When it gets to this point in the fantasy season, Mac and I like to mix it up. This week, instead of looking at potential adds from the wire and verifying their veracity, per the norm, we took it up a notch. We are looking at two teams. With the waiver wire largely a wasteland at this point in the season, we thought it wise to check some teams whose situations bear watching.
The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers have been decimated by trades, injuries and simple attrition. This turmoil could lead you to depend on players you never would have considered even a few months ago. In some cases, this is like relying on your crazy Uncle Larry -- you know, Larry, the professional mime who talks to stray cats -- to help you with your college tuition. Mac and I will do our best to steer you clear of Larry (even though he isn't your real uncle) and get you some Pell Grants.
We are not covering the studs from each of these teams. These guys are already owned, and since the trade deadline has passed in most leagues, it makes little sense to discuss them. Trust that these guys are going to do pretty well as the offensive load now falls almost entirely on them. I am talking about Corey Maggette, Shawn Marion and Ricky Davis here.
We will look at the "leftovers" and see who, if anyone, is worth a look as you steam into the final month of the fantasy season.
Lake: The current incarnation of the Heat isn't so much a basketball team as a gathering of Battle of the Bulge veterans. The body count on this team is staggering: Dwyane Wade (knee; out for season), Dorell Wright (knee; out for season), Udonis Haslem (bone spur; considering season-ending surgery), Marcus Banks (hamstring; could miss rest of season), Alexander Johnson (bone bruise), Ricky Davis (groin). Even Marion is trying to fit in and missed two games with a strained back after having missed a total of 12 games in the previous seven years.
So who is left, and do any of them have any hope of delivering fantasy value the rest of the way? Well, here are your Miami Heat, just two years removed from their championship season: Jason Williams, Daequan Cook, Davis, Marion and Mark Blount are the starters. The bench is Earl Barron, Bobby Jones, Chris Quinn and Joel Anthony. Everyone, except Davis and Marion, is likely to be on your league's waiver wire. The main reason for this is that most people haven't a clue who most of these players are. In fact, I am not sure coach Pat Riley had a clue who most of these players were back in November.
The obvious exception here is the oft-injured and inconsistent Williams. But he is also talented, and he's the guy who will get important minutes if the game is even remotely close. Don't laugh. The Heat might be losers, but recently they have been keeping the games close. Since Banks went down five games ago, the average margin has been minus-6.2 points per game for the Heat. The only game in which Williams played in fewer than 30 minutes and scored in less than double figures was in the Heat's 98-73 clowning by the Mavericks. In last night's victory, he put up a double-double (21 points, 10 assists). Williams is 43.0 percent owned and should be added if you need point guard assistance.
The only other guy I would even consider right now is Barron. Why? Call it the last-man-standing syndrome. The Heat frontline is decimated. I doubt Haslem plays another game, and Johnson wasn't doing much even before his recent injury. Barron has scored in double figures (21 and 16) in his past two games. He's worth a flier in deep leagues. You can't argue with opportunity.
For Real: Shawn Marion, Ricky Davis, Jason Williams
Not Real: Daequan Cook, Mark Blount, Udonis Haslem, Alexander Johnson, Bobby Jones, Chris Quinn, Joel Anthony
Sleeper: Earl Barron
McKitish: Believe it or not, my favorite option on the Heat right now (outside of Marion and Davis) is none other than Williams. As far as free-agent point guards are concerned, J-Will might trump them all in terms of upside at this point. That is assuming that Earl Watson is already owned in your league, of course. Many are wary of Williams' lengthy injury history, and you are right to be concerned, but that's a risk you might have to take at this point in the season. Fact of the matter is, J-Will is playing quite well right now, with averages of 12.8 points, 3.9 assists, 2.4 3-pointers and a steal in March, and he will continue to do so as long as he is healthy.
A lot of folks are super-high on Daequan Cook right now, but I'm not seeing why, other than the fact that he's getting a ridiculous 37.8 minutes per game this month. That's what happens when your whole team is injured, I guess. What is troubling, however, is that Cook has failed to do much more than hit 3-pointers with his increased minutes. His modest averages -– 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.4 steals and 2.0 3-pointers -– just don't really do it for me. There's also a chance that his minutes start to migrate back to the 32-35 range once Davis and Marion are 100 percent healthy. Don't get me wrong, Cook does have upside, and he might even go off for a couple of big games. I just think he'll be too inconsistent, and too one-dimensional (3-pointers), to help fantasy teams down the stretch.
I try to make it a point not to own Mark Blount on any fantasy team regardless of the situation. Blount may be able to score from time to time, but he's a poor rebounder, he won't block shots and he won't create steals. I'm sorry, but he'll have to score more than 8.3 points per game (like he's doing in March) to make it on my team if he's not doing these other things. Simply put, don't waste your time here, there are plenty of other players with more upside that are worth owning. I'm not going to say that Johnson is one of those players, but if there is a dark horse here, it's Johnson, not Earl Barron. Of course, Johnson will have to prove that he's healthy first before we can consider him -– even in extremely deep formats. Still, Johnson showed some promise last season in Memphis when he averaged 7.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.1 blocks in 20 starts. He's a long shot, but is worth keeping an eye on for the stretch run, especially considering Udonis Haslem's injury.
