|POSITION HOT SEAT
|PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (PF) RED HOT
1st Chair: Theo Ratliff
2nd Chair: Zach Randolph
Skinny: Teammate Nick Van Exel stopped short of calling Randolph a selfish player, but he did characterize Portland's young star as a player who feels "it won't get done unless he's able to do it" in a recent interview with the Oregonian. Whether fair or not, Randolph is viewed publicly as a me-first guy who values stats ahead of winning. Right now those stats are suffering. Joel Przybilla had three straight monster games before the All-Star break, leaving him temporarily untouchable in the starting lineup. Ratliff doesn't score, but has three or more blocks in all but two of Portland's games this month. Randolph, meanwhile, is struggling to stay healthy and is shooting just 34 percent from the floor in February.
|NEW YORK KNICKS (C) RED HOT
1st Chair: Nazr Mohammed
2nd Chair: Mike Sweetney
Skinny: The New York Post speculates that the Knicks may move Sweetney into the starting lineup at power forward, a move that would slide Kurt Thomas to center and send Mohammed to the bench. The suggestion has some merit. Sweetney charged into the break with an 18-point, nine rebound effort in just 22 minutes against Milwaukee. Mohammed hasn't been a consistent rebounding force since early December. New York regularly finishes games with a Thomas/Sweetney front count, so the Post asks a legitimate question: Why not start them?
|NEW YORK KNICKS (SF) HOT
1st Chair: Tim Thomas
2nd Chair: Trevor Ariza
Skinny: Head coach Herb Williams went with experience ahead of expectations when Jamal Crawford returned to the starting lineup, leaving Thomas in and relegating Ariza to a reserve role in a mildly surprising move. Thomas has enjoyed some success from three-point range, but otherwise has done nothing to merit attention in fantasy leagues. Ariza logged just 22 minutes in New York's final two games before the All-Star break. Looks like he'll go into a fantasy deep freeze unless New York makes a trade that opens up minutes at small forward. Warning to both players: Allan Houston says he'll be 100 percent before season's end.
|MIAMI HEAT (SG) WARM
1st Chair: Damon Jones
2nd Chair: Rasual Butler, Keyon Dooling
Skinny: This position battle first materialized in late January when head coach Stan Van Gundy hinted at a change. Since then, Jones has been sizzling. He's making 60 percent of his three's in February, his scoring is up and his turnovers are down. Defense will never be a strength, but that is what change-of-pace guys off the bench are for. Shooting touch can be fickle, but for now Jones owners can rest easy knowing they possess one of the league's top three-point threats.
|PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (SF) WARM
1st Chair: Ruben Patterson
2nd Chair: Darius Miles, Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Skinny: Various sources have Abdur-Rahim tied to trade talks with Milwaukee, Chicago, Minnesota and just about every other team expected to be active in the trade market. A deal could be a win-win for fantasy owners. Abdur-Rahim hasn't been a good fit in Portland. He was on his way to a second-career 20 and 10 season in 2003-04 when he was traded from Atlanta to Portland. His role with the Blazers has never been clearly defined and his production has suffered as a result. The deal would also come as a relief to Patterson owners. He'll need all the help he can get, as Miles entered the All-Star break with three straight spirited efforts off the bench.
|DENVER NUGGETS (C) LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Marcus Camby
2nd Chair: Nene Hilario
Skinny: Camby battled through hip pain to block 13 shots and pull 23 rebounds in Denver's final two games before the break. The time off was well earned. With Nene out until March 1 or later with a knee injury, the brittle Camby has been logging nearly 40 minutes per game. Francisco Elson is currently the team's insurance policy at center.
Roughly 6,000 trades went down in NBA leagues during the long weekend – a flurry of activity that is sure to carry through Thursday's league-imposed trade deadline. You read that right. It's not unusual for Yahoo! to process more than 2,000 trades in a single day. Unfortunately for rotisserie owners awaiting the fates of Latrell Sprewell
, Jason Kidd
, Baron Davis
and a host of other players who may or may not be on the block, we're talking fantasy trades here. Real-life deals have been harder to find than a successful Chris Andersen
attempt on a dunk contest highlight reel. Since the weekend featured all talk and no action, we'll kick off The Skinny with a look at what may go down between now and the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- In 2003-04 Donyell Marshall averaged a double-double and blocked nearly two shots per game. Plenty of shots have been knocked back in 2004-05, but the shots are of the two-ounce variety and the folks doing the shooting are Marshall owners, anxious to drown the memory of using a fourth-round pick or better on this fantasy bust. Marshall will not re-sign with Toronto and plenty of teams have expressed interest, so conditions are ripe for a deal to get done. The Toronto Star reported last week that Marshall's agent planned to meet with Raptors GM Pete Babcock and push for a trade.
On way or another, things should get better soon for Marshall owners. If he's traded to the right team – one that will give him the 30-plus minutes per night he needs – he'll once again be an impact player in fantasy leagues. Things are also looking up of late in Toronto. He may well be benefiting from showcase minutes, but his playing time is way up in February and his numbers have improved dramatically in turn. He hit the break by making five three-pointers in each of Toronto's last two games. For the month he's making more than half his – and he's shooting a lot of them. Fantasy owners should still pray for a trade, but all is not lost if he remains a Raptor.
