My apologies to those of you who were expecting this installment of the Skinny to come at its usual time on Monday. I was in transit for much of the day, traveling from the West Coast back home to the Pittsburgh area for the Monday Night Football game. In case you missed it, it was sloppy on the field and wet and cold in the stands – but I wasn't complaining last night, as a win is a win for the Steelers, and the conditions helped me win one of my fantasy football matchups. Today is another story, however, as I'm considering the use of an expectorant to help clear out my respiratory system, but that's likely to already be more information than you needed to hear … Enough with the delays and on with the Skinny.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
• LeBron James is on a ridiculous run. He posted consecutive triple-doubles over the weekend (37/12/12 on Saturday, 30/11/10 on Sunday) and has averaged 37.5 points on 53 percent shooting, 2.2 threes, 10.2 rebounds, 9.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks over his past six games, while making 78 percent of his free throws (52 of 67). The statistical outburst has pushed his "Season (avg)" rank to second overall, behind only Kevin Garnett's sparkling line. Although his sub-70 percent free throw percentage on the season is among the biggest detriments in the league in that category, the rest of his contributions are more than making up for it at this point. His other-worldly combination of 1.6 threes, 2.1 steals and 1.6 blocks is territory that only Shawn Marion can plant a flag in. James could prove many stat-heads (such as myself) who were hesitant to use a top-five pick in roto on him this season wrong if he continues to produce at such a high level (particularly from the foul line).
• Injury updates: According to the Charlotte Observer, Gerald Wallace has declared himself "good to go" for Tuesday's game against the Heat. G-Wall sat out Saturday's game after suffering a calf strain on Friday … Rasheed Wallace has missed the Pistons' last two full games with a left knee injury. According to the Detroit Free Press, he is still being limited in practice but is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday … According to the Indianapolis Star, Jermaine O'Neal is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday. O'Neal has missed the past three games with knee and calf injuries, and it's doubtful that he'll be at or near 100 percent any time soon … Jorge Garbajosa's season has ended after a Monday MRI revealed that he'll need surgery on his left leg and ankle. While Garbajosa has done little so far this season, the update should merely serve to confirm that Jamario Moon will remain locked in as the team's defensive sparkplug … Theo Ratliff's balky knee has been a mystery to doctors, and the aged center is seeking a third opinion this week in an attempt to discover why it pops when he walks or runs. Regardless of an eventual diagnosis, surgery appears to be the likely option, ending Ratliff's short run as a fantasy-relevant.
• Lineup changes/position battles: Don Nelson shook up the Warriors' starting lineup in their 129-114 win over the Suns on Monday, replacing Kelenna Azubuike and Andris Biedrins with Monta Ellis and Matt Barnes. It could be just a one-time deal, as the Suns present one of the most unique matchups in the league, but fantasy owners need to be on high alert – Biedrins played only 13 minutes in the lopsided victory, while Ellis scored 32 points on 14-of-23 shooting … Joel Przybilla was back in Portland's starting lineup for their most recent game, replacing Channing Frye, as the team has struggled with interior defense. Przybilla had six points, 10 boards, and a block in 32 minutes … Andrea Bargnani is back in the Raptors' starting five at center after a five-game stretch as a reserve … Ronny Turiaf and Vladimir Radmanovic have been bumping each other from the starting five since Lamar Odom's return, depending on the matchup. Trevor Ariza could start at SF for the Lakers once he's up to speed with the team, ending any mystery there … Mark Madsen has started the past three games for the T-Wolves, playing around 15 minutes, as the team is still trying to figure out what direction to go with no Theo Ratliff (and in general).
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Jamario Moon (SF – Toronto)
Moon's line from Sunday – 15 points, nine rebounds, three steals and six blocks – should be enough to bump up his percent-owned number from its current standing of below 10 percent. He's been inconsistent, but overall the numbers are there – in his eight starts, Moon has averaged 9.6 points, 0.6 threes, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.9 blocks in 32 minutes of playing time. At worst, get him on your bench and see if he can become a night-in and night-out contributor.
Beno Udrih (PG – Sacramento)
It's very rare for a starting PG to not be considered worth a look in fantasy, and Udrih is no exception. He had 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting, two threes, and five assists on Monday in a win over the Spurs and has averaged 16 points on 49 percent shooting, one three, 5.2 assists, and one steal in his six starts for the Kings. I can't think of a good reason for his being available in the majority of Yahoo! leagues, even if he's only secure in his spot while Mike Bibby is inactive.
Sean Williams (F/C – New Jersey)
Williams is another player who belongs on fantasy rosters on upside alone. He had three steals and three blocks in 30 minutes on Sunday, and his per-30 minute averages on the season are 12.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 3.3 blocks. The Nets' PF/C rotation is in a complete state of flux, but when/if the team simply realizes that Williams is their most prudent option at PF (Malik Allen?!), the sky is the limit.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
In his six starts thus far, filling in for the injured Gilbert Arenas, Daniels has averaged 12.3 points on 46 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.0 steals in 39 minutes. Go get this guy – he's looking at a starting gig until at least early February.
