NBA Skinny: Getting the point

Matt Buser

We've got a sad situation coming to a head in Seattle. The city now appears to be a lock to lose the Sonics, or at least that is David Stern's take. You've got an out-of-town ownership group that spent $350 million for Seattle's NBA and WNBA franchises saying that it'll move to Oklahoma City (not coincidentally, the head of the ownership group's hometown) if it isn't provided with a new arena built largely with public funds. Of course, there are plenty of underlying details – including the fact that the former owner, a Seattle resident and founder of Starbucks, sold the team in 2006 after taking significant operating losses in his final years as the owner – but what it comes down to is just another in a disturbing trend in the world of sports. Whether it's the fact that many of the new breed of professional sports franchise owners see their new purchase only as an immediate source of income, ignoring the long-term picture or the past history of their specific franchise, or the impudence that accompanies a demand that average citizens fund a sports arena that they would then have to pay to set foot in, I really struggle to make heads or tails of it. Things aren't looking good for the city of Seattle, but I can't honestly say that caving in to ownerships' demands to "build us a new arena or else" is the better option.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
The Nets and Mavericks have re-worked the Jason Kidd trade, and we're now waiting for official approval from the NBA. Trenton Hassell and Keith Van Horn have replaced Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George, and the only thing that is questionable about the new deal is that Van Horn, who has been out of the league for two seasons, was signed simply as tradeable salary and didn't actually plan on playing for the Nets. "If the guy gets there and 20 seconds later he gets cut and the guy is 55 years old, that's not going to pass muster," said NBA president of operations Joel Litvin. Assuming the league okay's the deal (with Van Horn agreeing to report to New Jersey), the new pieces don't change the fantasy implications much at all. You can read the initial analysis on the trade here. One thing worth noting is that Antoine Wright may now be staying with the Nets – but with Stackhouse now certain to remain with the Mavs, his fantasy impact would not have improved in a trade, anyway.

And the hits just keep on coming. We had another sizeable trade go down, this time involving a surprise team (Atlanta) and a not-so-surprising player (Mike Bibby). The Hawks acquired Bibby on Friday for Shelden Williams, Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, and Lorenzen Wright. He'll provide much-needed stability at PG for the Hawks and help improve an offense that was near the bottom in scoring (94.5 points) and three-point percentage (32.7). Bibby doesn't gain any more value than he would have simply being healthy with the Kings, but he should be back to his 17-point, two-three, and five-assist line in pretty short order. The Hawks, as a team, stand to gain from the move, as he's a significant upgrade over their now-former platoon. Bibby will take some pressure off of Joe Johnson, who has averaged 18.8 points on 39 percent shooting since January 4 – look for him to rebound in the second half. He should also create a bit more space for Josh Smith and Marvin Williams to operate – even if he uses a few of what used to be their shot attempts, some improvements in efficiency should make it a wash, at worst.

For the Kings, Beno Udrih gets the obvious upgrade, as he should be back in as the starter. It's doubtful that Johnson or Lue take enough minutes from him to really matter – they (along with Wright) only had value as expiring contracts. I actually think Williams has a chance to do some things for the Kings. He has career per-30 minute averages of 8.6 points, 8.4 boards, 1 steal, and 0.8 blocks, and Mikki Moore, despite being handsomely overpaid, should only briefly block some steady frontcourt minutes. He's a "Watch List" candidate and worth a speculative pickup in very deep leagues. Kevin Martin has struggled recently but should get a few more shots with Udrih at the helm, so this trade doesn't hurt him. John Salmons and Francisco Garcia don't stand to gain much fantasy value until Ron Artest is traded.

Kobe Bryant's fantasy owners got a shock on Friday when it was announced that he has a torn ligament in his right pinkie – he's put off surgery at this point, and he'd need six weeks of recovery if he were to go under the knife. "I would prefer to delay any surgical procedure until after our Lakers season and this summer's Olympic games," said Bryant. "But this is an injury that myself and the Lakers' medical staff will have to continue to monitor on a day-to-day basis." Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak also didn't rule out surgery, saying "We support him in his decision. But a week or two down the road, if it gets hit again or if it just doesn't work, it doesn't mean he won't have surgery." We are just over eight weeks away from the start of the NBA playoffs; the Lakers, currently the third seed in the West with a 35-17 record, are looking at roughly a two-week window at the end of which is something of a point of no return. There are simply no guarantees here and it's bad news for Bryant's offensive production either way – in the six games since suffering the injury, he's averaged 24.3 points on 42 percent shooting and 1.3 threes, down from season averages of 28 points on 46 percent shooting and 1.8 threes. Fantasy owners should brace themselves for the worst-case scenario of surgery becoming a necessity, and the likelihood that it would all but end Kobe's regular season. In the interim, he'll play with two fingers taped together on his shooting hand and try not to aggravate it again. Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic would see plenty of minutes at SG if Bryant were to be sidelined.

If it were up to Kevin Garnett, he'd be a lock to play on Tuesday. Since it's not up to him, we'll have to wait to get the word from Celtics coach Doc Rivers, which may not come down until game-time on Tuesday. "I've made major strides and I'm happy where I'm at," said KG. "At the end of the day, it's Doc's call. If we have practice [Monday], I will participate in practice and we'll go from there."

