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Hoops Lab: NBA Hoops Lab-Week 19

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

Emergency Procedures

I was minding my own business the other day at work, having lunch. I was eating in front of my computer and decided to check out what was going on in the world of sports, when bam! I got blindsided with a big picture of Yao Ming frowning with the caption "Houston, we have a problem." Suddenly, I am faced with the prospect that an NBA superstar is out for the year. So, what is the procedure for dealing with that as a fantasy owner? I decided to put together an emergency response plan to answer that very question.

1) Is this player on my team?

a. If yes, enter your grief process. Cry, scream, break things - whatever you need to move past denial and into damage control mode.

b. If no, guiltily sigh in relief and don't tell anyone else that you thought of your fantasy team before you considered the consequences to the player.

2) Who are the players most likely to have their numbers increase due to the extra playing time, and are any of those players available on the free agency wire?

a. In the Yao example, I immediately went to the waiver wire and looked for Luis Scola and Carl Landry. Yes, Dikembe Mutombo was the likely replacement at starting center, but you want to pick up the upside players rather than just the guy who will still play limited minutes even as a starter.

3) Which manager in your league owned the player that went down, and will they be in a panic mode that facilitates a quick trade? If that owner is you, can you take advantage of all of the trade offers that are likely to come your way from your fellow owners looking to take advantage of you?

a. I did not own Yao in any league (yes, I was one that was guiltily sighing in relief), so I looked at my different leagues to see who did own him. I did not make any trades, but in one league the Yao owner made a dubious deal before the day ended with the comment: "I think I am officially desperate for making this deal."

4) Can you make a trade involving some of the other players from that same team that are likely to have their values change as a result of the injury? Since many people project great numbers onto the injury replacements, you might be able to trade them at a better rate.

a. In the Yao example, Tracy McGrady becomes an even hotter commodity since he tends to put up big numbers when Yao is out. For those that still worry about McGrady's own health issues, this would be a great time to sell high on him.

At the end of the day, luck is alawys a factor in any given fantasy season. If Yao was a centerpiece on your team no amount of strategizing will completely fill the hole left in your lineup. But at least if you have an emergency plan to help minimize the damage you can keep yourself in the hunt, and maybe next time you'll be the one sighing in relief as one of your competitors loses a main cog.

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.

Quick Hits

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.

New Additions

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