Commentary

If You're Hardcore: Impact of recent major injuries

Updated: February 5, 2009, 3:29 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

In recent weeks, a lot of injuries have shuffled the fantasy landscape. The Lakers' Andrew Bynum tore his medial collateral ligament and could be out anywhere from five weeks to the rest of the season; the Jazz have lost Andrei Kirilenko for three to four weeks and potentially longer; and the Bucks learned Andrew Bogut has a stress fracture in his back, an injury that looks likely to sideline him for the remainder of the season. Even the Magic had their run of great health end when Jameer Nelson tore his right labrum; the team hopes he can avoid surgery, but he'll be out two to six weeks regardless.

What does this mean for deep leagues? The curious thing about all these injuries is that they occurred to above-average, well-established players whose teams do not have obvious replacements for them. With no easy-to-figure players to pick up, the situations become messier; it's a lot more guesswork and hope. On the other hand, the potential replacements are available in nearly every league. It's worth sifting through the rubble to see whether we can glean anything of value, especially since these decisions do have long-term implications. Let's see what we can find.

Lakers

Trevor Ariza
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesTrevor Ariza has had his ups and downs, but should see more consistent minutes going forward.
The loss of Bynum pushes Pau Gasol to center, where he'll play heavy minutes, and allows Lamar Odom to move to power forward. That leaves Trevor Ariza, Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Walton to fight for minutes at small forward. Of this group, Ariza is by far the most productive player. Sorted by player efficiency rating, the gap is astronomical -- Ariza is at 17.04, Radmanovic 11.80 and Walton 10.82 (15 is the league average), and that's not even factoring in the fact that Ariza is by far the best defender of the group. His biggest problem is his lack of range, but he did shoot a decent 34.9 percent from long range in January, a month that also saw him attempt the most 3-pointers (2.7 per game) of his career. Radmanovic is shooting a robust 44.1 percent from beyond the arc but is otherwise extremely limited; Walton doesn't do anything besides pass. And last season's spark plug, Sasha Vujacic, has returned to earth (38.4 percent from the field). When the talent gap is this large, what else can you do but hope Phil Jackson eventually gets the picture?

Jazz

Jerry Sloan is a tough coach to read because he doesn't mind platooning a number of players at a position to ensure he gets what he wants; he doesn't hand out any favors. Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles are the two fighting it out for AK-47's minutes, and you have to like Miles by default because Korver has been unable to find his shot this season; the career 40.2 percent shooter from 3-point land is converting only 35 percent this season. Worse, his percentage has decreased each month, from a high of 48.4 percent in November to 26.2 percent in January.

Miles hasn't been that great, but he can stretch the court -- he's shooting 36.3 percent on 3-pointers this season after converting 39 percent last season. That is an important skill, because Ronnie Brewer is a non-factor from long range, and it is well documented how much the Jazz offense improved once they added Korver's shooting last season. Miles has a shot at being serviceable, performing decently in most categories, and has the size (6-foot-6, 227 pounds) Sloan likes.

The wild card is Matt Harpring, who actually has a higher PER this season (13.68) than either Miles (12.30) or Korver (10.99). It would require abandoning any idea of a long-range threat, as Harpring has attempted two 3-pointers this season, but he does offer consistent midrange jump-shooting, has long been one of Sloan's guys and epitomizes the Jazz's physical style. The Jazz currently are ninth in the Western Conference and desperately fighting for a playoff spot, so expect Sloan to do whatever it takes. Of course, that raises another possibility that would render all the above moot: trading Carlos Boozer for a small forward.

Bucks

Francisco Elson and Dan Gadzuric are expected to split time in place of Bogut, although it also could be seen as an opportunity to allow Charlie Villanueva and/or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to log more time at center and play small ball. Elson should be the biggest beneficiary; Gadzuric isn't bad on a per-minute basis, but he fouls too much to stay on the court. Elson rebounds and blocks shots well enough to be a serviceable center if there's not much else to choose from; he's averaging 7.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in his past six games, which isn't too shabby.

The biggest effect of the loss of Bogut, though, is on the Bucks' defense. With Bogut, the defense allowed 95.8 points per game; without him, that number has skyrocketed to 103.6, allowing a litany of huge games in the process, the most recent being Brook Lopez's 22-point, 12-rebound excursion Tuesday. As a result, for the rest of the season, the Bucks should remain one of the most favorable matchups for opposing teams.

Magic

Anthony Johnson
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesNo one could shadow Anthony Johnson in Orlando's first game without Jameer Nelson.
The team's lack of depth behind Nelson might come back to haunt it, as Anthony Johnson, 25-point explosion Wednesday aside, is a weak option. Johnson averaged 6.9 points and 4.7 assists in 52 starts with the Kings last season, so you can consider his most recent performance an outlier. If anything, Nelson's absence will help the values of Hedo Turkoglu, who should play more point forward, and wings like Mickael Pietrus and Courtney Lee. Lee has retained his minutes even after the return of Pietrus, and the loss of Nelson should give Pietrus a few more minutes to work with as well. Lee is the more promising fantasy option, as his combination of 3-pointers (1.3 per game in 13 starts) and steals (1.2 per game) does a good job of keeping his value steady. If you're desperate for a point guard, Johnson can't hurt, but if Nelson is out for a considerable amount of time, the playoff-bound Magic likely will trade for a fill-in like Earl Watson.

Comings and goings

Keep an eye on Charlie Bell, who is averaging about 28 minutes per game in his past four games. With Michael Redd done for the season, Bell is the only natural shooting guard on the roster, and he loves to chuck it from long range; he's 7-of-16 from beyond the arc in those four games. … Hakim Warrick's minutes vanished overnight after Marc Iavaroni was fired; he went from logging 31 minutes on Jan. 21 to 20 minutes on Jan. 23. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported Lionel Hollins was changing his role, forcing Warrick to get his shots within the flow of the offense. Has it worked? Warrick scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting Wednesday against a tough Rockets defense, giving his owners reason for optimism. … With D.J. Augustin nearing a return, and Gerald Wallace out until at least the All-Star break, there's a chance the Bobcats could opt to go small with Boris Diaw at the 4 and Raja Bell at the 3 in order to get their best players in the lineup. As of now, the idea is to play Diaw at the 3 and start Juwan Howard at power forward, but Howard is just a retread. If the team does stick with that plan, Howard is an option in deeper leagues if you're desperate for double-digit points, but an even better option would be for the Bobcats to trade Raymond Felton for a wing.

Pickups

Ryan Anderson, PF, Nets (0.6 percent owned): Anderson is a scorer who averaged 21.1 points, 1.9 3-pointers and 41 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore in college last season. The injury to Yi Jianlian has given him an opportunity, but he failed to do much with it until recently. Now that he's dropped 19 and 18 points in consecutive games, deep leaguers have nothing to lose by adding him to the end of their benches. His minutes have been inconsistent, even as he's started the past 13 games, but there's reason to believe that if his play warrants it, the playing time will come. It's no coincidence that as he's seen 30-plus minutes in three of his past four games, he's also scored at least 17 points. That might seem like stating the obvious, but so many young players are unable to receive extra minutes even as they start playing better, so if Anderson sustains his level of play, he will see enough playing time to remain productive.

Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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