Players poised to take advantage of injuries, underperforming starters - Sports Illustrated

Injuries, fading performances shake lineups up across NBA

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When a player has a significant injury, one of the first questions asked in fantasy leagues is who should be picked up while he's out. Usually it is the player's backup who is the major beneficiary, both in terms of playing time and statistically. However, an injury to Marcus Camby this past week showed us that it's not always the backup who benefits. For the Blazers, Camby's injury forced the team to alter their approach and play with a smaller rotation. As a result, the best waiver wire addition this week is not a big man at all, but Portland's backup shooting guard.

Rudy Fernandez, SG, Portland Trail Blazers

When it was discovered that Marcus Camby had a partial medial meniscus tear in his left knee last week, his backups Joel Przybilla and Dante Cunningham became popular additions in fantasy leagues. However, it is Fernandez who has really benefited from Camby's injury, despite playing a completely different position. In the four games since Camby injured his knee, Fernandez has put up double-digit scoring numbers in every game and has averaged 13.5 points, 2.3 threes, 4.5 assists and three steals over that span. His minutes have jumped up from the low 20s to more than 30 a game, and for the first time this season he's contributing in whatever capacity the team needs (he recorded a season-high eight assists in a game Andre Miller left due to illness, for example). Fernandez should continue to soak up a lot of Camby's minutes as long as the Blazers play small with LaMarcus Aldridge seeing some time at center.

Marcus Thornton, SG, New Orleans Hornets

Going into the year, many expected Thornton to improve on a solid rookie season. Instead, he not only lost his starting job to free agent acquisition Marco Belinelli, he was buried deep on Monty Williams' bench for most of the season. But over the past week, Thornton has seen his playing time increase to the 20-25 minute range and has responded with games of 17, 11, and 18 points while shooting 67 percent from the field. Some of his minutes have come in garbage-time during blowouts, but he did help lead the Hornets to an overtime win over the Grizzlies last week. Thornton is easily outplaying Belinelli now and he's worth at least keeping an eye on to see if he can maintain some consistency for the first time this season.

Omri Casspi, SF, Sacramento Kings

Francisco Garcia is out indefinitely after aggravating a calf injury in practice. In his absence, the bulk of Garcia's minutes have fallen to Casspi. The second-year forward has been in a shooting slump most of the season and is a combined 9-for-28 over the Kings' last two games. Expect some huge games from Casspi this week if he can get his shot to start falling. Even if he can't, Casspi can still fill up the box score in other ways as shown by his 11-rebound, two-three, two-steal game against the Blazers on the 19th.

Ryan Anderson, PF, Orlando Magic

Stan Van Gundy has said that Rashard Lewis and Anderson are completely different players. He's right -- over the past couple of weeks Anderson has been everything that Lewis was supposed to be but wasn't before he got traded to the Wizards. The one similarity is that Van Gundy is using the 22-year old 6-10 power forward in Lewis' old role as a stretch four and he's responded by hitting 40 percent of his threes this season. Over the last five games, Anderson is averaging 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 threes in slightly less than 30 minutes a game. While he is not going to get any more than 25-30 minutes playing off the bench behind Brandon Bass, Anderson has been one of the more efficient players in the league for fantasy purposes.

Joel Przybilla, C, Portland Trail Blazers

Przybilla and Dante Cunningham have issues that prevent either of them from being absolute must adds in the wake of Camby's injury. Cunningham is undersized for the center position, and other than the occasional blocked shot, he doesn't contribute much in the way of fantasy stats. Przybilla, who has started the team's last two games, was trying to slowly work his way back from his own injury when Camby got hurt. Still, Przybilla has put up decent numbers in the past when he's been healthy. Here are his per 25-minute numbers from last season (since he's only seen limited action so far this year):

2009-10 (Per-25) Averages: 4.5 PTS, 8.7 REB, 0.3 AST, 0.3 STL, 1.5 BLK

That line demonstrates that Przybilla is a very good rebounder and shot blocker. It also represents his best case scenario as the team will try to limit his minutes in an attempt to keep him healthy and on the court. Przybilla is not going to score much, but If you are looking for a replacement for Camby, he is a much better fit for fantasy teams than Cunningham provided he can stay healthy.

Nazr Mohammed, C, Charlotte Bobcats

The already-thin Charlotte frontcourt was dealt a huge blow when it was announced that Tyrus Thomas would miss two months with a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee. That puts the Bobcats in a difficult position because they don't have any obvious replacement for Thomas. Instead, the team will lean heavily on starters Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw over the next couple of months. Kwame Brown has seen his ownership rise, but we have 10 years of evidence to suggest that relying on Brown for any length of time will lead to disappointment. Instead, look to Mohammed as a solid, if unspectacular, replacement in deep leagues. Over the Bobcats' last two games, Mohammed has averaged 12.5 points, 7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in only 21 minutes a game. They might be completely different players, but those are similar numbers to what Thomas has done this season.

Marcin Gortat, C, Phoenix Suns

With Robin Lopez quickly becoming invisible on the court, the Suns have been relying more on Gortat off the bench, and he has double-doubled three straight games while averaging 13 points and 13 rebounds a game. Gortat had shown the ability to score, rebound and block shots even when he was Dwight Howard's backup on the Magic, but since being traded to the Suns last month he has gotten the opportunity play a significant role for the first time in his career. Gortat is still coming off the bench behind Lopez, but he has been getting nearly twice the minutes and is a must add in all leagues at this point.