Crashing the Boards
By Derek VanRiper
What do you do when your team is involved in a late-game brawl, where your star player, who happens to lead the league in scoring, throws a sucker punch and lands a 15-game suspension from the league for his behavior? You make a trade for the league's second-leading scorer of course. The Nuggets sent Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round draft picks in 2007 to Philadelphia for Allen Iverson on Tuesday. It may be time to start calling Nuggets' coach George Karl, "The Question" (go ahead and conjure up hilarious images of Steve Carell playing basketball on NBC's, "The Office"). Critics have already started to question how "The Answer" can possibly co-exist with Carmelo Anthony, upon Anthony's return from suspension.
In the meantime, there is little doubt that Iverson is going to keep Denver in the thick of the playoff race and the Northwest Division, and if any coach could make things work with these two players, it's Karl. Philly completely takes the plunge into a rebuilding phase, while getting a good distributor to run the point, stockpiling a couple of first-round draft selections and clearing salary-cap space with Smith's contract set to expire after this season. With an opening for a true point guard in Denver, Earl Boykins appears to be in line for some increased minutes and production. He could help out at least until Anthony returns, if not beyond. Linas Kleiza will be the Nuggets' starting small forward while Anthony is out. Kleiza won't be counted on for major offensive production, but he did put up 10 points and six rebounds in Monday's win over Washington, and he's worth consideration in deeper formats.
As far as the Knicks' role in the brawl, Nate Robinson (10 games) and Jared Jeffries (four) were the most prominent players affected by the resulting suspensions, which doesn't impact many fantasy managers. Stephon Marbury stepped up in the Knicks' first game since Saturday's melee, scoring 29 points while adding eight assists and five boards and making the game-winning layup as time expired. He was already expected to pick up his production with Steve Francis on the sidelines, so with less depth behind and around him, expect Marbury to continue turning his season around.
If your squad has been on the losing end of a season-long brawl and you need some help in a particular category or two, check out some of these options:
Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers: Amazingly, Kaman has surfaced on the waiver wire during the first two months of the season. Reliable big men who get consistent minutes are extremely hard to come by, so be sure to pounce as soon as Kaman is cut loose in your league. Over his last four games, Kaman has averaged 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.0 block per contest.
Anderson Varejao, F, Cleveland: Varejao got into some foul trouble in Saturday's loss to Orlando, but when you remove that game from his last five, you're left with a guy averaging 13.8 points and 10.0 rebounds over the last four games. He's available in nearly all leagues, and if he continues to receive 33-plus minutes each night, he'll continue to contribute on the boards.
Speedy Claxton, G, Atlanta: One of the bigger names to hit the waiver wire after injuries slowed his production out of the gate, Claxton appears to have returned to form during the Hawks' last two games. With back-to-back double-doubles (19 points and 11 assists, 10 points and 11 assists), along with seven steals in that span, Claxton is a must pickup in virtually all formats. Expecting double-digit assists every night is obviously too much, but the upside is there for him to average at least six dimes from here on out, while ranking among the league's best in steals.
Luke Walton, F, Los Angeles Lakers: 14.2 points, 6.2 assists and 1.6 steals over the last five games and numbers that have been serviceable in deeper leagues all season, yet some owners have passed over Walton on the waiver wire through the first six-plus weeks of the season. It looks like he's for real this season, so on the off chance that he's still floating around in your league, go get him.
Matt Barnes, F, Golden State: A 32-point game is enough to put anyone on the fantasy radar, but realistically, Barnes can contribute as a three-point specialist. He's hit 15 treys over his last five games, including efforts of six and four triples during that span. Don't expect anything more than 10 points per game, but he's also averaged 1.2 steals per game in December.
Travis Diener, Orlando: Diener has made the most of finally getting some minutes in Orlando, putting up double-digit scoring totals in two of his last four games. During that stretch, the former Marquette star has shot 42.1 percent from behind the arc (8-for-19). He's not much more than a one-category threat at this point, but he's serviceable as long as he's getting 20-plus minutes for the Magic.
Rasho Nesterovic, C, Toronto: With a huge minutes spike for the last three games (33-plus minutes per), Nesterovic has erupted as a shot-blocking machine north of the border. In his last three contests, Nesterovic has pitched into to the tune of 3.3 blocks per game. He's also scored in double figures twice during that stretch, while grabbing 10 boards once.
Brendan Haywood, C, Washington: Etan Thomas is out for at least three more games, leaving the door open for Haywood to reclaim some of the minutes he's lost at center this season. In the last four games, Haywood has delivered at least on the defensive end of the court, with 2.2 blocks and 9.8 rebounds in Thomas' absence. He'll never be a big-time offensive contributor, so tread accordingly.
Article first appeared on 12/19/06