Big Picture: Without a Tracy

Matt Buser

Although we're still about a month away from the All-Star break, we're just about at the mid-way point of the NBA season in terms of scheduling – by this time next week, most teams will have played or will soon be playing their 41st game. That can only mean one thing, that it's time to hand out mid-season awards. I've certainly got my own opinions, but I'd love to hear yours, as well. Which players have been the biggest surprises? And which players have been the biggest duds? What was the best value pick you made on draft day? Which players have made for the best free-agent additions of the season? Send me your selections, picks, and pans, and I'll be sure to keep them in mind when I put together my own lists.

Injury Report
Rajon Rondo (PG – Boston)
An MRI on Rondo's ailing back was negative and he's hopeful that he'll be able to return to the lineup on Friday, according to The Boston Globe. The team is being cautious, however, and Rondo said that he's been told to sit until he's "fully ready to play."

Kirk Hinrich (PG – Chicago)
Hinrich missed his second consecutive game on Wednesday due to back spasms, and he is considered day-to-day.

Nene Hilario (FC – Denver)
Nene had surgery on Monday to remove a testicular tumor, and initial reports are that it was benign, according to the Associated Press. There still is no timetable for a return, but the entirety of the situation should become clearer over the next few days.

Kenyon Martin (PF – Denver)
K-Mart will be out for at least Thursday's game, and potentially more, as he deals with a staph infection in his buttocks. "I'll go back to the doctor on Friday," said Martin. "Right now, I'm just in pain."

Tracy McGrady (GF – Houston)
McGrady will practice with the Rockets on Thursday with the hopes of returning to the lineup on Saturday, according to the Houston Chronicle. "I'm cleared to practice, but I still don't know how everything is going to be after I practice or even during practice," said T-Mac. There remains a chance that his return could once again be pushed back, depending on how his knee reacts to his first major activity in over three weeks. "I'm going to be real cautious about this," added McGrady.

Jermaine O'Neal (FC – Indiana)
After totaling 72 minutes in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, O'Neal left Wednesday's game after just nine minutes due to continuing issues with his left knee. His status for Saturday is unknown at this point, but it's fairly safe to assume that O'Neal will make at least sporadic appearances on the inactive list for the remainder of the season.

Elton Brand (FC – LA Clippers)
Brand will be examined during the last week of January in order to see if he can begin running at full speed and jumping off of both feet, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Andrew Bynum (C – LA Lakers)
Bynum will miss a minimum of two months due to January 13th injuries that included a dislocated left kneecap, a bone bruise, and soft tissue damage in the knee. "We're hoping to get him back for a month or more prior to the playoffs," said Lakers trainer Gary Vitti. "But I don't have a crystal ball."

Darko Milicic (FC – Memphis)
Milicic played just six minutes on Tuesday due to a bruised right knee, but scrimmaged on Thursday and is expected to play on Friday, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Mo Williams (PG – Milwaukee)
Williams missed Wednesday's game with the stomach flu, something that shouldn't be an issue by the time the Bucks play again on Saturday.

Randy Foye (G – Minnesota)
Although there have been no issues reported with his knee, Foye has been experiencing general muscle soreness and won't attempt to fully participate in team practices until sometime next week, according to the Star Tribune. "We need to get him through that training-camp soreness before we get him in there live," said T-Wolves coach Randy Wittman. "We don't want him to get out there with soreness and compensate for it by doing something else to himself."

Stephon Marbury (PG – New York)
Marbury is scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of injury to his left ankle – if surgery is needed to repair bone spurs, then his season would likely be over, according to the Daily News. If Marbury does go under the knife, then Nate Robinson would appear to be a lock as a very good option for the rest of the season.

Grant Hill (GF – Phoenix)
Hill will be out until at least late next week because of his appendectomy, according to The Arizona Republic. The January 9 procedure was originally estimated to sideline him for two to three weeks. Boris Diaw has started the past four games in Hill's place, averaging 10.3 points, 5 boards, 4.3 assists, and 1 steal in 37 minutes per game.

Antonio Daniels (PG – Washington)
Daniels missed Tuesday's game due to soreness in his right knee, but has not been ruled out for Friday, according to The Washington Times. "He'll get his treatment, some much needed rest and then we'll see," said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan.

Buzz Index – adds
Kwame Brown (FC – LA Lakers) 14,851 adds
Brown has taken over as the starting C for the Lakers in the wake of Andrew Bynum's injuries. He totaled 10 points and 10 boards in 39 minutes versus the Sonics on Monday, his first start since mid-November.
Upshot: Picking up Kwame has been all the rage since Bynum went down, but it's hard for me to get very excited at this point. Don't be expecting more than 9/7 with a block per game, and you probably won't be disappointed.

Nazr Mohammed (C – Charlotte) 11,097 adds
Mohammed has been upping his production as a reserve, averaging 14.6 points on 56 percent shooting, 9.3 boards, 0.7 steals, and 0.7 blocks over the past seven games.
Upshot: The key is that he's also averaged 26 minutes played in those games, essentially starter's minutes. As long as the playing time remains consistent, Mohammed's production shouldn't wane too much. If you need some depth at C, he's worth the add.

Ryan Gomes (F – Minnesota) 10,636 adds
Gomes has been very steady since re-joining the T-Wolves' starting lineup on December 21. In 13 games since then, he's averaged 14.8 points on 47 percent shooting, 0.8 threes, 7.1 rebounds, and 0.8 steals, while making 84 percent of his free throws.
Upshot: Those are the kinds of numbers that you plug into a roster and quietly reap the benefits. Regardless of league settings, Gomes is a great play right now.