For Real: Shawn Marion, Ricky Davis, Jason Williams
Not Real: Daequan Cook, Mark Blount, Earl Barron, Udonis Haslem, Bobby Jones, Chris Quinn, Joel Anthony
Sleeper: Alexander Johnson
Los Angeles Clippers
McKitish: Unlike the Heat, the Clippers offer actual waiver-wire talent for the last month of the season. I wouldn't put their "stars" up against Marion and Davis, but their role players should outperform Miami's the rest of the way. I'm not a huge fan of the three-headed point guard monster they have going on, but I'm liking what I'm seeing out of Al Thornton (54.1 percent owned), Cuttino Mobley (40.1 percent owned), Tim Thomas (40.3 percent owned) and, to some extent, Josh Powell (0.2 percent owned).
You can count me in the camp that thinks both Chris Kaman and Elton Brand are long shots to have value this season. This means both Thomas and Powell should be able to earn ample minutes the rest of the way. Powell is the toughest to predict, mostly because he hasn't seen many minutes in his short three-year career. His per-minute stats this season are unimpressive, but sometimes it's tough for a player to get into a groove in just 17.5 minutes per game. His numbers as a starter are much better: 8.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.7 blocks in 15 starts. Powell's past two games have been particularly impressive; he had 14 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block on Saturday, and 10 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks on Monday. Clearly there's some upside here, and given Kaman's various injuries, Powell might be worth a gamble, seeing that it looks like he's going to receive 30-plus minutes a night in Kaman's absence.
Thomas is fairly boring, but he can drill it from downtown, and his numbers after the All-Star break are certainly fantasy-worthy: 13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.2 3-pointers. If Thomas can keep himself healthy, which could be a challenge given his history, he might even be able to outperform my boy Thornton. Thornton has put up some big scoring nights, and he has a ton of future upside, but I've been somewhat disappointed with his overall value thus far. Right now he's mostly just a point-scoring specialist with averages of 15.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.6 3-pointers since the All-Star break. I know he has it in him to become a more well-rounded fantasy performer in steals, blocks and 3s, but we might not see it this season. I still like his game, though, mostly because he can go off for a huge game on any given night.
Looking at the Clippers' backcourt, you'll want to steer clear of Brevin Knight. Unless you have a real need for assists and steals, he's too inconsistent on a night-to-night basis and too injury-prone to rely on in the long run. He also has some competition -- new addition Smush Parker could cut into his minutes in the final month. Parker is actually a bit of a sleeper here, especially considering Knight's injury history. Dan Dickau might intrigue some, but don't get carried away thinking about his stint in New Orleans a few years back. It's not going to happen again; he's not that good. The best bang for your buck in the Clippers' backcourt will be Cuttino Mobley. He'll post solid if unspectacular numbers the rest of the way. Think 13 points, 1.2 steals and a 3-pointer per game.
For Real: Corey Maggette, Tim Thomas, Al Thornton, Cuttino Mobley
Not Real: Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Brevin Knight, Dan Dickau, Quentin Ross
Sleeper: Josh Powell
Deep Sleepers: Smush Parker, Nick Fazekas
Lake: The Clippers have been a shipwreck since Elton Brand ruptured his Achilles tendon in August 2007. Chris Kaman gave his owners a lot of love through mid-January but has been nothing but heartbreak since. I am afraid that is all Brand is going to deliver his owners this season, too. While, according to the L.A. Times, Brand is still holding out some hope for playing this season, he is also expressing doubt for the first time. His owners should be ready to let go.
With Brand and Kaman likely to miss the rest of the fantasy season in any meaningful way, the frontcourt is looking thin for the Clippers. I agree with Mac, however, that the deep and desperate should consider Josh Powell. He is a high-energy player who has five double-digit scoring nights in March to go with three double-digit rebounding games. He has averaged 30 minutes so far in March, and I don't see that changing.
Mac is wrong about Al Thornton and Tim Thomas. Healthy or not, Thomas is the superior fantasy play. Call him dull. Call him Ray J. Johnson if you have to, but call his name before you call Thornton's. Thornton is good for two things: scoring and turnovers. He may be your boy, Mac, but only one of these two stats does you any good. Tim Thomas also scores, but he adds rebounds, too, and doubles up Thornton from long range. In leagues that count turnovers, the choice is clear. Thornton is averaging 2.5 since the break versus Thomas' 1.5.
For the most part, I agree with Mac's take on the Clippers' guards. I like Mobley to hit exactly what Mac projects. Those numbers aren't spectacular, but they are steady, and the Clippers have a great fantasy playoff schedule. I disagree about Smush Parker's value. He might have an occasional good game, but the three-headed point guard is a thing of fantasy nightmares, and I can't call any of them for real.
For Real: Corey Maggette, Tim Thomas, Cuttino Mobley
Not Real: Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Al Thornton, Brevin Knight, Dan Dickau, Quentin Ross, Smush Parker, Nick Fazekas
Sleeper: Josh Powell
Guy Lake and Brian McKitish are fantasy analysts for ESPN.com. Both were finalists for the FSWA 2007 Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year. Guy can be reached at GuyLake@TalentedMrRoto.com while Mac can be found at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.