- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
It's a helpless feeling in fantasy sports when a key player -- especially a really key player -- just stops playing, for whatever reason. Dwyane Wade owners certainly aren't pleased today, but the truth is, the reason the Heat shut him down was because the team has a lame 11 wins in mid-March. Does that make it worse in fantasy, that he could have kept performing? Fantasy owners might not pay any attention to the real-life standings, but in this case, they were wholly appropriate to why a guy still playing terrific ball was shut down.
Imagine if the Lakers and Nuggets were going nowhere, we'd be pointing our fingers at the dinged-up digits on Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson. Bryant is playing through the torn ligament in his right pinkie, while we found out Monday that Iverson has a small fracture on the tip of his right ring finger. Don't panic, he's playing through it and should suffer no major decrease in production. Then again, the Nuggets have to remain in the playoff race. In the case of Yao Ming, there was no choice. Broken legs don't get played on in the NBA. Yao isn't Jack Youngblood, the Rams defensive end who once played an NFC title game and Super Bowl with a leg stress fracture.
Being lottery-bound has everything to do with a player's motivation in this case, but there's no questioning the fantasy owner's motivation. We need the players out there to get the stats! I got to thinking while writing Wade's fantasy spin Monday that he wasn't really an indispensable fantasy player. Yeah, it stinks he's gone, but a free-agent point guard can get back the hard-to-find stats, so the points are the main loss. Losing Iverson would hurt a fantasy team more, since he does more in points, assists, steals, threes, you name it.
I got to thinking, after the really big names, who are the indispensable players a fantasy team can least afford to lose? We're hoping they remain healthy, of course, especially the first guy with the history of, um, troubles, but here's the best way I can describe this: I lost Wade in a league Monday and didn't throw a fit. If I lose one of these guys, all of whom I do have in at least one league, I might. We leave out the obvious names, like LeBron James, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Who would have thought these players would be so critical to fantasy this season?
Marcus Camby, C, Nuggets: I don't think it's particularly tough to find scoring on the waiver wire, and really, it's one of those categories that is already decided in most roto leagues or won't fluctuate much in head-to-head playoffs. Camby is not a good shooter -- from anywhere -- and doesn't score much, so maybe you haven't noticed that the guy is the No. 8 star on our Player Rater for the season. Camby is second in the NBA in rebounding, and so far ahead in blocked shots (nearly one per game over Josh Smith) that losing him at this point of the season would destroy a fantasy team. I see Dirk Nowitzki at No. 7 on our Rater, then Camby, and it's not even close whose loss would cripple a fantasy team more. Hopefully Camby can stay healthy; he's missed only three games all season.
Hedo Turkoglu, SG/SF, Magic: The threes and shooting guard eligibility make the difference. Nothing against the 19.6 points per game, but how many players can deliver a pair of threes per game to go with 6.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists. What this Turkish sensation is doing this season is terrific, and if you lost him now, with all he does, it would really hurt.
Rashard Lewis, PF, Magic: I was tempted to place Jason Richardson here since he's the guy leading the NBA in 3-pointers made, but are you aware Lewis is just three behind him? The best part is, J-Rich, R-Lew and Peja Stojakovic are the only three players in the association with 150 or more 3-pointers, so they really stand alone. Richardson is a nice player, of course, averaging 20 points per game, and he does it from the shooting guard spot. Stojakovic is a small forward but not an all-around great fantasy option. Even the free-throw percentage can't carry you when he still hasn't gotten to the line 100 times this season. Lewis is a power forward. How many power forwards hit 3-pointers? For the record, only two PF-eligible players have topped 100 threes, with Al Harrington joining Lewis. If Lewis were to get hurt, fantasy owners wouldn't be able to replace that position with anyone like him.
Gerald Wallace, SF, Bobcats: This one has hurt. Wallace has appeared in only four games since the New Year, shooting 26 percent from the field (including a memorable 0-for-9 contest), so basically this guy hasn't helped fantasy owners since December. The rumor is Wallace is no longer feeling ill effects from a concussion, though, and could return on Wednesday. This is great news for fantasy owners, who are missing 20.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals and more than a block and 3-pointer per game. He's a terrific all-around fantasy option, and fantasy owners missed him.
It's a helpless feeling in fantasy sports when a key player -- especially a really key player -- just stops playing, for whatever reason. Dwyane Wade owners certainly aren't pleased today, but the truth is, the reason the Heat shut him down was because the team has a lame 11 wins in mid-March.