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Hoops Lab: NBA Hoops Lab-Week 22

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

The End of an Era?

I just watched Tim Duncan hobble around against the Cavaliers on national TV, and he is clearly nowhere near full speed due to nagging knee injuries. Kevin Garnett hasn't played more than 20 minutes in a game since early February due to a nagging knee injury, and is currently sitting out with hopes that he can get his legs back by the playoffs. Duncan and Garnett have led the last two NBA championship teams and are likely the only people that could possibly prevent a LeBron vs Kobe NBA Finals this year. Tony Parker and Paul Pierce are great players, but if the big men are hobbled the Spurs and Celtics drop at least a level below elite which won't cut it against this year's Lakers and Cavs.

So, two questions: can Duncan and Garnett get healthy enough to make an impact in these playoffs? And if not, does this mark the end of an era? Duncan and Garnett will turn 33 within weeks of each other this spring. I don't think that either is planning to retire anytime soon, but could age and mileage combine to end their run as championship-caliber franchise players? Michael Jordan was still a 20 ppg player for the Wizards, but his era really ended in 1998 with a shot over Bryon Russell. Shaquille O'Neal was still a strong contributor to the 2006 Heat championship team, but that was Dwyane Wade's team as the "Shaq era" ended earlier in the decade next to Kobe Bryant. The great ones can continue on as good players even once their best-in-the-game magic is gone - are we at that point now with Duncan and Garnett?

I certainly hope not, but just in case we are let's take a second to appreciate just how outstanding Duncan and Garnett have been. According to many measures, the Big Fundamental and the Big Ticket have been the two best players of this decade. They are tied for first (with Shaq) for most top-3 MVP finishes in the 2000s. Over the last decade they have combined for five championships, three MVPs, a Defensive Player of the Year award, 19 All NBA teams, 19 All Defense teams, four rebounding crowns, and various other records and honors. They are currently 1-2 over the 2000s according to Kevin Pelton's Wins Above Replacement Player stat (where they lap the field), Dave Berri's Wins Produced, and Stonemill Sports' Value score. Before this season, either Garnett or Duncan or both had led the league in on-court/off-court +/- according to in four of the previous six seasons since they began tracking the stat in 2002. No matter how you choose to look at it, Duncan and Garnett have been defining players for this decade of basketball.

So, here's to hoping these balky knees are temporary, one-time problems for the two best power forwards in NBA history. Because despite the glitz and highlights that surround Kobe, LeBron and Wade, I still get the most enjoyment out of watching the outstanding two-way games of Duncan and Garnett. In a world where the vast majority of the viewers equate scoring with greatness, I love that Duncan and Garnett can consistently prove themselves to be the best without dropping 50 point games. By anchoring historic defenses, Duncan and Garnett have proven that offense may sell tickets, but defense and unselfishness really do win championships. And selfishly, I'm just not quite ready for their runs to be over. So get well soon number 21, get well soon number 5. The basketball world still needs you.

Situations to watch and Quick Hits

Playoff race update: The Cavs are still battling the Lakers for overall home-court advantage, the Spurs/Rockets/Trailblazers are fighting for the 3rd - 5th seeds in the West, the Hornets/Jazz/Mavericks are fighting for 6th - 8th out West, the Celtics/Magic are fighting for 2nd in the East, the Heat /76ers are battling for 5th, and the Bulls/Pistons are fighting for 7th.

On the other hand, the Hawks and Nuggets are pretty firmly slotted into their postseason position while the Suns, Bobcats, Pacers, Nets and Bucks have all fallen out of the playoff race. When in doubt, I'm starting impact players from those battling for position over an impact player on a team that can afford to rest him.

Value in the lottery teams: The New Additions section below will be crammed full of lesser-known players that play for teams with little to prove, as they'll be playing big minutes for the last few games. On the other hand, vets on those teams are in my "only start if you absolutely have to" category, and I would be checking constantly to make sure that those vets haven't been shut down before I'd start them on any given night. Players like Steve Nash, Vince Carter and Caron Butler make me extremely nervous right now.

