Personal injury lawyers and fantasy owners have a lot in common. To be successful at either endeavor, you can't be afraid of chasing the occasional ambulance. You don't have to feel great about it, but someone in your league will be first on the scene when a player is injured. It might as well be you. This practice was on full display last week when injuries to Larry Hughes and Richard Jefferson sent owners scrambling to the waiver wire for help. Hughes' likely replacement was claimed in both my leagues within hours of the announcement of his injury. His wasn't the only injury to impact fantasy leagues, and The Skinny kept an eye on all the relevant developments:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Let the Juan Dixon sweepstakes begin. The biggest fantasy news of the weekend was delivered Sunday by Washington team doctors, who announced that Wizards star Larry Hughes will miss four to six weeks with a broken thumb. Just how big is the void he leaves in the Washington lineup? Consider this: Hughes is the only NBA player averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and 2.5 steals per game. Dixon won't be expected to pick up all the slack, but he should be Eddie Jordan's choice to replace Hughes in the starting lineup. At first glance, he seems to understand what will be asked of him. Saturday he recorded 13 points, three steals and three rebounds in the fourth quarter alone to lead Washington to a come-from-behind win against Phoenix.
This has been a strange season for Dixon. While the rest of the franchise has made the leap to respectability, Dixon has seen his minutes drop from more than 20 per game in 2003 to fewer than 14 this season – this despite maintaining career-best field goal (.439), 3-point (.371) and free throw (.906) percentages through 31 games. He'll be given his chance now, and fantasy owners should follow suit. Washington is the top scoring team in the East and they lack a legitimate interior scoring threat. Dixon will be asked to score – much as he did when he dropped 28 on Memphis in his lone start of the season back in November.
- Speaking of scoring voids, the Los Angeles Lakers seem to be doing just fine without all-world guard Kobe Bryant in the lineup. The top beneficiary has been Lamar Odom, who took a season-high 17 shots when Kobe was injured against Cleveland, then obliterated that total with 26 attempts Saturday against Golden State. In the final seven minutes of Saturday's win, Odom made four of six field goal attempts, grabbed four rebounds and gave fantasy owners a preview of what life without Kobe will be like. With averages of 14.9 points and 10.3 boards, Odom can hardly be considered a bust. Still, it is hard not to expect more from a guy shooting more than two percentage points above his career high from the floor.
Odom isn't the only Laker enjoying the benefits of more touches. You'll find Chucky Atkins available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues. He played 45 minutes Saturday, took 16 shots and scored 20 points. Caron Butler is averaging 18.5 points and 8.5 boards in the past two games. Finally, there's rookie Sasha Vujacic. The Orange County Register reports that the Lakers were looking for ways to get him more playing time even before Kobe's injury. He slid into the starting lineup Saturday and scored eight points in the first quarter before defensive lapses limited his minutes in crunch time. He's worth keeping an eye on as a long-distance threat if he can keep himself on the floor in the second half.
- Can a change of address save Doug Christie's fantasy season? Over the years we've come to count on Christie as a reliable fantasy handyman – not particularly gifted at a single discipline, but a guy who can help out in any category on any given day. This year with Sacramento the assists (4.9) and rebounds (4.0) were still there, but his scoring average (7.3) was his lowest since 1995 and his steal totals (1.4) had dropped to a six-year low. As a result, this mid-round draft pick found himself dumped to the waiver wire in roughly 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues. What should we expect out of Christie in Orlando?
