One of the most unfortunate things to witness as an NBA fan over the last few years has been the inability of Bucks center Andrew Bogut to stay healthy. From a gruesome, freak elbow injury at the end of the 2010 season to a myriad of foot ailments over the years to his most recent injury, a fractured ankle suffered last Wednesday against the Rockets that will likely cost him much of the balance of the season, the former No. 1 overall pick has had his career derailed a number of times before his 30th birthday.
However, as is always the case in the zero-sum game of Fantasy Basketball, one man's unfortunate break is another's shot to shine, and in this case, it's veteran Drew Gooden's turn to step into the spotlight. Gooden has largely been a disappointment since signing a five-year, $32 million deal with the Bucks in the offseason before the 2010-11 season, however this season he has absolutely thrived every single time Bogut has been out.
The gap between Gooden's production as a starter this season (16.5 points, 9.7 rebounds 2.3 assist in six games) vs. as a reserve (5.1, 3.5, and 1.0 in 10 games, respectively) is absolutely striking. Gooden is playing like a borderline All Star with Bogut out and a bench warmer when he comes off the bench.
Normally, you wouldn't want to rely on the mercurial Gooden, who has alienated coaches and teammates at almost every stop in his 10-year NBA career. However, with another strong performance as the starter under his belt Saturday night against the brawny Lakers' front court, Gooden is our Start of the Week for Fantasy Week 6 (Jan. 30-Feb. 5). With Bogut out Gooden has been playing like a No. 1 Fantasy center, so make sure he's in the lineup with games against Miami and Detroit (two games), teams with spotty defensive frontcourts.
Jamal Crawford, Trail Blazers (@UTA, CHA, @SAC, DEN): There is nothing to dislike about the upcoming slate of games for the Trail Blazers and their talented-but-inconsistent sixth man in Week 6. Three of their five games come against a couple of the worst defenses in the NBA, including games against the only two teams (vs. CHA, @SAC) that currently allow more than 100 points per game, plus a fourth game against the 10th worst defense. Crawford is as streaky an NBA player as you'll find, and his shot has been missing all year, but if he's ever going to find it for good, he'll do so against this batch of teams.
Jerryd Bayless, Raptors, (ATL, @BOS, WAS, @MIA): The Raptors have a pretty tough schedule for the week, playing two top-10 defenses to start before a reprieve against the pitiful Wizards and then finishing up against the hot-and-cold Heat. However, the Raptors are in desperate need for someone to step up on offense as the go-to guy with Andrea Bargnani out for an extended period of time, and Bayless just could be that guy. Bayless has struggled with an ankle injury for much of the year, but he's back now and went for 18 points in just 16 minutes in the first game without Bargnani, a sign that he found room to work within the offense. Bayless was expected to have a breakout year after averaging 10 points per game in 60 games after coming to Toronto last season, and he could start building towards those expectations if the Raptors begin to feature him more heavily in the offense.
Sleeper Alert: Matt Carroll, Bobcats (@LAL, @POR, @PHO): The Bobcats face two Top 10 defenses on the road this week and only have three games total, usually a bad sign for a player like Carroll who is normally just a low-end option. However, Carroll has strung together a trio of decent performances, and he could continue to see solid playing time as Gerald Henderson deals with a back injury. Carroll has averaged 34.3 minutes and 13.7 points over his last three games as the Bobcats continue to be desperate for any answer to stop their losing ways. If you are similarly desperate for a guard option this week, Carroll should be a solid low-end option given his recent performance.
Gerald Henderson, Bobcats (@LAL, @POR, @PHO): As I said during the Gooden section, basketball is a zero sum game; if one guy's playing time is starting to trend upward, it's got to be costing someone else. Henderson has been dealing with a back injury that has kept him out of two of the last three games and limited him to just seven points when he did play, and Carroll has taken advantage of increased minutes during this time. Henderson's injury isn't serious enough to keep him out long term, but if it costs him even one game in a three-game week, he'll have to make up for it in a big way in the other two. With Carroll's recent emergence that's no sure thing, so don't be afraid to sit Henderson for just this week even as he's in the midst of a breakout season.
