Fantasy Basketball: Varajeo or Gasol

January, 3, 2009

News that Zydrunas Ilgauskas would miss 3-4 weeks with a bone chip in his ankle should have sent owners scrambling to grab Anderson Varejao off the wire. If you didn't get to him before Friday's game, you missed out on a brilliant 26-point, eight-rebound, three-steal performance against Chicago's depleted frontcourt. Given Varejao's fantastic per minute production, there is no doubt that he is a more than capable replacement for both the Cavs and your fantasy team. In fact, counting the three games Big Z missed in mid-December, Varejao is now averaging 16.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 0.5 blocks with Ilgauskas out of the lineup. Clearly Varejao is going to be a huge addition for rebounds and steals while Zydrunas is on the mend, so get out there and hit the wire before your leaguemates beat you to the punch.

Varejao isn't the only big man benefiting from an injury. Has anyone checked out Marc Gasol's stats with Darko Milicic on the shelf? He's been on fire and he did it again on Friday with 15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and a block against a tough San Antonio defense. Gasol is now averaging an impressive 14.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and a steal in 35.4 minutes over his past five games. With Darko on the shelf for 4-6 weeks, Gasol should continue to log heavy minutes and put up big numbers.

If faced with an option to choose between Gasol or Varejao, I'd grab Gasol first without much thought. Not only is Darko expected to miss more time than Ilgauskas, but the Grizzlies should continue to give Gasol extended playing time after Darko returns. The same cannot be said for Varejao. With the Cavs battling for home-court advantage in the East, Big Z will slide back into the starting lineup as soon as he's at full strength. The Grizzlies won't be playing for much by that time, and since they view Gasol as their center of the future, they'd be crazy to limit his playing time down the stretch.

Under the boards

Rodney Stuckey had another huge night with 38 points, four rebounds, seven assists and two steals in a victory over the Kings. He got some extra looks with Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Antonio McDyess out of action, but we can't take anything away from Stuckey; the kid is a flat-out stud. … Paul Millsap is back with 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. That's pretty much business as usual for Millsap, who has been one of the best (if not the best) fantasy power forwards with Carlos Boozer out. That's right, Millsap is averaging 18.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game as a starter. … Kevin Love continued his roller-coaster season with 19 points and eight rebounds against the hapless Warriors on Friday. Consistency is not his strong suit, but he should be able to stabilize once Kevin McHale decides to give him a steady 30-plus minutes per night. … With Jermaine O'Neal out, Andrea Bargnani put up 19 points, five rebounds, two 3-pointers and a block. Bargnani will produce with O'Neal out, but will return to his inconsistent self once O'Neal returns. … Jose Calderon left Friday's game with a hamstring injury after just 12 minutes. In his absence, Will Solomon had eight points, seven assists and three steals. Solomon was solid with Calderon out earlier in the year, so consider him if Calderon's injury turns out to be serious. … What in the world is wrong with Josh Howard these days? He's scoring all right, but the rest of his numbers have tailed off big time. Howard is averaging 17.2 points and 1.7 3-pointers but has managed just 2.3 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks this month. He barely even put the ball in the basket Friday with just 10 points, seven rebounds and a block on the night. … Go ahead and close the door on Tyrus Thomas, again. Drew Gooden could return as early as Saturday, and T2 managed just seven points, six rebounds and three steals in a foul-plagued performance on Friday. … Eric Gordon continued his torrid pace on Friday with 21 points, three steals and two 3-pointers in a loss to the Suns. Gordon looks to have hit his stride and remains a quality addition in all fantasy leagues for his points, 3s and steals. … Charlie Villanueva decided to tease us again with 27 points, five rebounds, two 3-pointers and a block on Friday. We've seen plenty of nights like this before, so don't be fooled by Charlie's big night. … Jarrett Jack torched the Knicks for 29 points, three steals and four 3-pointers on Friday. It's not all that tough to go off against the Knicks, but it is important to note that Jack has now posted back-to-back 20-plus point scoring games. … Rumor has it that Mike Dunleavy could return in about a "week or so." There are no guarantees with Dunleavy, but go ahead and pick him up if someone dropped him in your league.



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