March 18, 2010

Three significant fantasy players are set to come back from injury. Tamer and Trevor let you know what to expect once they return.

Chris Paul, PG, Hornets (Through 38 games: 38.7 MPG, 20.4 PTS, 50.4 FG%, 86.2 FT%, 47 3PM, 11.2 AST, 4.6 REB, 2.3 STL, 0.2 BLK)

Paul has been out since late January with a torn meniscus in his left knee that required surgery. Much to the delight of his owners, he is finally set to return within the next game or two. Paul has been a colossal fantasy disappointment this year considering that he was the number one overall pick in many drafts. Can CP3 bring some joy to his loyal owners with a strong showing in the fantasy playoffs?

Tamer: I'm glad to see Paul coming back after rumors that he may be shut down for the year proved to be untrue. The league is simply not the same without him. With that said, I am not optimistic about his fantasy prospects for the rest of the season. Unless you are in a daily league he will not be able to help you until next week. That gives owners three weeks and 10 games of Paul before the fantasy season comes to an end.

Paul hasn't played in six weeks, so you would have to expect that he will need three or four games to get back his rhythm and stamina. Unfortunately, fantasy owners don't have the luxury of a subpar week from Paul since he is coming back right in the middle of the fantasy playoffs. Another problem is that Paul comes back to a team that is virtually out of the playoff hunt and has also discovered the talents of two rookie guards, Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, while CP3 has been on the shelf. The Hornets have no need to push Paul by playing him 40 minutes a night, especially when it may hinder the development of Collison and Thornton.

Look for Paul to average about 32 minutes per game for the rest of the season. The reduced minutes and the inevitable rust from a six-week layoff will undoubtedly affect Paul's numbers across the board (his percentages won't suffer but his shot attempts will which make his percentages less influential). I am a huge CP3 fan but I can't look at him as anything but Fool's Gold over the last three weeks of the fantasy season.

Trevor: I have to say, I agree with a lot of what Tamer said about CP3. It might take him a little while to get back in the swing of things, and Collison has been a very capable replacement at point guard. The current standings also find New Orleans pretty much out of the playoff race, which means that they will have very little incentive to push Paul's minutes too high. All that said, though, this is still Chris Paul we are talking about. When healthy he is arguably the second-best fantasy player in the game, and even at less than full-strength he is going to help his fantasy owners. If it was a lesser player I would be wary, but because it's CP3 I have to give him the Mother Lode.

Rodney Stuckey, PG, Pistons (Through 62 games: 35.4 MPG, 17.1 PTS, 40.6 FG%, 83.1 FT%, 11 3PM, 5 AST, 4.3 REB, 1.4 STL, 0.2 BLK)

Stuckey was humming along, having a career year, until he suddenly collapsed in a game against Cleveland on March 5. Stuckey has had numerous tests done since the collapse, mainly concerning his heart, and it has been determined that he is healthy and ready to return to the court. What can you expect from Stuckey after a two-week layoff?

Tamer: Stuckey's situation is interesting because he is not returning from a normal injury. On the one hand this is good because physically he will be the same as he was prior to March 5. On the other hand, doctors were not able to determine what caused Stuckey's collapse, so the injury is still a mystery at this point. It could happen again at any time and the last thing fantasy owners want to deal with during the playoffs is uncertainty. Chances are, however, that Stuckey should remain healthy for the rest of the season simply because players rarely collapse on the court.

Stuckey is expected back Friday, which is a good thing for fantasy owners in weekly leagues because they will not be affected while Stuckey takes a few games to shake off the rust from a two-week layoff. Daily leagues are a different story, so I would hold off from starting him the rest of this week if you have the ability to get another guard in your lineup. Once Week 22 hits I don't see any reason why Stuckey won't be the same player he was before the collapse. He was only out for two weeks, not two months, so he should have no problem getting his rhythm back. In addition, he only plays 35 minutes a night, so I don't foresee the Pistons cutting back on his minutes.

Another big factor with Stuckey is that he is only owned in 71 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If he is available in your league, pick him up because he will give your team a huge boost in points, assists, rebounds, steals and free-throw percentage. Given the fact that he should return to normal production levels and that he is actually available in a handful of leagues Stuckey gets a Mother Lode from me.

Trevor: A sprained ankle, sore shoulder, dislocated finger, those are the types of injuries we are used to hearing about. But just collapsing? Now that's some scary stuff. Even scarier is that there hasn't really been a concrete explanation as to why he collapsed. While Stuckey is a solid player and is someone that I would consider adding, I don't think his condition is something that can be taken lightly. If there is any sort of recurrence it's very likely that he won't play again this season simply as a precaution. That's just a little too much risk for my taste, so for now Stuckey has to get a Fool's Gold.

Joakim Noah, C, Bulls (Through 50 games: 31.1 MPG, 10.7 PTS, 49.4 FG%, 74.6 FT%, 11.4 REB, 2 AST, 1.6 BLK, 0.6 STL)

Noah has been battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot for almost two months. He has been limited to nine games since the injury first occurred on Jan. 23. He has started practicing on a limited basis and is tentatively scheduled to return March 24. Will Noah be able to help your team win a championship or is he destined to not to be a fantasy factor for the rest of the season?

Tamer: I am not optimistic about his fantasy prospects over the final three weeks of the season. Plantar fasciitis is one of the hardest injuries to heal and the only real remedy for it is rest. And rest is exactly what Noah has not received from a Bulls training staff that has mismanaged his injury. Noah initially missed one game after the injury occurred only to come back and play two days later against San Antonio. He re-aggravated the injury after only five games and missed the Bulls' next seven games. He returned on Feb. 7, played in four games and then re-aggravated the injury again and has been out ever since.

As a point of comparison, Danny Granger suffered from plantar fasciitis earlier this season, but the Pacers took a far different approach. They rested Granger for over a month and he has not re-aggravated the injury since returning in early January. I am confident Noah will return early next week but there is a very good chance he will re-aggravate the injury again. Even if he remains healthy for the rest of the season, I don't expect Vinny Del Negro to give Noah more than 25 minutes per game for fear that the plantar fasciitis will rear it's ugly head again. If he is available in your league and you are dropping him for a significantly inferior player then I guess you can look at him as a Mother Lode player (I may just be saying this to make myself feel better). If you are expecting Noah to come back and throw up double doubles every game with a block and a half thrown in, then I am sorry to say that you will be disappointed. Overall, the fragile center gets a Fool's Gold from me.

Trevor: Noah is something of a revelation in today's NBA. He gives everything he has on every play, brings fire and emotion, and has a workman's attitude. Basically, he plays like he's still a college player, even though his skills have gone beyond that. However, as most veterans in this league have learned, you have to leave something in the tank. While the way that Noah plays may be inspirational, it unfortunately also creates a lot of wear and tear over the course of an 82-game season. So while I like watching him play, Noah is a significant injury risk and is someone who I would be steering clear from if it wasn't for one thing: the playoffs.

The Bulls are currently down in the playoff race, but not out. Given the passion that Jaokim plays with, he is going to do everything in his power to drag himself and his team into the post season. Even if he doesn't succeed, how many 11+ rebound big men are you going to find out there on waivers at this time of year? Noah is worth the risk, and gets a Mother Lode from me.

* All stats up to date as of 3/17/10

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