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By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
It's getting to that point in the season. Injuries are taking their toll for some teams. For others, it's becoming obvious that last summer's big acquisitions simply aren't getting the job done. With the trade deadline looming, teams will be casting their nets far and wide for help.
They might even try the roster of the Roanoke Dazzle of the NBDL.
When the D-League was reorganized as part of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, many thought it would become a similar sort of minor-league system to the one used by Major League Baseball. That really hasn't happened yet, as many NBA franchises have opted to keep even the rawest rookies with the big club to get seasoning against NBA-level competition in practice.
As a result, a lot of the NBDL's stars - like January Player of the Month Will Bynum - are unaffiliated and able to sign with any NBA team.
Here's a quick look at some of the NBDL's leaders. Watch for these names on the transaction wires - some of these guys could join the likes of Smush Parker and Chuck Hayes as D-League alumni making a contribution on an NBA roster.
Will Bynum - A rookie guard from Georgia Tech, Bynum has had a couple of flirtations with the Celtics, but has spent most of this season with the Roanoke Dazzle. He's been lighting up the D-League at a league-leading 24 ppg clip, with 6.7 assists and 1.47 steals per game. He probably doesn't protect the ball well enough to be a lead guard in the NBA right now (over 6 turnovers per game), but there has to be a place in the big leagues for a guard who shoots better than 50% from the floor.
Marcus Fizer - Remember him? The fourth-overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft has been unable to hook up with an NBA team this year. Instead, Fizer has been toiling for the Austin Toros this season, scoring an even 20 per game with over seven boards and 3.2 assists, and is available to any team looking for a little frontcourt help - the Hornets, Nuggets, Nets and some others seem like possible destinations.
Andre Barrett - The former Seton Hall star is manning the point for the Florida Flame. He's scoring at a solid 16.8 ppg clip, but his ability to run the point - he's dishing 6.4 assists per game (as compared with 3.1 turnovers) - is more likely to win him an NBA job at some point. He seems like an excellent fit for his hometown Knicks.
Hiram Fuller - A 6-10 forward/center who has spent time with the Hawks and with the Wizards' summer league team, Fuller is averaging 9.1 boards per game - fourth in the league behind the aforementioned Hayes, Pape Sow (property of the Raptors) and Dwayne Jones (a signee of the T-Wolves). Again, there are plenty of teams in The Association that could use another big body.
And now for a look at players who actually ARE in the league: (All stats through Thursday's games unless otherwise noted)
Michael Sweetney (CHI): After sitting out five straight games, Sweetney finally got some run on Wednesday. He scored five points and grabbed three boards in 11 minutes, and showed enough life that he could be in line for a more significant role.
Andris Biedrins (GS): For the last two games, Biedrins has played the majority of the Warrriors' center minutes and posted a near double-double (12 ppg, 8.5 rpg).
Tim Duncan (SAN): Duncan posted double-doubles in games on back-to-back nights Wednesday and Thursday. Now, double-doubles from Timmy really aren't news, but this is significant. Duncan has been inconsistent this season, particularly in the second halves of back-to-backs, due to a foot injury. His strong play in these two games could be an indication that he's turned the corner on that.
Manu Ginobili (SAN): Ginobili is another Spur that seems to be regaining his form after a season marred by nagging injuries. In four games since his return from his latest ankle woes, Ginobili is shooting 50% from the floor and 91% from the free throw line.
Yao Ming (HOU): Yao looked sharp - if not in shape - in just his second game back from toe surgery, scoring 21 points with 13 rebounds in 33 minutes Wednesday night.
Charlie Villanueva (TOR): Improved play has meant additional minutes for Villanueva of late, and additional minutes has meant more production. Villanueva scored 18 points (including four three-pointers), pulled down nine rebounds and collected four blocks in Wednesday's win over the Wizards.
Othella Harrington (CHI): Continued shooting struggles for Harrington - who hasn't hit double-figures in scoring in his last 12 games -- is opening the door for Michael Sweetney to get back into Chicago's rotation.
Ben Gordon (CHI): The Bulls have been using a new defensive alignment in which Gordon guards the opposition's point guard. Unfortunately, that's caused Gordon to get into early foul trouble and to struggle on offense. Until another switch is made, or until Gordon gets more comfortable with guarding ones, his value will take a major hit.
Chris Duhon (CHI): Duhon is mired in a bad shooting slump, at 3-20 over his last four games.
Jason Williams (MIA): Williams' finger injury isn't bad enough to prevent him from playing, but it's clearly affecting his shooting. White Chocolate was 2-10 from the field in his return to the lineup on Thursday.
Stephon Marbury (NY): Marbury is still sore from the shoulder injury he suffered back on January 16 - it seems clear that he came back too quickly. As a result, he's likely to miss another game or two, starting with Friday's game against Toronto.
Eddy Curry (NY): Curry is also likely to miss a game or two after sustaining a rib injury in Wednesday's practice. Even if he does play, his value takes a serious hit when Stephon Marbury is out of the lineup, as Marbury replacements Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson have struggled to get the ball to Curry in the post.
Allen Iverson (PHI): Iverson has missed four straight with a sprained ankle, and his return date hasn't been nailed down yet.
Stephen Jackson (IND): In Wednesday's game, Jackson sustained a bruised hip and an elbow abrasion in a collision so severe he had to be checked for fractures in his back He's listed as questionable for this weekend's games.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim (SAC): We all applauded 'Reef's effort when he returned from a broken jaw after missing just 10 games... but it seems he might have been too aggressive. Playing while limited to a liquid diet, (due to the fact that his jaw is still wired shut) Abdur-Rahim has lost a great deal of weight and his play has suffered. Look for the Kings to scale back his minutes as he works to get his conditioning back.
Article first appeared on 2/3/06