Under the Radar
By Kevin Payne
RotoWire Staff Writer
The Toronto Raptors entered this season with a lot of optimism and hope. They already had one of the league's best players in Chris Bosh and added another dominant big man, Jermaine O'Neal. Their coach, Sam Mitchell, was named coach of the year in 2007. With Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono having another year under their belts, things were looking up for Canada's NBA team.
However, the team started the 2008 season miserably. The team was criticized in the media for not hustling, losing nine out of 14 games after starting 3-0. On the heels of a 39-point loss to the Denver Nuggets to make the Raptors 8-9, coach Sam Mitchell was fired.
New head coach Jay Triano has attempted to turn around the miserable start for the Raptors. Like the other newly appointed coaches, Triano has mixed up the playing time, giving sharpshooter Jason Kapono and the athletic Jamario Moon their chance to shine.
Here are the players who have seen an increase in playing time over the last week. Remember, not all of these guys are automatic pickups; their minutes can get cut just as fast as they went up. Read and monitor each situation carefully as news about coaching decisions and teammates comes out on a daily basis.
Jason Kapono, G, TOR - The most accurate three-point shooter in NBA history has seen a rise in playing time the last four games. Deadly as always from behind the arc, Kapono is hitting trifectas to the tune of 45.5 percent, which is actually lower than his last two year's percentages (48.3 and 51.4). The third all-time leading scorer in UCLA Bruins history greatly benefits from the wide-open looks he gets from outside, playing alongside Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal. The last four games he's averaged more than 36 minutes, 13.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.25 three-pointers made and two assists. Expect him to keep up these numbers as long as Anthony Parker doesn't cut into his playing.
Joel Anthony, C, Miami - In an attempt to "go bigger," the Miami Heat sent super rookie Michael Beasley to the bench, and named Anthony the starter eight games ago. Over his last five games, Anthony has averaged just less than 30 minutes. A good shot blocker, Anthony was second in the NCAA in rejections in his senior season at UNLV. He's not a great scoring option behind all the stars on the Heat, but the Canadian National team member can help in blocks and rebounds if he sustains this playing time.
Marcin Gortat, C, ORL - Gortat has been the beneficiary of the Dwight Howard knee injury. The native of Poland has averaged 29 minutes the last two games and responded with 10 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. The blocks are for real; he averaged 1.8 per game last season despite only getting 10 minutes a game. Howard's knee injury is not supposed to be serious, but if it is Gortat could be a sneaky play in short term.
Jamario Moon, F, TOR - The former Harlem Globetrotter has seen a big increase in playing time the last four games. Known as one of the best dunkers in the NBA, Moon got off to a sluggish start prior to the firing of Sam Mitchell. Since then, the 6-foot-8 Meridian Community College product has stepped up his game and been rewarded with more playing time. Over his last four, Jamario has averaged 10.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.25 steals and 1.75 blocks. Ten points a game is probably his ceiling, but the unique combination of contributing in blocks and steals make Moon a solid pickup in all leagues. Don't hesitate to grab him if you are hurting in these two categories.
Marco Belinelli, G, GSW - The Italian national team member seems to be Don Nelson's latest flavor of the week, seeing 27 minutes per game over the last three. The team's 2007 first-round draft pick has always been a scorer, as evidence by the 25 points he dropped on the United States in the 2006 FIBA World Championships. He actually registered a DNP-Coach's decision on Dec. 5 but has averaged 13.8 points over his last five games. Scoring and producing fantasy stats have never been Marco's problem, but he's had trouble adjusting to playing defense at the NBA level, which has affected his playing time. If he continues to improve his defensive prowess, look for him to continue to put up points for the Warriors.
Samuel Dalembert, C, PHI - The big man for Philadelphia has been a disappointment this season, after averaging a double-double last season. Dalembert has been adequate at times playing with new teammate Elton Brand, maintaining more than eight rebounds a game, but he remains an inconsistent starter. However, the firing of Maurice Cheeks may have sparked the big man, who has 26 rebounds and four blocks in his last two games. Keep an eye on him as he may be a viable source of both of these categories if he builds on his last two games.
Here are the players who acquired new positional eligibility over the last week.