Under the Radar
By Kevin Payne
RotoWire Staff Writer
As outlined in last week's article, injuries are inevitable. As the NBA heads into the holiday season, coaches as well as players are given new assignments (or jobs). Players formerly on the bench can find themselves on the court, even starting in some situations, to "shake up" a team or spark a turnaround in record. This is an example of why players who come off the bench should be monitored, especially for the numbers produced in the amount of minutes given per game.
This week we are going to take a look at some of the unsung heroes of the NBA. These are the players who are generally not seen in the postgame interviews, yet are an integral part of the success of their team. You won't hear them complain about playing time or how many shots they get each night. In fact, they're just happy to get paid to play the game that they love to play. These guys are typically the sixth man (or first off the bench depending on if you see the glass half empty or half full) or the lesser known starter on an NBA championship caliber team. More important, these are the guys at the end of your fantasy bench who can produce for your team.
Jose (JJ) Barea, G, DAL - Smokin' Jose has moved into the starting lineup for the Mavericks the last three games and has played at least 25 minutes over the last five. In the three games he's started, he's scored 61 points, dished out 13 assists and recorded seven rebounds. He practiced with the first team on Monday, and it was announced Tuesday that he will be the new starting shooting guard. Last week he scored the game winning shot against the Clippers, so he will continue to see minutes even with the return of Antoine Wright. It is also important to note that he has international experience prior to college basketball and the NBA. Barea started playing professional basketball in his native homeland at age 17 and is the starting PG for the Puerto Rican national team.
Francisco Garcia, F, SAC - Garcia scored 18 in an upset win over the Lakers at home on Tuesday night. He'll continue to start while Kevin Martin battles an ankle injury and should see 30-plus minutes a night. Garcia's deadly from downtown, making more than 39 percent of his treys last season. Look for him to be a good source of scoring, steals and three-point shooting for the Kings until Martin returns.
Anthony Morrow, Kelenna Azubuike, G, GSW - Both guards have seen an increase in time the last two games, which coincides with Stephen Jackson's injury to his left (non-shooting) hand. Jackson had an MRI on Monday, which showed no significant damage. However, he should be out for time being as it is still causing him pain. Coupled with the hamstring injury to Corey Maggette, expect both players to get increased minutes over the next few weeks.
Renaldo Balkman, F, DEN - I like to always talk about a "darkhorse" of the minutes section every week. This week I'll discuss the former Gamecock whose rebounding skills earned him the nickname "Taz." Kenyon Martin missed a game on Saturday, which gave Balkman the start for the Nuggets. Balkman responded with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in 31 minutes of playing time. Martin's wrist injury is not expected to keep him on the pine for long, but Balkman gave a glimpse of what he is capable of (especially on the boards), if given the minutes.
Hakim Warrick, F, MEM - Warrick has shown himself to be an offensive force the last four games. Known as a "lengthy," athletic 6-foot-8 forward, Warrick has hit for double digits in every game since the calendar turned to December. For the month, he's averaged 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and a block a game. Once coach Marc Iavaroni realizes Warrick is a better fit for the starting lineup than Darko Milicic, expect to see Hakim reach his true NBA potential.
Kendrick Perkins, C, BOS - Strangely, Perkins is only owned in about 60 percent of all fantasy leagues. The Celtic's starting center has turned his game up a notch over the last five, putting up some impressive numbers. In that span, he's averaged 12.4 points and 10.8 rebounds while shooting more than 53 percent from the field. He's a viable option this year and at only 24 has huge upside for years to come.
Matt Bonner, F, SA - Highlighting a center under this category is about as rare as San Antonio putting out a healthy lineup for this season, at least so far. Bonner has started at forward the last three games for the Spurs. In his last five games, he's averaged 12.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and two three-pointers made per game. He's the fourth scoring option for the Spurs behind Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, but this will lead to wide open looks behind the arc. He's the improbable combination of a good three-point shooter with center eligibility. Think a lesser version of Utah center Mehmet Okur.
Anderson Varejao, C, CLE - Varejao is shooting a staggering 60 percent from the floor for the season. He averaged more than six shot attempts per game over his last four, which adds legitimacy to his FG percentage. Also, over his last three games he's averaged more than seven boards. For the season he averages more than 24 minutes a night and his main threat to minutes, Ben Wallace, has been nursing a knee injury.
Paul Millsap added small forward eligibility in fantasy leagues last week.
Article first appeared on 12/10/08