Injuries are the story of the season thus far, as stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Rajon Rondo, Manu Ginobili, Eric Gordon and Gerald Wallace have all missed games this season. There is plenty to talk about with those guys, but we’ll save that until the end of the column. Here are 15 stories to think about heading into Week 5.
1. Dirk Nowitzki Shut Down Until Sunday
I said I’d wait until the end to hit the injury report, but Nowitzki’s surprising shutdown is worthy of top billing for Monday’s Dose. He’s dealing with a sore knee, but the bigger issue seems to be his conditioning. I’m guessing the Mavs will run him during his rest period in hopes of getting him back into shape. His numbers have been hugely disappointing, but his trade value is just too low right now to move him in fantasy leagues. He should be back on Sunday, so get him benched in weekly leagues. Expect Shawn Marion to have a big week in his absence, while Lamar Odom, who had a season-high 16 points on Saturday, could also be worth a flier with Dirk out for the next three games.
2. The Magic Play Five Games in Week 5
The Magic play five times this week, meaning Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson are must-starts, while Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, J.J. Redick and Glen Davis are all worth a look in weekly lineup leagues without game limits. Turkoglu missed Wednesday and Friday’s game with back spasms, but could be back for all five of this week’s games. His status for Monday’s game at Boston is up in the air, but I’m thinking he should be in starting lineups this week after the time off.
The Nuggets, Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Thunder, Kings and Jazz play three games, and all other teams go four times in Week 5.
3. The James Johnson Saga
New Raptors starter Johnson blew up on Friday for a career-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds, two assists, two steals, four blocks and a 3-pointer, and backed it up with seven points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals, three blocks and a 3-pointer on Sunday. Scoring will be an issue, as will be inconsistency, but the Raptors play four times this week, and Johnson could put up a lot of steals, blocks and threes – which are fantasy gold. Linas Kleiza had 16 points and two 3-pointers, and could overtake Johnson as the starting small forward at some point, but rolling the dice on JJ could pay big dividends this week. Do you feel lucky? Leandro Barbosa had 19 points and three 3-pointers on Sunday, and has hit double figures in eight of his last nine games. I’m rolling him out in some leagues this week, and you should too.
4. Rise Of Bismack Biyombo
Do I trust rookie Bismack Biyombo? Absolutely not. But the fact remains he had 11 points, seven boards, two steals and four blocks on Sunday, and 11 points, 12 boards and four blocks on Tuesday. The Bobcats will use him primarily as a backup center for now, but he’s playing well enough to be picked up in deeper leagues. He had just four points in 11 minutes on Saturday, but is coming on.
5. DeAndre Jordan Has Become A Force
Jordan had 16 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks on Sunday and looks like a must-start player going forward. Jordan has been a bit of a mess thus far, scoring 4, 12, 2, 19, 2 and 16 points in his last six games, but has also racked up more than 10 rebounds per game over that stretch, along with 21 blocks in his last seven games. The Clips play just three times this week, but Jordan should be able to help you win boards and blocks for the week, despite the limited schedule.
6. Paul Pierce Is Back
Pierce’s heel injury appears to be behind him and he had 34 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and three steals on Sunday. He was pretty bad to start the season, but is clearly back. Get him in your lineup.
7. Ricky Rubio Is Having Fun
I was offered Danny Granger for Ricky Rubio in one league, but am not taking the bait. I was really down on Rubio coming into the season, but he’s exceeded everyone’s expectations thus far. He’s averaging 11 points, 4.6 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 2.4 steals and nearly a 3-pointer per game, and is shooting 40 percent from the floor. He hit just 5-of-30 shots in a terrible three-game stretch recently, but broke out of the funk with 5-of-12 hits on Saturday. Despite the shooting concerns, he’s racked up 30 steals in his last eight games, along with a healthy dose of assists, rebounds, points and threes, and should be in all starting lineups until further notice. My head tells me to trade him for Granger, but my heart won’t let me do it.
8. Samuel Dalembert Is Rolling
Dalembert is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and more than two blocks per game over his last four games and has been playing very well in his last six. The Rockets play four times a week from here until the All-Star break, and Dalembert has reached must-start status until further notice. The Rockets’ first 3-game week won’t happen until the week of March 25th.
9. Al Harrington Loves George Karl
Al Harrington torched the Knicks, his former team, for 24 points, 11 rebounds and four threes, just a night after gutting the Wizards for 29 points, seven boards and five 3-pointers. He’s averaging 15.5 points, nearly six boards, nearly two 3-pointers and over a steal per game on the season despite coming off the Nuggets bench. If he’s available in your league, pick him up.
10. Tiago Splitter Is Worth A Look
Tiago Splitter started in place of Tim Duncan on Saturday, as Duncan was simply given a rest due to the Spurs playing four games in five nights. Splitter responded with 25 points and 10 boards on 11-of-13 shooting, and has scored in double digits in three straight games. He’s not a must-own player at this point, but should be watched closely from here on out.
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