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Mother lode or fool's gold?


You won't be seeing Butler in a Wizards uniform again this season but is that a good thing or bad thing for fantasy owners?

The trade season was kicked off last Saturday when the Mavericks acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson from Washington in exchange for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross, James Singleton and cash considerations. On Wednesday, Gooden made progress toward being this year's Quentin Richardson when he was shipped to the Clippers in the Antawn Jamison three-team trade. On this week's MLFG we will focus on the fantasy prospects of the four key players in the trade, Butler, Haywood, Howard and Gooden, with their new teams.

Caron Butler, SF, Mavericks: Through 48 games: 39.3 MPG, 16.9 PTS, 41.8 FG%, 87.9 FT%, 26 3PT, 6.7 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.3 BLK

Brendan Haywood, C, Mavericks: Through 50 games: 32.6 MPG, 9.7 PTS, 55.8 FG%, 63.6 FT%, 10.3 REB, 0.4 AST, 2 BLK, 0.4 STL

Butler was having a down year statistically with the Wizards but was at least healthy unlike in 2008-09 when he missed 15 games due to injury. While owners of Butler are lukewarm with his season to date, they are thrilled with Haywood, who has not only stayed healthy after playing in only six games last season but is also having arguably the best fantasy season of his career. What can you expect from both of these players now that they are in Dallas?

Tamer: Let's look at how this trade will affect Butler first. From a real basketball perspective, Butler gives the Mavericks another legitimate scorer to go with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. In addition, along with Haywood, Butler helps Dallas round out a deep quality rotation. From a fantasy perspective, however, owners will see a drop in Butler's fantasy production now that he is in Dallas. The fact that Dallas has a better deeper rotation may be good for the Mavericks and Mavericks fans but it is certainly not good for his fantasy value. He will become the Mavericks starting shooting guard with Shawn Marion staying at small forward, but Terry will steal minutes by getting his usual 30 to 35 minutes off the bench. There is no way Butler gets close to the 39.4 minutes per game he averaged this season in Washington, especially when you consider that no one on the Mavericks averages close to 40 minutes per game now (as you would expect Nowitzki leads the Mavericks with 37.7 minutes per game).

Figure Butler to settle in around 30-32 minutes per game, which should significantly decrease his production in points, rebounds, assists and steals. On a positive note, I can see his field goal percentage and threes made increasing because he will receive less defensive attention with Nowitzki on his team, and also get some nice setups from Jason Kidd's sweet passing. Overall, however, the drop in the other categories will be too much to overcome so I have to give Butler a Fool's Gold.

Haywood, however, will be a different story. Even before Erick Dampier dislocated his finger in Tuesday's game against the Thunder, I felt that Haywood would become the starter and play 30 minutes a game within a week or two of arriving in Dallas. Mark Cuban is high on Haywood and looks at him as a potential long-term piece, so it was only a matter of time before he passed Dampier on the depth chart. Now that Dampier is out for the foreseeable future I expect Haywood's minutes to increase to about 37 per game with Dampier out and settle in around 32 per game if and when Dampier returns.

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Overall, Haywood should see his rebounds and blocks stay about the same but his points should go up because I expect his field goal percentage to significantly increase. Dampier has had a field goal percentage of at least 60 percent in each of the last four seasons. If Dallas' offense makes Dampier an efficient field-goal shooter it should certainly do the same for Haywood. Expect Haywood to average at least 60 percent from the field for the rest of the season and see his points increase to about 11 per game. Haywood's fantasy value will go up in his new home so he gets a Mother Lode from me.

Trevor: At one point Butler was a fantasy stud and performing like a top-20 talent. Too bad that was a few years ago. Despite claiming to be in fantastic shape, Caron just hasn't had his "A" game this year. However, I think that the change of scenery in Dallas will do him good. His field goal percentage and threes should increase, making up for a slight drop in points, assists, and boards. Teaming up with Kidd will get him plenty of good looks, and I have to believe that eventually Butler's shots will start falling. One of the things I always look for in players is pure talent. Butler is a talented player who for whatever reason just wasn't showing it in Washington this year. I think the move to Dallas will provide him to show that talent without having the burden of being one of the focal points of the offense. I'm going to go Mother Lode on him.

I was all set to toss a Fool's Gold to my waiver wire gem Haywood. He had been having a great season in Washington, but with the trade to the Mavs he would be forced into the timeshare graveyard with Dampier. Then fate came knocking. During Haywood's first game for his new squad Dampier dislocated his finger, which will require surgery and keep him out indefinitely. Tough break for the Mavs front line, but it was minor miracle for Haywood's fantasy owners. With no one else to worry about splitting time with Brendan will get all the minutes he can handle. I expect him to continue with his fantastic season and give him a Mother Lode vote.

Josh Howard, Mavericks: Through 31 games: 26.7 MPG, 12.5 PTS, 40.1 FG%, 79 FT%, 20 3PT, 3.6 REB, 1.4 AST, 0.7 STL

Drew Gooden, PF, Wizards: Through 46 games: 22.4 MPG, 8.9 PTS, 46.7 FG%, 80.9 FT%, 6.9 REB, 1.1 BLK, 0.6 AST, 0.6 STL

Howard struggled with injuries and inconsistent play in Dallas this season while Gooden made a nice waiver wire pickup at times this season due to Dampier being injured. How will the fantasy fortunes change for these two players in the nation's capital?

Tamer: Howard was having a terrible year in Dallas. He has always struggled with injuries, but save his rookie season he had been a reliable fantasy contributor when he suited up. This season, however, his numbers are significantly down across all categories with the exception of free-throw percentage and turnovers. I think the good times are about to roll for Howard owners because this trade is exactly what Howard needed. Dallas was ready to move in a different direction when they acquired Shawn Marion in a sign and trade this past offseason. The time Howard missed early this season while he struggled to rehab his surgically repaired left ankle did not help his status in Dallas. The Wizards situation is perfect for him because he is the only viable small forward on the roster and he will get 30 plus minutes a night as the Wizards consider if he is a long term solution for the organization. Expect to get the production that Howard put up last season for the last two months of this season now that he is in Washington. Howard has Mother Lode written all over him.

Gooden has been one of those maddening waiver wire pickups all season long. His minutes fluctuate from game to game because Dampier, his main impediment for playing time in Dallas, has been in and out of the Mavericks lineup throughout the first four months of the season (Dampier seems to ruin everything doesn't he?). When he played 25-30 minutes a night his numbers were roster worthy, but if his minutes were in the teens he was worthless. Even though the situation in Los Angeles looks murky for Gooden's fantasy value, I think he will be a productive fantasy player for the rest of the season. Along with Gooden, the Clippers front court consists of Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan and Craig Smith. The only player guaranteed to get 35 plus minutes a night is Kaman. Jordan will get minutes because he has good upside but he is only averaging 12.7 minutes per game this season. You can't realistically expect him to play more than 25 to 28 minutes a night. Smith should get playing time but he has been in the league for almost four seasons now and has proven to be nothing more than a useful 15 to 20 minute bench player. With Kaman the only sure thing in this group, and when a guy like Kaman is the sure thing you know that the situation is unpredictable, I see Gooden finding a way to get 25 to 30 minutes a night. Expect him to at least match if not exceed his season totals to date with the Clippers so he gets a Mother Lode from me.

Trevor: How happy must Howard be right now? He was overshadowed in Dallas, but in Washington he is clearly one of the top dogs. He is finally in a situation where he doesn't have to split minutes and should be able to turn his season (and possibly career) around. He isn't going to put up Kobe-esque stats or anything, but no one will benefit more from the trade than Howard. There really just isn't much more to say than that. The guy gets a Mother Lode all the way.

*All Stats up to date as of 2/16/10