There are all kinds of theories that people have put forth about what kind of things can and will happen with an NBA season that's been squeezed like Han Solo in a garbage compactor. One theory is that players are, and will continue, getting injured more often due to the more rigorous schedule. Patrick talked about cutting injured players loose, but what do you do when the garbage compactor hasn't crushed a player into injury yet, but is just squeezing his stats and causing fantasy owners to scream for help. Can you afford to wait for R2D2 to stop the walls from closing? Who's going to make it out alive?
There's an easy rule of thumb for picking up players -- they have to have at least three games in a row where they demonstrate their fantasy worthiness -- but what about for dropping players early in the season? I'd propose this: Take the number of teams in your league and subtract the round you drafted them in and give them that many games before cutting them lose. So, for example, if you took Dorell Wright in the third round of a 12-team league, you'd want to give him nine games before dropping him. For a little more complex example, look at Devin Harris, who was taken around the ninth round of most drafts. In a 12-team league, that means he only needs a three-game skid before you can consider dropping him. But do those three games start when he scores six points even though he had eight assists, two steals and a three-pointer (on Jan. 7)? Individual owners will have to make that call depending on what they want for their team.
Below are two lists, one with guys who should still be able to provide fantasy value going forward, and one with guys to pick up when your patience runs out.
Dorell Wright (SF, GSW): After a breakout year last season, Wright is probably at the top of everyone's list of guys you can't afford to drop, but can't afford to keep. After eight disappointing games, Wright finally made six threes on Jan. 10. He then sat out the next game and returned with another dismal performance on the 14th. With Stephen Curry out, the Warriors are in the same position as fantasy owners: they can't afford to not play him, but they can't afford to have him continue playing as he is.
Jared Dudley (SG/SF, PHO): Dudley started the season with a couple of bad games, then came back with some better performances, but still fell a bit short of most owners' expectations. Now Michael Redd seems to be vying for a spot in the Suns starting lineup, but so far he hasn't won the spot. Dudley's averages are down in some categories and up in others, so keep him around until his minutes are below 26 per game on a consistent basis.
Boris Diaw (F/C, CHA): Diaw has been demoted from the starting lineup, replaced by a combination of Byron Mullens, Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Henderson. But in his first game off the bench, he still got close to 23 minutes, and let's be honest, no one drafted Diaw for big scoring numbers. He gives you a little bit of everything across most categories, and he can continue to do that off the bench in 23-26 minutes per game.
Trevor Booker (PF, WAS): Andray Blatche was unready for the season and now he's missing games with no timetable for return. Booker has taken over the starting PF role for the Wizards, and while his numbers haven't been outstanding, the minutes and the opportunity are there for someone who is available in almost every league.
Josh Harrellson (PF/C, NYK): With Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire manning the front line for New York, Harrellson won't be starting unless one of them gets injured. But he is starting to log some significant minutes off the bench and putting up very nice numbers given those limited minutes. He's also shown that he can hit three-pointers, which can be very valuable for owners in Head-to-Head leagues who might be looking for someone to replace Andrea Bargnani or for someone in a Rotisserie league looking to add a few extra threes without losing too much rebounding.
Chandler Parsons (F, HOU): Parsons was a red hot pick up after winning a starting position in the Rockets' lineup. His numbers since then haven't set the world on fire, especially compared to teammate Samuel Dalembert, who was promoted to Houston's starting five at the same time. That said, Parsons is still more available than Dalembert if you're looking at the waiver wire.
Ivan Johnson (PF, ATL): If you're really quick on the trigger, then you'll note that Vladimir Radmanovic's minutes are already going down because Johnson is taking them away with better rebounding and his ability to draw fouls and get to the line. Radmanovic was a hot pick when it was announced that Al Horford would be out for three to four months. We all know that Zaza Pachulia doesn't have much fantasy upside potential despite starting in place of Horford for the Hawks. If Johnson can break through the three-game minimum, he should have a good run for fantasy owners since Horford won't be back for the end of the fantasy season.
Josh Howard (SG/SF, UTA): While the aforementioned Devin Harris is on the chopping block for fantasy owners, Howard is starting to find fantasy relevance in the Jazz lineup. If he can keep his minutes up, he's a great pick up for points, steals and free throw percentage with a bit of assists and rebounds -- a good mix for teams with a glut of point guards who are strong in those categories.