Working the Wire
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Hoops Editor
There Are No Guarantees
This week is a big one for some of the NBA's end-of-bench guys. On January 10th, all non-guaranteed contracts mostly covering well-travelled veterans or second-round draft picks become guaranteed through the end of this season. That's why we had a round of waiver moves earlier this week; Bobby Jones (Nuggets), DJ Mbenga (Warriors), Richie Frahm (Clippers), DerMarr Johnson (Spurs), Jeremy Richardson (Grizzlies) and Billy Thomas (Nets) were all let go before their contract status changed.
This changes the landscape a bit for the fantasy owner. First off, this means we can assume that non-guaranteed players who weren't axed fit into their teams' plans for the remainder of this season. This means guys like Luke Jackson in Miami, Malik Allen in New Jersey, Leon Powe in Boston or one of my personal favorites Demetris Nichols of the Bulls might still emerge as worthwhile fantasy players this year.
It also means that, after this week, teams will be allowed to start signing players to 10-day contracts. So start watching the D-League stat leaders some of those guys might be making appearances in the Big Show shortly.
This Week's Picks:
The first set of picks is intended for players in shallow leagues. The recommendations will be players who are available in 40-70 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues on NBA.com. The second group is for deep leagues more speculative picks, more "sleepers" guys who are available in more than 70 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues. Feedback and questions are always welcome look me up over on The Opening Tip blog and give me a shout.
Mike Conley MEM [PG,SG]: Conley made his first career start on January 2nd, and has shown no signs of relinquishing the job. He's played 35 minutes in three straight games, and is averaging 9.3 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 boards and 2.0 steals as a starter. He's still available in around 57 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues, but don't expect him to last on the waiver wire for long.
Louis Williams PHI [PG,SG]: Williams is rapidly becoming one of my favorite players, and is probably the guy who stands the most to gain when Andre Miller is inevitably traded. (Don't believe new Sixer general manager Ed Stefanski when he says he's not shopping Miller. That's GM code for "I'm hoping to raise the price a bit.") In his last five games, Williams is averaging 14 points with 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Willie Green PHI [SG]: Last week on The Opening Tip, I blogged that Green has never been one of my favorite players. I might have to change my mind the Sixers demoted Rodney Carney to the inactive list and are giving Green 20-plus minutes per night since his return from injury.
Mark Blount MIA [C]: The latest reports on Shaquille O'Neal's ailing hip indicate that he'll be on the shelf for another week. The veteran Blount and not journeyman Earl Barron will reportedly start in O'Neal's place.
Trevor Ariza LAL [SF]: Ariza's stock keeps rising. Last week, we wrote that he might work his way into a job-share with Luke Walton. This week, Phil Jackson is saying that Ariza might become his starter against athletic threes like Memphis' Rudy Gay. There's really no shortage of athletic threes in the NBA; Ariza could become the de facto starter before long. He's "zero percent owned" in Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner.
Glenn Davis BOS [PF]: Big Baby's coming-out party against the Pistons on Saturday night left Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner owners unimpressed he's still available in 99 percent of all leagues.
Bostjan Nachbar NJN [SF]: Finally recovered from an ankle injury, Nachbar is re-emerging as the key scorer on Jersey's second unit. He's scored in double figures in five of six games since his return, and is also zero percent owned.
Morris Almond UTA [SG]: Highly speculative pick here but Andrei Kirilenko's back trouble may open a window of opportunity for Almond; the Jazz have said that they'd rather recall the sweet-shooting rookie from the D-League than sign a 10-day contract-type if Kirilenko's back trouble lingers.
Shaun Livingston LAC [PG]: Even wilder speculation Livingston's rehab from the most grisly in-game injury since Joe Theisman's is going pretty well. He'll visit renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews this week and will hopefully be cleared to begin exercises to build up his explosiveness and leaping ability. Remember, it's not so long ago that this kid was being compared to Magic Johnson in terms of size and court vision. If the news out of Andrews' office in Birmingham is positive, Livingston might be worth a reserve spot particularly in leagues that allow keepers.
Article first appeared on 1/8/08