As is usually the case, injury updates were few and far between over the break. Check here for pre-break info and be looking for updates on player profile pages over the next 24 hours, as Monday is also an off day for the NBA.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
There are currently as many reasonably effective players available in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues as I've seen at any one point this season. Let's break down all the options by position:

Guard: Mike Conley (49.9 percent owned), Beno Udrih (35 percent and rapidly rising), Nate Robinson (33 percent), Juan Carlos Navarro (42 percent)

The All-Star break came at the right time for Conley, who had a rough patch after missing five games with a chest contusion. In 16 starts, he's averaged 10.1 points, 0.6 threes, 4.9 assists, and 1.2 steals in 30 minutes … Udrih will be owned in the vast majority of leagues by the end of the week – if you want him in your league, stop reading for a second, go pick him up, and then come back. In his 31 starts on the season, he's averaged 14.1 points, 1.2 threes, 3.7 boards, 4.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in 36 minutes … Early February was not kind to Robinson, as he was limited by a bruised quad and then a respiratory infection, but he scored 11 points and had five assists in 32 minutes in the Knicks' final game before the break. He should be back to 30 minutes per game and solid production in no time – in 16 January games, he averaged 15.7 points on 47 percent shooting, 1.8 threes, 5.1 assists, and 1 steal in 30 minutes per game … Navarro is at worst a "Watch List" candidate. He's struggled mightily with his shot since the Pau Gasol trade, but he's a good bet to bump Hakim Warrick from the starting five if he can find his stroke again.

Forward: Dorell Wright (39 percent), Thabo Sefolosha (25 percent), Thaddeous Young (5 percent)

Wright has really stepped up since Udonis Haslem went down with a high-ankle sprain. He's averaged 13.4 points on 52 percent shooting, 7.4 boards, 2.6 assists, 1 steal, and 0.6 blocks in 35 minutes over the past seven games. Be wary of a bit less playing time once Haslem is healthy, but he should be good for about 30 minutes per game, regardless … Over the past 11 games, Sefolosha has averaged 12.7 points, 0.5 threes, 6 boards, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 34 minutes per game. He's locked in as the Bulls' starting SG, and those solid-but-unspectacular numbers should continue even when Luol Deng and Ben Gordon can get healthy … Young should only improve as he gets more comfortable in Philly's starting five. Over the past seven games, he's averaged 11.9 points on 60 percent shooting, 6.6 boards, and 1 steal in 31 minutes.

Center: Mark Blount (48 percent), Nenad Krstic (39 percent), Erick Dampier (28 percent), Josh Boone (22 percent)

If you need a boost in scoring or field goal percentage, then Blount is your man – he's averaged 16.7 points on 55 percent shooting over the past 10 games. Just don't expect anything elsewhere – he's averaged 5.3 rebounds, 0.6 steals, and 0.4 blocks in those same 10 games … Krstic made four starts leading up to the break (5.5 points and 6.5 boards in 16 minutes per game) and reported no ill effects on his left knee, so he'll start playing more and more after the break, with the goal of starter's minutes at PF. You have a relatively small window to pick up Krstic … Assuming the Jason Kidd deal eventually goes through and it still includes DeSagana Diop, Dampier could be looking at close to 30 minutes per game. The fact that it'd be with J-Kidd on board is what makes him a potential pickup … Boone struggled with consistency in February but has still averaged 10.2 points on 54 percent shooting, 8.5 rebounds, 0.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks in his 29 starts on the season. Those aren't terrible numbers, although his 39 percent shooting from the foul line on the season certainly is.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Stephen Jackson (GF – Golden State) Jackson had as impressive of a run as anyone in the league leading up to the break. Over the past eight games, he's averaged 25 points on 47 percent shooting, 3.5 threes, 4.1 boards, 4.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks, while making 88 percent of his free throws.

Monta Ellis (G – Golden State) Ellis is another big reason that the Warriors' offense has been firing on all cylinders. Over the past ten games, he's averaged 26.4 points on 62 percent shooting, 6 boards, 4 assists, and 1.2 steals, while the Warriors averaged 114 points per game and went 7-3.

Andrea Bargnani (FC – Toronto) Bargnani entered the All-Star break on a real roll. In the Raptors' final seven per-break games, he averaged 17.9 points on 47 percent shooting, 2.3 threes, 4 boards, and 0.9 steals.

Rasheed Wallace (FC – Detroit) He's been wildly inconsistent, but the numbers have been very nice overall for 'Sheed as of late. Over the past 11 games, he's averaged 14.5 points on 49 percent shooting, 1.5 threes, 6.9 boards, 2.5 assists, 2 steals, and 1.9 blocks.

Cuttino Mobley (SG – LA Clippers) Mobley's fantasy impact has been quietly improving over the course of the season, culminating with the final eight games before the break – he averaged 16 points, 1.4 threes, and 1.6 steals during that stretch.

Travis Outlaw (F – Portland) Outlaw's line has been decidedly uninspiring for the past few weeks. Over the past ten games he's averaged 12.3 points on 40 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 1.1 turnovers.

Marvin Williams (F – Atlanta) Williams' offense has suffered lately while his overall line has remained less than stellar. Over the past eight games, he's averaged 13.4 points on 36 percent shooting, 4.9 boards, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 2 turnovers per game.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
I made the move to the top of the leaderboard in the final days before the break. But with FBC – Jonathan Tom's recent acquisitions of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, I'll be hard-pressed to maintain my current position. Pianowski and FBC – Justin Phan remain within striking distance of the top two, and things become muddled after that. There's still a long way to go, however.