Ankles can be a tricky thing. I severely sprained my left ankle playing basketball as a freshman in college and it’s never been the same. Once out of every five times I play I wind up twisting it to varying degrees. Occasionally, I’ll step off a curb or onto an uneven piece of ground and it’ll give out.
But enough about me. There are more important ankles at stake after the news Tuesday that Dallas swingman Josh Howard and Sacramento guard Kevin Martin will both be out indefinitely with ankle injuries.
Indefinitely is the term teams use when they literally don’t know what the fuck is going to happen. It’s a term fantasy owners never want associated with any of their players. Sometimes, indefinitely turns out to be a week. Other times, you’re Googling a player’s name for months on end praying for any positive news (see Dunleavy, Mike).
Either way, two of the top 70 fantasy players going down for a while causes a great deal of fallout, not just for their owners but for the players who have suddenly increased in value.
Howard is the Mavericks’ second-leading scorer at 20.3 points per game and his absence has left a gaping hole behind Dirk Nowitzki offensively.
Clearly the player to benefit most from the prolonged absence of Howard is Puerto Rican guard Jose Juan Barea. If you gambled on Barea despite what seemed like Howard’s imminent return, you’re a winner. If he’s still on your leagues waiver wire, grab him ASAP.
Barea eclipsed 20 points for the second consecutive game in a victory over the Spurs on Tuesday. He is averaging 16.5 points and 4.3 assists in his last four games while shooting 54 percent (30-of-56) from the floor and 80 percent (12-of-15) from the line.
Barea has never shown the ability to shoot at these levels in the NBA (.418 career FG%), but he has never really gotten enough playing time either. I’m not completely sold on Barea long term, but he’ll continue to get around 30 minutes per game while Howard his out and that’s enough reason for him to be 100 percent owned.
More importantly, there seems to be no one deeper on the roster capable of playing much better and the Mavs are 7-2 without Howard. The Puerto Rican formula seems to be working.
Jason Terry has also benefited from Howard’s injury and is having a resurgent season after a disappointing 2007-08 campaign. He is averaging 24 points per game in the his last eight and a career high 20.2 for the season.
Terry could have recently been considered a “sell high” candidate since he was only averaging 17 points per game while Howard was healthy. But he remains a very strong option while Howard remains sidelined, although his scoring numbers have dropped slightly as Barea has emerged.
Not much else changes for the Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki’s numbers have been consistently brilliant with or without Howard, Jason Kidd is a nightly triple-double threat and Erick Dampier is about as consistent as your grandfather’s bowel movements.
Owners of Barea and Terry are the big winners here and are probably rooting for the Howard injury to linger.
Martin’s return is far more painful for most fantasy owners, who drafted him in the top 30 as a premiere source of points and FT%. He is the primary scorer on a terrible team and able to shoot as he pleases. Surely, a big fantasy season was in store.
Martin originally injured his left ankle on November 9. He missed nearly a month and returned for two games last week (scoring 30 points combined) but the injury still has not healed.
If Martin’s absence is a lengthy one, those who stuck with John Salmons will reap the benefits. It’s not a complicated formula:
With Martin in the lineup, Salmons averages 17.3 points per game (and this was before the return of Francisco Garcia)
Without Martin in the lineup: Salmons averages 20.4 points per game.
Salmons is not a great player, but as long as he gets the ball in his hands consistently, he can put up strong fantasy numbers. With Martin out, he may be getting the ball quite a bit for quite a while and will post some monster lines.
Garcia is arguably a more valuable player than Salmons when the Kings are fully healthy. After a calf injury kept him out of the first 17 games of the season, he has slowly rounded into shape.
Garcia has reached double figures in each of his last three games and poured a season-high 21 points in a season high 36 minutes on Tuesday. He can provide a boost in 3-pointers and FT% and will be a solid scoring threat.
The value of Sacramento’s big men should not change much, with Brad Miller still providing solid all-around stats and perhaps shooting a bit more. Spencer Hawes has been solid with or without Martin and won’t be relied on to pick up much offensive slack.
There are virtually no candidates to emerge from the Kings shoddy bench, just a bump in value for the team’s starters, who now have to carry the extra load.
Case in point: Sacramento’s five starters each got at least 29 minutes in Tuesday’s shocking win over the Lakers while no one came off the bench for more than 18 minutes.
Howard injury winners: Barea, Terry
Martin injury winners: Salmons, Garcia