February 12, 2010

Tamer and Trevor get involved in the All-Star Weekend hoopla by examining the fantasy futures of three 2010 All-Stars:

Tamer: Well, Trevor, the All-Star game is upon us once again. This year, the festivities will be held in Dallas and as we know everything is bigger in Texas. It is no surprise that a crowd of over 90,000 people is expected at the new Cowboys Stadium, by far the largest ever to attend a basketball game. Unfortunately, they may be watching a lot of replacement All-Stars because as many as six current All-Stars are rumored to be skipping the game due to an actual injury or injury concern (as it stands now, only Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Brandon Roy and Chris Paul are definitely out). With injuries a major theme of All-Star Weekend, this week's installment of MLFG will focus on three of the players' that are rumored to be skipping the game. Our concern, however, is how these players will perform, given their current injuries or injury risk, for the rest of the 2009-10 campaign once the regular season resumes next week. Trevor, I know you are particularly excited about this week's MLFG since one of the players we will be discussing is Kobe I wonder which way you are leaning on the Black Mamba?

Trevor: The injury bug has hit the All-Star game, and unfortunately, even Kobe isn't immune to its bite. The list of players that will be sitting out the annual no-defense festival keeps growing, which is a big concern to fantasy owners. Some of the year's top fantasy producers are currently hobbled, so it's time for Tamer and I to break down the expanding list of walking wounded and see who will still be money down the home stretch.

Through 38 games: 30.8 MPG, 14.5 PTS, 54.3 FG%, 83.8 FT%, 7.3 REB, 2.8 AST, 1 STL, 0.8BLK

While Garnett is not currently injured, he has been a walking injury risk ever since having microfracture surgery on his right knee last offseason. Concerns over the health of his right knee were only heightened when he missed 10 games in December and January after hyperextending it in a game against the Clippers on Dec. 27. Garnett, however, has looked good since returning to the Celtics lineup on Jan. 22. Will the Big Ticket be a reliable fantasy force for the remainder of the season?

Tamer: It is sad to watch an NBA legend in the twilight of his career. With nearly 1,200 games played in his 15-year NBA career, Garnett is simply not the same player he was during his heyday in Minnesota. This is not breaking news, however, as Garnett has been declining ever since coming to Boston in 2007. Even the biggest Garnett supporters definitely became believers in his decline after the knee injury he suffered in February 2009 that later required microfracture surgery. When you look at the season, the new and not so improved Garnett is right in line with expectations. You figured he would miss some games because of his surgically repaired right knee. For the 38 games he has been on the court, however, he has actually been quite productive. While his points, rebounds, steals, and blocks are down modestly this year compared to last season, which again should be expected, his assists are up and he is quietly having a very efficient season scoring the basketball. His field goal percentage is the highest of his career, and his free throw percentage is the second highest of his career behind last season's career high (84.1 percent).

While I'll admit that Garnett will be an injury risk for the rest of his NBA career, I feel good that he will play in most if not all of the Celtics remaining games. The Celtics are in a dog fight with the Magic and Hawks to determine the second, third, and fourth seeds in the Eastern Conference. Not only are they trying to get home court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but they also want to avoid the fourth seed which likely means a date with the 42-11 Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round. Therefore, the Celtics need Garnett to play over the last two months of the season so they will not have the luxury of being cautious with the Big Ticket. In addition, Garnett is the definition of a gamer, so you know he will go out and play unless he absolutely cannot due to a significant injury. KG gets a cautious Mother Lode from me.

Trevor: At one point in time, Garnett was a fantasy monster. During his days with the Wolves, KG was putting up not just dominant big man stats, but he also threw in a hearty helping of assists for good measure. However, Garnett's reign on the fantasy throne is over, and has been for several years now. These days, KG spends his time playing the role of motivator and schoolyard bully for the Celtics, inspiring Boston's defense while nauseating his growing base of detractors. The question, however, is can Garnett help your fantasy squad down the homestretch? I will say this: If the Celtics were in a tough race to get into the playoffs then yes, KG would be a big help. However, in the Leastern Conference, it doesn't take much to make the playoffs, and a team of veterans like the Celtics is not too worried about home court advantage. Instead, their top priority is being healthy at the end of the season. Danny Ainge saw what happened last season when Boston was without Garnett for the playoffs and knows their window is rapidly closing. It's now or never, so expect KG's minutes to drop as the season goes on. I wouldn't be surprised to see him starting to sit out random games with mystery injuries and illnesses just to preserve his aching knee for the postseason. With that in mind, Garnett gets a Fool's Gold from me.

Through 40 games: 38.3 MPG, 23.1 PTS, 48.4 FG%, 79.2 FT%, 55 3PM, 5.0 AST, 4.6 REB, 1 STL

Roy was playing his way into the MVP race when he abruptly injured his right hamstring in a game against the Bucks on Jan. 13. Roy has missed 14 of the last 15 games for the Blazers and is definitely out through the All-Star break if not longer. Once Roy does return to the court, what can fantasy owners expect? Will he pick up where he left off in early January or is he destined to struggle for the rest of the season?

