Hitting the NBA Reset Button - Eastern Conference
- By: John Clemeno
- On: 11/18/2009 9:34:00 PM
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Boston: Shelden Williams has filled in nicely for Glen Davis (thumb, mid-December return), but doesn't get enough playing time to warrant a fantasy league pickup. He's the third leading rebounder on the team at 5.3 per game, but is clearly limited offensively with cinder blocks for hands.
Toronto: Not too much out of ordinary in Toronto, except that Marco Bellinelli had a nice road trip. He averaged 15 points in 28 minutes per game while making 11 3-pointers in the four games away from Toronto. His playing time is coming at the expense of rookie DeMar DeRozan.
Philadelphia: Subpar production from Elton Brand and Marresse Speights' knee injury are two areas to watch closely. Speights' injury puts a big hole in coach Eddie Jordan's rotation. He was having a breakout season, surpassing Brand as the team's best low-post scoring threat. Jordan has been considering a shakeup -- the Sixers are 5-6 with four of those wins coming over New Jersey (twice), New York and Charlotte -- including removing Brand from the starting lineup and/or playing him at center with the second unit. In Wednesday's win over the Bobcats, Jordan left Brand in the starting five, but moved him to center quickly. Samuel Dalembert, who we now know is being shopped, played just 10 minutes. Brand may have saved a bigger role for himself with 19 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks, three steals and two assists in 42 minutes. Rodney Carney played small forward and Al Thornton shifted to the four, where he played for much of last season. The smaller lineup should make the Sixers a running team, but it will doom them on the boards, where they currently rank 25th in the league.
New York: Something will change. Things usually do when a team starts 2-9. You'd think all those expiring contracts would motivate some of these guys to play harder. Because the team's goals are the summer of 2010 free-agent market, I know the Knicks aren't going to make any significant roster additions that have long-term impact. Maybe they land an Allen Iverson, who would certainly challenge for the starting point guard position. Anyone right now would be better than Chris Duhon. And it looks like Toney Douglas will emerge with a bigger role, having averaged 29 minutes per game in the last three.
New Jersey: As their injured players start to filter back in, all those minutes Trenton Hassell, Josh Boone and Eduardo Najera are getting will go away. Devin Harris and Courtney Lee are expected back soon. At that point, Rafer Alston's playing time will take a big hit, and Chris Douglas-Roberts won't be the prolific scorer we're seeing right now.
Cleveland: J.J. Hickson has replaced Anderson Varejao in the starting lineup. This change coincided with the Cavaliers righting their ship, going 5-1 since the switch. Prior to his six-point effort in Wednesday's loss to Washington, Hickson had three straight double-figure scoring games while Varejao had 12 points and 15 rebounds in the same three games. All the talk about Shaquille O'Neal not fitting in has subsided, too. Hickson has a better mid-range game, which enables to proper spacing for O'Neal in the low post.
Indiana: Mike Dunleavy Jr.'s injury has created the scoring phenomenon known as Dahntay Jones, who dropped a season-high 25 on the Celtics while getting to the line 15 times. Largely used as a defensive stopper in his various assignments (Memphis, Sacto, Denver), Jones is the Pacers' second leading scorer, using his ability to get to the basket to create scoring opportunities. I'm a little surprised to see Earl Watson getting as much run (28.0 mpg) as he is, though he is a good defender at the point guard position.
Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings made a splash with 55 points against the Warriors and is scoring more than I thought he would. Part of that is due to the injury to Michael Redd, who is expected to return later this week. And who is Ersan Ilyasova? He's averaging 12.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in 25 minutes per game over the last five.
Chicago: Joakim Noah has become a disruptive defensive force (12.8 rpg, 2.0 bpg) and aggressive offensive rebounder (4.3 orpg). He's very limited in what he can do with the ball on offense, but he's averaging nearly 12 points while understanding the limits of his range.
Detroit: Injuries to Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have created an opportunity for Will Bynum. He's giving Detroit instant offense from the bench with his shot-creating abilities, and leads the team in assists. His playing time will certainly take a hit when Hamilton returns, but his performance has earned him a top role in the rotation. Prince is expected back soon, so there's no need to overbid on Jonas Jerebko, who has started at small forward.
Atlanta: The offseason arrival of Jamal Crawford has been an early success. The combo guard is getting nearly 30 minutes a night off the bench. Thankfully, he's taking less 3-point attempts and that's improved his shooting percentage, long the bane of his fantasy owners. His playing time has come at the expense of Marvin Williams, whose numbers are suffering across the board. Williams is a better shooter than the 38.5 percent clip he's putting up right now, but coach Mike Woodson doesn't need to change a thing with his team leading the NBA at 10-2.
Orlando: Rashard Lewis' re-entry from a 10-game suspension was a bumpy one on Monday, missing all six of his 3-point attempts and making 4-of-15 overall, but he rebounded with a near triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) in Wednesday's win over the Thunder. His return moves Ryan Anderson back to the bench (19.5 mpg in last two) and relegates Brandon Bass to the end of the bench. In the team's first game without point guard Jameer Nelson, Jason Williams (29 minutes, five assists) started and Anthony Johnson (20 minutes, four assists) split the role. This looks like a job-share until Nelson returns in January. Neither player is ready to take on a 35-minute a night load.
Miami: The small forward position is a concern. Quentin Richardson surprised us all being named the starter and he had a couple of big scoring nights in Week Two. However, his size has been exploited by taller threes and he's not always producing offensively, especially when he has to work hard on D. There was a lot of talk about Michael Beasley shifting from power forward to small forward, but he can't defend well away from the hoop (or in the paint, for that matter), and his minutes have suffered as a result. Udonis Haslem is getting more minutes off the bench than Beasley and is providing better scoring and rebounding numbers relative to his career averages.
Charlotte: The good thing about fantasy is that we don't have to dwell on why the Bobcats reduced future financial flexibility when they traded for Steven Jackson. Just know that he becomes Charlotte's lead option on offense. He's jacked 35 shots in his two games with the Hornets, a team desperately in need of scoring. Jackson should give the offensively challenged Bobcats some help in that department, but also look or Flip Murray to get his opportunities. Because D.J. Augustin has clanked his way to 34.4 percent shooting from the floor, his minutes have dropped to a 18.5 per game in the last five. Murray is getting those lost minutes. He's not consistent, but Murray can score for a team that really needs it.
Washington: I was ready to hand a playoff spot to the Wizards after their opening night road win in Dallas. Then injuries hit and they dropped six straight. Antawn Jamison, Mike Miller and Randy Foye weren't playing and the club signed Earl Boykins for backcourt depth. Now that all hands are available, Washington is winning me all over again. Jamison made his season debut, leading the Wizards with 31 points in 38 minutes in a win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday. They finished strong, outscoring the Cavs by 14 in the final quarter. Most of our expectations heading into the season are the same, save for Foye. He was thought to be in the running for the starting shooting guard spot during preseason, and now it looks like Boykins has moved ahead of him after just two games with the Wiz.