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NBA Skinny: Pointed Battles

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

POSITION HOT SEAT
TORONTO RAPTORS (PG) RED HOT
1st Chair: Mike James
2nd Chair: Jose Calderon
Skinny: James has started the Raptors' first three games but has played less minutes to this point, including 19 to Calderon's 43 in Saturday's loss to the Pistons – Calderon responded with 10 assists. The Raptors are clearly rebuilding and James is a free agent after this season, so they may turn to Calderon very quickly if he proves he can handle the load. Sam Mitchell is desperate to find a rotation that works in Toronto, so keep your eye on this situation in the very near future.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (PF) HOT
1st Chair: Andrew Bogut
2nd Chair: Joe Smith
Skinny: Bogut has started the Bucks' first three games with the incumbent Smith still sidelined with a knee injury and has played well, averaging 9.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. The team does not have a definite time-table for Smith's return, and it remains to be seen what affect it will have on Bogut's playing time. If Bogut continues to play well, the Bucks will be hard-pressed to remove him from the lineup, but the situation bears watching once Smith can get back on the court.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (PG) HOT
1st Chair: Eric Snow
2nd Chair: Damon Jones
Skinny: Snow was given the starting job for the most part because of his defense, and he has responded by playing almost no offense – he has made just one field goal and scored four points in three games. Jones has scored 32 points in those three games off the bench, as the two are in a virtual platoon. If Snow continues to bring nothing to the table offensively, Jones could move past him on the depth chart.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (PG) WARM
1st Chair: Sebastian Telfair
2nd Chair: Jarret Jack
Skinny: Nate McMillan said at the start of the season that both players would get a look at the point, mostly because of how poorly Telfair played in the preseason – he shot only 25 percent in six games. Telfair has continued that trend in the regular season's early going, but helped his cause in the Blazers' win over the Hawks on Saturday with 18 points on 7-15 shooting and five rebounds. He still managed only three assists and has just nine in three games against eight turnovers. Jack has seen his playing time increase in each game, and also played well against Atlanta, scoring 10 points and handing out four assists with no turnovers in 19 minutes. Jack will continue to get opportunities to prove himself if Telfair doesn't turn things around.
The first week of the NBA season is behind us, and issue number one this fantasy season has been how to deal with an injured player with the dreaded "inactive" designation instead of what now seems to be the "luxury" of the injured list. Roster choices are that much more important, and having a strong backup for an injury-prone player like Larry Hughes or Jamaal Tinsley is now paramount. Players with multi-position eligibility and a history of durability are looking that much better – be proactive, make sure you are as prepared as you can be, and don't get stuck with an injury that forces your hand into a difficult decision.

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

Speaking of injuries and inactivity, teams who drafted Shaquille O'Neal and Tracy McGrady have already been dealt major blows. Shaq is expected to be out for two to four weeks with an ankle sprain and T-Mac is slated to be out for three weeks with back spasms. The Heat will turn to Alonzo Mourning to fill in for O'Neal, and in his first game in this capacity on Saturday he scored 14 points, grabbed 12 boards, and blocked 4 shots in 34 minutes. Fantasy owners should look no further than Zo to fill in the void for Shaq in the interim. The Rockets will count on Derek Anderson to pick up some of the scoring slack with McGrady missing from the lineup. The Rockets' first game without T-Mac was also Saturday, and Anderson went for 17 points, including 3 three-pointers, six boards, and five assists in 40 minutes. Anderson should prove to be one of the better short-term solutions while McGrady is out.
The Knicks are in such a complete state of disarray that it is hard to overstate it even just three games into the season. Larry Brown's efforts at establishing a rotation already seem to be wreaking havoc on the idea of team morale, and haven't done much to instill confidence in fantasy owners, either. Brown has 10 players averaging more than 15 minutes in their appearances to this point, but only two (Stephon Marbury and Antonio Davis) have been on the court for over 26 minutes per contest. Keep away from this situation, outside of continuing to start Marbury, until it shakes out over the next week or two. Expect Marbury, Eddy Curry, Quentin Richardson, and Channing Frye to eventually emerge as the reliable fantasy options in New York – and just hope for his and his fantasy owners' sake that someone wants to make a deal with Isaiah Thomas for Jamal Crawford.
While the Kings are by no means in disarray, their offense has struggled almost as mightily as the Knicks' to this point in the early going, but in particular stars Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic. The Kings scored only 67 points in an embarrassing 26-point loss to the Hornets in Oklahoma City. Bibby and Peja shot a combined 8-25 as the Kings made only 31 percent of their field goals. In their follow-up loss to the Rockets, the two made only five of 24 shots between them, and scored a combined 15 points. It appears, however, that a matchup against the Suns was just the tonic these two superstars needed. In Sunday's 118-117 win, Stojakovic hit six threes and scored 33 points, while Bibby made nine of 20 field goals and scored 19 points. With newcomers Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Bonzi Wells playing well and their studs rounding back into form, the Kings should quickly distance themselves from their early-season woes and prove to be one of the more dynamic offenses in the league. Don't panic if paltry contributions from Bibby and/or Peja have you low in the standings after the season's first week – there are still 24 weeks to go.

