- Brian McKitish, Fantasy Basketball
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Phew, those injuries are starting to pile up, eh? Lots of big names have sat with minor injuries during the past week, giving us an opportunity to catch a glimpse of some potential pickups in the process. With all these big-name players going down, I'm sure your fantasy squads can use a little boost, even if it is only for a few games. Thankfully, most waiver-wire gems are found when injury strikes, and even if they don't have long-lasting value, it's still important to know who will step it up the next time around. So with that in mind, many of this week's pickups will focus on those who are benefiting from the recent injury wave that has swept across the NBA.
Of course, as I write this, I'm watching Anderson Varejao grimace in pain after suffering a sprained ankle against the Lakers on Sunday. And you know what that means: It's Drew Gooden time, folks. Gooden, who is owned in just 50.1 percent of ESPN.com leagues, has seen his value all but disappear since Varejao returned to the Cavs. But don't forget that he averaged 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks per game before Varejao returned in early December. Varejao's injury looked pretty serious, so owners will want to rush to the wire to grab Gooden before it's too late.
Kenyon Martin (82.7 percent owned) and Linas Kleiza (73.6 percent owned) are tearing it up in Denver without Carmelo Anthony and, not surprisingly, both are among this week's most-added players. Martin has averaged 18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and a steal in three games since returning from his own injury, while Kleiza has averaged 23.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.8 3-pointers in his past five games. Both need to be owned in all fantasy leagues while Melo mends, but K-Mart is the guy you want to own when Melo returns. Martin will be an injury concern, no doubt, but has played well enough this season to be owned whenever he's on the court.
Jordan Farmar (12.9 percent owned), who is averaging 14.2 points, 3.4 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.0 3-pointers in 23.6 minutes in his past five games, is doing his best to help the wounded Lakers stay afloat without Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza. Interestingly enough, he hasn't seen a huge jump in minutes, but he has been more productive when on the court. And if he keeps playing like this, Phil Jackson is going to have to find a way to get this kid more minutes. Although I love Farmar's potential, I think he'll need an injury to Derek Fisher before he can step it up and produce for those in 10-team leagues. Those in deeper formats can certainly take a shot at him, however, especially if you're lacking in steals and 3-pointers.
Don't you hate it when a big star goes down and there's literally no one around to step in and fill his shoes? That's how the Lakers have felt with Kwame Brown (5.5 percent owned) and Ronny Turiaf (2.4 percent owned) splitting Andrew Bynum's minutes. Brown has averaged just 8.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.6 steals (no blocks), while Turiaf has averaged 11.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and a steal since the Bynum injury. That's pretty weak, although Turiaf's defensive stats are worth an acquisition if you need a boost in steals and blocks. I'd be much more willing to recommend him if he were rebounding better, and I know he has it in him to pull down more than just 3.8 boards per game. Give him a shot in deeper formats, but leave him be in standard leagues unless he separates himself from Kwame on the playing-time front.
Everyone should know by now that Juan Carlos Navarro (43.0 percent owned) is the guy you want to own in Memphis if either Pau Gasol or Darko Milicic is sidelined. I know what you're thinking: How does a shooting guard benefit from an injury to a big man? Well, the Grizzlies are lacking in frontcourt depth, and they like to go small if they are shorthanded. Enter Navarro, who is averaging a sick 16.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 3.1 3-pointers as a starter.
Mike Conley is listed as day-to-day, but he better hurry back because second-year man Kyle Lowry (7.5 percent owned) has impressed in his absence. Conley isn't in any jeopardy of losing his starting job, but Lowry has averaged 17 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 2.5 steals during his past two games. If you have an open roster spot for a short-term pickup, grab Lowry now, because even though Conley may be better in real life, Lowry trumps him in terms of fantasy statistics. Just keep in mind that Lowry will go back to riding the pine once Conley returns.
We spoke about Thabo Sefolosha last week, but it bears mentioning again that he's averaging 11.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game in his past seven contests. Sefolosha seems to have a starting gig locked up for as long as Luol Deng is out, and can be a valuable addition for anyone who needs a boost in the steals category. Ben Gordon's wrist injury makes Sefolosha all the more attractive, as the Bulls are playing with a very short bench at the moment.
Neither Tyrus Thomas (8.7 percent owned) nor Joakim Noah (1.3 percent owned) is worth acquiring just yet, but Joe Smith's balky knee may change that pretty quickly. Smith had fluid drained from his knee on Friday night, but was still able to suit up in Sunday's contest. Still, Smith's health is somewhat tentative at this point, and either Thomas or Noah could earn significant minutes if Smith can't go. I won't pretend to know which player will step it up (both are too erratic for prognostication), but if I had to choose one, it would be Noah. Noah has played well as of late, averaging 7.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game during his past five, and is a much better team defender than the high-flying Thomas.
The ever-fragile Jamaal Tinsley has sat his past two games with a knee injury, and anyone who remembers the Tinsley of old knows that it's never a good sign when this guy goes down. In his place, the Pacers have turned to sharpshooter Travis Diener, who has averaged 11.0 points, 4.3 assists, 2.0 3-pointers and a steal in his past three games. Diener is a moderately attractive pickup, if only because he'll likely drain two-plus 3-pointers per game if Tinsley misses more time.
Typically, the Pacers will turn to Jeff Foster (22.2 percent owned) whenever Jermaine O'Neal is sidelined, but on Saturday night they tried a different strategy, rolling with Troy Murphy (29.0 percent owned) as their starting center. I'm not sure if the lineup change will stick, but you may want to consider swapping Foster for T-Murph if you grabbed Foster last week. Murphy is averaging 10.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.2 3-pointers in 26 starts this season.
Look out for Charlie Bell and Royal Ivey in Milwaukee if Michael Redd's knee strain turns out to be serious. Of the two, I like Bell slightly more, given his dominant performance in the second half of last season. Bell is averaging 10.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.6 3-pointers and a steal in his past five games, but turned in 22 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 3-pointers in Redd's absence on Sunday night. Those who were thinking of adding Bobby Simmons can think again, because it's looking as though Bell and Ivey are the two who will benefit most from Redd's injury.
This isn't an injury-related suggestion, but Ryan Gomes (85.4 percent owned) has really turned it up a notch as of late in Minnesota. Judging by his percent-owned status, Gomes is likely already gone in your league. Players who are averaging 18.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game in their past five get noticed pretty quickly, and Gomes has been added by scores of fantasy owners in the past week. The only problem with Gomes is that he's wildly inconsistent. His stats will average out pretty well in the long run, but you'll need to be willing to deal with the night-to-night fluctuations if you're thinking about picking him up.
A lot of folks wrote in asking about Al Thornton (11.5 percent owned) after he blew up for 23 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks on Wednesday night. I love Thornton's upside, but I can't see him producing consistently until he finally starts to receive 30-plus minutes on a nightly basis. As it stands right now, he's getting a solid 25 a night, but that will make him incredibly inconsistent. That said, it might be a good idea to tuck him away now if you can, because he'll be very good once the Clippers finally decide to go with the youth movement.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
Brian McKitish scans the waiver wire looking for players who can help your fantasy team.