NBA Skinny: Injury Woes

Matt Buser
1st Chair: Voshon Lenard
2nd Chair: DerMarr Johnson
Skinny: Lenard has hit less than 30 percent of his threes, was not in the starting lineup, and played only 11 minutes in the Nuggets' 102-91 win against the Timberwolves on Sunday. Johnson, averaging less than 10 minutes per game entering the contest, started and put up a great fantasy line in 32 minutes of play – 17 points on 7-12 shooting, 3 threes, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks. The Nuggets coincidentally were 25-3 in games Johnson started last season. The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that the change came as coach George Karl was looking for more energy on offense and defense, and given the results, Johnson likely will remain in the lineup in favor of Lenard.
1st Chair: Leandro Barbosa
2nd Chair: Boris Diaw, James Jones
Skinny: Suns coach Mike D'Antoni seems content to go with the "hot hand" to complement regular starters Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Shawn Marion, and Kurt Thomas. Barbosa started the Suns' most recent game against the Warriors and scored 19 points, grabbed 5 boards, had 3 assists and 2 steals in 39 minutes. He is expected to remain the starter according to the Arizona Republic. Diaw played 31 minutes and Jones 23 against Golden State, while Thomas played just 16, his lowest total of the season. Barbosa and Diaw both look to be worthy of roster spots, and those two players may be interchangeable parts in the starting lineup depending on who is on a hot streak and what match-ups dictate. Jones' status as the Suns' seventh man appears to be pretty set.
1st Chair: Morris Peterson
2nd Chair: Joey Graham
Skinny: Peterson started over Joey Graham in the 0-6 Raptors' most recent loss, and the move was instigated by a meeting between the frustrated Peterson and coach Sam Mitchell according to the Toronto Sun. Graham will play with the second team, where Mitchell feels the rookie will have a better chance for success, and the veteran Peterson, frustrated with the team's record and his own inconsistent playing time, is once again the starter. He scored 11 points and played 37 minutes in the 121-126 overtime loss to the Sonics on Sunday, while Graham played 15 minutes off the bench and scored 7 points.
1st Chair: Mike James
2nd Chair: Jose Calderon
Skinny: Put them together and you have a fantastic fantasy player – unfortunately a straight platoon seems to be the plan for the foreseeable future. James is still getting the starts and averaging 16.2 points per game, including 36 last night. Calderon is still seeing nearly the same amount of minutes (28.3 to James' 29.5) and is finding his teammates more often (7.2 assists to James' 3.8). Raptors' coach Sam Mitchell appears to be content with the current situation, so don't expect a change in the near future.

I'm really trying, but it's still tough getting used to the NBA's new way of doing things – having done away with the injured list in favor of expanded rosters that include "inactive" roster positions. Perhaps it's the fact that Samuel Dalembert, Andrei Kirilenko, and Carlos Boozer make up my entire bench in one of my head-to-head leagues At any rate, I thought I'd share one of the better suggestions I've heard that those of you in private leagues could employ (thanks, C-Note). Once a player misses a set criteria of games (three or five, for example), the player can be released to waivers, but "protected". The commissioner can push out the player's waiver date so he is essentially on waivers indefinitely. Keep a running tab of who is protected by whom, and when a player is set to be activated, the commissioner can change the player's waiver date yet again and be added to the original roster in favor of another player. It's just a suggestion if you and your league-mates are struggling to find a way to circumvent the new rules.

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

Tracy McGrady's back spasms were supposed to keep him out of action for up to three weeks, but instead T-Mac was back in the lineup on Saturday, just over a week after the initial reports. What made it even better for his fantasy owners was the stat-line he hung on the Nets in the Rockets' 99-91 victory. He scored 35 points – 30 in the second half – hit 4 threes, grabbed 10 rebounds, and had 4 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks. His numbers were a bit more pedestrian in yesterday's loss to the Celtics, but McGrady appears to be all the way back from the injury in short time.

I know of more than a few owners who didn't get the news until it was too late, and McGrady's fantastic return was wasted on their bench. Granted McGrady's return two weeks early was a bit of a surprise, but it goes to show how the NBA's new "inactive" list will likely cause owners to miss some games from players returning from injury over the course of the season. Players can be activated up to an hour before game-time under the new rules, so if you have an injured player, you will have to take steps to stay completely updated. As McGrady's example shows, you'll be wise to look for daily updates if you have a stud missing time.

One fantasy star returned while another hit the shelf on Saturday. Andrei Kirilenko sprained his ankle 10 minutes into the Jazz's 98-103 loss to the Bulls, and is expected to be out 1-2 weeks as a result – be looking for daily status updates by the weekend. Matt Harpring would typically see an increase in playing time in his stead, but Harpring is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and his contributions will be limited. Look for Devin Brown and Kris Humphries to see more playing time, but not enough to help a fantasy squad. If you are looking for blocks in the interim, you may find specialists Steven Hunter and Adonal Foyle as the best options available on your league's waiver wire.

LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 4,000 points in Cleveland's 108-100 win in overtime against the Magic on Sunday. James reached the milestone at 20 years and 318 days, nearly a full year earlier than Kobe Bryant, the previous record holder, had at the age of 21 years and 216 days. While scoring has not been a problem for James so far this season – he is averaging 26.7 points per game – many of his other numbers are down from last year. His averages of 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.1 steals are well below expectations, particularly for those who drafted him first overall.

A new offense and the presence of Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall are contributing factors, but one low number is particularly worth noting – minutes per game. Even logging 49 minutes in yesterday's overtime game only brought his average up to 36.3 per game, a full six minutes below last year's 42.4 average. I'm not counting on his stats, including his court time, staying this low. As he becomes more comfortable with his teammates and in head coach Mike Brown's offense, you should see start to see any lackluster stats (relatively speaking) come back to form.

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

  • James Posey, GF, Miami
    Posey returned to the Heat on Friday after missing the season's first five games with a strained thumb. He made his first start of the season on Saturday in favor of the scuffling Antoine Walker, should see heavy minutes in the Miami rotation, and be good for some threes and steals.
  • Antonio Daniels, PG, Washington
    Daniels returned to the Wizards on Friday and to the starting lineup on Saturday, averaging 9.5 points and 3.0 assists in the two games. Daniels should be a cheap source of points and assists now that he is back and healthy.
  • Trevor Ariza, SF, New York
    Ariza played 34 minutes and recorded 13 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals in the Knicks' first win of the season against the Kings on Sunday. He has outplayed "starter" Matt Barnes all season, and could be headed to the starting lineup in the near future.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Gilbert Arenas, PG, Washington – Arenas has torched defenses for 28.5 points per contest, and dropped 43 points on the defending champs in the Wizards 110-95 win over the Spurs on Saturday.

Marcus Camby, C, Denver – Camby is playing out of his mind – last night's monster game (18 points, 22 boards, 7 blocks) put his season averages at 16.1 points, 14.1 boards, and 3.7 blocks, and he is currently No. 1 in the Yahoo! rankings.

Dwight Howard, PF, Orlando – His slow start appears to be well behind him – in the past four games, he has averaged 16.5 points and 12.8 boards while shooting 52 percent.

Speedy Claxton, PG, New Orleans – Claxton leads the Hornets in scoring (17.6) and assists (5.4) as the team's sixth man, and is forcing coach Byron Scott to give him more court time with continued strong play.

Caron Butler, SF, Washington – Butler has been dynamic since returning from a thigh injury – he's averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.0 steals in three games.

Chauncey Billups, PG, Detroit – Billups followed up 27 points and 11 assists on Thursday with 21 points and 10 assists on Friday, and is averaging career highs in both stats (17.2 points, 9.3 assists).

Kyle Korver, SF, Philadelphia – Korver seems to have found his stroke again – he's averaged 15.0 points and 2.8 threes while shooting 53 percent over the past four games.

Maurice Williams, PG, Milwaukee – Williams has been huge off the Bucks' bench, averaging 19.8 points over the past four games while shooting 60 percent. He has also averaged 2.8 threes over that stretch, including a dramatic game-winner as time expired on Saturday as the Bucks edged the Pacers 103-102.

Leandro Barbosa, PG, Phoenix – His recent hot play earned him a start in Phoenix's ever-evolving rotation on Saturday – he has averaged 21 points on 59 percent shooting over the past three games.

Emeka Okafor, FC, Charlotte – Okafor has shot just 26 percent (12/46) over the past four games, and played just 22 minutes on Saturday – the Bobcats are concerned with his conditioning, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Kenyon Martin, PF, Denver – Martin's bum knee finally forced him to miss a game Sunday, and his immediate availability is very much in doubt.

Samuel Dalembert, C, Philadelphia – Dalembert's return has been pushed out what should amount to another 10 days, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

James Jones, SF, Phoenix – Jones has been replaced by Boris Diaw in the Suns' starting lineup, and has attempted only 15 shots and averaged just 9.5 points since the move.

Josh Childress, GF, Atlanta – Childress played only 11 minutes on Saturday, and has totaled just 16 points in the past three games.

Number of the Week
75 – The percentage of his three-point attempts that Maurice Williams has made thus far – Williams has made 12 of his 16 attempts from downtown.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
Waiver activity remains sparse – hoping for a boost in big man stats, I added Alonzo Mourning in favor of Stromile Swift in my first move of the season. Yahoo! Sports' Joe Lago has ridden his two-headed monster at center – Yao Ming and Jermaine O'Neal – to his current perch atop the standings.