Working the Wire
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Hoops Editor
End of the Bench
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about bad teams as the best places to look for waiver wire pickups at this stage of the season. The reasoning: common sense. Good teams probably have fairly set rotations by now and aren't likely to make changes unless forced to by injury. Teams that are lottery-bound, on the other hand, stand to gain by playing their kids and seeing who might merit a roster spot for next year and beyond.
'Course, there's a flip side to all that. Sometimes, when teams make personnel decisions, common sense is in short supply. That's one reason bad teams are, well, bad. Case in point: Frank Isola, the excellent Knick beat writer for the New York Daily News, made a remark in his Sunday column this week. As bad as the Knicks have been – and even with several key players missing time in the last week due to the flu, rookie Wilson Chandler and near-rookie Randolph Morris can't get any run. Chandler has played in seven games this season – none since January 13 – and Morris in just two.
What does the inactivity say about Chandler and Morris? One would think that a 14-34 team would think about taking an extended look at the young guys – but in a sad commentary on the bottom half of the Eastern Conference, the Knicks actually still have a shot at making the playoffs. (Sure, it's remote. But there's a whole lot of bad basketball being played by Eastern Conference seeds six through 13. Miami is really the only team that seems 100 percent dead in the water.)
The Knicks would probably be better-served in the long run by giving Chandler and Morris some playing time over guys like Quentin Richardson. But Isiah Thomas' career may ride on that unlikely playoff appearance, and coaches will almost always use their veterans in that situation.
OK, in James' case, that possibility seems remote. Just putting it out there.
So with all this in mind, we're going to amend our advice... Refine it. Don't just look for bad teams. Look for the teams that have clearly given up on this season. Right now, the charter members of the "playing for the 2008-09 season" are:
Those three join Seattle and Minnesota, teams that were playing for 2008-09 before the 2007-08 season even began.
Who will be added to this list next? We have a few guesses:
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.
Chris Webber – GS [PF,C]: Don Nelson is talking about starting C-Webb and using Al Harrington as his sixth man. Webber is still available in just under 40 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues, which puts him just under our usual cut-off – but we got a special dispensation from The Commish to include him in this week's column.
Travis Outlaw – POR [SF,PF]: Outlaw's breakout season continues – he's posted double-figure scoring in 12 straight games now. We don't believe the "Outlaw to Jersey as part of a Jason Kidd trade" rumor – we do believe that he should be owned in more than 44 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Nazr Mohammed – CHA [C]: Bobcats coach Sam Vincent, apparently concerned that fantasy owners nationwide were planning on storming his house with torches and pitchforks and re-enacting a scene from an old Frankenstein movie, has announced that Nazr Mohammed will return to the starting lineup and stay there for the remainder of the season.
Ryan Gomes – MIN [SF,PF]: Don't be fooled by the consecutive stinkers Gomes put up at the end of January (nine points against the Nets on 1/27, zero against the Bulls on 1/29). He's been Minnesota's most consistent scorer and arguably their best player for the better part of a month and is averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 boards since the ball dropped in Times Square. He's still available in close to 70 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Stromile Swift – NJ [C]: Seems like Rod Thorn has been trying to get Swift for as long as he's been running the show in Jersey, so we're going to assume he sees something in the disappointing number two overall pick that the rest of us can't.
Shawne Williams – IND [SF,PF]: It looks like Jim O'Brien is shortening his rotation again, and Williams seems to be a big part of the new alignment. He's played 20-plus minutes in Indy's last two games, averaging 14.5 points. He's zero percent owned.
Maurice Evans – ORL [SG,SF]: Evans has emerged as a very capable scorer since replacing Keith Bogans in the starting lineup; he's scored at least 13 points in his last four games and has made at least two threes in each.
Carlos Arroyo – ORL [PG]: We may finally have a winner in the season-long struggle for Orlando's starting point guard spot. Jameer Nelson is back, but Arroyo has been playing starter's minutes and has scored 12 or more points in three straight games. There's a risk that the Magic will bring in one of the many big-time point guards currently on the market, but Arroyo could be a nice short-term pick, and he's zero percent owned.
Earl Boykins – CHA [PG]: Boykins has only been on Charlotte's roster for a few days and already he's moving up the depth chart. Sam Vincent announced that he's moving Boykins ahead of Jeff McInnis in the point guard rotation – we expect he'll be one of the main scoring options on Charlotte's second unit before long.
Article first appeared on 2/5/08