While we are just a couple weeks away from the All-Star break, the season has already taken its toll on some players.
One group that has seemed to be hit especially hard this season by the injury bug has been the big men. Big man after big man has gone down, their fragile yet massive bodies unable to heal from the continual punishment taken on a nightly basis.
Some have recently returned from injury; others continue to fall. Some players have just flat-out been big letdowns.
In today's "NBA Fantasy Filler No. 5," we take a look at all of these. Lets just hope no one gets hurt in the process.
Big Men Back
Kendrick Perkins, C, Boston Celtics
Perkins played his first game back today, and couldn't have chosen a better time. Playing against a soft, small Cleveland Cavaliers team, Perkins played an easy 17 minutes, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds in the process.
He reminded the NBA of what the Celtics can do with an aggressive big man back on the court. And if there's one thing Perkins is, it's aggressive.
One of the greatest assets Kendrick Perkins brings to the Boston Celtics is his high energy on the court. Constantly going after loose balls and offensive rebounds, Perkins' non-stop hustle causes problems for opponents on both ends of the court.
While he isn't the tallest center by any means, his wide body and low center of gravity makes it difficult for opposing centers to back him down. On offense, Perkins is more agile than most big men, enabling him to grab the loose balls, set the high screen and roll out for the open shot, and move around opposing centers for the offensive rebound.
With Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal sharing time on the bench, Perkins' arrival has come just in time for the Celtics. No doubt, his services will be invaluable.
Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks
Hawks fans are eagerly awaiting Horford's return to the lineup. If anything, he chose a great time to get hurt, if that could ever be said.
Since his injury last Tuesday against the Heat, the Hawks have only played two games; however, their loss to New Orleans showed just how much his presence was missed, losing 59-100.
Horford is an absolutely pivotal part of this Hawks' lineup. Averaging 16.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game this season, Horford has quickly grown into a solid, dominant center.
Like Perkins, Horford doesn't overwhelm opposing big men with his height. Instead, he uses his agility to gain the upper hand. He is also extremely efficient on offense, shooting 56 percent from the field, and also gets a respectable 3.4 assists per game for a big man.
It may take some time for Horford to return to form. While ankle sprains make life difficult for any player, it is especially rough on agile big men who make a living moving their massive bodies explosively to get in position.
Horford is due to return tonight against the Milwaukee. In any case, it should be an easy return from him, as well.
Big Men Down
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, Portland Trailblazers
The Portland Trailblazers have already lost Brandon Roy for the year. So when LaMarcus Aldridge went down on Monday with a hip contusion, fans were left wondering, "What next?"
The Trailblazers are as short as they can be on big men, losing Greg Oden early on for the season, and with Marcus Camby still out after knee surgery for another three weeks.
In fact, they have four guys on the roster recovering from knee surgeries. Four. Something in Portland must be messing up their joints.
While it's not likely Portland will be contending for the championships, they are still on the cut-off for the playoffs as the No. 8 seed out of the West. And though it may mean much to "just make the playoffs" for teams like the Lakers or the Spurs, for a struggling team like Portland, any small success is a huge victory.
Aldridge has taken the team on his back and carried them into the No. 8 spot thus far. With career highs in both points and rebounds (21.1 PTS, 8.8 REBS) per game, Aldridge has taken his game to an entirely different level.
While his return is listed as probable for Thursday's game against Boston, Monday's loss to the horrible Kings was just further display of how the Blazers not only need Aldridge to win, but a healthy Aldridge.
Chris Bosh, PF/C, Miami Heat
Chris Bosh had been rolling since coming off a slow start to begin the season, finding his role with the trio of stars in Miami. All of that progress came to a halt in a loss to the Chicago Bulls, as he suffered a high-ankle sprain.
With Dwayne Wade also out suffering from migraines, LeBron James has been left alone to lead the Heat. Something tells me he's been in that situation before.
Chris Bosh's absence from the court is not only significant because of the loss of his production on a nightly basis, but because of the amount of the payroll that he commands.
Three players on the Heat command almost 66 percent of the entire payroll, Chris Bosh being one of them. As a result, every minute he is off the floor is a minute played by someone paid a tenth of his salary. No doubt, his replacement has just a tenth of his talent as well.
Due back in one to two weeks, the Heat eagerly await his return. While they have struggled at times with all three All-Stars on the court, they have looked absolutely abhorrent at times with one of them missing.
Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs
Let me be upfront in saying Tim Duncan was not out for long.
Collapsing in pain in the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors, Duncan gave everyone a scare on his way to the locker room. However, both Spurs fans and Duncan fantasy owners gave a sigh of relief as he made his way to the court, ready to start the third quarter.
