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Luol Deng, Bulls: 26 points (9-of-11 FTs), 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists and one 3-pointer against the Jazz|
Carlos Boozer, Jazz: 28 points (12-of-14 FG, 4-5 FTs), 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 1 steal versus the Bulls
Dwight Howard, Magic: 22 points (9-14 FG), 17 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 assists against the Hawks
Jason Williams, Magic: 0 points on 0-for-3 shooting (all from beyond the arc) in 27 minutes against the Hawks; Williams did chip in 3 assists and 2 steals|
Al Horford, Magic: 2 points on 1-of-3 shooting, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 block versus the Magic
John Salmons, Bulls: 9 points on 4-of-11 shooting (0-for-2 from beyond the arc), 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 rebounds
Many an owner's holiday was somewhat spoiled by the news that Lou Williams will be out for up to eight weeks with a fractured jaw. That puts a major damper on the dream season for the preseason super-sleeper, but beneficiaries crop up in his stead. The name that immediately comes to mind is Elton Brand, as the former fantasy stud is now presented with a great opportunity to reprise his former role. As recently as 10 days ago, Brand's fantasy prospects looked almost done, his game showing an appalling lack of athleticism. But a three-game average of 19.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks made it crystal clear that he's not done quite yet; at least before a four-point, 1-for-9 performance Tuesday in which he left after 27 minutes with a sore hamstring showed his downside in a clear contrast.
Without Williams (and Marreese Speights), however, things suddenly look up for Brand, assuming he can get over the bum hamstring that caused him to miss Wednesday's contest against the Celtics. Now the Sixers won't have many choices but to feed Brand more, as the 12.9 field-goal attempts and 17.4 points Williams was averaging have to be redistributed somehow. Further involvement in the offense should only help Brand play better, and since he's still day-to-day with his hamstring, now looks like a good time to snatch him from a frustrated owner. The first decent offer could get it done since so many owners have undoubtedly felt burned by Brand and may just want to get rid of the headache. Indeed, less than two weeks after I wrote Brand off, I'm now recommending him in the next breath. Unpredictability has a certain appeal.
As for other beneficiaries, Jrue Holiday also deserves a pickup if you're sniffing for useful players on the waiver wire. He's not a scorer or a shooter, however, which opens up the door for Jason Kapono (for deeper leagues, anyway).
Wednesday featured the return of Eric Gordon, albeit in a rough showing (2-for-7 shooting in 27 minutes) off the bench. Chances are it was just rust, however, and he'll be back to normal Friday against the Pistons. Also of note is Chris Kaman's 3-for-19 shooting; he's now shooting 34.1 percent in his past five games. It's not a long-term concern, however, as it's likely just regression to the mean. It might be good for Kaman to become less of a focus on offense, as his efficiency could rise and he could devote more attention to his defense. ... Roy Hibbert may have swatted three shots, but he picked up five fouls in 26 minutes, and his foul-prone ways are making it difficult to assimilate him back into the lineup. It should be a real concern for his owners. ... The stingy Bobcats defense shut down the Raptors, limiting them to 81 points, including just 14 in the fourth quarter. The Raptors have led the NBA in offensive efficiency for most of the season -- only recently have the Suns taken over the top spot -- proving that the Bobcats defense, which now ranks first in defensive efficiency, is for real. ... Maybe inconsistency is the reason why Jason Williams is owned in only 4.5 percent of leagues, but when you split the extremes between the 25 points on Wednesday and the 0-point dud that followed, you're still getting a quality point guard. He's averaging 5.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.6 3-pointers in his five games, which gets the job done. Oh, and it's probably worth checking if anyone's getting restless about his teammate, Rashard Lewis, who picked up another couple of unsatisfactory games and is now only 13-for-43 (30.2 percent) in his past three contests. ... With 24 more points on 9-for-11 shooting versus the Mavericks, Carl Landry is just balling and is becoming a must-grab. His offensive potential is real, as he's going to get every opportunity to score on a team that can always use some efficient scoring. He could be this year's Paul Millsap. ... Those 18 points from Chris Douglas-Roberts against the Blazers could be his last hurrah now that the Nets are getting healthier. CDR should still have his moments, but don't be afraid to drop him for the next hot thing.
Friday: With so many games scheduled, think about benching marginal players involved in unfriendly matchups such as the Spurs-Rockets, Cavaliers-Bobcats and Hawks-76ers. The contests involved feature slow, plodding offenses and/or above-average defenses. Rajon Rondo is extremely tough on opposing point guards, so don't be surprised to see a poor night out of Jose Calderon when he faces the Celtics on the road. Games hosted by the Pacers, Nuggets and Timberwolves could turn into track meets.
Saturday: Beware of Anthony Morrow versus the Lakers, the only team forcing opponents to shoot worse than 30 percent from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers also stifle 3-point shooters, which could impact more than a few shooters on the Mavericks. On the bright side, Stephen Jackson might go off against the Wizards, who rank last in opponent 3-point percentage. Keep in mind the matchup between the Jazz and the Trail Blazers is one between teams who rank 25th and 29th, respectively, in possessions per game.
Sunday: A road contest against the Spurs seems like it would be tough, offensively-speaking, for the 76ers. Expect the Timberwolves and Nuggets to run a lot in their game, favoring a guy like Corey Brewer, who gets that many more opportunities to pick up a few hustle stats. The Raptors host the Suns in a contest between the NBA's two top offenses, and both defenses are leaky from beyond the arc. ... Caron Butler (ankle), Quentin Richardson (back), Elton Brand (hamstring), Shaquille O'Neal (shoulder), Ben Gordon (ankle), Danny Granger (knee), Manu Ginobili (groin) and Beno Udrih (illness) are all day-to-day.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.