Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Don’t Be Fooled … Or Do.

One of the things that we preach here pretty consistently at fantasy basketblog is to be very, very aware of the past when choosing who to put on your roster. This is particularly true when it comes to injuries. You’re not going to see anyone feeling bad for you when Baron Davis misses 50 games this year (DM I’m looking at you), or when Marcus Camby sits on your bench, gets 8 blocks, then sits out a game when you put him into your starting lineup. When you get these players on your team, you get them at a discount, and for good reason.

Nonetheless, it can occasionally be worth your while to take that risk. A great example is Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who after a solid rookie campaign played only 5 games in 1998, missed the whole 1999 campaign, and played in just 24 games in 2000. After playing a decent 62 games in 2001 – but getting only 21 minutes a game – Z was hardly a guy that fantasy players were clamoring for. But over the last 2 and a half seasons, Big Z has missed only 2 games, and has turned into one of the top centers in the league. Whoever took a chance on him in 2002, and again in 2003, probably got him at a great discount.

The reason that I bring this up, of course, is because of the recent play of 2 oft-injured stars – Vince Carter and Chris Webber. As I mentioned in yesterday’s New! Updated! Top 20!, I traded Chris Webber about a month ago, because I wasn’t willing to take the risk any longer. However, the guy who has him now is certainly reaping the benefits of taking that risk. Meanwhile, whoever had Vince Carter sitting on the IL when he got traded to New Jersey is enjoying an unexpected run of awesome games for Air Jersey. Nonetheless, both of these guys are still injury risks. Who’s more likely to close the year strong? Let’s take a look:

Vince Carter’s injury history is fairly well documented. If it’s on his leg – a quadricep, an achilles, a hamstring, a knee, whatever – he’s hurt it. However, it’s also true that the change of scenery has brought Carter out of his funk. His 26 points with the Nets are the highest he’s averaged since the year 2000. His 5 assists are the highest he’s averaged, period. He’s shooting better from the field, from the arc, from everywhere. Still, he left last night’s game in the final minute after tweaking his ankle, and will probably miss tonight’s showdown with Sacramento.

Even with tonight’s game in doubt, I think Vince is in for a nice final third of the year. He’s motivated, he’s got the best passer in the game in Jason Kidd to feed him the ball, and for the first time in years, he’s excited to be playing the game. Even if you don’t approve of his not giving 100% in Toronto, you do have to take it into consideration when trying to figure out how strong Carter will be come the end of March. My prediction for Carter: He’ll play in 27 of the final 30 games.

Chris Webber is a tougher call. Despite the fact that the Kings lost Vlade in the offseason, lost Bobby Jackson mid-season, and have pretty much no bench to speak of, the Kings have just as good a chance of finally cracking into the Finals this year. Thanks to the crumbling of the Lakers and T-Wolves, and the new Western Elite playing no defense whatsoever besides San Antonio, the Kings could be looking at a nice playoff run. All they have to do is stay healthy.

HA!

Ok, now, really, that’s just not going to happen. Between Webber and Peja, and now occasionally Cuttino Mobley, the Kings are used to playing short-handed. Webber missed 4 consecutive games a couple weeks ago to bring his total missed games level to 8. He hasn’t missed fewer than 12 games since 1999 and I wouldn’t expect that streak to end this year. All of his missed games have come as a result of his knees, which aren’t getting any younger. At least he’ll get to rest during the All-Star break, but right after the break they head out east for a 6 games in 9 days road trip. My prediction for Webber: He’ll play in 23 of the final 30 games.

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