February 16, 2012
J.R. Smith appears to be close to signing with the Knicks, according to reports. It's not possible to project starter's minutes for Smith in New York as long as everyone is healthy, with Carmelo Anthony owning the small forward spot and competition at shooting guard coming from Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert. But Smith's three-point proficiency (career 37%) is sorely needed on this team, his role will most certainly be to help keep the team's offense on the ascension, and we've seen him do a lot with limited minutes in previous seasons. That said, the other thing that's hard to project for Smith as a Knick is heavy, or at least typical, usage - he's averaged 15.6 shot attempts per 36 minutes over his career, almost twice what Landry Fields has logged in his two seasons (8.7). Of course, nothing seems impossible when Jeremy Lin is involved, but there can only be so many shots to go around here. I'm still in favor of rostering Smith in most formats but, assuming the reports prove to be true, my enthusiasm for fantasy numbers is a bit dampened with his choosing the Knicks over the Clippers.
• Jameer Nelson has put together his most productive stretch of the season since returning from missing five games with concussion symptoms. He's scored in double figures in five of six games and dished a career-high 14 assists on Wednesday, pushing his February averages to 12.3 points on 42-percent shooting, 1.2 threes, 6.3 assists, and 1.7 turnovers in 33 minutes. Nelson has been looking for his own shot more aggressively (11.8 FGA, 3.7 3PA) and the improved numbers can continue only if that is the case. A Dwight Howard trade before the March 15 deadline remains a wildcard here but, if you have an expendable player, it's worth grabbing Nelson to see if he can settle in with useful numbers - check his career splits and you'll see that his finishing stronger than he started would not be an unusual development.
• Wednesday's performance was exactly what we needed to see from Kevin Martin. He was aggressive early (12 points in the first quarter), attacked the rim (8-8 FT), and was a real key in the Rockets' win over the Thunder (38 minutes, 32 points, 10-18 FG, 4 threes, 3 assists, 2 steals). Add in the fact that Martin's strong performance came after a clearing of the air with Kevin McHale following his zero-point, 19-minute game on Tuesday, and fantasy owners can breathe something of a sigh of relief. Said Martin: "It was just a great conversation, especially the way the past week went. It was just a conversation we needed to have." McHale played his five starters an average of 34 minutes in the win (Kyle Lowry 35, Chandler Parsons 35, Luis Scola 32, Samuel Dalembert 29).
• Jason Terry missed Wednesday's game with a quad injury and will not play Friday because of personal reasons. The Mavs also lost Delonte West indefinitely, but likely for at least a month, after he suffered a compound fracture of his right (non-shooting) ring finger. Rodrigue Beaubois was also out Wednesday for personal reasons, leaving extended run for Dominique Jones (31 minutes, 4 points, 0-6 FG, 6 assists) behind vets Jason Kidd (22 minutes) and Vince Carter (26 minutes). Beaubois may also be out Friday, but he's going to eventually be in line to inherit most of West's minutes as the Mavs continue to look to limit Kidd's playing time. That puts Roddy (10% owned) back in line for around 25 reserve minutes, and his useful per-25 minute averages on the season include 10.2 points, 1 three, 3.8 boards, 3.4 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks.
• Monty Williams called Emeka Okafor's knee injury "one of those weird deals" on Wednesday but did not offer any more details, and Okafor is now expected to be held out at least through the All-Star break. This is obviously troubling in the context of the Hornets' handling of Eric Gordon's knee issues. Okafor's fantasy impact was already limited by his curious lack of blocks and he's expendable in shallower formats or standard leagues with a regular stock of solid waiver options. Chris Kaman has started the past two games and averaged 22.5 points on 44-percent shooting, 11.5 boards, 1 steal, 1 block, and 3.5 turnovers in 39 minutes, and he'll certainly be the beneficiary for as along as Okafor is on the shelf. And the added benefit here is that the extended playing time could push Kaman's trade value back up before the March 15 deadline and help his chances of landing in a favorable situation for the stretch. The intriguing Gustavo Ayon should also get a look in most formats - he's averaged 7.4 points on 53-percent shooting, 8 boards, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks in his five starts and he's a reasonable bet to keep his starting gig even after Jason Smith (concussion), Carl Landry (knee), and Okafor get healthy.
• This no longer qualifies as surprising, but Spencer Hawes' left Achilles continues to limit his mobility and he's now expected to be sidelined at least through the All-Star break. MRIs on his Achilles and back revealed no structural problems for either, but clearly there are problems by any other definition. Hawes has played twice since January 18 and he's now (finally) headed to a specialist for a closer look at that Achilles. Lavoy Allen has been starting at center but Nikola Vucevic is the player to consider in deep leagues. He's averaged 9.3 points on 54-percent shooting, 6.3 boards, 1 steal, and 0.7 blocks in 24 minutes over the past three games and should continue to see that much playing time while Hawes remains out of the rotation as the team's "truest" center.
• Status updates: Derrick Rose (back) is officially a game-time decision but wasn't able to run and looks doubtful .. LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) is getting better but looks very doubtful for Thursday .. Jordan Farmar (groin) hopes to play on Thursday .. Monta Ellis sat the entire fourth quarter on Wednesday after Mark Jackson determined that he wasn't 100 percent due to the flu .. The Cavs have updated Anderson Varejao's timeframe to return from a broken wrist to four to six weeks. He won't need surgery and looks at this point to be aiming for a late-March return.
• Scanning the Buzz Index leaders: Marreese Speights' third double-double of the season was massive (38 minutes, 20 points, 10-13 FG, 18 boards, 2 block) but is too little, too late, with Zach Randolph coming back shortly after the All-Star break. Speights' line in the 19 starts where he didn't post a double-double: 6.6 points, 38% FG, 5.4 points, 0.4 steals, and 0.4 blocks .. Marco Belinelli's short stint on the bench seems to have helped him find his shooting stroke. In five games since being reinstalled as the starting shooting guard, he's averaged 15.6 points on 44-percent shooting and 2.4 threes in 34 minutes .. MarShon Brooks' play has been uneven since his return from a broken toe (24 minutes, 8.7 points, 35% FG, 4.7 turunovers), as you might expect, but there will be production to be had here if he can settle in with 28-30 minutes per game after the All-Star break. The team has said they won't give him starter's minutes in an effort to keep him healthy, however .. Randy Foye's potential fantasy impact gets a reprieve if J.R. Smith ends up with the Knicks. Foye has been erratic since taking over for Chauncey Billups but would remain in a position to see 30 minutes, and he has averaged 10.4 points, 1.7 threes, 3.7 assists, and 1.4 steals in his 11 starts overall. A few more shots fall and those numbers start to look pretty good .. Semih Erden (32 minutes, 18 points, 7-8 FG, 8 boards, 1 steal on Wednesday) represents the Cavs' best chance at production from the center position, given his size (7-0, 240), and he most certainly has a shot at a deep-league impact while Anderson Varejao is out if he can keep his fouls in check.