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Wednesday October 15, 2008 1:33 pm

Dropping Dimes Mock Draft: Round 4, Pick 8 - Yao Ming

Yao Ming
Ladies and gentlemen, here is the make-or-break pick of the year. Once worthy of a first round pick, he has crushed fantasy GMs across the land. Or rather, the injury bugs that keep biting him have led to many crying themselves to sleep over a lost fantasy season.

Yahoo still has him ranked in the top 25 and he is getting drafted pretty early. Can you really risk Yao Ming breaking your heart again?

Round 4, Pick 8: Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets

Yao Ming on training table.
I like Yao, really, I do. But the lasting images over the past couple of years have been him grimacing in pain and stuck rehabbing on the trainer’s table. He works hard. He has heart. His stats when he does play have been stellar. Yet what good is all that if he cannot even walk onto the court? Triumphantly he played for China in the Beijing Olympics while operating at around, say, 60%. How much of a toll will that experience add up to when the NBA season tips off?

Against Oklahoma City on October 13th, he logged 24 minutes and scored 15 points while pulling down 16 rebounds and blocking three shots. In the pre-season game prior to that, he played a little under 24 minutes against Boston and scored 16 points and 4-of-7 shooting while going 8-for-9 from the line.

Yao was an iron man early in his career. He played every game over his first two years in the league, and missed only two games in 2004-05. Since then, here have been his final stat-lines.

2005-06: 57 GP, 51.9 FG%, 85.3 FT%, 22.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 1.7 bpg, 2.6 topg

2006-07: 48 GP, 51.7 FG%, 86.2 FT%, 25.0 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.4 spg, 2.0 bpg, 3.5 topg

2007-08: 55 GP, 50.7 FG%, 85.0 FT%, 22.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.5 spg, 2.0 bpg, 3.3 topg

At his best, he arguably trumps Amare Stoudemire, Elton Brand, Dwight Howard, or basically any other all-star big man you care to throw out there. No center can match those percentages while scoring over 20 ppg, plus ten boards and two blocks a game. But the numbers that should stand out are the numbers of games played since 2005. 57. 48. 55. In the past two seasons, he was a non-factor after January. Kiss those head-to-head playoffs goodbye.

What salvages him being a decent pick here? The rest of the team carry reputations of reasonable health. In Kevin Garnett, Danny Granger and Chauncey Billups, you know what you get when you call their name on draft night, especially KG and Billups. Granger has the chance to up his game to that of Shawn Marion’s from a few years ago, only more scoring. Yao fills the center spot. If and when he goes down, the first three picks can at least tread water. Then hope Yao is playing in March and April as the Rockets try to round into form for a championship round, and while you try to bring that fantasy hardware home.

The epitome of a high-risk-high-reward pick, a fourth round flier on Yao could lead to the promised land. On the other hand, no one would blame you if you bet the “under” on 60 games played this year and let someone else handle the risk.

Buy lots of bug spray, Mr. Yao. Keep those injury bugs from getting you this year!

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