Reports indicate that Indiana Pacers' center Jermaine O'Neal might elect to miss the remainder of the season in an effort to properly heal a knee injury that has been lingering for the better part of the last two years.
Monday, January 21, 2008
While the extended absence of O'Neal, an adept scoring big man and strong shot blocker (2.2/game), hurts many fantasy teams, it also brings some closure. O'Neal has missed 8 games already this season and left a contest prematurely on several other occasions. If O'Neal is in fact finished for the season, it is better that fantasy owners know sooner rather than later. Right now, there is still time to make a deal to sure up the roster, had this lingered owners may have been stuck.
With O'Neal out, Jeff Foster and Troy Murphy will split the duties at center. Both guys are very similar and are certainly viable fantasy options given their ability to put up numbers in the 10 points and 10 rebound range given the proper minutes. Murphy can also add some threes as he is currently averaging 1.3 a game. As of now, the two men are evenly splitting the time at center, both averaging around 25-26 a night. Going forward, it will be important to monitor the playing time distribution when making a determination about each players value.
In my opinion, Jeff Foster is the more consistent fantasy option due to his excellent rebounding ability while Troy Murphy has the better upside being a more skilled scorer/3 point shooter. Ultimately, the decision to add either player will come down to the needs of your roster.
Foster is a virtual lock for 10+ rebound anytime he gets 25 or more minutes. Foster doesn't get many FG attempts so he wont hurt you in FG%, and when he does score its usually a high percentage shot close to the basket. Foster can provide 8-10 points a game with adequate minutes.
Murphy is also a good rebounder, averaging 7.1 on the season, however his propensity to shoot 3s and jumpers will hurt you in the FG % department where he is only at 41%, poor for a big man. Murphy has his occasional breakout scoring game, but will normally put up around 10 point a night with a 3 pointer mixed in when averaging 25 minutes a night. If Murphy can rehash some of the magic 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons where he averaged around 15-10 while getting 30+ minutes a night in Golden State, he might be a very intriguing fantasy option down the stretch.
Two other guys to keep an eye on are the Pacers' forwards Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy Jr who are both enjoying solid seasons thus far. The injury to O'Neal eliminates one of the Pacers' top scoring options. Factoring in that he will be replaced in the lineup by guys that are better rebounders than scorers, the forwards will be asked to pick up some of the slack. Granger and Dunleavy Jr. should receive more touches on the offensive end and I think you will see larger scoring outputs from each player.