Don't be afraid to drop resting stars

Updated: April 12, 2012, 4:55 PM ET
By John Cregan | Special to ESPN.com

Look, Lamar Odom's had a tough year.

It's not my job to psychoanalyze, but as a fan of his style of play (and his production) I hope he finds a new situation (Golden State, maybe?) and bounces back next season.

That said, Mark Cuban was absolutely, completely correct in severing ties, because Odom was dragging down his team.

I bring this up because I want those of you still in contention to have the same ruthless, Darwinian attitude. Because a lot of crazy, aberrant things can happen in the stretch run of the NBA season.

If you're playing catch-up, keep plugging away. And if you're feeling comfortable, don't get too comfortable.

Over the next few days, as playoff positions start to ossify, you'll see certain stars' minutes get cut dramatically. Injured stars on lottery teams will be shut down completely.

[+] EnlargeKevin Love
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Timberwolves could choose to play it safe with Kevin Love after his concussion.

I want you to think about the remaining two weeks of the season as one slab of games. And you need to think about maximizing your games played in light of probable shutdown/rest situations.

Players I'm worried about (in no particular order): Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili, Andrea Bargnani, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love, Gerald Wallace, Jason Kidd, Nicolas Batum, Eric Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Ray Allen, Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving, Al Harrington, Hedo Turkoglu, Luke Ridnour and Grant Hill.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say I have concerns about nearly half of the top 50 players when it comes to them keeping up their seasonal averages and playing every game.

I'm here to tell you that at this juncture of the season you should have absolutely no hesitation when it comes to cutting some of these players. Pull a Cuban and send them packing to the waiver wire, because big names mean nothing if they're just dead weight in your lineup.

I know the idea of dropping Derrick Rose or LaMarcus Aldridge sounds sort of delusional on the surface. But if you get into the final five or six days of the regular season, and playoff positions start getting locked in? You might be better off riding the wire than trying to guess how many minutes Rose will get in a couple of meaningless games.

You need to make sure you're getting real production out of every opportunity. Think about all of the late-season bloomers popping up on the fantasy radar. And the next two weeks will bring only more Lester Hudsons and Gordon Haywards, not to mention Kevin Seraphins, Kenneth Farieds and Greg Stiemsmas.

What do I do? I create what I call a "Swing Spot" on my roster. A place where I can pick up and drop players at will.

Sometimes, if I have specific categorical needs in a particular playoff matchup, I'll create multiple "Swing Spots" to focus on certain positions and categories. Maybe one will be focused on point guards, while another will be focused on centers (with the option to fill in from other positions as needed). Or maybe one will be focused on generating only blocks regardless of position.

Which players should you be targeting? Look at the other highly informative columns on this site. Look at teams with the red-flag players I listed above. If Derrick Rose is going to sit, C.J. Watson will log heavy minutes. If Andrea Bargnani gets shut down, it's going to have a ripple effect with Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and Linas Kleiza.

To help drive home this point, I went through last week's box scores to show you what kind of production you can cobble together from the waiver wire by position.

The idea was to build a five-game week for each specific position, using only players who were owned in 50 percent of leagues or less for the week.

I picked specific games from players on specific nights, but didn't necessarily pick the best nights, because again, I'm looking for the maximum amount of games played. I also tried to stick to players who were coming off of nice games and displaying that they deserved to be picked up.

Point guard

Names you could consider dropping: Derrick Rose, Jrue Holiday, Tony Parker, Darren Collison, Kyrie Irving

4/3: Nate Robinson (18 pts, 2 rebs, 5 assts, 1 stl, 2 3s)
4/4: Jose Juan Barea (15 pts, 6 rebs, 8 assts, 3 3s)
4/5: C.J. Watson (15 pts, 2 rebs, 8 assts, 2 stls, 1 blk, 2 3s)
4/7: Greivis Vasquez (11 pts, 5 rebs, 11 assts, 1 stl, 1 3-pointer)
4/8: Iman Shumpert (15 pts, 9 rebs, 6 assts, 4 stls, 2 3s)

TOTALS: 74 pts, 24 rebs, 38 assts, 8 stls, 10 3s

Compare those numbers to Rose (one game played, 29 pts on 8-for-29 shooting), Mike Conley (56 pts, 16 assts, 8 stls, 9 3s), Holiday (41 pts, 12 assts, 6 stls, 1 3-pointer) or Parker (64 pts, 16 assts, 4 stls, no 3s). By comparison, the cumulative totals from the wire add up to a top-5 point guard.

