Taj Gibson worth owning again
Unfortunately for the Bulls (and for fantasy owners everywhere), it appears Joakim Noah will miss the next 8-10 weeks recovering from surgery on his thumb. Noah is currently 27th on the Player Rater and, to no one's surprise, is having the best season of his short career, so this is a major injury in the basketball world. While the Bulls -- with newly healthy Carlos Boozer -- are certainly good enough to stay in the playoff picture without Noah, the fantasy ramifications are pretty significant.
For one thing, Taj Gibson just became pretty important again. He had faded away in December after averaging 10.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in November, but he's going to start playing a lot again now that Noah's out.
The Bulls will also have to rely on backup center Omer Asik. As it stands now, there is no reason to be optimistic about this, but if Asik starts playing 25-plus minutes per game, the fact that he's 7 feet tall will probably get him enough blocks and rebounds to be a consideration in some fantasy leagues.
It will be most interesting, though, to see whether the Bulls need to change stylistically. The Bulls are third in defensive efficiency and right around the league average offensively. As good as Gibson is on the defensive end, he's not Noah; however, unlike Noah, Gibson can step outside and make an 18-foot jump shot, and he's not a disaster on post-ups the way Noah is, either. It's certainly possible that the Bulls' defense suffers while their offense improves, and that makes them far more intriguing as an opponent. At the very least, I would say you don't need to worry about benching guys against them for the next couple of months.
Marcus Thornton (finally!) played 24 very intriguing minutes in the Hornets' win against the Kings on Wednesday night. He finished with 19 points, four assists and two 3-pointers -- a line that he put up on many occasions last season, as you may remember. Perhaps the Hornets are realizing they have a very good shooting guard just sitting on their bench. I don't like to recommend picking up a guy based on one night, but since New Orleans guards Marco Belinelli, Willie Green and Jarrett Jack were all healthy, this could be a great sign for Thornton. It is good to know that the resurgent Knicks are still allowing teams to put up enormous numbers against them. Wednesday night's beneficiary was Paul Pierce, who finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 10-for-18 from the floor and making all 10 of his free throws. Spencer Hawes has been playing pretty well of late for the surprisingly decent 76ers, and since coach Doug Collins seems to have forgotten that Marreese Speights is on his roster, Hawes will probably get every opportunity to continue. He had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks against the Clippers, and is now averaging a very fantasy-worthy 12.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in his past five games. Carlos Boozer had one of the craziest lines in recent memory, finishing with 34 points and 12 rebounds in just 26 minutes of action for the Bulls against -- who else? -- the Raptors. There might still be the occasional dud out of Boozer, but it would appear he's fitting in pretty seamlessly, given that the Bulls have now won seven straight games. Joey Dorsey had a great night out of nowhere for the Raptors (12 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks), but I need to see another one before I drop anyone important from my roster for him. Amazingly, the Heat's nine-game streak of double-digit wins ended in Miami against the Cavs, but Miami still pulled out a 101-95 victory for its 10th straight win. Heat point guard Mario Chalmers got the start for Carlos Arroyo, who was out due to a death in the family, and Chalmers managed 14 points (including four 3-pointers), three rebounds and four assists. Still, as long as Arroyo is shooting better than 50 percent on 3s, it's probably going to be hard to supplant him from the lineup. O.J. Mayo had another nice game off the bench for the Grizzlies, and it's hard to imagine that he's not getting his confidence back. He scored 24 points in 24 minutes against the Bobcats, and considering how little Xavier Henry produced in the starting lineup, Mayo's fantasy prospects are finally looking up again.
Rajon Rondo did return after spraining his ankle against the Knicks, but when it happened he had to be helped off the court. Keep in mind that he could be limited (if he plays) Thursday night against the Hawks. With Anthony Morrow out for the next two weeks or so and Terrence Williams recently traded away from the Nets, it would seem that Travis Outlaw will get enough minutes to be fantasy-worthy. He is certainly worth getting into your lineup against the Wizards. Chauncey Billups will also miss the next few games for the Nuggets, and while the Spurs are still a very good defensive team, it's probably a really good night to get Ty Lawson into your lineup.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.