Who replaces Zach Randolph in Memphis?

January, 5, 2012
The big story around the NBA on Wednesday night was the news that Zach Randolph will miss significant time-- up to eight weeks -- with a slight MCL tear in his right knee. In part, this is big news because Randolph had been remarkably durable the past two seasons, and it had started to feel like maybe he was finally a reliable option not just for the real-life Memphis Grizzlies, but for fantasy owners too.

Unfortunately, there's no one player who will immediately pick up the slack for Randolph in Memphis. The Grizzlies traded last year's first-round pick, Xavier Henry, to the 76ers for Marreese Speights, but Speights has been wildly inconsistent thus far in his NBA career, and it's hard to imagine him all of a sudden becoming a force in fantasy leagues. I wouldn't be ready to drop anyone even remotely productive for Speights except in the absolute deepest of leagues. The current starter at power forward is Dante Cunningham, and Cunningham doesn't really bring anything to the table in fantasy leagues and probably won't get enough minutes to make a difference anyway.

Instead, I expect most of the slack to be picked up by guys who are already important factors in fantasy: Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol. Gay, for one, is going to be relied on to score and rebound more than he has up to this point, and since he's already pretty good at racking up blocks and steals, Randolph's injury is probably good for Gay's fantasy numbers even if it's bad for the Grizzlies. Gasol, on the other hand, is going to get far more attention from defenses, so while I think his raw totals in scoring and rebounding will probably go up, his field goal percentage could certainly suffer.

All in all, the Randolph injury is just terrible for everyone. No one's fantasy stock takes too big a leap forward, and the Grizzlies will be far weaker without him.

Looking Back

Ricky Rubio continues to rack up assists for the Timberwolves, but even more impressive is his 3-point stroke. After posting another 2-for-2 night from behind the arc, he's at 60 percent for the season. He's not likely to keep this up, but he's definitely going to be a valuable fantasy commodity, and it's at least possible that he's not the atrocious shooter we all imagined he was.

DeMar DeRozan made five 3s on Wednesday night for the Raptors against the Cavaliers, and that's definitely a good sign given the hot shooting he'd already been displaying this season. He's still improving, but adding a 3-point stroke would certainly make his ability to score a lot more valuable in fantasy leagues.

• Despite the fact that the Knicks lost to the Bobcats at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, Iman Shumpert had an impressive performance in his return from injury. He played 30 minutes and made four 3s while chipping in two steals, five rebounds and three assists. Given the dearth of quality guards on the Knicks' roster, it's definitely worth adding Shumpert in deep leagues.

Eric Gordon played 39 minutes in his return from injury for the Hornets, and even though his 8-for-22 shooting is less than encouraging, it's worth pointing out that he had three steals and two blocks, and those numbers point to a healthy amount of activity. I'd feel totally comfortable getting him back into my lineup.

DeMarcus Cousins was great for the Kings, posting an extremely efficient 26 points and three blocks against the Nuggets, but it should probably go without saying that Cousins is less than reliable these days. What's more, his three rebounds in 25 minutes are as disturbing as his 26 points are encouraging. Much like the Kings, you'll probably have to hold on to him until you really know what you have.

• The better the Nuggets play, the worse their fantasy numbers look, which is unfortunate for those of us who own their players in fantasy leagues. The numbers were extremely spread out in their blowout win over the Kings, but Rudy Fernandez continues to contribute just enough off the bench (12 points and eight assists) to remain on the fringe of relevance in most leagues.

Looking Ahead

• With Andrew Bogut again questionable to play for the Bucks, it might be worth finding a spot for Drew Gooden in your lineup. Gooden had 24 points and 12 rebounds against the Jazz on Tuesday night and should continue to get minutes as long as Bogut can't go.

Tracy McGrady is questionable for the Hawks' Thursday night matchup with the Heat, and that probably means it's a good time to play guys like Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams. Teague should have the ball in his hands a lot more with McGrady out, and Williams played only 22 minutes against the Heat on Monday night but will be in line for more playing time if McGrady is out.

LeBron James sprained his ankle against the Pacers, and although he was able to keep playing on it, he did acknowledge that he may end up sitting out against the Hawks on Thursday night. If he does, look for Shane Battier to get enough extra playing time to be worth playing in most fantasy leagues.



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