First Howard, now Big Baby?
Dwight Howard owners were dealt a crushing blow this weekend with the news that he's got a herniated disk in his back and will rest for 10 days before evaluating whether or not he'll return this season. Stan Van Gundy and the Magic are preparing to play the rest of the season and the playoffs without him, and fantasy owners should be as well, as there's a significant chance he won't return, especially during the regular season. If you have a spare roster spot, hold onto him, as even just a few games of Howard is worth it. If not, I'd say you can feel free to cut bait, as many fantasy owners already have. He's been dropped in 17.7 percent of leagues, and it's hard to believe he'll have much if any impact upon the regular season.
The obvious replacement is Glen Davis, who is averaging 15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game in nine starts this season, but Davis left Sunday's game with a hyperextended knee. Hopefully it's a minor issue and he'll be able to capitalize upon Howard's absence; if he's back soon, Davis is worth a roster spot in every format, since he'd continue to soak up the majority of Howard's minutes. But if Davis misses time, things get thin quickly in the middle for Orlando. Earl Clark, who scored 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting with Davis playing just seven minutes on Sunday, and Daniel Orton, who had 11 points, four boards, five steals and three blocks in 29 minutes, would be the beneficiaries of Davis joining Howard on the sideline for an extended period of time. Orton has the upside, as he was one-and-done at Kentucky, then hurt his knee in the D-League last year as a rookie and didn't play any NBA games. The five steals and three blocks show his potential, and if Davis is also going to miss time, deep-leaguers can grab Orton if you need defense, and Clark if you need offense.
• Delonte West scored 20 points on Sunday, right after dropping 21 points, seven assists and three steals in 44 minutes on Friday, both as a starter for the Mavs. West's skill set is fantastic for fantasy, as he can score as well as get assists, steals and 3-pointers. He's averaging 12.5 points per game in April, his highest of any month this season, and looks to be a critical cog for the defending champs down the stretch. If you need help in the aformentioned statistical categories, with nice field goal percentage thrown in, West is a worthy addition.
• Goran Dragic had his lowest scoring output in more than a month on Sunday, with 12 points to go along with six assists, two steals and a 3-pointer in the Rockets' loss to Denver. Still, he's been unreal since stepping in for Kyle Lowry, averaging 18.1 points, 8.5 assists, 1.8 3s and 1.9 steals per game in 22 starts. Those are borderline first-round fantasy pick numbers, as his No. 3 ranking on the 30-day Player Rater illustrates, and he'll be one of the hottest topics this offseason. He's set to be a free agent, and will likely sign somewhere he can be the starter. Based upon his starting numbers in Houston, he'll undoubtedly be worth an early pick, but just how early? My guess is that fantasy owners will be gun shy given the fact that this stint of productivity is such a small sample size, so I'm writing myself a note and putting it in an envelope marked "do not open until fantasy hoops draft day 2012." In it will read "draft Goran Dragic," with his stat line as a starter underneath.
Luke Ridnour hasn't played since April 4, and should remain sidelined, which means more big games from Jose Juan Barea. Barea has rolled off a string of three consectutive double-doubles, including 24 points, 10 assists, three 3s and three steals on Saturday, and is a must-start with Ridnour's return to the team this season in question. Jose Calderon is unlikely to play on Monday due to his eye injury, so Ben Uzoh is a short-term replacement, after he put up 10 points, three assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block in 26 minutes in Sunday night's contest. Calderon is day-to-day, so don't expect him to be out much longer, but is looking like a no-go for Monday, so adjust your roster accordingly.