Commentary

Occupational Hazard: O'Neals major disappointments

Updated: January 25, 2008, 3:04 PM ET
By Guy Lake | Special to ESPN.com

The O'Neals have really let us down this year. Jermaine is openly wondering if he has played his last game of the season. Shaquille appears to be on the fast track for hip replacement surgery. And Ryan, oh Ryan, now you are more famous for beating your son than for Paper Moon. All three have seen their talent vanquished by age.

There was a time when Jermaine O'Neal meant dominant stats from the power forward or center spot on your roster. At his age (29), a few more years of excellence were expected. Now he has become one of the biggest draft-day risks in the game. It will be interesting to see where he is drafted next season.

As for the elder O'Neal -- no, not Ryan -- we are looking at what should be his last season. Of course, it probably won't be; $40 million isn't easy to walk away from. He has been a running joke in the fantasy community for a few years now, but even that has run dry. Indeed, he has been supplanted in his role as Supreme Devastator of Free-Throw Percentage by Dwight Howard.

Seeing the surname O'Neal on your roster used to mean likely domination in blocks, rebounds and scoring. As you read below, those days are consigned to the dustbin of statistics.

Triage Unit

[+] EnlargeJermaine O'Neal
Rocky Widner/Getty ImagesJermaine O'Neal's injury problems have frustrated fantasy owners.

Jermaine O'Neal, PF/C, Pacers: Ugh. It seems like this guy is in my column every week. Wait, I opened last week with that line. Each week, the news seems to get a little worse for the Pacers' big man. O'Neal told the Indianapolis Star, among others, he would consider shutting it down this season if his knee doesn't improve. Before you panic, this was O'Neal's worst-case scenario. The Pacers, for their part, expect O'Neal to play again. The bone bruise in his left knee will keep him out at least two weeks, but if he responds, he could be back soon after. Still, owners have to be prepared. Those in deeper leagues in need of rebounds should grab Jeff Foster, who is going to grab double-digit rebounds most nights he starts at center. Shawne Williams is more attractive from a talent perspective but just can't stick in the rotation. Interestingly, the player who has benefited the most from O'Neal's injury -- and Jim O'Brien's subsequent decision to play a smaller lineup -- has been Kareem Rush. If you need 3-pointers, no player should be higher on your list. He has averaged 3.8 3-pointers over his last five games.

Shaquille O'Neal, C, Heat: The best that can be said about Shaq's injured hip is that not many of you were counting on him to begin with. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Shaq will miss at least two weeks with inflammation and fluid buildup in his left hip. That is the minimum, mind you. He will be re-evaluated sometime around Feb. 6, when the Heat start a two-day road trip in Detroit. Assuming he responds well to treatment, Shaq should still miss the trip and rejoin the team no sooner than Sunday, Feb. 10. The opponent that afternoon? The Lakers, of course. The safer bet is that Shaq will need more time. The Sun-Sentinel suggests he may need a full month before returning. Until then, Mark Blount will start at center for the Heat. Those of you in need of a scoring center who treats rebounds like a vegan treats a T-bone need look no further -- unless, you already have Eddy Curry on your roster.

Carmelo Anthony, SF, Nuggets: It is looking unlikely that Melo will make it back for Friday night's game against the Nets. After seeing him sprain his left ankle Monday against the Lakers, I am shocked we are even talking about his coming back so soon. It did not look pretty. The Denver Post reported the swelling was minimal Tuesday and the Nuggets listed him as "doubtful" instead of out for Wednesday's game, although he eventually sat out the contest. Now, the Rocky Mountain News is saying that coach George Karl does not expect Melo to suit up Friday but is hopeful for Sunday's game against the Mavericks. Linas Kleiza will get the start in Anthony's place and is a good bet for solid scoring.

Luol Deng, SF, Bulls: The man from Wow, Sudan, will be sitting a while as he has not recovered as well as he and the team had hoped from his Achilles tendinitis. The team has shut Deng down and he is expected to miss a minimum of one week and up to three weeks, according to the Chicago Tribune. The paper compared Deng's injury and hasty return to Andres Nocioni's plantar fasciitis, which cost him 28 games last season. Whether this will cause Deng to miss that many games remains to be seen, but it is clear that Deng rushed back too quickly. Nocioni is a big beneficiary here and will start so long as Deng is out.