Last game rests: It has become tradition in the NBA for many teams to rest their starters in the last game of the regular season unless they have something specific to play for. Keep this in mind if your league plays right up until the last day, as in some cases it might be smart to drop a big name guy that's likely to sit out the finale and replace them with a young unknown that may play 40 minutes.

Return of Bynum: Andrew Bynum returned to the court for the Lakers Thursday night with a solid 16-point/seven-rebound effort in only 21 minutes of play. He's likely to play only limited minutes over the last week, but if someone dropped him in your league he's worth a pick-up.

Ginobili is done: Manu Ginobili (ankle) will miss the remainder of the season and the playoffs with a stress fracture in his right ankle, officially ending any reason to keep him on your roster this season.

Value in Golden State: With Monta Ellis (ankle) and Jamal Crawford (back) joining Stephen Jackson on the sidelines, the Warriors are short-handed. They also still happen to run the Don Nelson offense that makes its members fantasy studs. Thus, players like Anthony Randolph, Kalenna Azubuike, and Anthony Morrow look like good plays for this last week.

Williams back for the Hawks: Marvin Williams will return from a 16-game absence due to a back injury Friday night against the Pacers. Coach Mike Woodson will monitor Williams' minutes for the remainder of the regular season. Keep him on the bench for the first game or two as he's sure to be rusty.

New Additions

Jason Thompson (58% owned): 17.8 points and 9.5 boards per over his last four games.

Chris Anderson (50% owned): Still second in the NBA in blocked shots.

Andres Nocioni (49% owned): 12.8 points, 8.3 boards, 2.8 assists, 2.0 treys, 1.8 blocks per over his last four games.

Drew Gooden (48% owned): 15.3 points, 54.8% FG, 93.8% FT over last week. Is playing more and more minutes as he adjusts to the Spurs, and playing a bigger role with Duncan in and out of the line-up.

Kirk Hinrich (44% owned): Has found a productive comfort zone for the Bulls, averaging 13.7 points, 3.0 assists, 2.7 boards, 1.3 steals and 1.3 treys in his last four games.

Anthony Randolph (38% owned): 13 rebounds, 12.7 points, 2.0 blocks, 1.7 steals per in his last four games.

Louis Williams (33% owned): 16.3 points, 2.0 steals, 1.5 treys per over the last week. Williams is also likely to play a bigger role for Philly if they rest Andre Iguodala and/or Andre Miller at all in the last game.

Kyle Korver (27% owned) and Eddie House (11% owned): Nice 3-point role players to have. House, especially, could go on five-trey binges at any time.

Anthony Morrow (26% owned): 16 points, 3.0 treys, 3.0 boards, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals per over last week and likely to play a larger role in the Warriors' offense with both Monta Ellis and Jamal Crawford injured.

Quentin Richardson (20% owned): 12.8 points, 4.0 boards, 2.0 treys per over his last week.

Keyon Dooling (15% owned): 13.3 points, 5.7 assists, 1.3 treys, 1.0 steals per over last week and likely to play a larger role for the Nets with Vince Carter a potential shut-down candidate.

Will Bynum (8 % owned): Just set the Pistons' single quarter scoring record in his last game, and likely to play a big part in the offense in the season's final game if the veteran Pistons starters sit.

Charlie Bell (7%): 14 points, 4.5 boards, 3.5 assists and 3.0 treys per over his last week.

Jose Juan Barea (6%): 13.3 points, 5.0 assists, 2.7 boards, 1.3 treys, 65.2% FG over last week.

DeAndre Jordan (2% owned): The Clippers' frontline is either old (Marcus Camby), injured (Chris Kaman), in trouble with the law (Zach Randolph), or some combo of the above. As such, Jordan is likely to get more minutes this last week, and when he has gotten the minutes he has produced this year.

Shelden Williams (1% owned): Finally getting some PT for the downtrodden Wolves, responding by averaging a near double-double (9.0 points, 8.5 boards) over his last week of play.

Article first appeared 4/10/09