- Brian McKitish, Fantasy Basketball
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The fantasy fallout of the Pau Gasol trade already has been discussed ad nauseam, but let's take a quick look at three Grizzlies who stand to benefit from the deal and might be available in your league.
Juan Carlos Navarro (58.8 percent owned): Apparently some folks still haven't gotten the memo. Gasol's departure all but guarantees Navarro a starting spot for the balance of the season, as the Grizzlies will be forced into the small-ball game. I shouldn't need to tell you JCN is a total stud when he is getting quality minutes, so I will let his numbers do the talking: 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.8 3-pointers per game in 15 starts. Get him now, if he still is out there.
Darko Milicic (47.2 percent owned): Darko has averaged just 6.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in eight games without Gasol this season, but he has turned it on as of late with consecutive double-doubles and seven blocks in his past two games. Although the Grizzlies will roll with a small lineup, Darko still has an opportunity to shine in the depleted Memphis frontcourt. Chris Kaman has flourished in a similar role with the Clippers, and although Darko isn't nearly as talented as Kaman, you can't deny this is a great opportunity for the 22-year-old. Proceed with caution, but definitely grab Darko if you are in need of rebounding and blocks.
Hakim Warrick (3.5 percent owned): You might be tempted to snag Warrick off the wire, and that is a fine idea if you are looking only for a point scorer who can help out in field goal percentage. Warrick might look like a lengthy, athletic type who can create steals and block shots in bulk, but for one reason or another, that hasn't translated well at the professional level. In his 45 career starts, Warrick has averaged 14.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks in 31.1 minutes. Warrick can score a little, but his rebounding, steals and blocks need some work before he becomes an option in anything other than deeper formats.
Josh Childress, SG/SF, Hawks (53.7 percent owned): Thanks mostly to Marvin Williams' breakthrough season, Childress has seen his numbers fall in every major statistical category other than percentages (where he is killing it with 57.1 percent from the floor and 83.7 percent from the line). The thing is, Childress' per-minute stats still are tremendous, and finding a reason for his struggles this season is quite simple. Just look at the drop in minutes: 36.9 per game a year ago compared to 30.0 this season. Even a minor bump in playing time could send Childress' value skyrocketing, and even though there is nothing to suggest he will earn more minutes down the line, Childress has turned his game up a notch as of late, averaging 14.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocks in his past five games to go along with his usual efficient percentages. I admit Childress is a fairly mediocre fantasy option, but he's a glue guy, and I love the steal/block combination along with the help he provides in the percentage categories.
Joakim Noah, PF, Bulls (2.0 percent owned): Noah has put up some impressive stats this season, considering his limited playing time: 5.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks in just 15.8 minutes per game. Those numbers don't look like much, but prorate them to 30 minutes per game, and we're looking at a different player: 9.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals and a block per game. So whenever Noah sees a bump in minutes, we better take notice. With Joe Smith (knee, flu) hurting, the Bulls have turned to Noah in the paint, and the kid hasn't disappointed, averaging 8.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game in his past five. He is not creating steals or blocking shots like we expected, but that will come with time. Looking forward, the Bulls might continue to give Noah ample playing time when Smith is healthy enough to be on the court. The 18-28 Bulls have to start evaluating their young frontcourt talent, and that, combined with Smith's balky knee, could lead to increased minutes for Noah in the long run.
Chris Webber, PF, Warriors (14.8 percent owned): A few weeks back, I mentioned it would be impossible to predict Webber's value without knowing which team he would end up with. Well, the eagle has landed, and I might be in the minority, but I think Golden State is the best possible location Webber could have hoped for. He still is a long shot to put up viable fantasy stats, but at least he will have some upside here. Think about it: C-Webb no longer likes to throw his body around under the boards, and he won't have to with the Warriors, as their up-tempo style of play leads to long rebounds and fits well with Webber's still-deadly 15- to 18-foot jump shots. It also helps that Don Nelson just might be crazy enough to give Webber enough minutes to make a fantasy impact. You never know, and although I won't recommend him in shallow leagues, he certainly is worth taking a flier on in deeper formats.
Earl Boykins, PG, Bobcats (0.5 percent owned): Boykins finally found his new home, signing a contract with the Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday. It might take him a few weeks to learn the offense and get back into game shape, but if the Bobcats want to go with a small lineup (and it seems like they do), Boykins looks like a perfect fit. Jeff McInnis has almost worn out his welcome and Nazr Mohammed likely won't do enough to make Sam Vincent abandon the small-ball game. Look for Boykins to slowly earn more and more minutes in Vincent's rotation, where he has the potential to be a solid performer in points, assists, steals and 3-pointers.
Damon Stoudamire, PG, Spurs (10.2 percent owned): With Tony Parker's ankle injury flaring up, newcomer Stoudamire will step right into a starting role in San Antonio. He will, without a doubt, have some nice value in points, assists and 3-pointers while Parker mends. Once Parker returns, it will be hard for "Mighty Mouse" to retain his value, although he could survive as a 3-point specialist off the bench.
Al Thornton, SF, Clippers (19.9 percent owned): Thornton should be on everyone's radar due to his upside, and it's nice to see him bring it with Chris Kaman (flu, shin) and Corey Maggette (flu) sidelined, averaging 16.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.2 3-pointers in his past five games. Thornton is at risk to lose his value once Kaman and Maggette return, but the 14-30 Clippers are reaching a point in the season where they need to start evaluating their younger talent. That means we should see more of Thornton as the season moves on.
If You're Hardcore
Looking ahead, two players immediately stand out as potential pickups if certain trade scenarios come to life. First, in New Jersey, Marcus Williams will be in store for a huge jump in minutes and production if Jason Kidd gets his wish. Williams showed flashes of brilliance last season and is undoubtedly worth a speculative pickup in deeper leagues just in case a Kidd trade goes down. Over in Philadelphia, talk of an Andre Miller deal has loomed all season, and if the Sixers are able to make a deal, my main man Louis Williams will become an immediate fantasy star with increased minutes. If you have an open bench spot in a deeper league, it might not be a bad idea to give one of these two a shot.
A lot of folks have written in asking about Nenad Krstic's return in New Jersey. To me, Krstic is a long shot to produce viable fantasy numbers this season. He doesn't figure to earn 20-plus minutes per game until after the All-Star break, and even then, he will have to contend with Josh Boone and Sean Williams for minutes in the Nets' frontcourt. Those in deeper formats can make a play for Krstic, but realize that he is a high-risk investment at this point in the season.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
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