By Shannon McKeown
RotoWire Staff Writer
Two More Coaches Bite the Dust
It was another busy weekend in the Association as the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings both chose to kick their coaches to the curb, firing Maurice Cheeks and Reggie Theus.
If it seems like I open the Barometer with a coaching change each week, it's because I do. We're only 25 games into the season, and seven coaches have already lost their jobs. As I pointed out last week, coaching changes often have drastic effects on the rotations - new coaches bring in new philosophies. The changes usually mean players who were struggling or riding the pine will see a reverse of fortune.
Let's take a look at how things look with the coaching changes in Philly and Sacramento:
Philadelphia – The Sixers hired within, replacing Cheeks with assistant general manager Tom DiLeo. It's tough to get a read on DiLeo, because his only NBA experience is working in the front office. The good news is that he has been with the Sixers since 1990 and should know all the players well.
The Sixers were one of the most disappointing teams in the league after starting the season 9-14. They failed so far to capitalize on their offseason acquisition of Elton Brand, and it cost Cheeks his job. The rotation is set for Philly with Andre Miller, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Brand and Samuel Dalembert all in the starting lineup, while Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams will come off the bench.
DiLeo's main concern will be getting better production from his starting unit. Brand, Iguodala and Dalembert have all seen their production drop this year. Philadelphia managed to win DiLeo's debut on Saturday, and a large reason why was improved play from Brand and Dalembert. Brand poured in a season-high 27 points and grabbed nine boards. Dalembert didn't show much scoring prowess with only five points, but he did match a season-high with 17 boards and, more importantly, he played over 30 minutes for the first time in three weeks. The Sixers were planning on making a splash in the Eastern Conference this season, and the only way they'll do so is on the backs of their stars. It looks like DiLeo has already figured that much out.
Sacramento – The Kings also chose to stay within the organization, promoting assistant coach Kenny Natt. Unlike the Sixers, Sacramento wasn't expected to be in the playoff picture. A coaching change on a team that's in a rebuilding phase shows that ownership wasn't happy with the progression of its young players. While Theus had shown signs of integrating the youngsters, he was still playing Mikki Moore 20 mpg this season.
With Spencer Hawes in the starting lineup and Jason Thompson playing 25 mpg, the Kings are already leaning heavily on their younger players. Natt should continue this trend and possibly increase the workload for both players. Other than possible increases for Hawes and Thompson, the Kings rotation should remain intact. Only players who have had little fantasy impact, such as Moore, should be affected by the switch.
Around the League
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again - unless they're extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level.
Matt Bonner (SAS) – The Spurs newly-minted starting center has been causing a ruckus on the waiver wire with averages of 12 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 treys in seven games this month. The Spurs have won six straight games, so they really don't have a reason not to continue playing Bonner. He's fits the mold of a Troy Murphy-like big man who lingers behind the arc. If you need the help in threes, Bonner's a great option.
Jameer Nelson (ORL) – Little has been mentioned about the impressive campaign Nelson's putting together, so it's time to give his props. Nelson is averaging career-highs in points (15.1), field goal percentage (49.8), free throw percentage (94.1), threes (1.3) and steals (1.3). The Magic lack a quality backup point guard, meaning Nelson should continue seeing enough run to continue producing at a career-best clip.
Nate Robinson (NYK) – Finally recovered from a strained groin that sidelined him for seven games, Robinson has come back firing on all cylinders. The diminutive guard is averaging 23 points and four assists in two games since his return. With the retirement of Cutino Mobley, the Knicks are thin at the guard position, and Robinson should be the main beneficiary.
Darko Milicic (MEM) – "The Human Victory Cigar" has made a surprising return to fantasy relevance after being reinserted into the Grizzlies starting lineup. Milicic has started six straight games and is showing some promise, averaging 8.2 points, 6.2 boards and 2.3 blocks. Even in his days riding Detroit's pine, Milicic showed the ability to block shots. We're not expecting much in other departments, but if you need the blocks, look Darko's way.
Boris Diaw (CHA) – Coach Larry Brown has been complaining about his team's lack of big men all season. His prayers were finally answered last week when Charlotte acquired Diaw from the Phoenix Suns. Diaw was immediately inserted into the starting lineup and has took advantage of the opportunity, averaging 16 points, six rebounds and four assists in his first two games with the Bobcats. Playing time was inconsistent for 3-D in Phoenix, but he has the opportunity to be a fixture in Charlotte's starting lineup and should become one on your fantasy squad.
Gilbert Arenas (WAS) – There have been quite a few questions about Arenas rehab from knee surgery, so I scoured the World Wide Web looking for a concrete answer to when/if Hibachi would return. The best piece of news I found was that Arenas played one-on-one against Javaris Crittenton on Sunday morning. A similar report came out last month, but it was Nick Young who Arenas was balling against. The timetable for Arenas's return is still anyone's guess, but most reports have him targeting a return in early January.
Carlos Boozer (UTA) – The total is now up to 14 straight missed games for Boozer (quad). Coach Jerry Sloan suggested that Boozer could sit out the Jazz's entire upcoming road trip. With the way Paul Milsap is playing, the Jazz can afford to take their time with Boozer.
Ramon Sessions (MIL) – Coach Scott Skiles rotations have been mentioned in this post before, and it appears he's back to his old tricks of driving fantasy managers insane. The latest causality of Skiles inconsistent rotations is Sessions. The month of December has been horrible for Sessions as his minutes have been cut from 33 to 18 per game. The loss of playing time has caused Sessions's production to dip to 5.9 ppg and 4.4 apg in the past seven games. Skiles can switch his rotation at a moment's notice, but with his current game plan, Sessions takes a drastic hit in fantasy value.
Kyle Korver (UTA) – Remember the days when Korver would give you two treys and double-figure scoring on a nightly basis? Those days are over. The six-year vet has only reached double-digits in six games this year and is averaging career-lows in points (7.8) and threes (1.1). Korver will still have the occasional night where he catches fire and nails a few threes, but his best days appear to be behind him.
Marvin Williams (ATL) – The addition of threes and the absence of Josh Smith made Williams look like a potential breakout player earlier this year, but his play has tailed off since the return of Smith. Williams has seen his scoring drop to 11.4 ppg this month and with three other teammates (Smith, Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson) all averaging more shots per game, it's unlikely he will be able to regain his scoring prowess from earlier this season.
Sebastian Telfair (MIN) – After four games, Coach Kevin McHale's rotation is becoming apparent, and Telfair is the odd man out. Telfair hasn't played over 15 minutes in any of the four games and is averaging a measly two points over that span.
Article first appeared on 12/16/08