Nate Robinson (G – New York) 9,863 adds
Robinson has been seeing consistent playing time and has responded with consistent production. Over the past 13 games, he's averaged 16.6 points on 48 percent shooting, 2.2 threes, 3.5 boards, 3.2 assists, and 0.8 steals in 30 minutes per game.
Upshot: If Stephon Marbury is done for the season, Robinson's fantasy impact stands to climb even further, although he's not going to deliver the high-volume assists that you'd want from a typical PG. Regardless, that kind of efficient offensive production can help just about any fantasy team.

DeShawn Stevenson (SG – Washington) 8,935 adds
Stevenson's fantasy stock has been on the rise, thanks to another one of his hot streaks. In a five-game stretch from January 6-14, he averaged 15.8 points on 47 percent shooting, 2 threes, and 1.4 steals.
Upshot: He followed up those five games with four points on 1-of-6 shooting on Tuesday, and his season game log is characterized by offsetting highs and lows. Obviously, it's nice when you can plug him in during his hot streaks, but a roster spot might be better used on someone with more substantial long-term prospects, as opposed to trying to play the guessing game with Stevenson's production.

Buzz Index – drops
Andrew Bynum (C – LA Lakers) 25,301 drops
Bynum hit waivers in a substantial amount of leagues after sustaining knee injuries that will keep him out a minimum of two months.
Lowdown: I know the move was painful for Bynum's now-former fantasy owners, but it makes sense in most situations (obviously, he shouldn't go anywhere in keeper leagues). A best-case scenario for a return would be mid-March, but it's doubtful that he'd be thrown right back into the mix, even in a best-case scenario. The Lakers won't want to risk anything in the long-term for a few wins in the current regular season when dealing with their 20-year-old big man.

Stephon Marbury (PG – New York) 18,161 drops
The nightmare season continues for Marbury and his fantasy owners, although it may soon come to a merciful end. A Thursday MRI may reveal that the veteran needs surgery to remove bone spurs in his ankle, a procedure that would likely end his season.
Lowdown: Even on a per-game basis, Marbury has been a fringe fantasy contributor, thanks to low numbers in everything that matters. Feel free to move on, even if surgery somehow is not an option – he and his contract aren't going anywhere at the trade deadline, and his numbers aren't going to improve anytime soon as a Knick.

Nene Hilario (FC – Denver) 10,897 drops
Nene hit waivers in many leagues after it was revealed that he had surgery on Monday to remove a testicular tumor.
Lowdown: While details are still emerging as to what will happen next for Nene, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which he'd be at or near 100 percent anytime soon. It's safe to cut ties and get some help off of waivers, but keep an eye out for updates.

Antonio Daniels (PG – Washington) 8,505 drops
Daniels has been slowed in recent games by lingering issues with his right knee, including missing Tuesday's game versus the Knicks.
Lowdown: He averaged 8 points and 5.8 assists in 36 minutes of the four games prior to Tuesday's contest, and the fact that he's still having problems with the knee is not great news. Roger Mason started in his place and scored 20 points on Tuesday, and is a reasonable short-term option while Daniels is sidelined, but they are likely to simply trade off the starting gig until Daniels can get all the way healthy.

Darko Milicic (FC – Memphis) 7,725 drops
Milicic has been dead weight for the most part for fantasy teams in recent weeks, and he played just six minutes on Tuesday before leaving with right knee soreness.
Lowdown: Milicic has a good game now and again, and overall has averaged 6.4 points, 5.9 boards, and 2.7 blocks in 24 minutes during the month of January (not counting Tuesday's game). The blocks are nice, but clearly it's not going to all come together for Darko (again) this season. The injury shouldn't be a major issue, but he's droppable in all but deep leagues, where those blocks make it worth carrying the rest of his line.

Eddy Curry Line Update
the Eddy Curry Line was originally established to put a spotlight on how truly anemic Curry's overall fantasy line is. It can be used to help establish which players are among the best and worst, in terms of efficiency of production, for fantasy basketball. The standard: a player must average more turnovers than assists, steals, and blocks combined – in order to qualify, a player must have appeared in at least half of his team's games and averaged at least 25 minutes of playing time.

Eddy Curry 37 27.8 51 79 0.65:1
Zach Randolph 34 32.0 93 99 0.94:1
Shaquille O'Neal 30 28.6 108 89 1.21:1
Reggie Evans 39 25.8 73 59 1.24:1
Drew Gooden 38 32.0 95 72 1.32:1
Mikki Moore 37 29.2 66 50 1.32:1
Rashad McCants 33 27.6 109 82 1.33:1
Corey Maggette 29 34.7 115 84 1.37:1
Tyson Chandler 37 34.7 100 72 1.39:1
Kevin Durant 37 33.2 157 109 1.44:1
Jose Calderon 39 30.8 368 58 6.34:1
Marcus Camby 36 34.5 286 52 5.50:1
Ben Wallace 35 32.9 178 33 5.39:1
Shawn Marion 37 37.2 214 41 5.22:1
Anthony Johnson 29 28.2 189 38 4.97:1
Chris Paul 36 37.4 475 98 4.85:1
Kurt Thomas 28 25.5 93 20 4.65:1
Michael Finley 36 27.8 80 18 4.44:1
Raja Bell 32 33.8 106 24 4.42:1
Jason Williams 30 30.9 196 45 4.36:1

GP = games played
YR = year in which the player produced the stats MPG = minutes played per game
POS = positive stats accumulated to-date (assists + steals + blocks)
NEG = turnovers to-date
RATIO = amount of positive stats per turnover