The Spurs have been on an absolute tear this season, with an NBA-best 38-7 record. While Duncan's age is beginning to show as the season wears on—having career lows in both points and rebounds (13.6 PTS, 9.5 REBS) per game—he still is a critical part of the Spurs lineup.
Providing solid experience and understanding of the game, Duncan keeps the offense and defense rolling. He is still an excellent rebounder, though his aging knees keep him from producing the numbers he did in his prime.
Duncan's return to the court in the second half was a great sign for Spurs fans, as the trainers wouldn't let Duncan back on if he wasn't healthy. While he may experience soreness in the knee and a slight cut in minutes in the games to come, Duncan should return to form in no time, assuming the injury doesn't turn more serious.
Darren Collison, PG, Indiana Pacers
While his play hasn't been atrocious, Darren Collison has been quietly disappointing thus far in the season. A late third, or early fourth-round pick in many fantasy basketball leagues, Collison has yet to live up to his preseason hype.
Playing backup to Chris Paul for most of last season, Collison shined when he finally got his break in the starting lineup as a rookie. Not only could he rack up the assists, but he could also score anywhere from the field, even shooting 40 percent from the perimeter.
The caliber of his play began rumors that the Hornets would look to trade Chris Paul and make Collison their point guard of the future. However, after the season ended, Collison was traded to the Pacers in a four-team, five-player deal.
Though he has been given full reign of the Pacers, Collison has yet to show more than mere glimpses of last year's dominance. He has only averaged 13.7 points and a measly 4.7 assists per game this season, much less than fantasy owners hoped and dreamed when the season started.
Though some of the blame can be placed on his inconsistent teammates, Collison's inability to take charge and maintain his individual numbers is a letdown to us all.
OJ Mayo, SG, Memphis Grizzlies
OJ Mayo has basically been a disappointment from the very beginning of season. His inconsistent play quickly sent him to the bench for the first time in his career. And as a result, his scoring is at an all-time low, which is really all he's good for.
To top it off, it was announced today that the NBA has suspended Mayo for 10 games for violating the league's drug policy. Apparently he failed a recent drug test, testing positive for DHEA.
Mayo has been pure trouble for fantasy owners. His minutes have been cut, and thus has been unproductive as ever. When he has played, he hasn't been worth playing. And now he'll miss 10 games. Things quickly go from bad to worse.
On the bright side, you now have an excuse to use his games trying out someone else.
Hedo Turkoglu, SF, Orlando Magic
Anyone could've told you the Hedo-in-Phoenix project wouldn't work out. But even I thought it wouldn't have been this bad.
Turkoglu's performance in Phoenix was absolutely abysmal. Scoring a mere 9.5 points in 25 minutes worth of play, the only positive part of his game was the fact that he was shooting 42.3 percent from the perimeter.
While the trade to Orlando has increased Turkoglu's production slightly, he still has been a major disappointment. Though his assists per game has been impressive (5.8), his scoring is still five points lower than his last stint with the Magic.
In Orlando's revamped offense, there's simply not enough shots to go around. Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and Dwight Howard all expect to see 10-plus shots a game. As a result, it will be rare for Turkoglu to take much more than that on a nightly basis.
While the assists will continue, the scoring likely will not change. Turkoglu looks to be a mid-round bust.
Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats
At first glance, Jackson's stats look relatively decent. He's been averaging 18.1 points, two threes, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game with the Bobcats. However, as we look closer at his stat line, it quickly becomes clear how disappointing his season has truly been.
Stephen Jackson has been taking an extremely painful route to getting his 18.1 points per game, shooting a terrible 40 percent from the field. While he's making almost two threes a game, he's shooting a mediocre 33.9 percent form the perimeter. While he dishes out 3.9 assists per game, he turns the ball over 3.3 times.
Inconsistency has been the theme of the Bobcats this year. None one on the roster seems to show up every single night, so it's been a crapshoot trying to decide who's play is going to be worthwhile.
While each player is to blame for their inability to effectively contribute to the team, as a captain, Stephen Jackson must lead by example. If he continues to make poor decisions on the court by shooting ill-advised shots and turning the ball over, his teammates cannot be expected to play much better.
Until Jackson can turn around his game and play solid basketball, he will continue to be a letdown to fans and fantasy owners alike.
That wraps up this week's Fantasy Filler. Til next week, I am Kevin, may the force be with you.
Sorry for not coming out with an "NBA Fantasy Filler" last week, but life seemed to catch up with me.
I did, however, release a 2010 Rookie Class Mid-Year Evaluation for the first 10 draft picks. You can find it here.
You can also find "NBA Fantasy Filler No. 4" here.
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