Crashing the Boards
By Derek VanRiper
Is one man's trash really another man's treasure? It sure could be just one month into the NBA season. We are beginning to see more permanent changes in playing time and rotation orders across the league, while some teams off to a slow start are shaking things up and others are getting key contributors back from early-season injuries. Miami was happy to get Jason Williams back after opening the season with Gary Payton as their starting point guard, only to have center Shaquille O'Neal undergo knee surgery and land on the shelf until early January. Williams has been limited to this point, and with Payton struggling early on, the defending champs are shopping for a point guard.
Miami's Dorell Wright has been taking advantage of injuries to Shaq, James Posey and Williams, on top of the poor outside shooting from Antoine Walker to land a spot in the starting lineup. While Posey could return as soon as Thursday's game against the Pistons, Wright's shown tenacity on the defensive end, particularly on the glass. The swingman has averaged 8.7 points and 11.3 boards in three games as a starter, with 10.5 rebounds per contest over his last six. Even with the return of Posey, Wright should continue to see 20-plus minutes off the bench. He would also benefit if Walker is dealt away for another point guard, such as Seattle's Earl Watson.
With the Knicks' Channing Frye out three-to-six weeks with an ankle injury, the door has been opened even further for early-season Crashing the Boards favorite, David Lee, to get more playing time in New York. Lee was impressive during the first week of the season, and has continued to play well through the first month, carrying averages of 9.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season. The Knicks are a mess across the board (see: Francis, Steve or Marbury, Stephon), but Lee has found some consistency in coach Isiah Thomas' debacle of a season thus far.
Kwame Brown, F/C, Los Angeles Lakers: It's hard to find guys capable of putting up near double-double numbers each night, in addition to having the ability to block shots. Then again, it's easy to forget about Brown, who opened the season sidelined by a shoulder injury. Brown has eaten up Andrew Bynum's minutes, averaging 12.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over the last three games.
Reggie Evans, F, Denver: As Dick Vitale would say: "He's a glass eater, baby!" Don't expect much else from Evans, but if you need a shot in the arm on the boards, there is a good chance he'll help you out and an even better chance that he's available in your league. He's not a much better than a career 50-percent free-throw shooter, but he'll hit a high-percentage of the field goals that he does take, keeping him from being a complete percentage-category liability.
Damon Jones, G, Cleveland: There may never be a day where Jones is a multi-category threat for fantasy owners, but for those in need of a perimeter-shooting specialist, he's not a bad option. Jones has averaged just less than 10 points per game for the Cavs this season, including two three-pointers per contest. Sure the 2.3 assists per game aren't much, but if you're really desperate for the triples, they aren't a bad bonus.
Danny Granger, F, Indiana: Granger's athleticism makes him a very attractive high-upside pickup, as he contributes in just about every category to some capacity. What's easy to overlook with Granger is the 4.1 three-pointers he's been putting up each night. This season, Granger's connecting on about 1.7 of those attempts per game (41.4 percent), as a part of his 11.0-point, 4.4-rebound and 1.0-block averages.
Luther Head, G, Houston: Head's game is much like a younger version of Damon Jones' at this point, scoring mostly from three-point range (averaging more than two treys per game) and contributing very little in other categories: 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He's averaging a shade under 23 minute right now, even less than he did during his rookie season, but if he continues to bury the triples at 50-percent or if the Rockets suffer an injury in the backcourt, his playing time and production would figure to see a nice increase.
Earl Boykins, G, Denver: It's easy to fly under the radar when you're 5-5, and 133 lbs. The fact of the matter is, Boykins is finding his teammates to the tune of 5.0 assists per game, along with a nice 11.0 points. He's not going to help out anywhere else, but if you're in need of a dish-man at your point guard spot, he's probably there on your waiver wire.
Sebastian Telfair, G, Boston: With 12.6 points and 5.8 assists in his last five games, Telfair has shown that the shortness of breath episode that he suffered a few weeks back is a thing of the past. He's also been getting a nice share of the minutes at point guard, sitting just below 32 minutes per night. The third-year point guard's shooting percentage is up to 47.2 percent, a vast improvement over his career-average of 40.1, and he seems to be fitting well in Doc Rivers' system.
Alonzo Mourning, C, Miami: Did anyone see the seven blocks Mourning handed out against the Sixers on Monday night? Shaq is expected to be out of commission until early January, which means that there is at least one month of starters' minutes in store for 'Zo. He's owned in about three-quarters of all fantasy leagues, but that about one-quarter too few. In 10 games as a starter this season, Mourning has posted some strong numbers, averaging 10.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. If you missed out on Emeka Okafor or Marcus Camby on draft day, make sure Mourning isn't available on your waiver wire before conceding the blocks category until the next great shot-blocker emerges this season.
Darko Milicic, F, Orlando: It's still a bit too early to write off Milicic as a reliable NBA contributor, as he's beginning to make a significant defensive impact in Orlando. The seven-footer has pitched in 7.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and a nice 2.1 blocks per game for the Magic this season. He's available in nearly half of all leagues right now and considering that he's blocked a shot in all but one of Orlando's 15 games this season, he's shown an ability to rack up rejections even with somewhat limited minutes (21.0 per game).
Article first appeared on 11/28/06