Paul George, Pacers (NJ, @MIN, @DAL, ORL): George has enjoyed a minor breakout here in his second NBA season, upping his scoring by almost four points per game without an associated dip in efficiency usually seen when a young player takes on a bigger role. He has emerged as a useful low-end Fantasy option, especially when he sees a favorable matchup. In Week 6 he has only one truly favorable matchup, and while he has certainly improved this season, he still struggles with his consistency as all young players will do. With a tough back-to-back at the end of the week against Dallas and Orlando, he could be in line for a couple of poor performances, making him an option you can steer away from unless you're in a deeper format.
Bust Alert: Jeff Teague, Hawks (@TOR, MEM, PHI): The 23-year old is enjoying quite a nice breakout season in his first year as a starter, however this week may be a disappointment for his owners. Atlanta faces no teams in the bottom-10 of NBA defenses, and the 76ers are the second toughest defensive team in the league. If you're playing in an average-based league, you may be able to make up for the Sixers game with the other two, but in a standard league, a three-game schedule makes Teague a suitable option if you have better matchups.
Brandon Bass, Celtics (@CLE, TOR, NY, MEM): Bass has started to recover from a swoon at the beginning of January that had plenty of owners rushing to get him on the bench. However, over the Celtics' last six games, Bass has scored in double-figures in each game while averaging 13 points and 7.2 rebounds. He has found his stride just as the team overall has and he seems to be rolling. With a pretty good schedule on the way, he should be able to continue his recent performances.
Chase Budinger, Rockets (MIN, @SA, PHO, @MIN): Budinger is starting to see his role increase along with the Rockets improved play, as he has played 20 minutes in consecutive games after sitting out three-straight games prior. Budinger has scored 40 over the last two, and the Rockets seem comfortable getting him back in the rotation as Kevin Martin has been dealing with plantar fasciitis. As long as Martin is hobbled and Budinger plays well, you should feel OK getting one of our preseason breakout candidates back in the lineup. With two games against the Timberwolves, a team Houston has hooked up with for some high-scoring affairs in recent years, and two others against middle-of-the-road NBA defenses, Budinger's got a shot to produce solid numbers.
|1.||Rudy Fernandez, G, Nuggets||10|
|2.||Jon Leuer, F, Bucks||2|
|3.||Andrew Goudelock, G, Lakers||0|
|4.||Tony Allen, G, Grizzlies||13|
|5.||Jonas Jerebko, F, Pistons||13|
|6.||Linas Kleiza, F, Raptors||9|
|7.||Aaron Gray, C, Raptors||0|
|8.||Gustavo Ayon, F, Hornets||0|
|9.||Ronnie Brewer, G, Bulls||17|
|10.||Channing Frye, C, Suns||21|
Sleeper Alert: Austin Daye, Pistons (@MIL, @NY, @NJ, MIL, NO): Up until very recently, Daye's third season has been an absolute disaster. He scored in double figures just once in his first 13 appearances, and was held scoreless six times. However, he has begun to turn things around over the last three games, averaging 17.3 points per game while making more than half of his field goal attempts and exactly half of his three-pointers. You're right to still be wary of Day after the way he started the season; even with his recent hot stretch, he's shooting below 35 percent both from the field and from three-point range. However, with a five game schedule that only features one of the NBA's 10 toughest defenses, Daye has a shot to make a believer out of Fantasy owners everywhere.
Andray Blatche, Wizards (CHI, @ORL, @TOR, LAC): After getting benched last Friday amid questions about his effort and with trade rumors swirling around, it probably wouldn't have mattered who Blatche was playing in Week 6 or how he's been performing. However, now that he's responded to his benching with a total of six points and four rebounds in two games and faces two of the NBA's peskiest defensive front courts to start the week, it seems like a no-brainer to keep Blatche out of the starting lineup. His talent is considerable, but Blatche just can't seem to get right, and the Wizards appear just about done with him as an organization. You won't want to drop him just yet, but he has no business starting.
