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NBA Skinny: Bearish Bulls

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

POSITION HOT SEAT
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (PG) RED HOT
1st Chair: Sebastian Telfair
2nd Chair: Steve Blake
Skinny: Telfair, it's assumed, would once again be the starter when he returns from the thumb injury that has sidelined him since December 15, but speculation is that Blake could continue to start even when Telfair is cleared to play. The Blazers' team offense has been effective with the starting backcourt of Blake and Juan Dixon, but coach Nate McMillan said that he won't comment on changes at point guard unrelated to Telfair's injury until he gets into that position. McMillan went on to add, "But if the team is playing like they are playing, we ain't changing anything." Blake's fantasy numbers as a starter (10.0 points, 6.3 assists, 1.2 turnovers) compare favorably with Telfair's (10.8, 4.3, 1.9), so this is a battle with definite fantasy implications.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (C) HOT
1st Chair: Ike Diogu
2nd Chair: Adonal Foyle
Skinny: Diogu replaced Foyle in the starting lineup three games ago, but hasn't exactly flourished in the role, so far, averaging 11.0 points, just 2.3 boards, and five fouls in 24 minutes per game. Foyle recorded his first DNP of the season against the Rockets on Saturday, but had blocked 9 shots in the previous two games off the bench, including a game-saving swat of a Dirk Nowitzki lay-up late in the 111-109 win over the Mavericks on Friday. Diogu is a more effective post presence on offense, however, and the move came with that fact in mind. It appears as if Diogu will continue to start going forward and be looked to for inside scoring, while Foyle will be counted on for defense, particularly late and in close games, and if Diogu can't stay out of foul trouble.
UTAH JAZZ (PG) HOT
1st Chair: Keith McLeod
2nd Chair: Deron Williams
Skinny: McLeod appears to be 100 percent healthy after a back injury sidelined him for almost three weeks, and has returned to the Jazz's starting lineup for the past four games in favor of Williams. Jerry Sloan seems to be more comfortable with the veteran McLeod running the team and, perhaps not coincidentally, the Jazz have won all four games that he has started. It is worth noting that he fouled out in nine minutes – yes, six fouls in nine minutes – against the Sixers on Saturday, but Milt Polacio saw almost as much action as Williams in that game. While Williams did have a decent run as a starter, he won't have much use on fantasy rosters while backing up McLeod. If you have Williams on a roster outside of a keeper league, you will likely want to look a different direction if the current trend continues much longer.
Happy New Year!! Make sure that those moves you've been plotting but putting off are among the first resolutions you take care of. The longer you wait, the deeper the hole is to get yourself out of, and the more firmly entrenched your weaknesses become in the standings.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

  • If you have any Chicago Bulls on your roster, regardless of which player, it's been a tough season so far. Luol Deng has been the team's most consistent player, but he wasn't even starting for the season's first six weeks. Despite Tyson Chandler's exercise-induced asthma being diagnosed and treated, he still has yet to put together consecutive solid outings. Ben Gordon and Mike Sweetney have teased fantasy owners with good games only on occasion, and Kirk Hinrich's numbers are down across the board.

The Bulls have lost six in a row and have sputtered to their current 12-17 record, and coach Scott Skiles promised lineup changes for Saturday in hopes to get something going – promising that whoever stepped up in practice would see the most game action. As a result, Ben Gordon got his first start of the season in favor of Andres Nocioni, and Mike Sweetney, who had started every game since mid-November, got his first DNP of the season against the Suns. Against the Suns' small lineup, Darius Songaila recorded his first double-double of the season, with 14 points and 11 boards. Fantasy owners should brace for more of the unexpected, especially in the next few games – don't expect Skiles to let anyone get comfortable with their starting spots, especially if certain players' slumps continue and the Bulls keep losing games.

  • Damon Stoudamire ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee and is done for the season – that much is sure. Who steps up and/or is brought in to fill in for him is unclear at the moment. Bobby Jackson had been Stoudamire's primary backup when healthy, and second-year player Antonio Burks had been the team's third point guard. Jackson should move into the starting lineup, but "when healthy" has been the story of his recent history – he hasn't played in more than 59 games since the 2001-2002 season, and just recently returned from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for eight games. "When healthy," he doesn't put up typical point guard stats, even if given consistent minutes – Jackson can score and hit threes, but his production is limited outside of those offensive categories.