Bynum has been proving his mettle as the Lakers' starting center, averaging 12.3 points on 60 percent shooting, 11.3 boards, 1.3 steals, and 2.3 blocks in 30 minutes over the past four games. It's hard to imagine his relinquishing the position at his current pace – on the season, Bynum (18.9) is second to only Marcus Camby (21.4) in rebounds per 48 minutes among qualified players. If anything will hold him back, it's going to be foul trouble (average of 4.0 as a starter).
Butler has been an absolute monster over the past week, averaging 31.8 points on 59 percent shooting, 2.8 threes, 7.8 boards, 5.3 assists, 2.8 steals and 0.5 blocks in 44 minutes over the past four games, while making all 20 of his free throw attempts. Butler will have every opportunity to join the game's elite performers in the wake of Gilbert Arenas' injury, and the 27-year-old has the all-around skills to do just that.
Williams has shot his way into steady minutes for the 76ers. Over the past four games, the 21-year-old has averaged 19.3 points on 58 percent shooting, 2.3 threes on 60 percent shooting, 3 boards, 3.5 assists, and one steal in 30 minutes per game. He's out-produced starting SG Willie Green by a wide margin, as Green has averaged 9.5 points on 31 percent shooting in 30 minutes during the same four games.
Blatche played well enough while Brendan Haywood was hurt that he’s not going to just disappear now that Haywood is healthy again. Over the past 10 games, Blatche has averaged 9.8 points on 54 percent shooting, 6.5 boards, 0.9 steals and 2.3 blocks in 24 minutes. His role moving forward should stay in the 20-to-25 minute range, meaning that he should be a fine end-of-the rotation fantasy big man.
Jaric's performance over the past three games as the T-Wolves' starting PG has raised some eyebrows. In 37 minutes per game, Jaric has averaged 18.3 points on 58 percent shooting, one three, 6 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks. He's never been known for consistency of production, but a hot streak is a hot streak no matter which player it comes from.
Just in case you had forgotten, Calderon once again proved that he's a fantasy stud-in-waiting. In the three games he has filled in for the injured T.J. Ford, he has averaged 12 points, one three, 11.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 41 minutes. Ford's fantasy owners who didn't snag Calderon as a handcuff are currently realizing the error of their ways.
Salmons has done little to warrant a roster spot since being demoted to the bench. In six games as a reserve, he's averaged 8.2 points, 0.2 threes, 4.3 boards, 2.0 assists and 0.5 steals in 28 minutes per game. If the Ron-Artest-at-PF experiment ever comes to fruition, Salmons' contributions could once again spike, but that does not appear to be in the Kings' plans for the immediate future.
McCants is currently in a down portion of what already has been a roller coaster ride of production. Over the past five games, McCants has averaged 8.0 points on 27 percent shooting, including 0.4 threes on just 13 percent shooting, while also managing 2.8 turnovers per game. His season line has now balanced itself out to be some scoring (13.8) and threes (1.6) with low-percentage shooting (42 percent FG, 65 percent FT), lots of turnovers (3.4) and little help elsewhere (2.9 boards, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks).
Robinson has made a quick transition from the likely beneficiary in the Stephon Marbury fiasco to almost no fantasy value, despite an injury to Mardy Collins. Over the past five games, Robinson has averaged 5.2 points on 28 percent shooting in just 18 minutes per game.
It appears that Odom's per-game numbers will suffer, at least in the short-term, as he attempts to get all the way back from offseason shoulder surgery. In five games since posting season-highs of 25 points and 15 boards on November 16, Odom has averaged 9.4 points on 43 percent shooting, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 3.4 turnovers in 35 minutes per game, and his numbers in nine games played on the season are down almost across the board.
Just when it looked like Terry could do no wrong as the Mavs' sixth man, he's gone into an extended shooting slump. Over the past six games, he's averaged 11.5 points on 35 percent shooting in 27 minutes per game. Terry isn't going to continue to shoot this poorly, but he wasn't going to continue at the breakneck pace at which he started the season, either (21.8 points on 57 percent shooting over the season's first eight games).
Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
Y! - Romig is still atop the leaderboard, with a strong week from Carlos Boozer, Steve Nash, Danny Granger, Andrew Bynum and Monta Ellis helping to pave the way. Nobody is running away with it as of yet, however – only 11.5 points separate first place from ninth place. My team remains in the middle of the pack, but should get a boost with the addition of Antonio Daniels. Leaving Jose Calderon's 19 points and 14 assists on the bench on Sunday is no way to attempt to compete for the league crown, however. This week's transactions included Rafer Alston, Walter Herrmann, Shawne Williams, Antonio McDyess, Delonte West and Jason Maxiell, among others.