- Joe Kaiser, Fantasy, Insider
Can John Henson take advantage of increased minutes?
While Henson started the season as a backup, anyone who drafted him knew that the promising second-year forward was only an injury away from cracking the starting lineup. Fast-forward to today, and the Bucks are the most injured team in the NBA, with news coming out Monday that starting center Larry Sanders (thumb) will miss the next six weeks and starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) is likely out for the Bucks' upcoming three-game road trip. And we didn't even mention Carlos Delfino (foot), who will miss the rest of the season.
That means big minutes for Henson this week, and possibly in the weeks to follow -- that part will depend on how coach Larry Drew adjusts his frontcourt rotation once Ilyasova returns.
So what can you expect out of Henson? Remember, this is the same guy who put up a 17-point, 25-rebound, 7-block performance late last season against Orlando as a rookie. Or is it? Henson's minutes have doubled to just over 26 MPG in his second season, and while his block and assist rates have kept pace, his rebounding and scoring haven't. The lanky 6-foot-11 forward is pulling down only 8.1 rebounds per 40 minutes this season after posting a 14.4 per 40 mark as a rook, and his scoring is down from 18.4 to 16.2 per 40. One of the reasons for that could be the that the Bucks have slowed down considerably from last season, going from the third-highest pace in the league in 2012-13 (97.3 possessions per game) to the third-lowest this year (94.2).
Five games is a small sample size, and Henson could very well return to his old ways. But if these trends continue this week, it might indicate that while Henson's starting role makes him a nice option in the short term (he's averaged 11 PPG, 7 RPG, 1.5 BPG in the last two games with Ilyasova out), he may not quite be ready to be the fantasy force some (pointing at myself) projected him to be in 2013-14, even with a bigger role.
Who benefits statistically in Steve Nash's absence?
The injury bug won’t go away for the 40-year-old Nash, which isn’t all that surprising given that he’s the oldest point guard in the NBA; his latest back woes will keep him out of the lineup for at least two weeks.
That’s sure to alter the fantasy value of several players in the Lakers' rotation, most notably Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks. The Lakers will slide Blake from the 2 to the 1 and insert Meeks into the starting lineup for Tuesday night’s tilt with New Orleans, coach Mike D'Antoni told the Los Angeles Times.
He also indicated that he doesn’t want to determine his starters on a night-to-night basis, per Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
"I don't want to do that," D'Antoni said. "I want to get set starters and set rotation and everybody feel comfortable with their roles."
For Blake, who has shot poorly so far in the young season but still has managed to sink 2.6 3-pointers a game while playing alongside Nash, you can expect his assist numbers to rise and his 3-point attempts to decline in the weeks ahead. Even if his minutes (he's averaging 31.3 so far in 2013-14) stay about the same, he’ll have to play more of the role of facilitator while running the point.
Meeks, who enters Tuesday averaging 26.4 MPG, could see a good bump in his minutes, depending on how D’Antoni uses him and Wesley Johnson in the rotation. So far this season, Meeks (66.3 true shooting percentage) has been a much more efficient shooter than Johnson (41.7). In fact, Meeks’ true shooting percentage ranks No. 19 in all the NBA while Johnson is all the way down at No. 268. Meeks is historically not much of a factor in terms of assists or steals, but he can be counted on for about 15 points and 2 3-pointers a game until Nash (or Kobe Bryant) returns.
Look for the production of Johnson and backup point guard Jordan Farmar to remain unchanged in the weeks ahead.
Is Timofey Mozgov worth your attention?
What is it with Denver’s backup centers? In deeper fantasy leagues, they seem to always keep your attention. The last few seasons, that honor went to Kosta Koufos, and this year the torch has been passed to Mozgov, who was earning more playing time than JaVale McGee even before it was discovered that McGee had a stress fracture in his left tibia.
“…McGee was off to an extremely slow start, averaging just 7.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 16.0 minutes per game prior to the injury,” ESPN contributor Brian McKitish wrote on Monday, listing McGee as one of the players whose stock has fallen most in the opening weeks of the season. “That's not a lot of minutes for a guy whom the Nuggets were supposedly committed to prior to the season. There is no timetable on McGee's return, and his owners should probably wait a few days before deciding whether to drop the talented but inconsistent big man.”
As it turns out, waiting hasn’t been the preferred choice for most fantasy owners. In fact McGee, who is out indefinitely, was the most dropped player of the last seven days in ESPN leagues.
The race to acquire Mozgov hasn’t been quite as fast and furious, however. He’s still owned in less than 1 percent of ESPN leagues. The best thing to do here could be to wait and see how things play out for a couple games. For as big and mobile as Mozgov is, he’s never been quite the scorer or rebounder that Koufos was in his days with the Nuggets. Over the past three seasons, Koufos averaged about 12-14 points and 12-13 rebounds per 40 minutes, while Mozgov was slightly lower with points and in the 9-12 range with rebounds.
Mozgov didn’t even start Monday in Denver’s first game without McGee in the lineup, playing only 19 minutes, as coach Brian Shaw elected to go with J.J. Hickson as the starting center. If that continues, Mozgov isn't worthy of a pickup.
Bumps and bruises