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NBA Skinny: Capitol concerns

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

Let's take a minute to pay some respects to Manu Ginobili. He's currently fourth overall in the Yahoo! game in per-game rank, despite averaging just 29 minutes per game as a reserve. Ginobili has long been a strong fantasy contributor – he finished last season 16th overall in season Rank – despite never averaging 30 minutes per game in a single season. So far during the current season, Ginobili's per-48 minute season line is the following: 33.2 points, 3.5 threes, 9.5 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 3.8 steals, and 1 block. Fantasy owners have long been pining for Manu to play what would be considered "starters" minutes – but he's among a handful of players who takes on and thrives in whatever role is best for his team, not the individual, so it's hard to get too upset about it. Props to Manu.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Sean Williams caused a bit of a stir among fantasy hoopsters over the weekend, getting his first start of the season on Saturday after a string of mostly brief but impressive appearances as a sub for the Nets. The 21-year-old rookie averaged 9.8 points on 63 percent shooting, 5.5 boards, and 2.8 blocks in 19 minutes over four games from November 10-16, and then scored 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, made eight of his 10 free throws, grabbed eight rebounds, and had two steals and two blocks in 36 minutes against the Heat on Saturday. The Nets lost their fifth straight game, but Williams' play certainly justified the move. Nenad Krstic is clearly not 100 percent back from knee surgery, and has really been struggling (5.9 points on 37 percent shooting in 17 minutes per game). Couple his production with a complete lack of offense from Jason Collins (a mystifying 0.5 points in 19 minutes per game) and Jamaal Magloire (1.9 points in 13 minutes per game), and the Nets needed some help from a big man, particularly while Vince Carter remains sidelined by an ankle sprain. Carter is traveling with the team on its current road trip, which lasts for four games through this coming Sunday, but it's an unknown as to when he'll actually return to the court.

As for Williams, there is no better situation for an athletic PF than to be running alongside Jason Kidd – his true fantasy impact will be felt in how many shots he blocks, however. Williams averaged 5 blocks, with a single-game high of 13, in 15 games as a junior at Boston College before being dismissed from the team for repeat violations of team rules – most prognosticators agreed that his talent was lottery-worthy, but his personal issues caused him to fall to the Nets at No. 17 in the draft. He averaged 2.8 blocks in 69 games as a collegian. Nets coach Lawrence Frank hasn't come out and committed to a certain lineup, but Williams is clearly the best big that the Nets have going right now. He's worth a speculative pickup in every league, regardless of settings – through seven games, Williams has posted per-30 minute averages of 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 3.8 blocks.

Gilbert Arenas' fantasy owners are feeling a bit (more) uneasy after he missed his first game of the season on Saturday – he developed swelling and felt discomfort in his left knee after playing 38 minutes on Friday. Despite continued concerns with the knee, Arenas was ninth in the league at just under 40 minutes per game through the seasons' first eight games. Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has revealed that he had a "just-in-case plan" for the team's rotation in the event that Arenas would miss games – fantasy owners can't plan for much other than hoping that Jordan doesn't have to go to this "plan" very often. At the very least, Arenas will be limited in the second of back-to-back games in the near future. The bad news is that the Wizards have two more sets of back-to-backs this week; the good news is that, after the upcoming pair, they don't have another until mid-December. Arenas' fantasy owners should brace for a worst-case scenario where he needs some extended time off to get his knee all the way back, but a more likely scenario is that he continues to play at less than 100 percent, with sporadic appearances on the inactive list, perhaps through the end of the calendar year.

• News emerged on Sunday that Luol Deng would miss about a week of action because of a muscle strain in his back. He did not play on Saturday and, according to the Chicago Tribune, it's likely that he'll miss the team's game in Denver on Tuesday, as well. The hope is that he'll heal up in time for the Bulls' weekend matchups with the Knicks and Raptors. "I'm going to wait for the pain to go away," said Deng on Sunday. "I thought it was one of those injuries I could play through, but I can't run or bend down." Deng was struggling, like many of his Bulls' teammates, before the injury – his numbers are down in nearly every offensive category, and the Bulls have staggered to a 2-7 start thanks to an average of just 87.9 points per game on a league low 39 percent from the field. They've shown little chemistry and are clearly suffering from a lack of an offensive threat in the post – while he's not going to address the latter concern, Andres Nocioni's return to the starting five could help provide a morale boost that the team needs desperately. Three consecutive days off (Wednesday through Friday) couldn't be coming at a better time for the Bulls – ideally, Deng will return at 100 percent on Saturday and help his teammates get back on the right track.

• Lineup changes/position battles: The Timberwolves' most recent starting lineup included Corey Brewer and Antoine Walker in favor of Ryan Gomes and the injured Theo Ratliff. Brewer stands to gain fantasy value, but he's made just 32 percent of his field goals this season, including and 0-for-5 performance in his first start … Mardy Collins has started the past two games at PG for the Knicks, but averaged just 19 minutes, with Nate Robinson averaging 33 minutes off the bench in the two games. Stephon Marbury had 44 and 16 minutes of playing time in the two games … Andrew Bynum is looking like the obvious choice to replace the injured Kwame Brown as the Lakers' starter at C. How long Brown will be sidelined is an unknown, but Bynum should have a chance to play his way into the starting five on a permanent basis … The Grizzlies went small in their most recent game, with Juan Carlos Navarro starting at SG while Darko Milicic sat out with a thumb injury – Milicic is expected to miss at least a few more games. Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry continues to outplay starting PG Damon Stoudamire.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Luis Scola (F – Houston)
Scola is showing some signs of life, now that he's been purged from many fantasy rosters. He's scored 20 points in back-to-back games and played 38 minutes on Saturday against the Suns, a game in which he also had 11 rebounds, four assists, and a steal. The Rockets need help on offense while Tracy McGrady is sidelined, giving Scola the edge for minutes at PF over Chuck Hayes, who is averaging 3.5 points in 23 minutes per game. Scola was a player who should have been on Watch Lists, anyway – if you need an offensive boost from a big man, he's worth a look.

