It was revealed today that Houston Rockets center Yao Ming will miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot. The news comes at a time when the Rockets are enjoying a 12 game winning streak and playing their best basketball of the season. This injury is a crushing blow to the Rockets playoff chances in the loaded and super competitive western conference.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Just a devastating loss for fantasy owners at this juncture of the season. Yao has been terrific and is one of only five players averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds on the season - Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer, Antwan Jamison, Al Jefferson are the other four. The loss of Yao hurts far beyond just scoring and rebounding as the big man was also a great source of blocks while shooting high FT and FG %.
In Yao's absence, Tracy McGrady should put up some gaudy offensive numbers in both the scoring and assist department. However, the Rockets will be forced to make some interesting lineup decisions that will directly impact fantasy owners. The ageless wonder Dikembe Mutombo is the backup center on the roster and should see added burn with Yao out. Mutombo can help in rebounds and blocks but has no offensive value whatsoever.
Given Mutombo's advanced age, he may only be able to play effectively for around 30 minutes a night which should force Rick Adelman to implement a smaller lineup. Luis Scola could see additional playing time as the center of the Rockets small look and has already proven to be an excellent scorer when he gets the minutes. Scola has played his best basketball this month, posting a season high 11.2 points to go along with 6.4 rebounds in 25 minutes a night. With a consistent 30 minutes a night, 13-15 points and around 7-8 rebounds a night are within reach for Scola.
The guy who I love and think will benefit the most from Yao's injury is rookie second round pick Carl Landry. Your classic undersized PF standing at 6 foot 7, Landry has been a beast this season when getting extended minutes. In the 7 games where he has played 20+ minutes, Landry is averaging over 13 points and 8 rebounds. In addition, Landry's ability to finish around the basket has him shooting at a paltry 61% clip.
When the Rockets decide to go small, I think Landry will become the primary option at the PF position. If Landry receives consistent playing time in the 25-30 minute range, 15 points and 10 rebounds a night are not out of the question but something along the lines of maintaining his 13 and 8 output is more reasonable. He should be a solid fantasy contributor in points, rebounds and FG% but will not help much in defensive categories.
As a Yao owner myself, I feel your pain folks. Check back later for a special Yao Injury edition of Desperation Station focusing on stopgap and under the radar options at center. We will get through this together...