- The Jason Kidd saga in New Jersey has featured more flip-flops than a Morey Boogie expo. One day Kidd would like to join his buddy Kevin Garnett in Minnesota, the next he's committed to turning the Nets around – again. Whether or not team president Rod Thorn would be willing to trade Kidd depends on what you read – and when. Kidd has publicly questioned how coaches have handled his workload. The 31-year-old missed the first month of the season recovering from knee surgery, but the team has asked him to play 40 or more minutes 16 times in the last 21 games. Then there's Garnett. Kidd is hungry for a title and he feels that a championship would be in reach immediately in Minnesota.
The reality is that a deal involving Kidd and the Wolves is a long shot at best. Minnesota doesn't have a lot to offer and New Jersey feels that with Kidd, Vince Carter and a healthy Richard Jefferson in the fold, a championship run could be just an offseason acquisition away. It doesn't hurt to be prepared, however. If Kidd flees the nest, the most obvious upgrades are Jacque Vaughn and Travis Best. Vaughn has put up some decent numbers subbing for the injured Rodney Buford and Best averaged 13.5 points and 3.2 assists in six games as a starter earlier this year. Carter owners can be forgiven for sweating out the deadline a bit. He's historically prone to shutting down, and the departure of Kidd could be a catalyst for another Carter freefall.
- Michael Redd was on everyone's mind during All-Star weekend, as Milwaukee's star guard was the subject of hot trade rumors. Several teams are said to be interested in the free-agent-to-be, even as speculation increases that he's set on signing with Cleveland next season. For a team to take a chance on Redd, they have to consider themselves one piece away from a title run. That said, fantasy owners should hope he stays put. He's "The Man" in Milwaukee, so his numbers can do nothing but tumble with a title contender. If he goes, upgrade Toni Kukoc (more minutes), Desmond Mason (more responsibility) and Mike James (more opportunity) as the Bucks play out the season.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Rick Brunson, PG, LAC
Brunson is starting to feel like the last man standing at the end of a bloody slasher flick. In this horror film, however, it's the victims and not the killer who keep returning from the dead. Shaun Livingston, Marko Jaric and Kerry Kittles have each battled back from injury only to be felled once again. Brunson isn't spectacular, but as a starter he averages close to seven assists per game without butchering your chances in the turnover department.
- J.R. Smith, SG, NO
If the Hornets pull the trigger and trade Baron Davis, the catalyst will have been the recent play of Smith and backcourt-mate Dan Dickau. Smith averaged 18.8 points in New Orleans' last six games before the All-Star break, closing with a 10-of-17 shooting night Wednesday. Davis had planned to take Smith under his wing, but the rookie is doing just fine without his mentor on the court. If Davis stays, Smith's value will take a hit – though plans to play Dickau at shooting guard may be scrapped if an undersized backcourt of Davis and Dickau can't matchup defensively.
- Jeff Foster, C, Ind
Foster now has eight 15-plus rebound games after entering the break with back-to-back 17-rebound efforts. He averaged a double-double in December, but sagging January totals prompted many fantasy owners to cut him loose in favor of scorers or shot blockers. The numbers are back up. Foster is averaging close to 10 points and 10 boards in February. He still won't block shots and his scoring will fluctuate dramatically from day-to-day, but he's an ideal No. 2 fantasy center as long as he's cleaning the glass.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player valuesDale Davis
, C, GS – He may be playing to increase his trade value, but fantasy owners should hope he stays put. On the Cliff Robinson-less Warriors, he's capable of putting up No. 2 fantasy center numbers. Elsewhere, he'll be a role player.
, SG, Was – Hayes broke through the 20-point barrier for just the third time this season Tuesday, hoisting 17 shots in the process. Larry Hughes
will be back soon, but the ankle injury suffered by Juan Dixon
(out 2-3 weeks) helps Hayes' value in the short-term.
, PG, Den – Injuries forced Boykins into the starting lineup, but George Karl has been so pleased with his guard's play, the possibility remains that Boykins continues to start after the All-Star break. The move would shift Andre Miller
to shooting guard.
, PF, Tor – Bonner stands to inherit sixth-man duties for Toronto if Donyell Marshall
is shipped before the trade deadline.
, SG, LAC – The Clippers were so interested in tracking the progress of this rookie, they risked angering one of their star players by leaving Ross in the starting lineup for four games after Corey Maggette
returned from injury.
, PF, Sea – With Danny Fortson
out, Collison recorded career-highs in points (16), rebounds (12) and blocked shots (3) Wednesday against Golden State.
Andre Miller, PG, Den – Miller hasn't exactly enjoyed sharing the backcourt with Earl Boykins. He limped into the All-Star break averaging 4.0 points and 3.3 assists in Denver's final three games.
, C, LAC – It was thought that Chris Wilcox
would be a threat, but lately it's been reserve Zeljko Rebraca
who has cut into Kaman's productivity.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
71.8 Damon Jones' shooting percentage from three-point range in the four games since learning he was left off the competitor's list for the NBA three-point contest.