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The Skinny: Nene, Deng and more

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports
POSITION HOT SEAT
UTAH JAZZ (PG) RED HOT
1st Chair: Keith McLeod
2nd Chair: Howard Eisley, Carlos Arroyo
Skinny: Arroyo wants his job back. "I'm upset," Arroyo told the Deseret Morning News. "I'm sick and tired of nobody telling me why I'm not playing." Arroyo backed up the talk with solid crunch-time play in losses to Philadelphia and Chicago last week. One day later he logged 12 minutes against Milwaukee while recently activated reserve guard Howard Eisley scored 15 points in 26 minutes. Eventually, this will be Arroyo's job again. He started every game he played last year and the Jazz signed him to a four-year, $16 million contract in the offseason. Utah is 0-8 in games McLeod starts and the second-year pro recently missed all 13 shots he attempted in a three-game stretch.
DENVER NUGGETS (C) HOT
1st Chair: Marcus Camby
2nd Chair: Nene Hilario
Skinny: See weekend update.
PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (SF) HOT
1st Chair: Ruben Patterson
2nd Chair: Darius Miles, Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Skinny: Eventually, Mo Cheeks will have to decide between Miles and Abdur-Rahim at small forward. Right now, it's a tough decision he'd love to have to make. Both players were placed on the injured list Saturday. Miles will miss up to two weeks with a knee injury and Abdur-Rahim could be lost for more than a month if he opts for elbow surgery. Patterson made the most of his first start of the season Friday, scoring 27 points on 12-of-14 shooting.
PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (PG) HOT
1st Chair: Nick Van Exel
2nd Chair: Damon Stoudamire
Skinny: Van Exel started for the 11th straight game Sunday, but Stoudamire continues to be the more productive fantasy option. Through five games in January, Van Exel is averaging 7.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists on .378 shooting. Despite averaging nearly 10 fewer minutes, Stoudamire contributed 14.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists while making 51 percent of his shots in the same span. Though coach Mo Cheeks hasn't hinted at a move, The Skinny sees Stoudamire back in the starting lineup by the All-Star break.
ATLANTA HAWKS (PG) WARM
1st Chair: Tyronn Lue
2nd Chair: Royal Ivey, Kenny Anderson
Skinny: After serving as understudy to Ivey in his first three games with Atlanta, Lue was inserted into the starting lineup for the new year. As a starter with the Hawks, Lue is averaging 13.3 points and 5 assists while logging in excess of 35 minutes per game. Anderson rarely sniffs the court these days and Ivey's value took a big hit when Lue was acquired from Houston.
CHICAGO BULLS (PG) WARM
1st Chair: Chris Duhon
2nd Chair: Ben Gordon
Skinny: The Bulls keep winning, so Duhon keeps starting. The equation may be that simple at this point. Otherwise, how do you justify starting a player who has scored a grand total of 13 points in January? Gordon has cooled off some of late. After a torrid shooting stretch, he's made just seven of his past 23 shots.
I'll admit it – my hoop team stinks. I'd like to blame the right hand thrown by Jermaine O'Neal, but the problems started earlier than that. I drafted Brent Barry too early and gave up on Ben Gordon too soon. I completely ignored the point guard position on draft day and have Luke Ridnour and Antonio Daniels to show for it. Not surprisingly, Y! Sports Romig ranks last in Yahoo!'s experts league in assists. There is one bright side, however. Researching The Skinny is considerably easier when you're digging through the waiver wire for help every day. Here's what this week's search uncovered:

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

  • Marcus Camby was back in Denver's starting lineup Saturday. At least one person close to the Nuggets organization doesn't think he belongs there. Michael Coyne, agent for Nene Hilario, told the Rocky Mountain News he believes his client belongs in the starting lineup for good. A lot of fantasy owners would agree. Nene averaged 17.8 points and 11.3 rebounds on .580 shooting in four recent starts with Camby and Kenyon Martin sidelined with various injuries. His production fell to 10 points and six rebounds when Camby returned after missing two games with a back strain. Camby grabbed 15 rebounds and scored 10 points in 37 minutes Saturday.

Interim coach Michael Cooper won't rule out a lineup change down the road. He told the Rocky Mountain News he doesn't feel a player should lose his job to injury, but added that no job is secure if a starter is outplayed in the course of the season. Through Sunday, Camby is averaging 8.8 points and 8.6 rebounds as a starter. Nene chips in with 16.9 points and 9.4 rebounds when he's on the floor for the opening tip. Camby is the better shot-blocker. This may be a painful waiting game for Nene owners. His numbers as a reserve (5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds) don't merit a roster position. Now that we've seen what he can do with starter's minutes, however, it's hard to part with him – particularly with Camby's injury history. More to come on this story, for sure.

  • The return of Kerry Kittles could not have come at a better time for the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Clippers. He didn't make much of an impact in Saturday's loss – he scored just two points in 16 minutes in his first game since Dec. 17 – but just seeing him on the court was enough for the Clippers. Point guard Marko Jaric probably won't play until next month. Ditto for rookie Shaun Livingston, sidelined since Nov. 21 with a dislocated kneecap. Kittles should see his minutes increase dramatically in the coming weeks if his back can hold up. That's no guarantee, of course, as he's spent 26 of 31 games on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Rick Brunson is making the most of his time as starting point guard. Fantasy owners who are short on backcourt strength should take note of the fact that Brunson has eight or more assists in six of his nine starts. In his last two games he has 23 assists, four steals and only four turnovers. For now, he's leaving the perimeter scoring to Bobby Simmons and Corey Maggette, but he can score when called upon. He's still available in about 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues and if you act now, you'll get three solid weeks of production before the Los Angeles backcourt begins to return to health.

