Crashing the Boards
By Derek VanRiper
We're only two weeks into the season and it's not too late to take advantage of some early-season surprises on the waiver wire, nor is it too soon to tighten up the roster at the expense of the owners in your league that are pushing the panic button all too soon. With some players' slow starts carrying into the third week of the season, coaches are adjusting to their rotations and staying on top of these changes will give you a clear edge in making early-season roster moves.
Sacramento caught a very tough break with center Brad Miller suffering a torn plantar fascia against the Bucks last Saturday. While Shareef Abdur-Rahim has been getting the starts at center in Miller's place, it has actually been Kenny Thomas picking up the slack on the glass. In the Kings' two games without Miller, Thomas has averaged 37.5 minutes of playing time, producing 9.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. He may not dazzle in many other categories, but with Miller out until at least mid-December, Thomas should be all over the glass for Sacramento in the coming weeks.
Kenyon Martin's surgically repaired right knee is coming along well. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, his left knee will undergo arthroscopic surgery next week. Martin is expected to sideline him for six-to-eight weeks and coach George Karl appears to be going with Eduardo Najera as his starting power forward, with Nene Hilario and Reggie Evans rotating in the frontcourt behind him as well as at center spelling Marcus Camby. Evans has the greatest ability to reliably contribute (predominantly on the boards), but he's a viable option as long as he's on the floor for 20-plus minutes each night.
Jerry Stackhouse, G-F, Dallas: Josh Howard is out of action for at least two weeks with a sprained ankle, opening the door for increased playing time for the 12-year veteran. Stackhouse has always be a solid scoring option when called upon, and in the Mavs' two games they've been without Howard, Stackhouse has played an average of 38 minutes, while averaging 17.5 points per game and two steals.
Antoine Wright F, New Jersey: The Nets' suffered a big loss on Friday night, not only falling to the Heat, but also losing forward Richard Jefferson for the at least a month. Jefferson has ligament damage in his Grade-2 sprained ankle, and he's expected to miss between four and eight weeks. Wright stepped in and played 27 minutes on Friday, and posted a very Jefferson-esque line: 16 points, two rebounds and one assist. While the biggest contributions will be in the scoring and minutes columns, expect to Wright to assume the majority of the minutes in the foreseeable future.
Ime Udoka, F, Portland: Preseason Rookie of the Year favorite Brandon Roy is considering heel surgery, which has opened up some minutes on a very interesting Portland squad for at least the near future. Udoka has averaged 34 minutes over the last three games (Roy played in two, averaging 4.5 minutes in very limited action) and even put up a double-double against the Clippers last week (11 points and 10 boards). Coach Nate McMillan will likely shuffle the rotation until he finds some consistency, but Udoka's minutes have been on the rise since the season opener.
Derek Fisher, G, Utah: With the emergence of second-year point guard Deron Williams in Utah, Fisher's been quietly forgotten about in the Jazz backcourt. To date, he's managed to average 12.0 points, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game, which gives him some value in deeper leagues where an assists-steals guy with the ability to score carries a little bit of value. Give him some consideration if you're falling behind in steals to start the season and have room on the roster for a specialist.
Tyronn Lue / Craig Claxton, G, Atlanta: Claxton has gotten off to a terrible start to the season, coming off of a preseason finger injury and shooting a pitiful 15.4 percent from the field. This has given Lue more minutes at the point for the Hawks and he's responded by averaging 11.8 points and 4.0 assists per game this season, highlighted by a 19-point, 11-assist effort against the Cavs on Tuesday. Owner impatience will almost certainly cast Claxton out on the waiver wire, and while Lue is the answer at least in the short term (Claxton did not play Friday night because of a knee injury), Speedy's 2.3 steals per game can help any squad in need of a boost in the takeaway department.
Andris Biedrins, C-F, Golden State: The cat is already jumping out of the bag on Biedrins, while current and former Adonal Foyle owners are still wondering what hit them. Biedrins isn't going to light up the scoreboard with big points totals every night (3, 10 and 3 over his last three games), but he's been a huge surprise for the Warriors in the paint with 10 blocks over the past three contests. Playing time hasn't been a problem either, as Biedrins has seen about a six-minute per game increase in playing time during that period (over 26 minutes per game in his last three).
Travis Outlaw, F, Portland: Another playing-time winner following Portland's loss of Brandon Roy, Outlaw matched his season-high with 32 minutes in Friday's win over the Hornets. The result was an absolute explosion, as the fourth-year man swatted six New Orleans shots on the night, while pitching in with 16 points and six rebounds as well. The formula has been simple thus far: Give him 30-plus minutes, and get production. Outlaw put up 18 points and 15 boards in his other 32-minute performance against Minnesota last Saturday.
Steven Hunter, C-F, Philadelphia: Hunter's production strongly correlates with the foul trouble that starter Samuel Dalembert gets into. Either way, it translates into a nice shot-blocking specialist for fantasy owners, with Hunter averaging the same 2.3 blocks per game as Dalembert, despite receiving about seven less minutes of playing time each night. He doesn't hurt the Sixers with poor shooting numbers (86.7 percent from the field on just 15 attempts through six games), but he can make his presence known inside, as evident by his five-block game against the Pacers on Tuesday.
Article first appeared on 11/11/06