Under the Radar
A couple weeks ago, I predicted that the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-6) would make the playoffs next year. They may not have to wait that long considering their start this season. If the playoffs started today (Thursday), they would be in. Realistically, with a legit superstar in Kevin Durant and enough of a supporting cast in Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green they should finish at least .500 this year. They have already won in San Antonio, Detroit and Miami, and beaten the defending Eastern Conference champs by 28 at home. Signing, drafting or trading for a solid starting center would help their playoff aspirations for next season. Remember, this team didn't win their sixth game until Jan. 10 last year.
The Stephen Jackson trade has been well documented and because of his history of being a malcontent he has been the "bad guy" in the whole feud with Don Nelson. I never thought I'd do this but has anyone considered that Nelson may be to blame? This is the same franchise that upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. However, the pieces of that squad were quickly dismantled following that run. Here's a list of who's been traded or not re-signed from that promising 2007 squad: Jason Richardson, Baron Davis, Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus, Al Harrington, and now Jackson. That's a lot to lose from a team and still expect to win. Rumor now has it that Monta Ellis is next in line to get dealt. No, Nelson is not the GM, but as coach he's had a significant say the last couple years about the personnel of his team. Maybe, just maybe, Stephen Jackson was right to ask out of town.
I participate in both weekly and daily lineup leagues, so I try to keep both types of leagues throughout the week. In a weekly leagues, don't read too much into the standings yet. If you're doing well in guard categories, typically assists, steal and three-pointers, don't panic by trading or dropping a good player for "big man" stats (rebounds and blocks). When faced with the choice between starting player A (typical guard) for four games or player B (typical center) for three games, stick with player A, even if that doesn't help you catch up in the "big man" categories. Eventually the schedules even out and there's always the possibility of trading down the road if you really need help in certain categories.
In daily leagues, there are members of the New Orleans Hornets (see below) who can help you for the next couple of weeks with Chris Paul on the mend. However, in weekly leagues I'm not sure any of the Hornets are worth starting with only two games in each of the next two scoring periods. It would be a wise move to drop Peja Stojakovic, for example, and pick up Samuel Dalembert (again, see below).
Now onto our weekly look at player minutes, roto categories that waiver-wire players can help with and new position eligibility.
Al Thornton, F, LAC - Thornton has shaken off a slow start to catch fire over the last four games. He's averaged 37 minutes over the last week to go with averages of 19.2 points, five rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the floor. He's actually available in many leagues after frustrated owners dropped him; pick him up if you need help at forward.
Darren Collison, PG, NO - Chris Paul will be out for at least another two weeks which gives Collison his starting spot. Collison scored 12 points, handed out six assists, and grabbed three rebounds in his first start on Tuesday. He has now scored in double digits in the last four games and should continue to play over 24 minutes a night until Paul returns.
Wesley Matthews, G, UTA - Matthews has impressed coach Jerry Sloan with his defensive prowess and long-range shooting for the Jazz. He's been rewarded with a boost in playing time and a starting spot in the lineup, averaging over 32 minutes a game over his last three. It's hard to recommend him at this time in standard 12-team leagues, but he's definitely someone to keep tabs on in keeper leagues.
The Golden State Warriors - The bench is rather thin for the Warriors with Raja Bell, Ronny Turiaf, Andris Biedrins, and C.J. Watson all nursing some type of ailment. Stephen Curry, Anthony Morrow, Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette are all solid plays and should get over 30 minutes a night for time being.
Here are some players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Toney Douglas, G, NY - An early season slump and an injury to Nate Robinson has opened the door for Douglas in the Big Apple. Over his last four games he's averaged 18.7 points and 2.2 treys made. Known as a scorer, Douglas averaged 21.5 points per game his senior year at Florida state. He's slated to be in the starting lineup on Wednesday night, so grab him if you need scoring.
Jason Williams, PG, ORL - A torn meniscus in his knee will keep starting point guard Jameer Nelson on the shelf for the next 4-6 weeks. Williams will take over the starting role and become a decent assist option. His per 48 minutes averages this season look like this: 14 points, 10.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 three-pointers made. Obviously he won't be playing 48 minutes a night, but counting on him for 6-8 assists per game is reasonable. He's not a great long-term solution, but he'll be running the show in Orlando for the next month.
Rebounds and Blocks
Samuel Dalembert, C, PHI - Dalembert should get a boost in playing time with Mareese Speights out for the next 6-8 weeks. Dalembert averaged 8.6 rebounds and three blocks over his last three contests with Speights in the lineup so a bump in those numbers wouldn't be surprising. Owners in weekly leagues needing help at center take note; the 76ers have four games next week.
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 11/19/09