Shooting guard

Names you could consider dropping: Manu Ginobili, Eric Gordon, Dwyane Wade, Rodney Stuckey, Ray Allen

4/4: Anthony Parker (27 pts, 7 rebs, 4 assts, 3 stls, 4 3s)
4/5: Ben Gordon (13 pts, 3 rebs, 2 assts)
4/6: Lester Hudson (23 pts, 2 rebs, 7 assts, 3 stls)
4/7: Shannon Brown (24 pts, 5 rebs, 3 assts, 4 3s)
4/8: Courtney Lee (25 pts, 2 rebs, 2 assts, 4 stls, 3 3s)

TOTALS: 112 pts, 19 rebs, 18 assts, 10 stls, 11 3s

Compare those numbers to Ginobili (49 pts, 15 rebs, 14 assts, 2 stls, 2 blks, 4 3s), Joe Johnson (50 pts, 8 rebs, 13 assts, 3 stls, 6 3s) or Allen (48 pts, 17 rebs, 9 3s, 7 stls, 5 assts).

These games might really seem like I was cherry-picking, but I was leaving some really good nights on the table from Randy Foye, J.R. Smith, Daniel Green and Alonzo Gee. Shooting guard has been a thin position this season, but there's been a high volume of late-season bloomers popping up at the 2. This is a position to watch over the final stretch.

Small forward

Names you could consider dropping: Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batum, Hedo Turkoglu, Grant Hill, Trevor Ariza, Corey Maggette, Wilson Chandler

4/2: Jan Vesely (14 pts, 7 rebs, 1 stl, 1 blk)
4/4: Gerald Green (20 pts, 7 rebs, 2 assts, 1 stl, 1 3-pointer)
4/6: Mike Dunleavy (15 pts, 5 rebs, 3 assts, 1 blk, 2 3s)
4/7: Michael Beasley (20 pts, 7 rebs, 1 assts, 1 stl, 1 blk, 3 3s)
4/8: Terrence Williams (21 pts, 8 rebs, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1 3-pointer)

TOTALS: 90 pts, 34 rebs, 6 assts, 4 stls, 4 blks, 7 3s

Compare those numbers to Andre Iguodala (36 pts, 14 rebs, 19 assts, 7 stls, 4 blks), Rudy Gay (73 pts, 24 rebs, 12 assts, 3 blks, 7 stls, 3 3s) or Batum (51 pts, 31 rebs, 10 assts, 9 3s, 3 blks, 4 stls).

Note the rise here of Terrence Williams. He's been a player who's flashed fantasy ability in the past, and he gives the type of diversified stat lines that can give you value every night. All he's needed is minutes, and he's finally getting them in Sacramento.

Power forward

Names you could consider dropping: LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love (if his concussion is serious), Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett (he'll be rested if at all possible), Al Harrington

4/3: Linas Kleiza (18 pts, 5 rebs)
4/4: Kevin Seraphin (19 pts, 10 rebs, 3 assts)
4/6: Kenneth Faried (12 pts, 8 rebs, 1 asst, 1 stl, 1 blk)
4/7: Glen Davis (23 pts, 12 rebs, 1 stl)
4/8: Tristan Thompson (15 pts, 15 rebs, 2 assts, 1 stl, 2 blks)

TOTALS: 87 pts, 50 rebs, 6 assts, 3 stls, 3 blks

Compare those numbers to David Lee (79 pts, 42 rebs, 15 assts, 4 stls, 2 blks) or Pau Gasol (78 pts, 42 rebs, 14 assts, 3 blks, 1 stl).

And there are a ton of other serviceable names coming on in the closing games: J.J. Hickson, Carl Landry, Derrick Favors, Anthony Randolph, Tiago Splitter and Markieff Morris.

Center

Names to consider dropping: Andrea Bargnani, Dwight Howard

4/2: Marcus Camby (12 pts, 11 rebs, 2 assts, 1 stl)
4/3: Spencer Hawes (12 pts, 5 rebs, 2 assts, 1 stl, 2 blks)
4/4: Ekpe Udoh (11 pts, 8 rebs, 1 asst, 1 stl, 2 blks)
4/6: Byron Mullens (31 pts, 14 rebs, 2 assts, 2 blks)
4/7: Jeremy Tyler (10 pts, 8 rebs, 2 blks)

TOTALS: 76 pts, 42 rebs, 7 assts, 3 stls, 6 blks

Compare those numbers to Al Jefferson (78 pts, 38 rebs, 10 assts, 2 stls, 9 blks) or Tyson Chandler (32 pts, 42 rebs, 1 asst, 1 stl, 4 blks in a 3-game week). In a situation where every game counts, you might be better off rolling the dice on Udoh throwing up a 3-block game than waiting on Bargnani.

The idea here is to not be at the mercy of the late-season forces that can submarine a championship run. With everything in such a high state of flux, you can't sit back and just hope that players continue to produce at their seasonal averages.

Stay on top of the playoff standings and injury reports. Look for young players with upside in line for expanded playing time, focus on older teams that might put a premium on rest headed into the playoffs and look at lottery teams that might start emptying their benches.

Good luck!

John Cregan

Fantasy Basketball
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE