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Fantasy Lab: Shutdown candidates


Despite Brandon Roy's overreaction to his hamstring injury one week ago when he hinted he might have to be out for the rest of the season, commonly referred to in NBA lingo as "shutting it down." He said, "I think if this [pain] is with me the whole season then I don't really have a shot at playing. Two week stretches isn't doing it. We don't have that much longer in the season." But we know he wasn't a shutdown candidate since his team is fighting for playoff positioning and he's too competitive not to play. But that's certainly not the case with every player.

Good players on non-playoff bound teams are the prime shutdown candidates, almost always due to an injury they suffered sometime during the year. Identifying these players and then possibly dealing them away before your league's trade deadline could mean the difference between finishing with the trophy or finishing in the losers bracket. Now with the NBA trade deadline behind us, it's easier to identify which teams are going after it and who's putting their season in the tank, pun heavily intended. We can use this information to figure out how things might go with some borderline playoff contenders. After that, we delve into the injury situation and see who is still fighting through an injury. Put two and two together, sprinkle in some analysis and boom, here's this week's Fantasy Lab.

The shutdown candidates, in no particular order:

If there ever was a perfect shutdown candidate, it's this guy. Harris has suffered through a myriad of injuries and it' has affected him all season long. The team is just awful; they could challenge the NBA record for fewest wins in a season, so it's not like he's playing for anything. If it was just one injury bothering him, Harris might want to fight through it, but considering he's already played fewer than 70 games each of the last two years, maybe he'll be smarter and shut it down before one of the nagging injuries turns into something serious. If that's the case Courtney Lee will be relied upon more heavily than he is now. Terrence Williams might also see more time and is more of a playmaker in the point forward mold.

While every CP3 owner is enraged with the mere mention of an early shutdown, you have to prepare for the idea that Paul might not be back for your fantasy playoffs, if at all. He's rehabbing from surgery on his knee, not a minor injury by any stretch of the imagination, and the Hornets aren't exactly title contenders. Still, Paul is a warrior who desperately wants to be back on the court, especially since the team is just two games out of a playoff spot. The fear with Paul is that he's going to rush back or overexert himself because of how competitive he is. He might need to be protected from himself by the New Orleans brass. If he has any kind of setback on his return to action, or if the Hornets spiral out of playoff contention, the team might not want to see him risk further injury by playing in a few meaningless games to end the season.

The good news is that Ellis survived a scare to his surgically repaired knee last week and is already playing again. The bad news is that his knee and his ankle are problematic, the Warriors aren't in the playoffs and he's leading the league in 48-minute games by a wide margin. Oh, and Don Nelson is the coach, so wacky things happen every day. With Ellis a high-priced part of their future, the team (or Nellie) may elect to sit him out random games or even cut his season short to "protect" his young legs.

Unlike Ellis dealing with two past injuries, Maggette is dealing with two injuries currently and he's missing games as you read this. In fact, of everyone on this list, Maggette is the most likely to call it a season early. He's dealing with a finger that keeps dislocating, but the real culprit is his strained left hamstring. It has been reported in the SanFrancisco Chronicle that Maggs is going to miss the next eight games and possibly more, which is generally how the shutdown process begins. Hamstring injuries tend to linger and are easily reinjured, too, so the writing is on the wall. This will benefit Anthony Morrow most, but also bodes well for C.J. Watson and Devean George for you deep leaguers out there.

A perennial candidate for a late-season shutdown, Davis isn't just poised for another disappearing act in April -- no, the wheels have already been set in motion. Think about it: Mike Dunleavy quits coaching the team, setting a precedent. He then deals away a well-liked veteran in Marcus Camby, practically waiving the white flag in the process. The booty in the Camby trade just happens to be Steve "Baron Shutdown Insurance" Blake, another capable PG -- something the Clip Joint didn't have. By the All-Star break the Clippers couldn't sniff the playoffs even if it were under their nose, and make no mistake, it wasn't. So, not surprisingly after two 30-point drubbings to open the second half, Baron misses two games with his infamous creaky back. Oh yeah, he's going to be doing his thing in Hollywood a little earlier than usual this spring.

No one in South Beach wants to admit it, but this could easily be Wade's final season with the Heat. With the team hovering around .500 but still barely hanging onto the No. 7 seed in the East, Wade may actually look out for his own best interests and shut things down in the middle of a playoff race -- if his calf is still hurting him. And who can really blame him? The Heat clearly have no chance of winning the championship and since he's one of just a fingerful of players due to sign a max contract this summer, he shouldn't jeopardize it by playing through injuries. Remember what happened to Grant Hill and his ankle (yes, he still got the contract but his career as we knew it was over). If Wade does sit out, Dorrell Wright is the player the Lab would want to own.

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While the Lab has mentioned many times that T-Mac would never grace our roster, he's surely been scooped up in most standard leagues. After having not really played all year, T-Mac's getting as many minutes as his legs can handle, and they've already given out before the final buzzer twice in as many games played. That doesn't bode well for the future, especially coming off of microfracture surgery on his knee. What's even worse for T-Mac is all these minutes are going to disappear as quickly as they arrived. It's Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni's job to excite the fans by playing T-Mac all they can now before depleting his minutes in favor of their top priority for the rest of the season: Wilson Chandler and Danilo Galinari's development -- something that has not just stalled but actually seems to have regressed in the two games T-Mac has played in. Enjoy the honeymoon for what it is, but don't expect much more than that from McGrady's back and knees.

While he's currently dealing with a personal issue that his coach described as a "serious situation," the fact that Jim O'Brien (who's already been guaranteed to coach the team next year) admitted he had no idea when Granger's coming back just illustrates that there are a lot more important things than this season in Indianapolis. So with Granger having already missed a third of the season with a torn right plantar fascia (arch of the foot), perhaps the team will err on the side of caution and shut him down if he starts showing even the slightest sign that it's bothering him again. If they continue to play him 39 mpg as they've done thus far in February, it could happen sooner than one thinks. The players who figure to benefit most are Brandon Rush and Dahntay Jones, but less so than Rush.

Big Al admitted in an interview with the Star-Tribune on Sunday that he's still not 100 percent recovered from his torn ACL. He said, "I have had times when I felt like my old self, but to be back to being consistent like I was last year and two years ago, I haven't gotten there yet." That's not a good sign. In his next breath he continues, "I'm proud to say I haven't missed a game this year because of the knee injury." While he may be proud of this, it also might be his downfall. Not taking any time off is probably why he isn't feeling 100 percent since the knee needs time to rest and recover. With the T-Wolves playing for nothing but draft position, GM David Kahn may make the wise decision to end Jefferson's season prematurely to help him get a head start on next year. It certainly couldn't help in his quest for a better lottery pick; we all know the guy loves PGs and there's an absolute stud of one in John Wall who is destined to be the No. 1 pick.

The Lab started thinking about this list before the NBA trade deadline, way back when Duhon was still the league's worst starting PG and not yet a DNP-Coach's Decision casualty, as he was for the last couple games. Even if he gets back into the rotation, he burned out late last year and the embers are barely glowing right now. Time to look elsewhere for assist help.

Let's face it, any of the veterans on this pathetic excuse for a Detroit basketball team could be going fishing a few weeks early, save for Wallace. He's just a rock that doesn't get hurt. But for the first time in his career, that's not the case for Tayshaun Prince. Now that his ironman streak is over, maybe he'll give his back some extra rest. Ben Gordon can get that ankle healed up and gain his explosion back. Rip Hamilton can avoid risking reinjuring his balky hamstring. And Charlie Villanueva with his combo of a sore back and plantar fasciitis can just chillax -- a combo of chill and relax.

If the season plays out so these teams aren't in playoff contention anymore, you might see some DNPs during your fantasy playoffs, particularly the Finals.

Jermaine O'Neal, PF/C, Miami -- Knees and back. Joel Anthony benefits most.

Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee -- Back. Dan Gadzuric and Ersan Ilyasova benefit.

Elton Brand, PF/C, Philadelphia -- Achilles, knees, and shoulder. Marreese Speights.

Chris Kaman, C, L.A. Clippers -- Back and ankle. Hello DeAndre Jordan.

Here's hoping your season isn't shut down early. Fantasy Ball Above All.