StrategyFebruary 29, 2008

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Preparing for the Final Stretch

By Phil Londen

With only three full weeks left in the fantasy regular season, many managers are now trying to plan for the fantasy playoffs. At the same time, trade deadlines are quickly approaching in many leagues. At this point, it is critical that managers consider which players will be rested as the season draws to a close and which players will be shut down completely.

While no one can predict for sure which players will be rested and which players will post unbelievable stat lines, there are certain factors that can be evaluated to determine a general risk level for particular studs. The two most important factors for evaluating the risk of a player being rested are the player’s injury history and each particular team’s playoff situation. The players have been grouped together based upon their risk level after evaluating these two critical factors.

Extreme Risk of Being Rested

Dwayne Wade – No other superstar has such a high probability of being shut down completely this season as Wade does. He has been playing through various ailments (including knee and shoulder injuries) this season and is particularly at risk because of his almost reckless style of basketball that puts his body on the line. Couple this with the fact that the Heat are the laughing stock of the NBA and you have the case of a superstar who should be rested and allowed to get healthy. Trade Wade immediately.

High Risk of Being Rested

Chauncey Billups – At the ripe age of 31, Chauncey Billups has made a name for himself as one of the best floor generals in the game. He is championship proven and leads one of the strongest squads in the NBA. As the Pistons prepare to mount another post-season campaign, there is a high likelihood that Mr. Big Shot will be seeing reduced minutes. The past two seasons, he has missed the final game of the regular season. With one of the top two seeds in the East locked up, Billups will most likely play a smaller role for the Pistons as he prepares for the grind of the playoffs.

Ray Allen / Kevin Garnett / Paul Pierce – The Celtic’s Big Three have been playing inspired basketball all season. They currently own the best record in the NBA which is mainly due to the effort of these three veterans. With an average age around 30 and each suffering serious to somewhat serious injuries over the past two seasons, one, two, or all three of these studs will be at risk to see a decreased role as the regular season draws to a close. With a top playoff seed locked up in the East, Doc Rivers may decide to let his older vets rest up for the intense playoff series ahead.

Medium Risk of Being Rested

Tim Duncan / Tony Parker – These two studs would normally be assigned a higher risk of being rested, but this year nothing can be taken for granted in the West. All teams in the Western Conference are fighting for playoff position, including the defending World Champions.

Jason Kidd – The Mavericks’ new point guard moved to Dallas during a year of increased competition in the West. A few contenders have gotten bigger, stronger, and deeper. This is a recipe for extremely physical and grueling playoff series. Mark Cuban and Avery Johnson may decide to rest their newly acquired aging leader in preparation of this post-season challenge.

Rasheed Wallace – Sheed played limited minutes last season in the lead-up to the playoffs. Detroit’s bench is stronger than ever so the chance for rest is even more likely.

Michael Redd – With the Bucks’ terrible record and Redd’s injuries this season and last, he could sit. However, the Bucks are making a concerted push to capture the eighth seed in the East.

Low or Unpredictable Risk of Being Rested

Dirk Nowitzki – Sitting out the final game against GS last season could have taught Avery Johnson and Dirk a valuable lesson. The Mavericks are still jockeying for playoff position in the competitive Western Conference.

Caron Butler – Butler’s nagging hip injury could lead to him being shut down before the end of the regular season. The latest news is a small labral tear of the hip joint. Caron will be reevaluated next week.

Steve Nash / Shaq / Grant Hill – It has been suggested by some that they could be rested in order to change the seedings before the playoff race so they avoid a Golden State or Denver match up. Either way, these three guys are all relatively old and could see a decreased role heading into the last few games of the season.

Tracy McGrady – The perennial injury risk, McGrady could be rested during the last game or two depending on playoff situation. With Yao out for the season and the Rockets win streak intact, Tracy’s rest situation becomes even more convoluted.

Gerald Wallace – Recently sustaining his fourth concussion in four years in Charlotte, Crash’s return this season is uncertain. Coupled with the Bobcats’ terrible record, Wallace has little to play for this season.

Kobe Bryant – Playing with an injury that requires surgery does not bode well for the greatest offensive threat in the game right now. Bryant is just one hard shot away from the surgeon’s knife.

Other notable players with unpredictable injury situations: Ron Artest, Chris Kaman, Brandon Roy, and Mike Miller.

When not worshipping at the idol of Steve Kerr for bringing the Diesel to the Valley of the Suns, Phil can be found posting in the Cafe under the name plonden.
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