you look at it. The team is strangely put together, with redundancies of talent in the backcourt and forward positions, but a dearth of talent at center. Right now it appears that Kirk Hinrich is the player most hurt by the current situation - he was thrown out of one game this week and benched for the second half of a second one. In those two games Larry Hughes stepped up with averages of 22 points, five assists, four boards and two steals and may be in line to start soon.
In the frontcourt Tyrus Thomas has been the most consistent Bulls big man, and the rumor is that Drew Gooden (fresh off his 15-board performance on Wednesday) will soon be joining him in the starting lineup. This would move Joakim Noah back to the bench, though he still is a decent upside sleeper candidate even in that capacity. Keep your scorecards handy and an eye on your waiver wire, as this Bulls situation seems far from settled.
Heat decline: I expected the addition of Shawn Marion to help put a charge into the Heat lineup that might help revitalize them down the stretch. It hasn't happened, and in fact the general putridity of the team seems to be slowly pulling the life out of the Matrix who has averaged only 14 points and eight boards over the last three games. The Heat have lost 12 of their last 13 games and a whopping 27 of their last 29 overall, which again raises the question: how long before they finally shut Dwyane Wade down? With Wade and Jason Williams looking increasingly less likely to be suiting up by late March, about the only player worth keeping a fantasy eye on is Marcus Banks, who could be fighting to earn a starting spot for next season.
Caron Butler's "uncertain" return: Butler apparently has a small labral tear in his left hip joint that has made his return to the Wizards uncertain. The injury has already kept him out for a month, and he's undergoing testing to determine if/when he can return this season. For Butler owners this is a double-whammy, because unlike Yao's case, you can't just cut Butler if there's a chance that he'll be back. For owners with teams that have already locked up a playoff spot but might not have enough to win it, it might be worth it to make a conservative offer to the Butler owner in your league.
Gerald Wallace concussions: Wallace suffered the fourth concussion of his career this week, and he has been experiencing lingering side effects that make the timing of his return uncertain. Wallace, nicknamed Crash, tends to get hurt fairly regularly due to his all-out playing style. Last season he returned fairly quickly from an early season concussion, but he was not the same player for at least a month after the injury. So there's definitely reason for concern if you're a Wallace owner, and if he does return soon he's someone that might be worth dealing if you can get a decent offer.
Devin Harris returns: Harris (ankle) returned to the court Thursday night with a strong performance, scoring 21 points (7-for-13 FG, 4-for-5 FT) with five assists and a surprising three treys in only 21 minutes of action off the bench. As the centerpiece of the Jason Kidd deal, you have to feel that Harris will be in the starting lineup soon. This could mean bad news for Marcus Williams, who had a strong game of his own Thursday night (11 points, eight assists, five boards, two steals, two treys) unless the Nets adopt some of the two point guard system that the Mavs sometimes ran with Harris and Jason Terry.
JR Smith (39.89 % owned): Smith is inconsistent and streaky, but he hung 63 total points on the board in two games last weekend including a 43-point explosion last Friday. He is averaging 22.5 points and 4.5 treys per over his last four games.
Jordan Farmar (31.68%): Farmar set a new career-high with 24 points in only 23 minutes of action Thursday night, one game after he had tied a then career-high with 21 points on Tuesday. Farmar has been getting more minutes as starter Derek Fisher has been wearing down, and Farmar could be a decent pickup in deeper leagues at this point.
DeShawn Stevenson (30.25%): Stevenson had been averaging 24 points per in the three games before he had a stinker on Tuesday night against the Rockets. He is taking advantage of the extra playing time available in the injury-depleted Wizards backcourt, and is solid short-term value.
Travis Diener (1.53%): Diener continues to start for the Pacers in place of Jamaal Tinsley, and though Diener may be inconsistent, he's still capable of producing 22 points and nine assists on a given night as he did on Wednesday.
Carl Landry (.98%): Last week I came very close to featuring Landry on my list of sabermetric sleepers for the second half of the season because he fit the numeric criteria, but I didn't include him because he hadn't played enough minutes. Now, with Yao out, Landry moves to the top of my list of unheralded breakout player candidates. He scored 12 points and eight boards in 21 minutes in the first non-Yao game, and is worth a pick-up in most leagues.
Article first appeared 2/29/08