Tamer: After a slow start to the season, Roy seemed to be on his way to a career year after a torrid stretch in December and early January. Starting in the Blazers Dec. 1 game against the Heat, Roy averaged 27 points, 5.1 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 20 games before getting injured. The injury seemed to be minor at first but has turned into a month long ordeal. I like Roy as a player for both fantasy and real basketball. He has a tremendous inside-outside game offensively; dishes well for a shooting guard, and bangs the boards with his six-foot, six-inch frame. He is also a good defensive player. I have a hard time, however, believing that Roy will be effective for the rest of the season. The Blazers have 28 games remaining on their schedule. The best-case scenario is that Roy misses one more game and comes back after the All-Star break. At that point, he will have been out of commission for over a month, save the 18 minutes he played on Jan. 20 against the Sixers when he unsuccessfully tried to return after injuring his hamstring three games earlier.

Realistically, you would have to give him five to seven games to find his rhythm again and get back into playing shape. So now you are looking at about 20 games of the real Roy for the stretch run. If he was dealing with any other injury besides maybe a back injury, I would not be worried. Hamstring injuries, however, can be easily re-aggravated. Players know this and tend to compensate for the injury. In addition, the Blazers know this, so I can't expect them to play Roy 40 minutes a night like they were doing during his hot streak. Plus, given all the injuries that they have endured this season, they will be extra careful to keep Roy on the court. Expect between 30-35 minutes a game from Roy for those last 20 games. At the high end, I think you get 20 games out of Roy where he averages around 20 points, four assists, four rebounds, and a steal per game. At the low end, he misses about five more games after the All-Star break and re-aggravates the injury once he returns. Even at the high end you're getting a subpar Roy, so I have to give him a Fool's Gold.

Trevor: Do I dare ask what else can go wrong for the Blazers? Over the years, the injury bug has tormented this franchise, but this season just may be its masterpiece. Heading into the season many experts had Portland picked as the team to make a big jump this year, but no one could have anticipated the number of players that would be forced into street clothes. Even the franchise player Roy has not been immune to the devastation, sidelined most recently by a hamstring injury. To their credit, the Blazers have remained scrappy throughout the season, picking up gutsy wins that have kept them in the playoff race. Currently, they occupy the 8th seed, which is very important for fantasy owners. Unlike Garnett with the Celtics, the Blazers need Roy in their lineup for as many games as possible if they want to make it to the postseason. I agree with Tamer that a hamstring injury can be a recurring thing and Roy will be a risk for the rest of the season, but the Blazers will give it everything they have in order to get their young squad some postseason experience. For the homestretch, I have to give Brandon Roy a Mother Lode.

Through 51 games: 38.6 MPG, 28 PTS, 46.1 FG%, 81.4 FT%, 70 3PM, 5.3 REB, 4.6 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.3 BLK

Kobe made headlines late last week by missing his first game in nearly three years due to a sprained left ankle. This injury has added fuel to a growing sentiment that Kobe should take it easy down the stretch of the regular season to be sharp for the playoffs. Will Kobe and the Lakers take this approach or is it business as usual for the superstar shooting guard?

Tamer: There are many things you can say about Kobe, but being lazy is certainly not on the list. Kobe played an amazing 208 games combined in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons and also played for the USA basketball team in the Beijing Olympics back in the summer of 2008. He logged another 51 games this season before finally registering a DNP last Saturday night due to a sprained left ankle. This streak is doubly impressive since he has logged most of these games after his 30th birthday. And don't forget, he fractured his right index finger in early December but continued suiting up anyway. Simply put, the man is a basketball warrior. Well, I think the ankle injury that finally put Kobe in street clothes was a wake-up call for both the Black Mamba and the Lakers. Kobe was a game-time decision on Monday night but instead missed his second straight game. What? When Kobe is a game-time decision, Kobe plays. I think the Lakers and Kobe realized that it is time to ease up. Kobe has logged a tremendous amount of games over the last 2½ years and even though he is superior athlete, it looks like it is finally starting to catch up to him. The Lakers are in an ideal situation to rest Kobe with a 4½ game lead in the Western Conference. I also think winning the two games that Kobe has missed so far, especially since it was against two good teams in Portland and San Antonio, proves they can get by without full-throttle Kobe. I am not saying that Bryant is going to sit out even after his ankle is healed. What I do think will happen is that Kobe will see his minutes drop into the low 30's and once April hits, they could dip into the high 20's. This will hurt Kobe's MVP chances and I am sure that will be taken into consideration, but in the end, winning a second consecutive championship is more important in Tinsletown. Expect Kobe's numbers to drop across the board post-All-Star break. If you can trade him for a player like Kevin Durant, do it because he is a Fool's Gold player for the rest of the fantasy season.

Trevor: If this was any other player, I would be voting Fool's Gold here without question. The Lakers are firmly entrenched in the playoffs, the team has enough talent to be competitive without their superstar, and the goal for the team isn't a good regular season record -- it's a championship or bust. However, this is Kobe we are talking about. He plays with a broken finger (won a title with one last season), injured groin, sore back, sprained ankle. Name the injury, Kobe has probably played through it. No one in the NBA has the same desire to compete that Kobe Bryant does. Somehow, some way, he wills himself through games that others would watch from the sidelines. So in spite of all the reasons for him to take it easy through the remainder of the year, Kobe will play. For better or for worse, he will play and he will play hard. Of course, being a Lakers fan, I'm going to be biased about this selection, but I will say this: In all the years I've played fantasy basketball, the one rule that I've tried to follow is, Don't underestimate Kobe. Every time I thought I was selling high on him or making a smart pick by passing him up in the draft, it's come back to haunt me. Logic says that Kobe should be a Fool's Gold selection, but without hesitation, he's a Mother Lode player for me.

*All Stats up to date as of 2/9/10

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