Let's hit some interesting points from the Association to start off this week:
-- Is there a team with less stability than the Sacramento Kings? Coach Paul Westphal has changed the starting lineup more than a couple of times, and I'm thinking that's not helping a younger team's mental focus. I'm not sure how great of a coach Westphal is; sure he made it to the NBA finals, but it wasn't through any coaching considering the players he had – Charles Barkley, Danny Ainge, Dan Majerle, Richard Dumas and Kevin Johnson. With a 29-69 record as Kings coach, it wouldn't surprise me to see Westphal be the first coach to get a pink slip this season.
-- I'm beginning to think there's something wrong with Joe Johnson. He's had a bunch of aches and pains, the latest being a sore elbow. Johnson has only scored more than 17 points once in his last eight games with a poor 34.9 shooting percentage during that span. You could contribute that low percentage to his 9-for-35 (25.7 percent) from beyond the arc, but if you take that out he's still only shooting 39.1 from inside the arc. Keep an eye on his production as one of these injuries might be bothering him more than he's letting on.
-- Not to sound so negative but I'm pretty sure we're witnessing the official decline of Jason Kidd. Not only is he shooting a career-low 36.5 percent from the floor (which accounts for his eight points per game), his rebounds are down 1.5 for the season (for the fifth straight year). Rodrigue Beaubois (who you can find playing D-League ball) is set to return in three weeks, so if I own Kidd, I might peddle him before he loses playing time.
-- Quick, who's leading NBA point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio? It's surprising to see D.J. Augustin's (5.17:1) name over Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash. He's averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds, rewarding owners who drafted Darryl Gerard in the later rounds. Maybe he'll break the curse of recent failed point guards from Texas (ahem, T.J. Ford).
-- It's an incredibly small sample size, but over the last week Shaquille O'Neal is shooting almost 25 points higher from the floor (80 percent) than the free-throw line (55.6 percent).
-- Listed below are players who have filled in nicely for injured teammates. Some might think it's a moot point after the fact. But consider the case of Jordan Farmar, whom we highlighted a couple weeks ago after a solid game in place of an ejected Devin Harris: "If anything happened to Devin Harris, Farmar would become a must-add." Well "something" may have happened to Harris Tuesday night as he left the game with a left knee injury. The severity of the injury will become known in the next couple of days, and any time missed would benefit Farmar. The point is, keep track of those who have played well in place of a starter even though they might be headed back to the bench at the moment.
Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but at the very least offers some players to put on the radar.
Luke Ridnour, G, MIN – Ridnour's return from injury has seen him quickly supplant Sebastian Telfair as the starting point guard, grabbing the lion's share of minutes. Ridnour has averaged 36.7 minutes over his last three games. Until definite word on a timetable for Jonny Flynn's, expect Ridnour to be on the floor a lot. Shooting better than 92 percent from the free-throw line, Ridnour is good for at least a three-pointer made per game, and six-plus assists a night isn't too much to expect either.
Ty Lawson, G, DEN – Yes, Lawson is about to be pushed back to the bench now that the starter, Chauncey Billups, is healthy. But Lawson showed his upside over the last three Denver games with averages of 16 points, five assists and 2.3 three-pointers made. Billups is back in the starting lineup, but it's important to note that Lawson played 27 minutes Sunday, a bit more than usual when Chauncey is healthy. There'll likely be some trade noise made by the Nuggets at some point this season, and that's when you'll be glad you stashed Lawson on your bench.
Terrence Williams, G, NJ – Williams went from being a trendy preseason sleeper to checking into Avery Johnson's doghouse. Don't feel sorry for Williams; it appears most of it is his fault for being late to practices, meetings, etc. However, his time in the D-League could be short lived if Devin Harris is out for any length of time. Williams received a DNP-Coach's Decision on Saturday for Springfield, so perhaps the team thinks he hasn't learned his lesson yet. Keep an eye on any transaction that could potentially bring him back to the Nets.
Each week we'll look at certain players who can help your fantasy team in the nine categories most leagues use. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee they will contribute in other areas.
Jason Thompson, F, SAC – The aforementioned Paul Westphal has decided to give Thompson a shot at a starting spot at Carl Landry's expense. It's easy to forget that although he was at Rider, Thompson led the country in rebounding three years ago with a 12.1 per game average. Thompson's debut in the starting lineup was anything but memorable – seven points, seven rebounds and no blocks – but he only logged 24 minutes and picked up three first-half fouls. Teammate Samuel Dalembert left the game in the fourth quarter with knee issues, which could increase Thompson's minutes also. Get Thompson as a stellar speculative pick for cleaning the glass if you need help in rebounds.
J.J. Redick, G, ORL – Redick's 35 minutes per game the last week is directly tied to Vince Carter's knee injury. It should come as no surprise to see the words "Carter" and "injury" in the same sentence. While Carter has been out, Redick has averaged 14.3 points, more than two three-pointers made, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals a contest. Throw in a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line and you've got a solid, though unspectacular, fantasy player. This category is rarely highlighted in this space, but Redick would be good for at least four attempts a game if Carter is sidelined again.
Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies.
Jared Jeffries, HOU – Now eligible at small forward
Landry Fields, NYK – Now eligible at small forward