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

  • Austin Croshere (PF, Indiana)
    With centers Jeff Foster and Scot Pollard both ailing, the Pacers have gone small and Croshere has stepped into the starting lineup with Jermaine O'Neal shifting to center. Croshere posted averages of 13.7 points on 59 percent shooting, 6.7 boards, and 1.3 threes in the Pacers' first three games. He should continue to start for a few more weeks until Foster's return, speculated to be around Thanksgiving.
  • Hedo Turkoglu (GF, Orlando)
    Grant Hill's recovery from hernia surgery will likely keep him out until mid-December, so Turkoglu has plenty of time to contribute to fantasy squads. He has averaged 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, and 1.3 threes in the season's first week – but the career 38 percent shooter from downtown has made only 22 percent of those attempts to this point. Once his shooting gets on track, his offensive numbers could spike.
  • David West (PF, New Orleans/Oklahoma City)
    The trade that sent Jamaal Magloire to the Bucks moved the third-year West to the starting lineup, and he has responded with averages of 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, with four steals and two blocks in three games. He shouldn't see many challenges for playing time and could provide solid defensive numbers if you are short on big men.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

T.J. Ford, PG, Milwaukee – Ford has alleviated concerns about his back and then some, just missing a triple-double on opening night (16 points, 9 rebounds, 14 assists) and posting averages of 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 10.3 assists in the season's first week.

Chris Webber, PF, Philadelphia – Webber has begun the season with familiar production after falling in most drafts, averaging 23.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals in the Sixers' first four games.

Chris Duhon, PG, Chicago – With Kirk Hinrich not at 100 percent and Ben Gordon still not ready for starter's minutes, Duhon stepped up in the season's first two games. He posted a triple-double on opening night (18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) and followed it up with a double-double in the Bulls' second game (11 points, 10 assists).

Smush Parker, G, LA Lakers – Parker has been fantastic for the Lakers, averaging 34 minutes and 16.7 points, 1.7 threes, 4.3 assists, and 3.0 steals in three games, and has relegated expected starter Aaron McKie to a rotation afterthought (19 total minutes).

Mehmet Okur, C, Utah – Okur has taken advantage of Carlos Boozer's absence from the lineup to the tune of 21 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, and has made four three-pointers in the season's first week.

Richard Jefferson, SF, New Jersey – Jefferson has been the best of the Nets' big three, with averages of 27 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.7 threes, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 82 percent from the foul line.

Gerald Wallace, GF, Charlotte – Wallace has scored 60 points in the season's first three games, albeit with his trademark inconsistency (totals of 28, 7, and 25). That said, his averages of 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 3.7 steals make his offensive inconsistencies much easier to deal with.

Sam Cassell, PG, LA Clippers – Cassell has not wasted time taking advantage of Shaun Livingston's injury – he averaged 19.7 points, 1.3 threes, 7.3 assists, and only 1.7 turnovers in the Clippers' first three games.

Boris Diaw, GF, Phoenix – Diaw started the season slow but in the past two games has been very productive, averaging 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 8.5 assists, and 3.0 blocks while seeing increased playing time (28.5 minutes per game).

Delonte West, G, Boston – West was huge in the season's first two games (totals of 24 points, 15 rebounds, 12 assists, five steals, and six blocks), but slowed his roll a bit in the Celtics' most recent game against the Bobcats (nine points, one rebound, three assists in only 22 minutes).

Derek Anderson, SG, Houston – Houston will turn to Anderson for some scoring punch with Tracy McGrady out for up to three weeks with back spasms. In Saturday's game, the Rockets' first without T-Mac, Anderson scored 17, grabbed six boards, and had five assists.

Kurt Thomas, FC, Phoenix – Thomas was expected to play a larger role for the Suns due to Amare Stoudemire's injury, but the opposite has been the case in the season's early going. Thomas has played fewer than 24 minutes per game with averages of 10.8 points and only 4.3 rebounds to show for it.

Jamal Crawford, SG, New York – Crawford has started the season as a reserve, and is struggling mightily in the role – he has averaged just 5.6 points on 29 percent shooting in the Knicks' first three games.

Kenny Thomas, PF, Sacramento – Thomas was expected to be in a platoon with Shareef Abdur-Rahim, but he has averaged only 16 minutes, 4.0 points, and 5.0 rebounds per night to this point, while 'Reef has logged major minutes (34.7 per game) and been a huge contributor (18 points, 9.7 rebounds).

Carlos Boozer, PF, Utah – Boozer continues to be listed as day-to-day with what was considered to be a minor hamstring injury, but his return continues to be pushed back, and he is now not anticipated to be ready for at the very least another week.

Number of the Week
10 – The number of fouls that Jerome James has accumulated in a total of 18 minutes played during the Knicks' first three games, along with four points and five rebounds.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
Kevin Pelton from 82games.com is out to an early lead, thanks in part to a resurgent Chris Webber and Sam Cassell, his ninth- and 10th-round picks.

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