Who will pick up slack for Rudy Gay?
I certainly don't want to glaze over the Los Angeles Lakers' losing streak, which reached three games on Wednesday night when the Lakers lost to the Cavaliers of all teams, but this is a blog about fantasy basketball, and the biggest story of the night in fantasy involved a team that didn't even play.
That team, of course, is the Memphis Grizzlies, and the story is that Rudy Gay will be out for the next four weeks with the shoulder injury he suffered in the Grizzlies' win over the 76ers on Tuesday night. Gay is a top-20 fantasy commodity right now no matter how you slice it, so losing him for a month will be just as big a blow to fantasy teams as it is to the Grizzlies' real-life playoff hopes.
It is cosmically wonderful that this happened on the very same day that O.J. Mayo returned to the lineup for the Grizzlies. I remain steadfast in believing that Mayo is a good player who is having a rough season, and it is quite possible that even though he played only six minutes off the bench Tuesday night Mayo will either step up for the Grizzlies after the All-star break or get traded before he gets the chance. Either way, he could be a decent end-of-the-roster option heading down the stretch.
The two other guys you should be paying attention to are Sam Young and Tony Allen. Both have been essential to the Grizzlies' recent success, and both can plug the hole at Gay's wing position reasonably effectively for a given period of time.
While Young has been a reasonable source of offense and steals (14.6 points and 1.2 steals in his past five games), he's not the multicategory stat-stuffer that tends to have great fantasy success, and he's already been playing a lot of minutes. Tony Allen, on the other hand, could be special. Averaging just under 30 minutes per game in his past five contests, Allen is averaging 14.0 points, 2.6 steals, 1.0 blocks and shooting 56 percent from the floor. Allen has long been well-known for being an up-and-down player, but he also has a limited history of coming through when his team needs him. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he became a significant fantasy option during the next month.
Amazingly, Willie Green continues to be a productive member of the Hornets' starting five, forcing Marco Belinelli and Marcus Thornton into playing hardly at all off the bench. On the other hand, Green isn't really doing anything well besides scoring, and that's due to some very hot shooting (53 percent in his past five games). If he can keep putting up 20 on a regular basis, he'll be worth owning, but not otherwise. The 31 points Paul Pierce put up against the Nets would seem to suggest that he is OK health-wise. Make sure he's in your lineup going forward, obviously. Mo Williams played only three minutes in the Cavs' win against the Lakers after hurting his ankle; we'll have to keep an eye on his status moving forward, but at least he'll have the All-Star break to recover. Rodrigue Beaubois returned to action for the Mavericks on Wednesday and played really well in 21 minutes off the bench, finishing with 13 points, six assists and three steals. He's an excellent player, and the Mavs could use the depth in their backcourt; he belongs on fantasy rosters right away. DeMarcus Cousins returned to the starting lineup for the Kings, and despite shooting 6-for-19 from the floor and committing seven turnovers, he finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. It would appear that talent has won out for now. Tyreke Evans was out for the Kings with a foot injury; no word yet on when he'll return to action, but it might be worth considering Jermaine Taylor in the interim, as Taylor finished with 17 points, 5 assists and 4 steals in 39 minutes against the Mavs. Andrew Bogut sure can't shoot these days, but his measly three points were offset by the fact that he grabbed 20 rebounds and blocked five shots in the Bucks' loss to the Nuggets.
The last time the Bulls faced the Spurs (back in November), the Spurs won by basically letting Derrick Rose go crazy and shutting down everyone else. Rose had 33 points on 15-for-27 shooting from the floor, but couldn't get to the line at all and had only four assists. Meanwhile, the Spurs triumvirate of Parker, Ginobili and Duncan all had nice games and so did George Hill off the bench. The Bulls are certainly better now with Carlos Boozer, but it could be the same result on Thursday night. The Suns and Mavericks have faced one another only once this season, and it was an easy win for the Mavs; one thing to keep an eye on, however, might be the rebounds. Channing Frye has been rebounding better of late and grabbed a season-high 14 last time, so it should be a good night to get him into your lineup if he's not already there.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.