Fantasyland suffered two enormous losses in the past few days with a season-crushing injury to Greg Oden and Tuesday's news that Danny Granger will be out four-to-six weeks and possibly longer due to the torn plantar fascia in his right foot. But while the door may close on Portland's season and was slammed shut on Indiana's, the fantasy gods cracked opened a window of opportunity for the shrewd fantasy owner.
He who was quick enough to pull the trigger on Joel Przybilla, Oden's clear-cut backup and the obvious beneficiary of his minutes, should find themselves with a useful C3 or C4 who should be a top-10 shot-blocker and possible double-digit rebounder. He's basically found money.
The really interesting flip side to this is in Indy, where there wasn't an obvious replacement hanging around the waiver wire who was slated to eat all he can off of Granger's enormous plate of fantasy goodness. It will likely be some combination of Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush and the recently activated Mike Dunleavy. Fantasy-wise, Dunleavy was probably owned already in your league since it only takes one owner to roll the dice on a player returning from injury, Jones was in and out of the starting five already but was owned by 71 percent of owners and Rush is still too inconsistent to take a flier on if he's not going to see the bulk of the minutes. Not every team is capable of filling potential holes.
The Lab isn't out to jinx anyone, but wouldn't you like to know which backups would excel if a team's star ever went down? To help qualify the answer, anyone owned in more than 50 percent of leagues are 1) obvious 2) more likely than not already owned, so that means Paul Millsap, Anthony Randolph, Jason Terry and Will Bynum aren't worth discussing in this column. Yes, Bynum. If Rodney Stuckey were to ever go down, Bynum might actually get to show that, despite his diminutive stature, he's fully capable of being a starting PG in this league -- one that fills up the box score, too.
The Lab is happy to say Heat backup power forward Udonis Haslem (54 percent), Baron-bearded OKC rookie James Harden (51 percent), Andray "The proof is in the November without Antawn Jamison pudding" Blatche (51 percent owned), and David Kahn's fifth PG acquired this summer, Ramon Sessions (50 percent), just missed the arbitrary 50 percent cutoff.
But then a strange thing happened. There wasn't a single exciting player below 50 and above 40 percent owned worth mentioning. Granted, there are only six guys who fit that bill, and Mr. Knee Injury, Greg Oden, is one of them, but the other five are uninspiring when they start. Let's just say Anderson Varejao, Hakim Warrick, Drew Gooden and Brad Miller have no one racing to the wire like it's the home stretch at the Kentucky Derby. A race to land one of them is more like the Dick Bavetta vs. Charles Barkley farce.
Moving on to the starting five-challenged:
Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, Toronto (40 percent owned):
Jack was going to be one of the stars of this column long before his debut in the starting lineup last night courtesy of Jose Calderon's hip injury. But Jack's eye-catching evening helped to personify my point beautifully. He's a great addition when Calderon wears Armani. In the victory, Jack had 17 points including 11-12 FT, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals. When he started 53 games for the Pacers last year, Jack averaged 15.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.1 3pg and a hearty 87.9 FT percent.
Leandro Barbosa, PG/SG, Phoenix (39 percent owned):
Still dealing with a sprained left ankle that will likely keep him out through Christmas, but the Brazilian will be a blur again when he's healthy. And when either Steve Nash or Jason Richardson isn't healthy, the Blur goes ballistic. As a starter in 11 games last year, Barbosa scored 20.3 ppg on a ridiculous 50.3 percent shooting with 1.8 3pg. He added 4.5 rpg, 4.4 apg and a sexy 2.6 steals per night. That line is pretty similar to his starting splits in 2008 and '07, as well, so the precedent already exists.
Ty Lawson, PG, Denver (39 percent owned):
Like a mini Usain Bolt, Lawson burst onto the scene after a successful amateur career with his insane speed and has quickly won a place in our hearts. Backing up the unflappable Chauncey Billups, Lawson is learning strong work habits and the tricks of the trade, which he'll use to his advantage if something were to fell Mr. Big Shot. His per 36 mpg averages equate to 15.2 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 spg 1.1 3pg and just 2.2 tpg. One could also surmise that his assist numbers would rise playing with the first unit instead of leading the second-stringers.
Kyle Lowry, PG/SG, Houston (25 percent owned):
The Rockets have an undersized two-headed PG situation where each player sees more than 24 mpg but one slides over to SG when both are on the court. If starter Aaron Brooks were to miss time, Lowry would be the unquestioned floor general leading this up-tempo attack -- a style perfectly suited for his pace-pushing mentality. If he saw just a couple minutes over the 33 mpg Brooks does now, Lowry would be on rosters everywhere with his 12.2 ppg, 6.9 apg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 spg and 0.4 bpg. His shooting percentage (and points) would likely see a bump up, too, since it's about 3.4 percent lower than his career average right now.
Delonte West, PG/SG, Cleveland (11 percent owned):
Heaven forbid the Lab even discusses it, but just for the column's sake, let's hypothetically say that David Stern's holy crap, worst nightmare, Apocalyptic doomsday scenario of LeBron James tearing an ACL actually happens. Then what? Aside from mass chaos, rioting, and a slew of suicides (remember it's hypothetical), Cleveland is going to need to replace both his scoring and playmaking ability. Clearly this isn't a one-man job, but one man has to step into the starting five and there's only one guy on Cleveland crazy enough (not in the bipolar way, but rather in the famous expression way) to give it a go. West has the ability to both setup his teammates and create shots for himself when necessary -- and it will be very necessary with all of LeBron's production gone. Who else could handle the responsibility? Certainly not Jamario Moon, J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson, Danny Green or Coby Karl.
Marcin Gortat, PF/C, Orlando (4 percent owned):
Pretty much every player on this list has been a PG so far, and that makes sense given that they'll stand to gain the most in the easiest way since they always have the ball in their hands. But it's a little different down in Orlando. When Jameer Nelson went down, they had to pull Jason Williams off the bench (after pulling him from retirement) to fill that void. He's serviceable, but not exactly All-Star material. Still, the team is rolling.
Recognizing that wouldn't be the case without the man-child in the middle, Dwight Howard, GM Otis Smith matched the offer sheet Gortat signed with the Mavericks to be their starting center. And he got maximum tort coverage with Gortat. The 25-year-old Pole made three starts last year and averaged a double-double of 10.0 ppg and 11.7 rpg on 52 percent shooting. The most impressive stat, though, is his 3.0 blocks per game. In his lone playoff start last year with Howard suspended, Gortat delivered 11 points, 15 boards, 2 dimes and 4 steals. That game is also why he's got paid as much as he did, but that's beside the point. This isn't a Jerome James situation in the slightest (if it's legal to use that word in the same sentence as Jerome James).
Sam Young, SF/PF, Memphis (2 percent owned):
Ironically, Young is the oldest rookie from this year's draft class (thanks, David Anderson of the Houston Rockets for finally showing up seven years after your draft and making this sentence more complicated than it needed to be) at 24 years old. Thanks to his maturity, he's more capable than most rookies to handle a large role should something happen to either Rudy Gay or O.J. Mayo. In fact, he's already worked his way up the depth chart and is now functioning as the team's sixth man. The second-rounder is not going to be a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, but he can hold his own as evidenced by his start in place of Gay back on Nov. 30. He had 17 points on just 12 shots with 4 boards, 1 steal and 1 block. Solid, not spectacular, but something worth exploring -- especially if you own Gay or Mayo.
That's all for this week's rendition. See you next week and remember: Fantasy Ball Above All.