by Will Overton
After a season that has been riddled by injuries Dwight Howard is now shelved for at least a month due to a knee injury. Howard had an injection in the knee yesterday and will definitely be out four weeks and then be evaluated again. So really we don’t know for sure when he’ll be back, we just know it won’t be for at least a month.
The loss of Howard leaves a pretty big void on the Rockets because they don’t really have another true center on the roster. Picking up the slack will be their trio of stretch four style power forwards Donatas Motiejunas, Josh Smith and the returning Terrence Jones. Also picking up minutes, and actually starting is a more traditional big man, though undersized for center, Joey Dorsey.
So the question is where does the value lie in this situation right now. The biggest uptick in minutes will probably go to Dorsey who wasn’t really playing at all and could get significant minutes no based solely on his size. The problem is he doesn’t really bring anything to the table offensively or in terms of shot blocking. His frame makes him a solid rebounder, but that’s about all you are getting here.
I think the next biggest beneficiary is Donatas Motiejunas who should have already been owned in more than the 25% of leagues he’s owned in now. At this point he should be owned in all leagues though. Motiejunas is not a center, but he is seven foot tall and so by default he’s going to see a lot of time at center now.
In the three games prior to last night’s game Motiejunas had 21 PPG, 7 RPG and 2 3PG. All season Motiejunas has looked good, taking a big step forward from last season. Motiejunas got his opportunity this year because of Terrence Jones injury and now he has a chance to take it to another level because of Howard’s injury. Motiejunas has taken on a much more assertive role on offense since Howard has been out. He was averaging nine shots per game before the injury and he could be looking at 13 – 15 per game now for the next month or more. If he can continue to hit threes the way he has been doing the last few games it’s even better. This guy has got to be owned in all formats.
We know Josh Smith isn’t afraid to take a few extra shots either if there are more shots available. Smith hasn’t had the kind of resurgence owners hoped for when he joined the Rockets, but this could be a boost to his value.
What Smith brings to the table, and what we could see even more of now that Howard isn’t manning the middle, is defensive numbers. Smith gets both blocked shots and steals and I think he could get more of them without Howard. Smith isn’t really a free agent in many leagues, but if you need defensive stats you could take a flier trade offer to try and land him.
The wild card in all of this is Terrence Jones who is just now coming back from his own injury. Jones is coming along slowly right now, just four games back and the Rockets are being cautious. As of now Jones isn’t getting his starting job back, though I could see him next to Motiejunas at some point, but he could hold value coming off the bench still.
Jones was a revelation for the Rockets and fantasy owners last season and I think his injury has made fantasy players forget. Jones has a nice mix of size and athleticism with a nice mix on offense of post-up moves and mid-range jump shots. Jones is a good, maybe not great, rebounder. He also is an underrated shot blocker. Like Smith, with no Howard in the middle Jones is going to see more time manning the inside on defense and be in better position to get more shot blocks. Jones is owned in 33% of leagues right now and that number should be a lot higher in another couple weeks when he is back to 100%.