Andray Blatche (F – Washington)
Blatche is a big man worth keeping an eye on, at the very least. He's played at least 20 minutes in five straight games, averaging 7.2 points, 5.2 boards, 1 steal, and 2.4 blocks in 22 minutes during those games. He's not going to see starters' minutes without an injury to Antawn Jamison or Brendan Haywood, but his production as a reserve is already worthy of roster consideration in deeper leagues.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Andres Nocioni (F – Chicago)
Nocioni's fantasy value gets a nice spike with his return to the starting lineup. After averaging 11.7 points and 4.3 boards in 22 minutes in six games as a reserve, Nocioni has averaged 17.7 points, 1.7 threes, and 7 boards in 37 minutes in his three starts.

Jordan Farmar (G – LA Lakers)
Farmar's role and subsequent production has been increasing. He's made two threes in three straight games and has averaged 12 points on 50 percent shooting, 1.8 threes, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 22 minutes over the past four games.

Al Horford (FC – Atlanta)
Horford's fantasy value isn't likely to take a hit even if he comes off of the bench – he's averaged a double-double in 31 minutes during his two games as a reserve and 8.8 points, 10.6 boards, 1.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks in 34 minutes in nine games on the season.

Jameer Nelson (PG – Orlando)
Nelson has stepped up his play during the Magic's current four-game winning streak, a streak which includes handing the Celtics their first loss of the season. Over the past four, he's averaged 15.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.3 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in 35 minutes per game.

Jamario Moon (SF – Toronto)
Moon has been starting for the Raptors at SF, ahead of free agent signees Jason Kapono and Carlos Delfino, thanks to his superlative defense. In four starts, he's averaged 10 points, 0.8 threes, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 29 minutes. The 27-year-old starred in the CBA last season, averaging 18.8 points (seventh in the league), 7.8 rebounds (fifth), 2 steals (third), and 2.4 blocks (second) in 44 games.

Leandro Barbosa (G – Phoenix)
Barbosa's performance over the past week just reinforces how high his ceiling is within the Phoenix system – he's averaged 27.7 points on 60 percent shooting, 4.3 threes, 4.3 boards, 3.7 assists, 2 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 42 minutes during his three starts in Raja Bell's stead.

Grant Hill (GF – Phoenix)
Hill's production has increased as he's growing more comfortable in the Suns' offense – he's averaged 19.3 points on 56 percent shooting over the past four games, with 4.5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.3 steals, but it's his 1.5 threes on 38 percent shooting during that same stretch that has added a whole new dimension to his fantasy impact.

Tyrus Thomas (F – Chicago)
Thomas just wasn't consistent enough on both ends of the court to hold onto his starting PF gig. A spotty performance overall overshadowed a pair of magnificent lines, and he's averaged just 15 minutes of playing time in three games since Andres Nocioni bumped him to the bench.

Francisco Garcia (GF – Sacramento)
Garcia had a nice run as a starter, but he's been bumped down in the rotation in favor of Beno Udrih and Ron Artest. He's averaged 7.3 points and 1.3 assists in 19 minutes over the past three games.

Theo Ratliff (FC – Minnesota)
Ratliff missed his second game of the season on Saturday after he felt his right knee "popping and popping" in Friday's game. My previous advice has been to play Ratliff as long as he remained healthy – that certainly didn't last long.

Martell Webster (GF – Portland)
Webster has regressed after starting the season in strong fashion – over the past five games, he's averaged 8.4 points on 34 percent shooting and 0.6 threes in 33 minutes of action.

Monta Ellis (G – Golden State)
Stephen Jackson's return assures that Ellis is now firmly planted on Don Nelson's bench – he's averaged 8.7 points and 1.3 assists in 24 minutes over the past three games.

Jamal Crawford (SG – New York)
Despite some nice overall numbers over the past five games (15.2 points, 1.3 threes, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals), Crawford's 35 percent shooting on 15.2 attempts per game and 3.7 turnovers are two very big negatives. Crawford's fantasy value figures to remain volatile at least until the Knicks' team situation as a whole starts to settle down.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
Y! – Romig rode a strong week from the foursome of Paul Pierce, Carlos Boozer, Danny Granger, and Damien Wilkins to his current perch atop the league's leaderboard. There are four teams within 1.5 points of Romig, however, so things should continue to remain volatile. My team remains in the bottom half, as my 59.5 points are good for eighth, although it's worth noting that I'm only eight points out of first in the standings. I picked up Beno Udrih and Jose Calderon this week hoping for a boost in assists – with Tracy McGrady hurt, Mo Williams under-performing, and John Salmons' numbers taking a hit, I'm looking for help in that category in particular. Other transactions of the week included Jordan Farmar, Ryan Gomes, Charlie Villanueva, Antoine Walker, Kendrick Perkins, and Juan Carlos Navarro among others.