Under the Radar
Early this year I sang the praises of the Oklahoma City Thunder, predicting they would make the playoffs next year. I'm now adding the Sacramento Kings to that prediction.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Kings would be on the outside looking in. However, there's a lot to like about their future. Currently sitting at 14-17, they've overcome early season injuries to arguably their best player, Kevin Martin, as well as Francisco Garcia. This has possibly been a blessing in disguise, allowing some of the younger players a chance to play and showcase their talents. Wednesday night's starting lineup boasted four young, rising stars: Tyreke Evans (20), Omri Casspi (21), Donte Greene (21) and Spencer Hawes (21). Jason Thompson (23) has done a great job hitting the boards, averaging 15.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in his second year in the Association.
So what does the future hold for the Kings? When Martin, Garcia and Evans (ankle injury) return they will likely go to a starting lineup of Evans, Martin, Garcia, Thompson and Hawes. The second unit will be solid with Beno Udrih, Sergio Rodriguez, Greene, and Casspi - all of who have gotten plenty of valuable court time together.
The offseason will tell a lot about their playoff aspirations next year. Will they secure a solid big man to shore up the middle? Thompson, Hawes and Greene are all at least 6-foot-11, but Greene is really a small forward trapped in a power forward's body. A big man signed through free agency or acquired via the draft would help add some depth to the frontcourt to compete with the teams like the Lakers and Spurs. Dallas and Phoenix aren't getting any younger and face the possibility of losing key players through trade or free agency. Don't be surprised to see the Kings in the playoffs next year, seeded higher than seventh or eighth.
Now onto our weekly look at player minutes, different roto categories that players on your waiver-wire can help you in, and new position eligibility.
Andris Biedrins, C, GS - Beidrins has finally returned from a back injury that has plagued him since the opening tip. He has done little in the two games since his return, scoring six points, grabbing 12 rebounds and handing out six assists in 40 minutes total. Translation? Now is the time to make a trade offer for him. The Warriors have used Chris Hunter, Ronny Turiaf and Mikki Moore in his absence, which means he'll get big minutes sooner rather than later. Keep in mind he shot 55 percent from the charity stripe last year but can help owners who have players like Brandon Jennings, Gilbert Arenas or John Salmons with field goal percentage.
Juwan Howard, Jeff Pendergraph, F, POR - Both players have been call upon to fill the frontcourt void left by a slew of injuries, the latest being LaMarcus Aldridge. Many probably didn't realize Howard was still in the league with his 37th birthday two months away. Pendergraph clearly has more upside of the two and played very well on Wednesday night scoring eight points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking two shots. He's averaged 5.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 16.8 minutes this year, so my Euclid-like math skills tell me he's a nightly double-double threat if he gets 25-30 minutes a game. I still expect the Blazers to find a trade partner to address the lack of a true center, and their opponent from Wednesday's game (the Clippers) has a perfect fit in Marcus Camby. The Clips could drop some salary and with Blake Griffin returning soon, they have a surplus of big men.
Jared Dudley, F, PHO - Before Wednesday night's dud against the Celtics, Dudley had scored in four of his previous five games. During December he's averaged just under 27 minutes a game, the highest monthly total in the last two seasons. He's done well running with the Suns' second unit and should be considered in deeper leagues if you need help in scoring.
Here are some players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Luther Head, G, IND - Luther exploded with a monster line on Wednesday night against the Grizzlies, posting a 30-point, seven-rebound and two-steal line. Brandon Rush, T.J. Ford and Mike Dunleavy have struggled with their shot, and Earl Watson has never been a prolific scorer, so this could be the beginning of significant playing time for Head. Scoring-wise, he was buried behind T-Mac and Yao two seasons ago in Houston and had last season cut short due to a broken hand. This is a guy who went 37 straight games with at least one three-pointer made, so grab him if you need trey help.
Rasual Butler, G, LAC - Butler has been shooting the rock well lately for the Clippers, scoring at least 15 points in four of his last six games. Over the last week Butler's shooting just over 51 percent from the floor, which is solid considering he averages over four three-point attempts a contest. He'll throw in about three rebounds, two assists and a steal per game, so grab him in deeper leagues if you're desperate for scoring.
Anderson Varejao, F, CLE - Varejao continues to clean the glass in Cleveland despite the presence of Shaquille O'Neal and Zyrunas Ilgauskas. He's averaged eight boards a game over his last four and shot a lofty 76.5 percent from the field over that time. For the season he's blocking a shot per game so get him if you need rebounding help, just remember he's not going to score a ton.
Every league has different rules regarding eligibility. Always check your rules to make sure your league recognizes the new position a player may be eligible to play.
Article first appeared on 12/31/09