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Hoops Lab: NBA Hoops Lab-Week 12

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

The Hoops Lab

By Andre' Snellings
RotoWire Staff Writer

Playing through pain

In real life, playing through pain is one of the most difficult things to do because you're competing at less than 100 percent against opponents that are full strength and won't take it easy on you just because you are hurt. When your fantasy team has injuries, a similar phenomenon takes place. There are holes in your starting lineup that weaken your team, but you still have to compete and find ways to win against other teams that may be closer to full strength.

I have one team that has only 13 roster spots but starts 10 players with daily roster transactions that has been limping along with players like Kevin Martin, Mehmet Okur and (now) Grant Hill sidelined. When the injuries started I was in first place, now I'm fourth and falling. There are nice players on our FA wire, but how can I in good conscience cut Kevin Martin? The answer is, I can't. Of course, I did cut Okur just in time to miss his 22-point/17-rebound explosion on Thursday against the Suns, so now I am really torn about what to do with Hill. These are the hard decisions that will determine whether I'm the last man standing or on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

This dilemma is especially relevant at this time of year, because during these Dog Days of the season (too far in for the excitement of a beginning, but too far from the finish to get the late season surge) are when many players start to go down. Older veterans with a history of injury problems all seem to start showing up in street clothes around this time. Rookies that have already played more games in this season than they ever did in college are starting to come up lame. And every player on every team has a nice collection of bumps and bruises.

So how do we, as fantasy owners, navigate this time? Well, some of it is pure luck. If your team is lucky enough not to have injuries, this isn't something you have to worry about. But outside of luck, you have to play the odds. If you have a player with a history of injury that has held up thus far, try as hard as you can to trade him (this bit me in the league above that I mentioned, as I just sent Grant Hill out in trade offers on Wednesday morning and by that night he was out with an appendectomy. I waited a day too long to make my offers). Try to target younger players in trades that aren't rookies, but that are still young and energetic enough that injuries are less likely. Trade away veterans that play on contending teams that may sit out with a nagging injury to make sure that they are fresh for the stretch run (i.e. Ray Allen on Wednesday), and target players that have a history of being iron men (i.e. Dwight Howard, who has never missed a game in his NBA career). Trade away players on really terrible teams that may soon have nothing to play for, especially if they already are dealing with injury issues (i.e. Dwyane Wade), and target players in contract years that will be especially motivated for the second half of the season (i.e. Josh Smith). Playing the odds when making trades won't guarantee that your team will stay healthy, but at least it improves your chances of navigating the long NBA season with your squad intact.

Situations to Watch

Equal opportunity Lakers The Lakers have been known as a one-man team for a few years now, with Lamar Odom sometimes joining Kobe Bryant as a second fiddle. This year, though, the Lakers are putting out a surprisingly well-rounded cast of roto contributors.

Over the last month, Andrew Bynum (No. 21) and Derek Fisher (No. 58) have joined Bryant (No. 8) and Odom (No. 40) in the top-60 on the Y! player rater by average. Five others (Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Kwame Brown, and Rony Turiaf) are also among the top-200 on the player rater for the month which makes them at least worth noting on your fantasy radar. So how did the Lakers go from a one- maybe two-man team to having nine players contributing? It appears to be a combination of Bryant utilizing his teammates more (highest assist-per-shot ratio in three years) and the rest of the cast simply playing better. Bynum, especially, is developing into a roto impact player. Odom and Fisher are pretty much who they are at this point, but look for the recently-traded-for youngster Ariza to be the next Laker to potentially make the leap to fantasy roster-worthy.

Sonics Big Men There's a bit of a musical chairs scenario developing among Seattle big men. At least four have shown the ability to contribute, but when all are healthy there are only enough minutes and stats for one or two to make an impact. Kurt Thomas had a six-game double-figure rebound streak snapped two games ago, while Nick Collison is currently on his own five-game rebound streak. Even Johan Petro chimed in with a 22-point/nine-rebound effort on Wednesday night. But the lynchpin of the crew is Chris Wilcox, who has missed most of the last five games with a finger injury but will be returning soon. His return effectively ends Petro's moment in the sun, and will also move either Collison or Thomas back to the bench. Collison's rebounding streak began when Wilcox went down, so he could be the one to come up short upon Wilcox's return. Since Collison was also the one that was drafted in most roto leagues and has some name recognition, he makes the best trade-bait of the crew, and now would be a great time to move him.

Quick Hits: Vets breaking down

As mentioned above, this is the time of year when a lot of veteran players with injury histories start to have trouble. Right now most of the injuries are ouchy and minor, but they have to concern owners of these players because history has shown that minor hurts can become major injuries in a hurry with this crew.

Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal: Both big O'Neals are dealing with pain right now, with Shaq (hip) expected to return next Wednesday and Jermaine (knee) questionable for his game Saturday night. The upcoming month or two could be vital for the seasonal outlook of both players, because if the Heat continue to struggle and fall completely out of the playoffs race Shaq could conceivably shut it down. The Pacers are more competitive in the playoff chase right now, but Jermaine's injury is soreness from a surgically repaired knee, and there is always the chance that a complication could arise that would require further surgery.

Ray Allen: Allen missed a game Wednesday night due to a pinched nerve in his neck that was causing hand numbness, but he returned to practice Thursday and is expected to play on Friday. Allen is dangerous because the Celtics are playing so well right now that they seem content to rest him at the slightest hint of pain in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs. While this is good strategy for their team, it could really hurt a fantasy owner's team if Allen sits down at a crucial point in the season.

Tracy McGrady: McGrady has missed the last couple of weeks with knee issues, but he should also be returning to the court next week. McGrady has been dealing with a myriad of injuries for the last several years, so relying on him to help carry your fantasy team is always a risk because he could go down at any time.

Chucky Atkins: Atkins had already missed much of the early part of the season with a groin injury, and now he is potentially done for the rest of the year due to a sports hernia that required surgery.

Steve Nash: Nash missed Thursday night's game with a stomach flu, but should be able to return to the court in the relatively near future.

Shawn Marion: Marion did not play Thursday night due to a bruised right elbow and shoulder that he suffered during a collision with Danny Granger on Wednesday night. He is hopeful that he will be able to play on Saturday, but if not should still be back on the court soon.

Grant Hill: Hill had been surprisingly durable and productive thus-far in his new role with the Suns before suffering a completely non-basketball related injury. He had an appendectomy this week, and is expected to miss the next two weeks in recovery.

Michael Redd: Redd has missed four straight games due to a thigh bruise, but should be returning to the court soon. Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak is considering bringing Redd off the bench on Friday night against the Lakers, which means that he should be back to playing his normal minutes in the near future.

New Additions

Joe Smith: Smith is averaging almost 19 points, nine boards, and two blocked shots in his last five games.

Anthony Carter: Carter is looking less and less like a fluke with each week of solid production. And with the news that Chucky Atkins will miss at least the next few months with a sports hernia, Carter should continue to have the minutes to produce.

Rashad McCants: McCants has been on fire lately, averaging 27.3 points, 5.7 boards, 3.0 assists, and 2.3 treys per over the last three games. He has been up-and-down all season, but his 'ups' have gotten higher and longer which makes his 'downs' more palatable.

Nate Robinson: During his last six games, Robinson has averaged more than 30 minutes per while racking up nearly 17 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and one steal per game.

Article first appeared 1/11/08