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NBA Skinny: K-Mart Shopping

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

POSITION HOT SEAT
PHOENIX SUNS (SF) RED HOT
1st Chair: Boris Diaw
2nd Chair: James Jones
Skinny: Diaw had started 12 consecutive games at small forward before the Suns' most recent game, in which coach Mike D'Antoni started Jones in favor of Diaw. D'Antoni cited the reason as wanting the team to get off to a faster start. The result: Diaw played his fewest minutes since the second game of the season (24) and had just eight points, while Jones saw 37 minutes of action and scored 18 points. As with any positional "battle" on the Suns, the players' fates are at the mercy of D'Antoni's whim. Diaw's value would suffer a great deal if his minutes were to take a substantial hit, however.
HOUSTON ROCKETS (C) RED HOT
1st Chair: Dikembe Mutombo
2nd Chair: Stromile Swift
Skinny: Swift has started the past two games with Yao Ming and Mutombo sidelined, but is not expected to continue to start once Mutombo fully recovers from a dislocated finger. That does not mean that the brunt of expectations, and likely the minutes, won't fall on Swift's shoulders – coach Jeff Van Gundy told the Houston Chronicle bluntly, "We have to get more out of Stromile." He was one of the more high-profile signings of the offseason, and Yao's injury should give him the minutes to make a fantasy impact – Mutombo isn't likely to pull an Alonzo Mourning and play starter's minutes or make a big fantasy impact. Yao's injury has created an opportunity for Swift to either sink or swim.
INDIANA PACERS (STARTER) HOT
1st Chair: Austin Croshere
2nd Chair: Jeff Foster
Skinny: Croshere's run as a starter appears to be at an end – according to IndyStar.com, the Pacers' most recent lineup of Jamaal Tinsley, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal, and Jeff Foster will be in place for the foreseeable future and is what coach Rick Carlisle envisioned with Ron Artest no longer in the picture. Unless Foster still isn't ready to handle a full load – he played only 10 minutes on Friday despite getting the start – Croshere may be nothing more than waiver fodder going forward. And keep Foster on your radar – don't forget that he averaged 9.0 boards per game last season.
Christmas has come and gone – hopefully you all had a great day and got everything you wished for. I for one am hoping that the gift of good health was in Andrei Kirilenko and Peja Stojakovic's stockings this year, whose injuries and sporadic contributions have anchored my two-player keeper league squad to the bottom of the standings. But you don't want to get me started on that – instead, let's roll with this week's Skinny.

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

  • The Sacramento Kings were dealt a one-two punch this past week – Bonzi Wells was diagnosed with a partial tear in his groin and is expected to miss up to four weeks, and Peja Stojakovic is battling a sore back that should keep him out until at least this weekend. It's a given that the Kings' healthy studs – Mike Bibby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Brad Miller – will be leaned on even more than usual while these two miss time. As for injury fill-ins, the combination of Corliss Williamson and Kenny Thomas should take the minutes vacated by Peja, but neither will likely warrant a pickup. Kevin Martin will start at shooting guard while Wells recovers, and could be worth a look. In two games since Wells has been injured, he's totaled 30 points and 15 boards. Perhaps a roster shake-up is now in order for the struggling Kings, as well – it may not be the rumored Peja-for-Artest deal, but given their poor record and new-found level of desperation, anything is possible.
  • Now that there is a clearer picture of Yao Ming's injury and recovery, the fantasy ramifications also are coming more into focus. He is slated to miss several weeks while recovering from surgery on his big toe to clear out an infection of the bone, and according to the Houston Chronicle, expecting him back in as few as two weeks would be overly optimistic – the Houston Chronicle even went as far as to say he could be out "upward of six weeks." With Dikembe Mutombo nursing a finger injury, Stromile Swift has started the past two games, but has played just 34 minutes total and contributed little. Lonny Baxter and, in particular, Juwan Howard have seen their roles increase since Yao went out. Howard has averaged 19.5 points and 9.5 boards in the two games Yao has missed while averaging nearly 40 minutes of playing time – he could be a decent option while Yao is out, in particular if Swift fails to take advantage of this opportunity to step up.
  • More from the injury front: Corey Maggette is now expected to miss another four weeks after a scan revealed a ligament separation in his foot, according to the Los Angeles Times. With swingman Quinton Ross also injured, the Clippers have gone with a three-guard lineup for their most recent two games, with Shaun Livingston joining Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. There is a good chance this will continue, as Ross was fairly ineffective in his starts, and the Clippers have no better options on their roster to make up for Maggette's absence. They don't share the same level of desperation that the Kings do, but this situation could necessitate a trade for the Clippers – NBA fans and fantasy owners are still waiting for the start of what was expected to be an active trade period but has amounted to nothing more than rumor and speculation. One thing this injury does mean is that Elton Brand should continue his season-long tear that has him among the early MVP favorites.

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

  • Kevin Martin (SG, Sacramento)
    The injury to Bonzi Wells should give Martin uninhibited playing time for at least the next month. He should post decent numbers in scoring, rebounds, and steals, and certainly warrants a pickup on speculation.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Wally Szczerbiak (SF, Minnesota) – Szczerbiak has simply been on fire during December – he's scored more than 20 points in nine of 11 games and his averages so far for the month are 24.4 points on 55 percent shooting, 2.1 threes, and 5.3 rebounds.

Ben Wallace (FC, Detroit) – Wallace has been putting up stellar defensive numbers of late after a bit of a slow start to the season – he's grabbed 21 boards in consecutive games and has averages of 15.9 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 2.5 blocks in his past eight games.

Earl Watson (PG, Denver) – Earl Boykins has missed the past six games, and Boykins has taken advantage – he's scored in double figures in each game while averaging 14.3 points, 3.2 threes, 4.8 assists, and 1.8 steals.

Andre Miller (PG, Denver) – Miller has also benefited from Boykins' absence – he's averaged 16.5 points, 10.3 assists, and 4.7 boards in those same six games.

Mike Miller (GF, Memphis) – With Bobby Jackson and Eddie Jones ailing, Miller has been playing and producing more – he's averaged 15.9 points, 2.0 threes, and 7.7 rebounds over the past seven games in 36 minutes of action, including four starts.

Ruben Patterson (SF, Portland) – Patterson could finally be seeing an increased role in the wake of Darius Miles' injury – he's averaged 17.3 points on 61 percent shooting over the past three games.

Kirk Hinrich (G, Chicago) – Hinrich has scored in double figures just once in the past five games, averaging 8.4 points on 35 percent shooting over that stretch.

Sarunas Jasikevicius (G, Indiana) – Jamaal Tinsley is back and starting at point guard and, while Jasikevicius has remained in the lineup, he's totaled 47 minutes and just 7 points in the past two games.

J.R. Smith (SG, New Orleans/Oklahoma City) – Smith has followed up a relatively hot streak with just two field goals and six total points in the past three games.

Hedo Turkoglu (GF, Orlando) – The return of Grant Hill will push Turkoglu outside the fringe of fantasy relevance.

Number of the Week
31 – The number of field goals that Kobe Bryant attempted against the Mavericks on December 20 when he scored 62 points, only the seventh-most he's attempted in a game this season. He's attempted a season-high 36 on two occasions. His 18 field goals made, 22 free throws made, and 25 free throws attempted were all season highs, however.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
Y! – Funston now holds a solid lead in the standings. This week's transactions involved Chris Duhon, Juwan Howard, Eddie House, Donyell Marshall, and Erick Dampier, to name a few.