Elton Brand, 76ers (ORL, CHI, MIA, @ATL): The Sixers basically go through the Eastern Conference's Murderer's Row this week with a chance to prove that they deserve their status near the top of the conference. However, if they do so, it will likely be without much help from the former superstar power forward, who has seen his overall production fall on the deep contender. Brand is averaging either his lowest or second-lowest totals in almost every major statistical category this season, as the Sixers have gone with a front court by committee. He's an important part of that committee; however he also may struggle this week facing the East's elite teams.
Bust Alert: Antawn Jamison, Cavaliers (BOS, @ORL, DAL): Jamison was expected to cede time to rookie Tristan Thompson in his last season in Cleveland, however the unorthodox 35-year old simply refuses to go away, remaining the team's second-leading scorer while rediscovering an elite three-point stroke. However, the Cavaliers face a brief meat grinder in Week 6, taking on the resurgent Celtics along with Orlando and Dallas, three of the seven best defenses in the league. Jamison will probably still get his opportunities, however he has struggled mightily this season against teams currently ranked in the Top 10 in defense; he has scored just 7.2 points per game in six contests. That has to give his owners reason to pause, and they shouldn't worry about getting him off the bench if they can afford it.
Marcus Camby, Trail Blazers (@UTA, CHA, @SAC, DEN): We need to appreciate Marcus Camby while we can; the soon-to-be 38-year old may not have much left in the tank after this season, but he's one of the most unique players the NBA has seen in a long time. He routinely puts up some of the most interesting stat lines around, regularly topping 15 rebounds without scoring more than five points in a game. Camby long ago gave up on trying to score; in 17 games this season, he has more assists than field goals made in all but two games, and he's not exactly known for being a dime man (though he's actually pretty solid there for his position.) What Camby gives you are rebounds and blocks, and he does those things about as well as anyone in the league. He's been single-minded in his pursuit of rebounds recently, grabbing 58 rebounds over his last three games, and with games against the dysfunctional Kings and Bobcats front courts, as well as the fast-paced Nuggets who put up a lot of shots, Camby is a solid bet to continue to post his standard line, something we can all appreciate.
Sleeper Alert: Nikola Pekovic, Timberwolves (@HOU, IND, @NJ, HOU): You don't often want to rely on a back up whose minutes can be subjected to the whims of a coach playing his gut, however Pekovic has been earning more playing time in recent games and could be starting to usurp Darko Milicic for the majority of the team's minutes. While the Timberwolves covet Darko's passing out of the post, Pekovic's toughness in the post on both sides of the ball makes him an attractive tag-team partner with Kevin Love; if a shot doesn't go in, they have to like their chances of one of those two coming down with it on either side of the floor. Pekovic isn't a difference maker, but he's starting to look like the best option down low for the Wolves, which could make him a viable option this week, especially with Milicic missing the team's last game with an illness.
Chris Kaman, Hornets (@MIA, PHO, @SA, @DET): The Hornets couldn't have been expecting much when they acquired Kaman as part of the Chris Paul trade. He was a former All Star on an expiring contract, something they could flip for more value down the road. However even that seems to have been an optimistic projection, as the perpetually dour big-man has been told by the team to just stay home as they pursue trade avenues for him. While he may return to the team at some point if they can't find a suitor after torpedoing his value like that, it's clear the team has no desire to move forward with him. Kaman is still owned in 85 percent of leagues as owners seem to cling to the possibility that he could return to his former lofty heights, but it's pretty clear that won't happen in New Orleans, so consider this less a "Sit 'Em" recommendation than a "Drop 'Em." As long as Kaman's in the doghouse in New Orleans, he has no place on your roster.
Bust Alert: Spencer Hawes, 76ers (ORL, CHI, MIA, @ATL): Many of the same fears expressed with Elton Brand go for Hawes, with the added problem that he's currently dealing with a nagging Achilles injury that has cost him the last seven games. While Hawes continues to express optimism that he is close to returning, the fact that his diagnosis seems to change by the day doesn't bode well. Even if he is able to return this week, will he be the same stat-sheet stuffer he was for the early part of the season while he deals with the after effects of the injury? Our guess would be no, even if he had a whole slew of favorable matchups. That he is facing the toughest teams in the Eastern Conference all in a row only serves to strengthen that prediction. Look elsewhere.