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Stretch run help

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - As we get set for Sunday's NBA All-Star game, we're about 2/3 of the way through the 82-game NBA fantasy season. This four-day hiatus is a good time to ready your team for the stretch drive.

What can you do this late in the season you ask?

There are still trades to be made, particularly in keeper leagues where some teams might be looking towards 2012 and beyond. There are players ready to come back from injuries and there is still help on the waiver wire.

The first question you must ask yourself - do you have a realistic chance to win the title this season with your current roster?

If you are in a keeper league and the answer is no, then it's probably the time to trade your veterans who are on the downside of their career, but still valuable to another team owner who is still in the title chase.

We're not talking about Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose here. We're discussing Paul Pierce, Elton Brand, Antawn Jamison and Chauncey Billups. Maybe even Dirk Nowitzki, who on name recognition alone would bring a solid youngster in return despite his falling PPG and RPG averages.

If you are in a one-year league, this strategy isn't available to you. So head to your alternate strategy - players ready to return from injury.

Brandon Roy (knee) hasn't played a game since December 15th, but appears ready to give it a go after the break. When healthy he's a stats-filler, who also averages around 20 points-per-game. He's available as a free agent in one-in- ten leagues, but he's probably available for trade by frustrated owners in a lot more. Test the waters and make the call to the owner about his availability.

Joakim Noah is expected to start for the Bulls against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Noah was in the midst of his best season as a pro, scoring 14.0 ppg and grabbing 11.7 rpg before a thumb injury put him out of action in mid- December. He'll be much tougher to obtain in keeper leagues because he's just 26-years-old and has a great future ahead of him, but again in one-year leagues his owner might be "sleeping on the job" and not know he's about to make his return to the court.

Like Noah, Eric Gordon was sidelined in the middle of the best season of his career (24.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.5 apg), but his right wrist should be healed and he's expected back on the floor very soon. He is owned in 92% of all leagues, but it's possible his owner would trade him for someone he knows will play right after the break versus Gordon's unsure status.

Michael Redd hopes to return in early March after missing most of the last three seasons. It's a longshot that he returns and has any fantasy value, so take a wait-and-see attitude on the Bucks guard.

Washington may not be winning many games, but guard Nick Young had been playing great until his recent injury (left knee). Young (17.6 ppg), is expected to be ready after the break and he's owned in just 75% of all leagues.

Tyreke Evans missed the final two games before the All-Star break in hopes that his plantar fasciitis would calm down. He also the rookie-sophomore game which will give him a full week of rest.

Finally, there are still free agents available who can help your roster.

With Andrei Kirilenko sidelined by an ankle sprain, C.J. Miles has started at small forward and played well. Miles has scored 19, 19 and 20 points as AK-47's replacement and should continue to produce as long as the Russian in on the bench. He's owned in less than 40% of all leagues.

Memphis forward Rudy Gay will be sidelined for about four weeks with a shoulder injury. The injury should allow Tony Allen and Sam Young additional court time. Allen has scored double-digits in four consecutive games and should be your first option.

You still have enough games left to turn your year around, but you can't wait much longer as there are just 25-30 games left in the regular season. Now is not the time to be cautious.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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