Working the Wire
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Hoops Editor
At this point in the season, rotations are or should be pretty solid. Trades and injuries will always be catalysts to shake things up and present fantasy owners with new opportunities, but trades don't happen every week, and injuries don't always benefit players available on the wire.
Case in point... the biggest beneficiary, fantasy-wise, of Andrew Bynum's injury is most likely going to be Kobe Bryant. Kobe isn't available in your league. Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf are a distant second and third.
Where, then, should we look for fresh blood?
Look to bad teams.
The bad teams are the ones that will continue to juggle rotations, trying desperately to find the right mix. They'll start plugging in younger guys and phasing out veterans. They'll hold more-or-less open auditions for next year's roster spots.
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.
Anthony Carter DEN [PG]: With Chucky Atkins (sports hernia) likely out for the year and J.R. Smith back in George Karl's doghouse, Carter's grip on the starting job has never seemed stronger. He's the most-added player in Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner this week, likely on the strength of his 21-point, 11 board explosion January 12 against the Magic, but he's still available in over 90 percent of all leagues.
Nate Robinson NYK [PG,SG]: Stephon Marbury has bone spurs in his ankle that will likely require surgery and sideline him for most if not all of the rest of this season. That puts Robinson back in the spotlight, especially as Isiah Thomas uses small/quick lineups more often. Robinson is owned in 17.6 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Wally Szczerbiak SEA [SF]: Szczerbiak's minutes continue to fluctuate: he'll play 30-plus minutes one night and half that number the next. But when he does get the time, he'll put up numbers. In four of Seattle's last five games, Szczerbiak has played 24 or more minutes, scored 15 or more points and hit at least twice from downtown. He's there for the taking in three out of four Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Joe Smith CHI [PF]: Smith is really thriving under new Chicago coach Jim Boylin. In his last 10 games, Smith is averaging 16.3 points, 7.5 boards and 1.6 blocks. The competition between Smith and Tyrus Thomas for minutes at power forward seems to be long over. Smith is available in over 90 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Travis Diener IND [PG,SG]: We've been waiting all year for Diener to emerge a heady point guard who takes care of the ball and can sink an open three, he always seemed like a much more natural fit for a Jim O'Brien team than the turnover-prone Jamaal Tinsley. That emergence may be coming soon. Diener set a season-high in scoring with 12 points in 14 minutes against the Suns on January 9, then topped that mark with 19 points and five threes against Sacramento on the 12th. He came back to earth against Golden State on the 13th, playing just 10 minutes but that may have been a matchup problem, as Baron Davis (27 points) and Monta Ellis (29) were absolutely torching Indiana's backcourt. Diener is zero-percent owned in Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner, and is absolutely worth a flyer for a team needing guard help or threes.
Kareem Rush IND [SG]: Indiana coach Jim O'Brien has been tinkering with his rotation lately, and smaller and quicker seems to be the latest trend. As such, Rush has been getting a lot of play at the two guard spot. We love scorers on up-tempo teams, and Rush has been in double figures in four of Indy's last six games. Like Diener, he's zero-percent owned.
Kwame Brown LAL [C]: Monday night was the Lakers' first game without Andrew Bynum and based on the latest medical reports, it'll be the first of many. Brown started in Bynum's place and posted a 10-point, 10-board double-double in 39 minutes. He's zero-percent owned right now, but that's likely to change pretty quickly when Bynum owners realize they need a replacement.
Ronny Turiaf LAL [SF,PF]: Bynum's injury also moves Turiaf up the Lakers' center position depth chart. Backing up Brown on Monday night, Turiaf scored 14 points and blocked three shots in just 18 minutes. Brown is injury prone and not known for superhuman levels of effort, so it's not hard to imagine Turiaf's role growing at Brown's expense over the next few weeks.
Article first appeared on 1/15/08