Under the Radar
By Kevin Payne
RotoWire Staff Writer
This article will look at the weekly changes in the NBA in three areas: players receiving increased minutes, free agents who cam help fantasy teams in specific categories and new player position eligibility. I will discuss factors such as preseason stats, previous years' stats, change of teams, new coaching philosophies, injuries and suspensions when making a recommendation.
While I have quoted preseason stats, it is imperative to keep in mind that star players play limited minutes and therefore bench players see an increased role. There is also the issue that the preseason is a small sample size of only eight games. However, the preseason can also be an indicator of projections to come for new players in the league or the role of players on a new team.
In the minutes section for this week, I have outlined players on teams where the playing time is up in the air. These are situations that should be monitored the first week, some of which will be revisited next week.
In the category section, I will focus on players who are owned in approximately 50 percent or less of leagues on Yahoo!. These will be second-tier players who could replace the bottom one or two on your team to help in categories you perceive your team to be weak in. The highlighted players in this section will probably help in other categories. For example, Darko will not be in the blocks section because both his field goal percentage and free throw percentage will hurt your team.
There is no bias to leagues with daily or weekly transactions; both will be covered. Since the season just started Tuesday, I will focus on the minutes and categories sections and skip the eligibility section for this week only.
Let's start with the winners of playing time from suspensions and injuries.
Spencer Hawes, C, Sacramento: Starting center Brad Miller will be suspended for the first five games of the regular season. Hawes will pick up extra minutes after exploding for 26 points and 16 boards in 40 minutes in last Thursday's preseason game against the Rockets.
Linas Kleiza, SF, Denver: Carmelo Anthony will miss the first two games of the year due to suspension, as well as having oral surgery. Look for Kleiza, who performed admirably as a starter (17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.5 three-pointers, and 1.2 steals) last year, to pick up some extra minutes.
Michael Finley, SG, Roger Mason, SG, San Antonio: Manu Ginobili will be sidelined from ankle surgery until sometime in December. Finley will start in his place, with Mason to see an increase in minutes as he learns Greg Popovich's system.
DeShawn Stevenson, SG, Nick Young, SG, Andray Blatche, PF, Etan Thomas, C, Washington: Depending on if you talk to Agent Zero or teammate Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas will be sidelined anywhere from late November to the whole season. This means more minutes for Stevenson and Young. Young has higher upside, but whoever gets hot early in the season will get the minutes. Center Brendan Haywood is out at least until February, probably the entire year, after wrist surgery. This opens the door for Etan Thomas, who is coming off heart surgery himself. Thomas will start but Blatche has the bigger upside of the two. Both could be good sources of rebounds and blocks if one grabs the majority of playing time.
SITUATIONS TO MONITOR
DeMarcus Nelson, Marcus Williams, C.J. Watson, PGs, Golden State: Moped enthusiast Monta Ellis will be suspended/injured for the first 30 games of the season. Non-roster invitee Nelson has impressed and appears to have the starting gig to begin the season. However, Nelson played shooting guard at Duke and is still learning the position, which leaves the door open for Williams and Watson.
Josh Boone, C, Brook Lopez, C, Yi Jianlian, PF, Sean Williams, PF, NJ Nets: Here are four players who all have the potential to see significant minutes. Boone averaged 8.6 boards last year, but the Nets used their first-round pick to take Stanford standout Lopez. Jianlian will be given the starting power forward position but is still adjusting to the daily rigors of the NBA game. Sean Williams is more of a reach, but his ability to block shots (1.5 in only 17 minutes per game) can't be ignored. If given the minutes, there is at least one diamond in the rough out of these four in the rebounding and shot blocking categories.
This section will discuss players that can help fantasy teams in a specific category. Again, all of these players discussed will have an ownership of approximately 50 percent or less in fantasy leagues.
Rudy Fernandez (48% owned), SG, Portland: Rudy may best be known to Americans for the dunk over Dwight Howard in the Olympic gold medal game but the 6-foot-6 Spaniard can fill it up from beyond the arc. In that game he hit for 22 points, including five three-pointers in only 18 minutes while being guarded primarily by Kobe Bryant. With Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge playing in the paint, Rudy should get plenty of open looks from downtown. Rudy also had 2.6 steals per game in the preseason, another category in which he could contribute.
Nate Robinson (35%), PG, SG, NY Knicks: Nate's only curse is his 5-9 height, which is probably with high-tops on. Blessed with explosive speed and jumping ability, Nate has no problem putting the ball in the hoop. With Mike D'Antoni bringing his wild west running game to the big apple, look for Nate to eclipse last year's scoring (13.5 points per game). Nate averaged 18.7 points per game with 17 three-pointers this preseason. If he starts distributing the ball better, he could be in line to steal minutes from Chris Duhon, padding his assist totals.
Earl Watson (51%), PG, OKC: If asked to name the leader in assists per games last season out of this group - Watson, Kirk Hinrich, Mike Bibby and T.J. Ford - whom would you pick? Surprisingly (and somewhat obvious when thinking about the purpose of the question), Watson is the answer with 6.8 per game. Running with superstar Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, replicating that number is very attainable. Russell Westbrook may eventually eat into Watson's time, but for now he is still adjusting to the game and will back Watson up.
Luke Ridnour (36%), PG, Milwaukee: After falling out of favor in Seattle last year, Ridnour finds himself the starting PG in Milwaukee. Just two seasons ago he averaged 7.0 assist per game and had that exact mark over six preseason games. An excellent free-throw shooter, he is now playing on a team that is an upgrade offensively over Seattle. Raw talent Ramon Sessions is waiting in the wings, but for now if Ridnour can stay healthy getting back to the 7.0 assists per game number isn't unfathomable.
Amir Johnson (21%), PF, Detroit: Johnson is the starting power forward in Detroit after averaging only 12.3 minutes per game last year. In those 12.3 minutes, Johnson averaged 1.3 blocks along with 3.8 boards a game. If he get 24 minutes per game this year, 7.6 boards, 2.6 blocks while shooting over 55 percent from the field looks pretty good.
Article first appeared on 10/29/08