There will be an adjustment period, of course, but in the long run this move should benefit Christie. Orlando wants to see Steve Francis play without the ball more – he ranks fifth in the NBA in turnovers per 48 minutes. That means more touches for guys like Christie and reserve point guard Jameer Nelson. The Orlando Sentinal reported that Christie finished Saturday's game at point guard despite knowing only three of the team's plays. He recorded three assists and three steals in the win. He came off the bench and played 26 minutes in that game, but is expected to move into the starting lineup at off guard. If Francis can adjust to life without his friend Cuttino Mobley and accept playing without the ball in crunch time, this trade could work out for all parties involved.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Latrell Sprewell, GF, Min
If it wasn't for the ridiculous numbers put up by Nick Van Exel and Damon Stoudamire last week, Sprewell's long-distance display would have been the talk of fantasy leagues. Sprewell, who hadn't made more than one shot from three-point range since Dec. 8, made 10 of 19 from beyond the arc in back-to-back wins to close the week. For the month, Spree is averaging 15.1 points on 45.6 percent shooting. Whether it's a hot streak or a sign of things to come remains to be seen, but it appears that Sprewell has benefited from Wally Szczerbiak's move to the bench.
- Kenny Thomas, PF, Phi
When he puts his mind to it, Thomas can be a dominating force on the boards. Starting center Sam Dalembert has missed the past two games with a variety of ailments, leaving primary rebounding duties in the hands of Thomas, who responded with 26 rebounds in the two games. His numbers in January aren't bad for a guy available in roughly 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues: 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals.
- Chris Andersen, C, NO
Since Yahoo! leagues require owners to start two centers, a lot of managers are accustomed to shuffling players in and out of their No. 2 center position. It might be time to give Andersen a shot. He's averaging 16.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in his past two games and has blocked at least one shot in eight straight. For the season he's averaging more than 12 rebounds and close to three blocks per 48 minutes.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Rodney Buford, SG, NJ – In three starts since the Jefferson injury, Buford is averaging 14.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals.
Jarvis Hayes, SF, Was – Hayes averaged 13.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in November. Since then his minutes have dropped dramatically, but he'll be one of many players leaned on for production with Larry Hughes out with a broken thumb.
Tierre Brown, G, LAL – Brown had a decent fantasy line Saturday with 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in Kobe's first game in street clothes. Brown has played 20-plus minutes six times, scoring in double figures in four of those contests.
Troy Hudson, PG, Min – Resurrected from the bottom of the depth chart, Hudson is averaging 14.3 points, 2.3 treys and four assists in his past four games. Sam Cassell will be back soon, but at the very least Hudson is elevating his trade value.
Tony Delk, G, Atl – Delk averaged 14.2 points in the five games prior to his injury on Jan. 5. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Delk will be reactivated after missing one more game. The club wants to cut Tyronn Lue's minutes by at least five per game.
Morris Peterson, GF, Tor – Toronto is 5-2 in January, thanks in large part to Peterson's play. For the month he's averaging 22.3 points, 3.0 treys and 5.3 rebounds.
Lee Nailon, PF, NO – Nailon was responsible for one of the season's better fantasy lines Sunday: 32 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists on 14-of-20 shooting. He's averaging 17.5 points and 5.3 boards in January.
Wally Szczerbiak, SF, Min – For the good of the team, Szczerbiak offered to come off the bench. In the two games that Trenton Hassell has started, Wally is averaging just 10.0 points and five rebounds.
Allan Houston, SG, NY – Houston isn't making the most of his time with Jamal Crawford on the shelf. He was benched Saturday after missing his last eight shots and the New York Daily News reports he may take some time off soon to rest his sore knees.
Hedo Turkoglu, GF, Orl – Doug Christie has passed his physical, so Turkoglu will return to the bench, according to the Orlando Sentinal. He averaged 18.7 points and six boards as a starter, but is averaging just 12.7 points and 3.5 rebounds as the sixth man.
Carmelo Anthony, SG, Den – In seven January games, Anthony is shooting just 32.5 percent from the floor. His numbers have sagged in every other relevant fantasy category.
Rick Brunson, PG, LAC – Brunson is averaging just 4.5 assists in the Clippers' past four games. Derek Martin played the entire fourth quarter of Wednesday's win against Seattle.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
65 Number of three-point shots missed in the month of January by Phoenix guard Quentin Richardson. That gives Richardson more errant tries than any other player has total attempts in the same span.