  • When New Orleans visited Sacramento on Dec. 19, J.R. Smith played 15 minutes and scored seven points in a 36-point loss. A very different storyline unfolded Saturday when the two teams met again. Starting his sixth straight game, Smith scored 23 points and made a pair of clutch three-pointers in overtime to lead the Hornets to a most improbable upset win. The 19-year-old rookie made four treys in all and has made nine of his last 16 attempts from beyond the arc. Though his overall season numbers won't open any eyes, some of his totals as a starter are noteworthy: 11.5 ppg, .429 three-point shooting, 1.2 spg.

Baron Davis doesn't seem to mind starting alongside Smith while the disgruntled Jim Jackson sits idly on the suspended list. He recently told The Times-Picayune that he plans to mentor his young teammate. "I think he has a world of talent, and he's willing to learn," Davis said. This was after the two combined for 49 points in the upset win against the Kings. Smith isn't doing enough of the little things yet to merit a roster position in fantasy leagues. He's yet to record more than four assists or rebounds in any single game. He's a strong watch-list candidate right now though – particularly if Jackson continues to sulk rather than reporting to the team.

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

  • Luol Deng, SG, Chi
    While Ben Gordon has garnered the fantasy attention, Deng has quietly become an instrumental part of Chicago's resurgence. Take a look at his numbers in January: 16.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals. Not great in any category, but when you combine his roster flexibility as a G-F with his contributions across all categories, you have a valuable sleeper pickup. You should find him available in roughly 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
  • Ruben Patterson, SF, Por
    Patterson hasn't averaged double-figures since 2001-02, his first season with Portland. Last weekend he set about reminding fantasy owners that he's capable of being more than a role player. Friday he scored 27 points on 12-of-14 shooting in a loss to Miami. He followed that with 20 points and five rebounds Sunday at New York. With Miles and Abdur-Rahim out and Derek Anderson in a season-long funk, Patterson should be leaned on heavily for scoring in the next few weeks. As a bonus, he will pick the occasional pocket. He has nine steals in Portland's last three games.
  • Steven Hunter, C, Pho
    The most efficient shot blocker in the NBA isn't Theo Ratliff or Tim Duncan or Ben Wallace. No, the NBA leader in blocks per 48 minutes is 7-footer Steven Hunter of the Phoenix Suns. He was at it again Sunday, swatting four shots and scoring 10 points in just 15 minutes of work in a win against Indiana. It was the second time this month he's blocked four shots in a single game. Like a stolen-base specialist in baseball, he's a need-only add right now. In a recent 44-minute stretch, he grabbed only one rebound. If you don't need blocks, Hunter is not your guy. If you do, he should provide a nice boost if he continues to log 20-plus minutes a night, which is his current pace in January.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Anderson Varejao, F, Cleveland – He's averaging 11 rebounds per game in January despite playing no more than 25 minutes in any single game. Teammate LeBron James has taken notice, comparing the rookie to none other than Dennis Rodman.

Gordan Giricek, SG, Utah – With Raja Bell hurting, Giricek is logging 31.2 minutes per game in January, more than double his December totals. For the month, he's contributing 12.6 points, four rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

Shane Battier, SG, Memphis – Battier has started five of the past seven games, logging at least 30 minutes six times. Friday he had 19 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks as Memphis won its sixth straight.

Rodney Rogers, F, New Orleans – Always a long-distance threat, Rogers is averaging 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds since returning from a knee sprain that required surgery. He made four treys Wednesday and three more in Saturday's upset over Sacramento.

Vladimir Radmanovic, PF, Seattle – Matching his season high with 41 minutes, Radmanovic scored 27 points and made five three-pointers in Sunday's win. Vlad and forward Danny Fortson figure to receive extra minutes with Reggie Evans sidelined with a stomach disorder.

Al Jefferson, PF, Boston – Jefferson has logged 20 or more minutes in four straight games, his first such stretch of the season. Center Mark Blount is beginning to fall out of favor, which will open the door for more crunch-time minutes for this rookie.

Maurice Williams, PG, Milwaukee – Both Williams and teammate Mike James are long-term upgrades if T.J. Ford gets bad news after meeting with a neck specialist this week. The Bucks are expected to declare him out for the season if he doesn't receive favorable news.

Chris Mihm, C, Los Angeles Lakers – Ditto for Mihm on the injury front. News that Vlade Divac will miss at least three months ensures that Mihm will continue to get his 25-plus minutes per night. He's averaging 11.8 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 blocks in January.

Mehmet Okur, C, Utah – Okur played a season-low 11 minutes Wednesday, then fell into a 6-for-20 shooting slump in Utah's next two losses.

Doug Christie, SG, Sacramento – The injury to Bobby Jackson was supposed to lift Christie's fantasy value, but it has been Maurice Evans who the Kings are turning to for energy off the bench. Evans is averaging 22.4 minutes in January while Christie's court time has actually fallen with Jackson out.

Derek Anderson, SG, Portland – Anderson missed all eight of his shots from the floor Friday and scored just two points in the loss to Miami. The Oregonian reported Sunday that Anderson may take some time off to address family problems.

Mark Blount, C, Boston – Blount's numbers in January are down across the board. In just more than 25 minutes per game, he's averaging 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
19 Number of double-doubles recorded by Golden State forward Troy Murphy in his first 33 games. After a slow start, he has recorded 15 double-doubles in his last 21 games. Not bad for an 8th-round fantasy pick.

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League type:
Free Yahoo League
League size:
10 players
Draft time:
Aug 29 9:00 am