Gasol's return will hurt value of Bynum, Odom
Tim Duncan, Spurs: 21 points (including 7-of-8 from the free throw line), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block and 1 steal versus the Jazz.|
Peja Stojakovic, Hornets: 25 points (7-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc) and 13 rebounds against the Suns.
Pau Gasol, Lakers: 24 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block versus the Bulls.
Andrew Bynum, Lakers: 11 points (5-of-12 shooting), 8 rebounds, 1 block and 2 turnovers in 24 minutes versus the Bulls.|
Luol Deng, Bulls: 6 points (3-of-11 shooting), 6 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 1 steal and zero assists in 36 minutes against the Lakers.
David West, Hornets: 6 points (2-of-11 shooting), 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 fouls in 29 minutes versus the Suns.
The only silver lining that Pau Gasol owners could find in his perpetual "day-to-day" injury status was that when he returned, he'd probably be pretty darn healthy. After posting a team-high 24 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and one block in his return, Gasol provided a huge sigh of relief for those who selected him with a late first- or early second-round pick.
Of course, the biggest question was not what Gasol would do once he returned, but rather how the other members of the Los Angeles Lakers' frontcourt would be impacted. To that end, fantasy owners are kicking themselves: Andrew Bynum logged just 24 minutes, scoring 11 points on 12 shots, while Lamar Odom logged less than 26 minutes off the bench. However, things weren't all bad; this was the first game Bynum ran into foul trouble, with four of them in his 24 minutes, which was as much of a reason for his limited minutes as Gasol's return. It's still a positive sign that Bynum was heavily involved in the offense when he was in, with 12 shots. And the nice thing about Gasol is that, even when he's on fire, he doesn't use up many possessions: his 24 points came on 9-of-15 shooting and a 6-of-6 mark from the free throw line.
That said, there still must be some concern for Bynum owners who didn't sell high on him before this game. Bynum is going to have to find another way to get some points, namely the free throw line: Despite averaging 19 points in more than 37 minutes per game this season, he's averaging only 4.8 free throw attempts after going 1-for-2 from the charity stripe Thursday. Considering Bynum's size and talent, that is nearly unacceptable; an extra two points per game from the free throw line would do a lot to ward off any possible lack of touches caused by Gasol's return. Owners of Lamar Odom (11 points in 26 minutes), however, only wish the solution were so simple.
Browsing the Box Scores
• With 15 more rebounds on Thursday, Joakim Noah now has double-digit rebounds in eight consecutive games. He's averaging an obscene 4.6 offensive rebounds per game, looking extremely motivated and active on the court. A much-improved foul rate has allowed him to stay on the court to log 30-plus minutes consistently for the first time in his career. If there was still any doubt, the fact that Noah was able to leave his mark -- he also chipped in four assists, four steals and two blocks -- on the best frontcourt in basketball should confirm that he is the real deal, and an early front-runner for the NBA Most Improved Player Award. Congratulations to Noah, and anyone lucky enough to own him.
• John Salmons shot the ball well (7-for-13 from the field, 3-of-5 from beyond the arc) for the second consecutive game, but it's the lack of peripheral stats that makes him overrated in fantasy leagues: He added just three assists, two rebounds and zero steals or blocks in 29 minutes. With the Chicago Bulls' balanced attack on offense, and the unlikelihood of Salmons' repeating last season's sharpshooting, see if you can use Salmons' recent improvement -- or any future big game -- to sell him off to some unsuspecting sucker.
• We may have to add Darren Collison to the list of impact rookie point guards soon, as the diminutive player out of UCLA looks like he could be a decent fill-in for Chris Paul the next couple of weeks. Collison was not shy in his third start, hoisting 15 shots -- some ill-advised -- in 32 minutes Thursday. But on a team that will struggle for an offensive identity without its best player, it's a good sign that Collison is not shy. He's active on the defensive end, too (six steals in his past four games) and managed to get to the line six times versus the Phoenix Suns while chipping in five assists. Deeper leagues should be all over him.
• The monster game by Peja Stojakovic (25 points -- including seven 3-pointers -- on 9-of-19 shooting) deserves a mention, and if you're in need of 3-pointers, he certainly looks like a nice pickup. But keep in mind his chronic back woes likely will make it tough for him to log heavy minutes on a consistent basis. And while his 13 rebounds were a nice surprise, he's usually the definition of a one-trick pony.
Although news is that Andrew Bogut will be out for two to four weeks with a leg contusion, don't expect any specific Milwaukee Bucks player to carve fantasy value out of the situation. General manager John Hammond suggested Bogut would be replaced by "committee." Hakim Warrick is probably the best bet to make an impact, but investing in Warrick is often fool's gold. Another side effect of Bogut's injury? Keep an eye on opposing centers versus the Bucks; last season without Bogut, the Bucks were a defensive sieve against centers. The Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns and especially the Golden State Warriors are the five teams allowing opponents to shoot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc. That should be a boon to any 3-point shooters on the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers, each of whom has a matchup with one of the aforementioned teams. Other fantasy-friendly matchups include the Bucks-Grizzlies, Kings-Rockets and Hawks-Hornets (all on Saturday). On the flip side, unfriendly box scores should include contests between the Celtics-Magic, Bobcats-Bucks, Celtics-Knicks (unfriendly for the Knicks, anyway) and Hornets-Heat, which are all contests between teams who don't push the ball much, have elite defenses, or both. Udonis Haslem (shoulder), Quentin Richardson (back), Mehmet Okur (flu, although probable), Tony Parker (ankle), Manu Ginobili (groin; doubtful), LeBron James (wrist; probable), Troy Murphy (back), Devin Harris (groin; probable), Marcus Camby (back) and Andres Nocioni (hip) are considered day-to-day heading into the weekend.