When the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009, it was a great example of how the Sports Karma Gods can sometimes rush in after tragedy strikes to lift a city up and help it rebuild.
But then that was it. No more, said the Sports Karma Gods. Because since 2009, Big Easy sports fans have endured the Sean Payton scandal, the Chris Paul trade, the Hornets changing their name to the Pelicans, the freaking horrible uniforms for this year’s NBA All-Star game and a rash of injuries not unlike the rash Candy Flanders gave me in my sophomore year of high school. Er, ah, moving on.
(But wait before I move on, why can’t the New Orleans basketball franchise be the Jazz again? Will the Utah basketball fans really care if we take their name and change it to, say, the Miners, or the Mountaineers, or the Henricksons, sponsored by Home Plus?)
This string of injured players has really been unprecedented. Anthony Davis was gone forever. He gets back, and now Ryan Anderson is gone for at least more two months, and Jrue Holiday is out for who knows how long, and now Jason Smith had a piece of cartilage chip off his knee (ouch?) and he’ll miss some time. It seems like the only guy who hasn’t been injured is the only guy who always gets injured – Eric Gordon.
Anyway, the real-world relevance of this is the Pelicans have to tank the hell out of their season and get down to the fifth pick or lower, otherwise they lose it this year to the Philadelphia 76ers.
There’s significant fantasy world implications for those who have the aforementioned dinged-up players on their teams, but there’s also plenty of opportunities for owners to play scavenger and scoop up their healthy teammates and replacements.
One is Al-Farouq Aminu. He was already starting before Smith went down, and now he’ll be in line for more minutes and all the stats he can gobble. He’s averaged 10.3 rpg over his last four and will only pad his rebound and block totals and maybe even get some points. Surprised more people haven’t picked him up – maybe they’re getting tired of looking at his jacked-up mug.
The others in the bunch are almost exclusively deep-league options. Those in that camp might remember the Alexis Ajinca mania that broke out when Smith was hurt earlier this year, and Ajinca responded with a 17-7-1 as the starting center.
But that might not happen this go round, since the Pelicans are starting über-stiff Greg Stiemsma at center over Ajinca and giving more minutes to Jeff Withey, who looks like the frontman of Crowded House and plays basketball like him, too.
People keep telling me the Pelicans aren’t tanking, they wouldn’t do that, na no way, but when you start a guy with a name that sounds like an STD, you just might be tanking.
And that’s good news for fantasy owners looking for some gold in the garbage. Right now, that place is in New Orleans.
Here’s what else I saw in the paint last week:
Markieff Morris – Hot again after vanishing for a week or so. He’s the Amir Johnson of 2013-2014, unless Amir Johnson is the Amir Johnson of 2013-2014. Sometimes he’s the Marcus Morris of 2013-2014, and vice versa. Does that make sense? The Suns have a few days off at the beginning of the week, so I’d wait to see if Markieff is still going strong toward the end of the week, when their schedule picks up.
Nikola Vucevic – Giving owners as big of a headache as the one that’s causing him to miss so much time. You have to wait it out. Don’t you?
Dewayne Dedmon – This week’s Deep League Special was brought to Philly from the D-League Santa Cruz Warriors on a 10-day contract and has averaged 7 rpg and 1.3 bpg in his first three games for the 76ers. The 7-footer could be a lot more for a lot of reasons. Philadelphia has been getting blown out lately, meaning more garbage time for Dedmon. There’s no big dudes who can play on the Philly bench. And and should the 76ers sell off their big guys before the deadline (Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young), and Dedmon sticks around, he could actually get decent time. Check these highlights of this dude ballin’ in the D-League – it’s worth a click just to hear this bush-league announcer go bonkers.
Ryan Kelly – A lot of people are picking this Dukie up because he’s on the Lakers. Yeah, he caught my eye because he can board a little and swatted three shots in a game last week, but I am not endorsing him for a grab.
Carmelo Anthony – He grew a sack last week, averaging three above his season rebounding average of 9 per game, including a 26-point, 20-rebound outburst in a – surprise! – loss to the Clippers.
Elton Brand – Mad props to a 34-year-old guy playing with the body of a 55-year-old for rejecting 3.8 per game over his last five. If you have a streamer slot with a short-schedule day coming up and need boards and/or blocks, Brand is your guy.
Terrence Jones – A 36-11-1 on Saturday against Milwaukee put the exclamation point on a great run and a sentence that says: This is the breakout! I wasn’t exactly sold on Jones and his sporadic play, but of late I’ve come to see him as a Thad Young in the making. Well, he’s a Thad Young now. He’s actually still out there in some leagues.
Blake Griffin – The Clippers have been winning and Griffin has been scoring at a 25 ppg clip over the last week. So what’s there to complain about? In real life, nothing. In fantasy life, Griffin owners would like to see some more rebounds: He’s hit double-digits just once in his last seven games. Minor gripe? Sure. But Griffin can jump over cars. He can jump over Shawn Marion and Kelly Olynyk to get to 10 rebounds in a game.
Jeremy Tyler – Very, very deep league option here, but an option nonetheless. With old men Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin nursing boo-boos, someone will have to come off the bench behind Melo and Andrea Bargnani.
J.J. Hickson – Averaging 13.2 rpg over his last 6, including a 13-point, 24-rebound effort last week against Golden State. I pimped Hickson heading into the season but also said Portland was dumb for letting him go and would suffer for their stupidity. So I was half right. Or half stupid?
Lance Stephenson – JB covered the breakout boy last week but he’s more than worthy of a little love from Boards-N-Blocks considering the way he’s been hitting the glass of late. Not only has he stepped on the gas in the points column (22, 28 in his last two), but he’s been boarding like a champ, with two straight 10-rebound efforts and 12 against the Clippers on Saturday. And he’s 6-5!
James Johnson – I did some research to find out that his imposing neck tattoo spells the name of his son, but I couldn’t get close enough to read what that name is. In any event, it is kinda scary looking, which might have helped this freak turn away six Buck shots in a game last week. He does everything Tony Allen used to do, so it makes you wonder what will happen if/when Allen comes back. He’s a great play until then.
Al Jefferson – A lot of beastly efforts of late, including a 30-16-1 against the Magic and a 22-14-1 in a loss to the Heat. But with Kemba Walker slated to miss some time, you’ll be seeing more games like the 35-point outburst last week against the Knicks and maybe a couple less boards per. Use your streamer dudes accordingly.
Joakim Noah – I get it. Just like me and everyone else in the world who doesn’t root for the Bulls, you hate Joakim Noah. But if you had him on your fantasy team you’d be stroking his sweaty pony tail. He’s been going bonkers since Chicago shipped away his best buddy Luol Deng, swatting shots and getting near or above that sweet spot of 16-plus boards almost on the regular.
Serge Ibaka – Been a Boards-N-Blocks stud lately, including a 21-15-5 on Jan. 16 in Houston. He’s scoring, too – last night he put up his third straight 20 point game. Well-known guy on mega-popular franchise playing above his head because a guy (Russell Westbrook) is injured = potential trade bait.
Little Big Man of the Week – Goran Dragic. Averaging 7 rpg over his last four, including 10 rebounds and a block to go along with seven assists and 18 points against the Lakers on Jan. 15. Did I mention that he’s a 6-3 point guard? And that his name is Goran? Isn’t that some little turd on “Lord of the Rings” or some other geeky movie? Wait, what? Fantasy basketball is geeky? Oh, yeah. Anyway, some real advice here: After dismissing him as some novelty floor general in Jeff Hornacek’s wacky offense, I’m starting to think he’s for real. He’s a buy, especially with Eric Bledsoe’s return still iffy.