Working the Wire: Patch holes with Young, Hinrich, Collison
Is it me, or does it seem like there are more big injuries affecting the fantasy landscape this season? As the injuries continue to mount, fantasy owners have been scrambling to find viable replacements for their injured stars. The latest wave of injuries over the past few weeks has been particularly devastating, with players like Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon and Al Horford joining the ranks watching from the sidelines in street clothes. As a fantasy owner, you never will be able to replace the production of a Melo or a Calderon, but you can keep your head above water until they return by seeking out the players who are benefiting from those injuries. Remember, every injury creates an opportunity. Just look at Paul Millsap and Andrea Bargnani, and begin your search for the next coming.
Nick Young, SG, Wizards (7.5 percent owned): After watching Young go off for 33 points on 12-of-17 shooting against the Knicks on Wednesday, I was half expecting to see the ball burst into flames followed by the "he's on fire" call from the old "NBA Jam" video game. The way he's playing lately, I wouldn't be surprised. Young is averaging 25.8 points and 2.0 3-pointers per game in his past four contests, and while he likely will cool off soon, he still will be a viable scorer and 3-point shooter for the Wizards going forward. Young isn't going to provide help anywhere else, as he has averaged just 1.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.4 steals during this stretch, but he will be a big-time performer in points and 3s while hitting 86 percent of his free-throw attempts.
Kirk Hinrich, PG/SG, Bulls (61.5 percent owned): Hinrich has looked solid enough since returning from a thumb injury that kept him out of action for a month and a half. Problem is, he really needs a trade before he can produce the way we might want him to. With Derrick Rose locked in at the point and Ben Gordon at the 2, Hinrich is limited to about 28-32 minutes off the bench instead of the 35-36 minutes per game he averaged PDR (Pre-Derrick Rose). Still, Hinrich can be a valuable contributor in 3-pointers, steals and assists in his new role, as he has averaged 1.6 3-pointers, 1.2 steals and 4.2 assists per game this season. Just be sure to temper your expectations for him on the scoring front.
Nick Collison, PF/C, Thunder (43.5 percent owned): The added competition of Nenad Krstic seems to have lit a fire under Collison, as the former Kansas Jayhawk has averaged 13.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and a steal his past five games. It helps that Collison has seen 33.0 minutes per game during that time, while Chris Wilcox has seen his minutes all but disappear. Collison always has been a capable scorer and rebounder when given ample playing time in the paint, so there are plenty of reasons for optimism if he can sustain his recent surge in minutes.
Travis Outlaw, SF/PF, Blazers (14.1 percent owned): Guess who's back? I don't trust Outlaw in the least, but if there's one thing I know, it's that he can be a big-time fantasy force when he's feeling it. And he's certainly feeling it right now, averaging 17.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers in his past five games. Key to his recent success have been a deadly jumper and an impressive 49.1 shooting percentage. That shooting percentage won't stick, but Outlaw has been known to go on runs like this in the past, and there's no harm in using him until he cools off.
Kyle Lowry, PG, Grizzlies (1.5 percent owned): A few weeks ago, we mentioned Lowry as a potential pickup candidate in deeper fantasy formats, but he has distanced himself even further from Mike Conley in recent action and is ready to be considered in most standard 10- and 12-team fantasy leagues. With 12.6 points, 4.6 assists and 0.8 steals per game in his past five, Lowry will prove to be a solid contributor in points, assists and steals as his playing time continues to creep above the 30-minute mark. His run as a viable fantasy candidate might come to an end if the rumored Conley-for-Ramon Sessions deal comes to fruition, but it would be silly not to pick him up based on a rumored deal that might or might not happen. Go with Lowry and be ready to dump him for Sessions if the trade looks real.
Von Wafer, SG, Rockets (2.7 percent owned): Wafer, like Lowry, was mentioned as a deep-league candidate a week ago, but recent events have given him enough steam to be considered a pickup in shallower leagues as well. Those recent events, of course, include news that injuries will keep both Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest out of action for at least another week. Wafer has played admirably in the absence of the two superstars, with averages of 16.1 points, 1.4 steals and 2.3 3-pointers in the month of January. Wafer is particularly attractive due to the uncertainty surrounding both T-Mac and Artest. Both have histories of lingering injuries, and no one really knows when they'll be back.
Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Trail Blazers (2.9 percent owned): Anyone who watched even a few minutes of summer league play has been waiting patiently for Bayless to get his opportunity in Portland. He is a phenomenal athlete who has seemingly limitless upside. Of all the players to come out of last year's draft, Bayless could have the highest ceiling; that's how talented he is. He still is too raw to be a consistent force in the NBA, but with Steve Blake now on the shelf for seven to 10 days, Bayless could get his chance to shine. He'll split minutes with Sergio Rodriguez, but expect Bayless to score in waves and provide plenty of "SportsCenter" highlights with his newfound opportunity.
Rodney Carney, SF, Timberwolves (0.5 percent owned): As Mike Miller and Rashad McCants continue to struggle, the red-hot Wolves have looked for other options to ignite their offense from behind the 3-point line. Recently, it's been Carney who's answered the bell. In his past three games, Carney has averaged 17.0 points, 2.7 3-pointers and a steal off the bench. His strong play has earned him some extra minutes in Kevin McHale's rotation, and Carney might even be able to fend off the ice-cold Miller for minutes going forward. As the Wolves look ahead to the future, they might decide to give the 24-year-old Carney more run.
Raja Bell, SG, Bobcats (44.7 percent owned): Bell has been a major disappointment this season, particularly since joining the Bobcats, with whom he is averaging just 9.9 points, 1.5 3-pointers and 0.2 steals in 11 contests. His minutes have suffered in Charlotte, thanks mostly to a surge by rookie D.J. Augustin. Fortunately for Bell, Augustin is expected to miss seven to 10 days with an abdominal injury that might affect him even after his return. With Augustin on the shelf, expect Bell (and Raymond Felton) to log heavy minutes in the Bobcats' backcourt.
Ryan Anderson, PF, Nets (0.3 percent owned): Anderson is a long shot, but he's worth keeping an eye on just in case he can get it going in New Jersey. Starting in place of the injured Yi Jianlian, Anderson has shown some promise as a 3-point shooter and steals specialist for fantasy leaguers. Averaging 10.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 3-pointers in his past two contests, Anderson deserves a look in 14-team or deeper leagues.
Chris Andersen, PF, Nuggets (1.7 percent owned) The fantasy community is going to take notice any time a guy goes off for 15 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks like Andersen did against Dallas on Tuesday. Impressively, Andersen achieved those numbers in just 22 minutes. He's been putting up some brilliant per-minute numbers in Denver with 5.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just 17.9 minutes per game. Already a solid streaming option as a shot-blocking specialist, Andersen could become a daily option for fantasy leaguers if injury hits the Nuggets' frontcourt.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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