Thursday, January 24, 2008

Luol Deng Out Indefinately - Andres Nocioni and Joakim Noah Will Benefit

Luol Deng is expected to miss around 4 weeks with a sore left Achilles that has hampered him for the last month. Deng has been a disappointment thus far, failing to take the next step towards superstardom coming off a breakout sophomore campaign. His scoring, rebounding, FG% and defensive stats are all down slightly which is a product of the injury he's been playing through and his team's struggles.

Fantasy Impact

The injury to Deng opens the door for new fantasy options such as Joakim Noah while also offering the potential to resurrect the numbers of a few of the Bulls' fantasy underachievers, most notably Andres Nocioni.

Nocioni will be the biggest beneficiary of Deng's absence and should consistently see over 30 minutes a night for here on out. After a slow start to the season which saw him fall out of the Bulls' rotation, Nocioni has come on strong in January averaging around 18 points and 4 rebounds a game. With the added minutes and offensive touches, there is no reason that he can't put up 20-22 points a night with 6 rebounds and 2-3 three pointers. In addition, Kirk Hinrich is now in good position to improve his disappointing first half numbers. He and Nocioni will be most responsible for making up Deng's 18 points a night and should establish themselves as the Bulls' offensive focal points along with Ben Gordon.

In terms of youngsters that will see an instant upgrade in fantasy value, look no further than Joakim Noah. I have been impressed with Noah for a while now and have been tempted to add him to our Fantasy Ballers On The Brink. However, due to the presence of the decaying corpse known as "Big Ben" manning the middle in Chicago, I have been reluctant as Noah simply wasn't getting adequate playing time to make a difference.

That all changes with the Deng injury which opens up a good amount of playing time in the front court. Noah should start seeing 25-30 minutes a night and I believe he will start regularly come the second half of the season. Given consistent minutes, Noah's scrappy on court demeanor makes him a legitimate threat for a double-double with a few steals on any given night. While his biggest contributions will come on the boards, Noah has a knack for scoring and takes quality shots which should produce a solid FG%.

In addition to Noah, Tyrus Thomas could work his way out of the dog house and back into the rotation for the short-handed Bulls. He has shown flashes of being a well-rounded fantasy contributor in the past. Also noteworthy is Thabo Sefolosha who will continue to get minutes if Ben Gordon's wrist injury turns out to be more than a day to day ailment. We'll keep you posted.

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