- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
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Nobody can blame the Miami Heat for shutting down Dwyane Wade with 21 games left in the team's brutal season. The guy is the franchise, his knee has been bothering him all season and there's little for coach Pat Riley's team to play for. Then again, fantasy owners who drafted Wade, or worse yet dealt for the guy recently, should have known better.
Not that we saw Wade's season being truncated this early, but I'd call it a mild surprise the guard lasted as long as he did. There's a reason why I avoided Wade like The Plague in the first round of my October drafts, and it was because of the durability factor. Hey, I'm not questioning the guy's talent. He has loads of it. He also had loads of offseason surgeries, to his shoulder and knee, and that was about two surgeries too many for me to deal with in the top 10. Missing games this season was inevitable.
Monday's announcement that Wade will undergo a specialized treatment called OssaTron, a high-powered form of shockwave therapy, hits fantasy owners hard because this guy is No. 44 on ESPN's Player Rater for the season and even in the top 30 over the past month. In ESPN leagues, the trade deadline has already passed and unless you're in a four-team league, I wish you luck replacing 24.6 points and 6.9 assists off free agency. Really, it's a credit to Wade that he lasted 51 games. However, we're compelled to point out the number 51 also matches his games played for the previous season. Is it a trend? Hopefully not, but with the information we have today, I'll be avoiding him in the first round for 2008-09 as well and let someone else deal with this.
Miami's goal, officially, is to have this procedure heal Wade's left knee to the point that he doesn't have short seasons again. Obviously this would help his fantasy value if we can trust him. Unofficially, it also helps the Heat to lose more games and lock up the NBA's worst record, which was likely to happen regardless of the timing of this announcement. The Heat have a 2½-game "lead" in the race with Minnesota for the best chance to win the lottery and choose first in the next NBA draft. Congrats, here's your capper!
Of course, someone must replace Wade's numbers, though this team is ranked 29th out of 30 teams in points per game. Newcomer Shawn Marion has actually, and surprisingly, been a bit of a bust since coming over in the Shaquille O'Neal trade. In 13 games with Miami, Marion is averaging 14.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and has seen his steals, blocks and field goal and free-throw percentages all drop with the moribund club. There's opportunity now for him to score more, but then again, in what league is he available? Don't sell the farm if you're still allowed to trade for him, as well. I don't think Marion is necessarily the biggest fantasy beneficiary here.
Wade played Saturday night at Atlanta and played well, but the night before, he was absent for a 35-point home loss to Golden State. Marcus Banks, a point guard by trade and, like Marion, a bit disappointing since coming from Phoenix, started at shooting guard and scored 20 points on 17 shots and added four assists. He couldn't consistently push Jason Williams from the starting lineup, but he played pretty well next to him. Chris Quinn, yet another point guard at 6-2, got 34 minutes off the bench and nailed four 3-pointers on his way to 20 points. The next night, with Wade playing, Quinn didn't score. The Heat had only seven players available Friday night.
The Heat play Monday against the Clippers and it's unknown how many players will be available. Banks, who probably stands to gain the most from Wade's absence, pulled his right hamstring against the Hawks and might not play. Udonis Haslem is also questionable for Monday with a sprained ankle. The Heat don't have enough viable players and the games are going to get really ugly. Yes, things can get worse for a team that has lost 31 of 34 contests since before Christmas. Make sure you have all your fantasy options active when they are facing the Heat!
Regardless, someone has to play. Look for Daequan Cook, more of a pure shooting guard, to get significant minutes. I wouldn't call him a great fantasy option yet, but he can hit 3-pointers, if you need that sort of thing. Ricky Davis, one of the most added players in ESPN leagues over the past week but still owned in merely half of leagues, will have the chance to score 20 points a night, and he makes for a good addition. If a healthy Banks is the biggest winner, Davis is a close second. Alexander Johnson should see double the 12.7 minutes he has averaged for the season, but he doesn't warrant a pickup at this point. Mark Blount kind of does what he does, and that shouldn't change.
If you have Wade, my advice would be to check out the categories you really need at this point of the season. In head-to-head formats, the playoffs loom. In roto leagues, there's one month left. Do you need to replace the points the most, or the assists? I'm guessing it's the assists, and among the players out there owned in less than half of ESPN leagues who can help you are Nate Robinson, Anthony Carter, Steve Blake and Brevin Knight.
Do your best. It's all you (and the Heat) can do right now.
Eric Karabell is a fantasy sports expert for ESPN.com Fantasy.
5dDavid M. Hale