Taking the ChanceBack to top
By Rick Kamla
Because we previously offered up 16 sleepers, I thought it only appropriate to break down 16 risky players as we discern whether theyíre too risky or worth the risk. This isnít so much a Sweet 16 as it is a Sweet & Sour Sixteen. This list includes those that you should take a chance on, despite their risks.
Worth The Risk
Shaquille OíNeal, Heat: Thereís a lot of Shaq-hating going on in the fantasy world these days, but itís cooler to love The Godfather in the twilight of his career. And whatís not to love about last yearís averages of 20 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and .600 from the field? I mean, itís not 29.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks like his career year in 99-00, but roughly 20-10-2 is still rock solid. The buzzkill is the fact that Shaq will miss 20-30 games, thatís a given. However, Alonzo Mourning is also a given to average a double-double with three blocks while Shaq is out, so grab Zo for insurance and chill out.
Ron Artest, Kings: I swore off Ron-Ron for good when he forced his way out of Indiana last season, but Iím back on his bandwagon because I just think itís going to work out with the Maloofs in Sacramento. (Did I really just write that? I must be crazy.) I also think the Dallas Cowboys, led by Terrell Owens, are going to the Super Bowl. (Did I really just admit in front of God and everyone that I believe in the NBA and NFL answers to Barry Bonds? Please, someone revoke my writerís license. Oh yeah, I donít have one.) Either youíre crazy, or youíre not.
Tracy McGrady, Rockets: T-Macís reputation has been smeared after missing 35 games a year ago, but Iím here to help repair that rep. If you throw out last yearís disaster and Tracyís first year outta high school, he has averaged six DNPs over the middle seven seasons of his nine-year career. Freaks, youíll be able to get a first-round talent in the second round of this yearís draft. I promise. Remember, when Tracy is right heís good for 25-6-5-1-1.5 with two threes.
Andrei Kirilenko, Jazz: Iím also here to help repair the rep of AK47, who has taken some hits after missing 54 games over the past two seasons. Of those DNPs, 41 came in 04-05 when nothing went right for Kirilenko or the Jazz. In the other four seasons of his five-year career, AK47ís games have dropped from 82 to 80 to 78 to 69. Yes, the trend is going the wrong way, but itís way too early to label this 25-year-old ďinjury proneĒ. That said, one more injury-plagued season and we might have to rename him DNP47.
Marcus Camby, Nuggets: After setting a career-high with 72 games played in 03-04, Camby has morphed back into his old self, playing just 66 games in 04-05 and 56 games a year ago. Yes, that attendance is trending downward, and I canít sit here and tell you he wonít play fewer than 56 games this year. But what I can tell you is that when Camby is right, he is invincibly dominant in fantasy leagues. To wit, last yearís averages of 12.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 1.4 steals placed Camby among the top 20 fantasy players in 8-cat leagues.
Gerald Wallace, Bobcats: Some will look at the 27 DNPs and the unimpressive statistical history and assume that Wallace was a fluke of nature in 05-06. Iím here to tell you that those people donít know what they are talking about because Wallace is a certifiable freak of nature. First of all, Wallace is a five-year vet at age 24, so none of us know if heís truly injury prone. Second, last yearís five-cat line of 15-7-2-2-2.5 was ridiculous enough to power championship runs. Again, heís 24 years old.
Emeka Okafor, Bobcats: Iím definitely worried about Okafor, who missed 56 games last year and a combined 65 over his first two seasons. That said, the 2005 Rookie of the Year has averaged a double-double in each season, including 15 and 11 as a rookie when he was basically healthy. Iím betting that Okafor takes this season a little more seriously, gets in better shape, and flirts with the 20-10 club. But Iím not betting more than a fourth-round pick.
Zach Randolph, Trail Blazers: The Blazers basically chose between Zach and Sebastian Telfair as the future face of the franchise, so Z-Bo has that going for him. Now he needs to prove, as he has said this summer, that his micro fractured knee is fully healed and ready to go. Count me among those who will be targeting Zach this year, searching for the 20-10 season he amassed in 03-04. I still believe in the 25-year-old lefty with the sweet touch even if he blocks only one shot a week.