Burks started the Grizzlies' most recent game, thanks to Jackson still not being at 100 percent, but played only 23 minutes and certainly isn't who the likely playoff-bound Grizzlies want to count on going forward. The Memphis Commercial Appeal is reporting that the team is already looking to add a veteran point guard through a trade or free agency, with Chucky Atkins, Jeff McInnis, and Brevin Knight among the names being mentioned – GM Jerry West said that he doesn't want to disrupt the chemistry of the team but that the injury to Stoudamire has "forced his hand" in regards to bringing a replacement in.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • Delonte West (G, Boston)
    West doesn't put up mind-blowing numbers in any one area, but has been a solid across-the-board performer so far this year and has been particularly effective of late. In the past five games, he's averaged 14.4 points, 1.8 threes, 5.2 assists, and 4.4 rebounds. His turnover totals are low and his percentages are great, too, so he can really round out a squad nicely if you don't have any real areas of need that stand out.
  • Jerry Stackhouse (GF, Dallas)
    Dallas had been giving Adrian Griffin plenty of playing time as of late, so you know they are happy to have Stack back. He can help teams in two particular areas – scoring and free-throw percentage. If either of those two categories is a problem on your squad, Stackhouse would be a good option for you.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Juan Dixon (SG, Portland) – Dixon has been very effective since being inserted into the starting lineup – in eight games as a starter, he's averaged 17.1 points, 4.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.6 steals.

Chris Kaman (C, LA Clippers) – Kaman has been on a strong run recently – he's posted double-doubles in four of the past five games, and averaged 15.2 points, 14.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in those games.

Mo Williams (PG, Milwaukee) – T.J. Ford is expected to miss two weeks with a foot sprain, and Williams will get the starts in the interim. He scored 30 points on Friday, and in games he's started so far this season, he's averaged 19.3 points, 2.0 threes, 5.0 assists, and 1.3 steals.

Morris Peterson (GF, Toronto) – Peterson had a fantastic December – his averages for the month were 15.6 points, 1.9 threes, 5.1 boards, 1.7 steals and just 1.1 turnovers.

Grant Hill (SF, Orlando) – Hill has picked up right where he left off – in eight games since returning from injury, he's averaged 17.3 points on 53 percent shooting, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.4 steals.

Jason Richardson (SG, Golden State) – Richardson recently had a stretch in which he hit three treys in six consecutive games, and he is currently averaging a career-high 2.1 per game. Richardson is also averaging career-highs in points and field goal percentage.

Kevin Martin (SG, Sacramento) – Martin is looking like he will be a very solid contributor in Bonzi Wells' absence. In five games since Wells' injury, he's averaged 16.4 points on 52 percent shooting, 6.2 boards, 3.0 assists, and 1.8 steals.

Antawn Jamison (F, Washington) – Jamison is in a true funk right now – he shot 36 percent for the month of December while averaging 16.6 attempts per game, making only 19 percent of his attempts from downtown, and shot just 63 percent from the foul line.

Shaun Livingston (PG, LA Clippers) – The Clippers' experimentation with a three-guard lineup was short-lived, and Livingston didn't make the decision a tough one. He's shot just 34 percent since returning from injury and is averaging 6.3 points per game.

Damon Jones (PG, Cleveland) – Jones' contributions have been inconsistent all season, but the past four games have been a new low point – he's made just four total shots and scored just 13 total points in those games.

Brendan Haywood (C, Washington) – Etan Thomas has suddenly been logging more minutes than Haywood, and Haywood's production has reflected that – in the past four games he's averaged 4.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 0.3 blocks.

Number of the Week
5 – The number of free throws Steve Nash missed during the month of December and five times the amount he missed in the season's opening month. Nash made 50 of 51 in November (98 percent) and 68 of 73 in December (93 percent), and currently leads the NBA with a 95.2 shooting percentage from the charity stripe.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
Teams are still jostling for position behind Y!–Funston in the standings. This past week was among the most active in terms of number of transactions, as 12 add/drops took place over that time. Eddie Jones, Ike Diogu, Mike James, Bobby Jackson, and Nenad Krstic were among the players involved in those moves.