Ben Gordon, SG, Bulls: It was a surprise to most Gordon owners when he missed Wednesday's game with a sprained wrist. Despite suffering the injury Monday night, Gordon practiced Tuesday, so most owners assumed he would run on Wednesday. The Chicago Sun-Times quoted coach Jim Boylan about the injury and the team's decision: "Some X-rays were taken and they were negative. It was just a matter of [could] he get it loose enough so that he could play. The problem is it's his shooting hand, so it's a little dicey." The Chicago Tribune reported that Gordon underwent an MRI on Thursday that came back negative but that he was meeting with a specialist Friday. Expect Gordon to miss at least Friday's game. The obvious pickup here is second-year guard Thabo Sefolosha, who played 43 minutes Wednesday.

Chris Duhon, PG, Bulls: Meet the other player whose absence is influencing Sefolosha's value positively. Duhon is sidelined with a bruised left knee. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Jan. 23 that he would miss 7-10 more days. Count him out of next week's action for fantasy purposes, but we should have a clearer sense of his return by next week's column. He could be back by then, but my guess is Duhon's first game back will be against Sacramento on Feb. 2. Until then, Sefolosha, the Swiss Mister, should see a lot of playing time, especially if Ben Gordon's wrist proves to be a lingering issue.

Sasha Pavlovic, SG/SF, Cavaliers: The Cavs' starting shooting guard is going to miss six to eight weeks with a sprained left foot. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports the most likely candidates to take Pavlovic's starting spot are Devin Brown or Damon Jones. Whoever gets the start probably won't matter much to fantasy owners, as the two will split Pavlovic's minutes. But of the two, I like Devin Brown more. He showed the ability to pass a little last season with the Hornets and could be of interest in deeper leagues. As for Pavlovic, it has been a lost season. He held out, underperformed -- scoring in double figures just five times in his past 24 games -- and now, just when he seemed to be getting some confidence, he is out for most of the rest of the season.

Jamaal Tinsley, PG, Pacers: The Pacers are listing Tinsley as day-to-day after he missed Thursday's contest with a sore knee. This might explain Tinsley's poor game Tuesday against the Sixers, when he scored just two points and handed out six assists. Over his last five contests, he has averaged 4.0 points per game, though his assists have been solid at 10.5 per game. Travis Diener started in Tinsley's place Thursday night -- his first NBA start -- and posted solid numbers in the loss: 15 points, two 3-pointers and 9 assists. Diener is a solid threat from deep and deep-leaguers should think about adding him if they need 3-pointers and assists. Tinsley's knee has been bothering him all month and he could miss more time.

Nene Hilario, PF/C, Nuggets: Just a quick update here. The Denver Post reports that the tumor removed from Nene's testicle was malignant but that it was confined there and did not spread to other parts of his body. George Karl hopes he will be back in two months. Kenyon Martin, provided he stays healthy, will benefit the most while Nene recovers.

Outpatient Clinic

Elton Brand, PF, Clippers: The Associated Press reported Brand has been cleared to engage in more strenuous running and jumping exercises. This was a required step before Brand could begin drills and then practice down the line. An early March return is now looking more likely for Brand, though I would expect that the Clippers will be very cautious with their franchise player the first few weeks. However, his owners should expect a month of solid play.

[+] EnlargeGilbert Arenas
David Sherman/Getty ImagesIs there a light at the end of the Agent Zero tunnel?

Gilbert Arenas, PG, Wizards: He said so on his blog and the Washington Post is saying the same thing: It looks like Arenas will be back following the All-Star break. The Post also said that Arenas likely would return as the starter. We are still weeks away from a return and Arenas has said that he will pull back if he doesn't feel right. If you have been patient so far, there is no reason to change now. Antonio Daniels owners, on the other hand, may want to make some plans for the last two months of the season.

Jameer Nelson, PG, Magic: Today is supposed to be the day. Nelson told the Orlando Sentinel that he plans to try to play Friday night. Whenever I read "try to play," I am somehow not inspired with confidence. Nelson has missed three games with a strained tendon in his right foot. Don't be shocked if his minutes are limited. In other words, don't cut Carlos Arroyo just yet.

Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at GuyLake@TalentedMrRoto.com.