SleepersJanuary 11, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By Phil Londen

The 18-19 New Jersey Nets recently suffered an injury to one of their starters, Yi Jianlian, when he broke his pinkie finger against his former team on January 9th. This injury will keep Yi on the sidelines for about a month, opening up opportunities for a pair of Nets to step up their production: Bobby Simmons and Ryan Anderson.

Bobby Simmons
NBA journeyman Bobby Simmons has been putting up solid fantasy numbers over the past two weeks despite the fact that he is only owned in 21 percent of Yahoo fantasy basketball leagues. Over the past seven games, Simmons is averaging 10.3 points on 48 percent shooting, 2.3 three pointers, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, and 1.3 turnovers in 32.4 minutes. The downside is that he also shot a dismal 57 percent from the free throw line. There are two things that should be noted in regards to Simmons’ free throw shooting. First, over the same two week period, Simmons only averaged 1.0 attempt per game which helps alleviate the negative impact. Second, Simmons is a career 82.6 percent free throw shooter and is averaging 75 percent this season. His shooting from the line will fall in line with his averages and help boost Simmons’ fantasy value further. According to Basketball Monster’s Player Rankings over the past two weeks (covering the same seven game stretch) for standard nine category leagues, Simmons is ranked 83rd in per game value and 58th in cumulative value. Simmons will be relied upon more with Yi’s absence and should build upon his strong play as of late.

Ryan Anderson
With Yi out for a month, rookie Ryan Anderson is named the Nets starting power forward Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and has the opportunity to stake claim to most of Yi’s 26.4 minutes per game in his absence. Anderson was drafted as a sophomore out of Berkley with the 21st pick overall in the 2008 draft and has been averaging 16.8 minutes per game this season. With increased minutes should come increased production for the first year forward. His production per 36 minutes this season is 13.7 points on 37 percent shooting, 1.8 three pointers, 8.2 rebounds (with 2.3 offensive), 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.8 turnovers while shooting 83.6 percent from the line. While lacking in traditional big man defensive statistics, Anderson’s line is compensates with good free throw percentage shooting and three point shooting. In a game that illustrates some of Ryan’s fantasy potential, take a look at the Nets December 15, 2008 game against the Raptors. In 33 minutes, Anderson scored 21 points on 54% shooting, three three pointers, 9 rebounds (three offensive), 2 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, and 1 turnover while shooting 75 percent from the free throw line.

Nets’ Upcoming Schedule
Next week, the New Jersey Nets play four games, which is normally fantasy gravy for owners. However, two of the games are against the current reigning champions of the NBA: the Boston Celtics. In addition to playing the Celtics twice next week, the Nets also play the Thunder and the TrailBlazers, which are two teams that are not known for their defensive efficiency (24th and 26th in defensive efficiency, respectively, so far this season).

Barring any trades or injuries, Simmons should sustain his value and under-appreciated fantasy line throughout the remainder of the NBA season. With Yi’s injury, Anderson has about a month to make his best case to solidify himself as a permanent member of the Nets’ starting lineup. If your team needs help at either forward position, take a serious look at these two Nets players and monitor their situations very closely.

Phil Londen is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Phil in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of plonden.
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