Shuffle up and deal. That was the mandate Thursday as NBA general managers injected life into a ho-hum trading season with a flurry of 11th-hour deals involving a total of 35 players. Big names were involved. So were a lot of expiring contracts, malcontents and underachievers. It was anything but boring – and all the packing and unpacking gave The Skinny plenty to follow as the newcomers began to adjust to life in a new uniform:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Orlando managed to shake things up without making a deal on deadline day. In a move that is not expected to be a temporary one, the Magic have stripped Steve Francis of point guard duties. The team had a few days off to re-tool after getting blown out by Indiana Tuesday, and when they took the floor Saturday at Miami it was rookie Jameer Nelson who was running the show. You could see this one coming. Francis leads the NBA in turnovers with 226 and the Magic have been exploring ways to have him play off the ball more. Francis slid to shooting guard Saturday. Doug Christie, who had started 12 straight games, was moved to the bench.
The move most dramatically affects Nelson, who is now a viable option at point for fantasy owners. In his first career start he had 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Perhaps more importantly for the Magic, he turned the ball over only once. He put up almost identical numbers Sunday. Francis owners may have to endure an adjustment period. He went 30 minutes without a field goal Saturday and made just five of 16 field goal attempts Sunday. From his own trade to that of teammate and friend Cuttino Mobley last month, it has been a tough year for "The Franchise." For now, he's saying the right things about the position change, so long-term his fantasy value should be steady. He simply kills roto teams in the turnover department and, as a shoot-first point guard, he didn't exactly light up the assist column. He can focus on scoring now with Nelson taking care of the ball.
- You can forgive Derek Fisher for feeling at little disrespected of late. There's been much talk in the Bay Area about Golden State's dynamic new backcourt of Jason Richardson and Baron Davis. Trouble is, Fisher is the team's starting shooting guard and he may not be going anywhere when Davis cracks the starting lineup. Head coach Mike Montgomery showed a willingness to play small-ball Sunday against Detroit, and the result was a near-upset of the defending NBA champs. When Davis debuted for the Warriors early in the first quarter, Fisher remained in the lineup and J-Rich moved to small forward. Golden State played a stretch in the second half with four guards and Troy Murphy at center. Both Fisher and Davis were on the floor for crunch time.
Fisher has been one of the team's most reliable scorers of late, and he told the Oakland Tribune he doesn't see any reason why he should lose his starting job when Davis joins the lineup. Montgomery, it seems, would agree. Fisher played extended minutes with Davis Sunday, scoring 19 points in the process and hitting a key jumper that kept the game close down the stretch. In case you haven't noticed, Fisher is averaging 19.9 points in Golden State's past eight games. Small-ball also allows Mike Dunleavy to play power forward, where he creates matchup problems for opposing defenses. Davis struggled from the floor against the Pistons, but his ability to penetrate and create opportunities for his teammates should give Murphy, Richardson, Dunleavy and even Fisher owners hope for a brighter future.
- In Phoenix Sunday it was a case of good news/bad news for fantasy owners. First the heavy stuff: Steve Nash was unable to play due to a hamstring injury that has now sidelined him for three straight. Phoenix is off until Thursday, however, and Nash is expected to be back, according to the Arizona Republic. Still, fans have been holding their breath waiting for an eventual breakdown, and the concern is that Nash will have his minutes limited dramatically down the stretch. The silver lining Sunday: Amare Stoudemire scored 27 points in his second straight solid effort without his regular point guard. Stoudemire has struggled without Nash this season, prompting concerns that his fantasy value couldn't survive an extended period with a backup running the show.
Nash owners shouldn't make any panic moves, but it would be wise to secure insurance to protect against further injuries. Leandro Barbosa is an obvious choice. Phoenix has averaged 118 points in his three recent starts and his numbers, though far from Nash-like, have been solid. Trouble with Barbosa is that he's of little use when Nash is healthy. Point guards like Orlando's Jameer Nelson, Boston's Delonte West, Houston's Mike James and Atlanta's Tyronn Lue are more likely to carry long-term value. As for Stoudemire, he averaged 30 points for the weekend and will be just fine, whoever is running the show.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Mike James, PG, Hou
Houston has title aspirations and James has already helped one team win an NBA Championship as a mid-season acquisition, so it's easy for the Rockets to spin this as the simple addition of another piece of the puzzle. Still, it's hard not to read more into the move. Bob Sura is banged up. He insists he's ready to go, but Houston placed him on the IL (against his will) and traded for James, a signal that the team has concerns about the long-term durability of Sura's back. James is a capable scorer who averaged double figures and close to four assists despite backing up Maurice Williams for all 47 games with Milwaukee this season. In his first game as a starter for Houston Sunday, James scored 19 points to go along with three assists and three steals.
- Marquis Daniels, G, Dal
A few weeks ago, Daniels had a clean bill of health and was poised to challenge Michael Finley for minutes. Then came an appendectomy – another setback in what has been a frustrating season for this second-year pro. Daniels returned to action and nearly had a triple-double Thursday with 27 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Michael Finley has been playing well of late, but should his struggles resume, head coach Don Nelson may find more minutes for a guy like Daniels who traditionally does a little bit of everything.
- Kenny Thomas, PF, Sac
He's available in roughly half of Yahoo! leagues, but that number is likely to diminish by the day. In two games since joining the Kings, Thomas is averaging 11 points and 11 boards off the bench. The second stat is the most telling. Thomas wasn't happy in Philadelphia, where Jim O'Brien's system took him out of the paint and turned him into a jump-shooter – a Chris Webber of sorts, if you will. Thomas would rather be trading paint, and that's exactly what he's done in two games in a Kings uniform. For now he's coming off the bench, but he's getting starter minutes and should replace Darius Songaila at power forward before long. He did it for an entire season in 2003, so averaging a double-double down the stretch for Sacramento is certainly within reach.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Maurice Williams, PG, Mil – Williams scored 21 points Friday and dished 10 assists Sunday in his first two games without backup Mike James on the roster. He played 30-plus minutes in back-to-back games for the first time since early December.
Delonte West, PG, Bos – Gary Payton may still come back, but for now the Boston point guard job belongs to West. In a career-high 38 minutes Friday, West contributed 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. He followed with another strong effort Sunday (19 points, 8-of-12 shooting).
Brian Cardinal, PF, Mem – America's favorite mop-and-bucket forward is averaging 17 points, 5.6 rebounds and a couple steals in three games as a starter. No timetable has been set for Stromile Swift's return from a severely sprained ankle.
Donyell Marshall, F, Tor – No trade was a disappointment, but Marshall has scored in double-figures in a season-high five straight and is averaging close to double-digit boards in his last three.
Nenad Krstic, C, NJ – Battling illness, Krstic scored a career-high 25 points Friday. He followed with 15 points in 41 minutes Sunday in a win against Cleveland.
Anthony Johnson, PG, Ind – The Indianapolis Star speculates that point guard Jamal Tinsley will likely be battling foot problems the rest of the season. Extended absences would open the door for Johnson, who is averaging 5.4 assists per game as a starter this season.
Antoine Walker, F, Bos – Walker appears to be relishing his low-post role with the Celtics. He took just two three-point attempts Friday while scoring 24 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
Eddie Jones, GF, Mia – Steve Smith is slightly better from beyond the arc. The Heat didn't acquire him Thursday to play a ton of minutes, but he could be a big-shot option when Jones isn't feeling it.
Doug Christie, SG, Orl – Christie played just five minutes off the bench Saturday and his value appears to have been marginalized by the move of Steve Francis to off guard.
Joel Przybilla, C, Por – The Portland offense once again runs through Zach Randolph. In three games since Theo Ratliff was moved to the bench, Przybilla is averaging just seven points per game. He had double-doubles in his previous three games.
Mark Blount, C, Bos – A disappointment for much of the season, Blount now finds himself playing behind Raef LaFrentz while Antoine Walker starts at power forward.
Speedy Claxton, PG, NO – There are rumors that the Hornets will favor a rotation that gets 30 minutes each for Claxton, Dan Dickau and rookie J.R. Smith, but it's hard not to envision Speedy being the odd-man out in New Orleans.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
81 Combined points scored by the starting point guards in Sunday's Washington/Sacramento shootout. Gilbert Arenas (43 points) is enjoying his last few games without Larry Hughes in the lineup while Mike Bibby (38) is proving there is life after Webber (and without Peja) in Sacramento.