Working the Wire: Slim pickings as coaches fiddle
Has anyone else noticed how thin the wire has been in recent weeks? There's a lot of promise out there, but not a lot of consistent producers. It hasn't helped that many head coaches have run out unpredictable lineups on a night-to-night basis. It's frustrating, yes, but at some point these coaches are going to have to find themselves a rotation that they feel comfortable with.
Take Toronto's Sam Mitchell for instance. He's still running out erratic lineups, but he has at least gotten comfortable with the idea of Jamario Moon being on the court. Moon has now logged 30-plus minutes in eight straight games, and seems to be locked in with a starting gig for the Raptors. Of course, with consistent minutes comes consistent production, and Moon has averaged a stellar 10.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 2.4 blocks per game during his past five games. Moon is not going to light up the scoreboard for you, but he will be a great addition for steals and blocks as long as he continues to earn Mitchell's trust. Now let's just hope that some more of our promising waiver-wire acquisitions can follow Moon's lead and become steady fantasy producers.
Travis Outlaw, SF/PF, Trail Blazers (2.7 percent owned): OK, I'll give him one more shot. For those that don't know, I've been predicting an Outlaw breakout for a few years now and, needless to say, I've been let down each and every year. I still have faith, although it's becoming harder and harder to defend him after a horrid month of November, in which he averaged just 9.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks in 25.6 minutes. That's not the Travis Outlaw I know. The Outlaw I know used to provide steals and blocks in bulk despite seeing limited minutes. Well, Outlaw finally seems to be coming around, averaging 13.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals and a block in 28.8 minutes during his past five games. It's not exactly what I was hoping for, but he's worth the acquisition just in case he finally decides to live up to his potential. I mean, he is still just 23 years old, so it's entirely possible that he'll come into his own this season. That said, it's becoming increasingly frustrating waiting for him to break out, so if he doesn't do it this time around, I might have to disown him as one of my favorite youngsters.
Kurt Thomas, PF/C, SuperSonics (17.9 percent owned): Not many have noticed, but Thomas has averaged 5.4 points, 12.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game during his past five games for the Sonics. Nick Collison has been out of action with a broken nose, but the truth is, Thomas worked his way into the starting lineup even before Collison went down. P.J. Carlesimo's lineups have been awfully tough to predict this season, but he sure seems to like Thomas in the middle. Thomas has started in six of the nine games he's played thus far, and with news that Robert Swift will be shut down for a month, he should continue to earn ample playing time as one of the few veterans in the young Seattle lineup. Collison should return later this week, so Thomas shouldn't be expected to be the stud he's been over the past few games, but he should still be a solid big man to plug into your fantasy lineups for a few weeks.
Steve Francis, PG/SG, Rockets (7.8 percent owned): As Rockets head coach Rick Adelman continues to tinker with his lineup, Francis seems to be his newest flavor of the week, logging 27 and 29 minutes in consecutive games last week before missing Saturday's game with a sore back. It's been extremely tough to get a read on Adelman thus far this season, which is strange because this was never a problem during his days in Sacramento. With that in mind, it seems as though Adelman will stick with a lineup once he finds the one he's most comfortable with. Enter Francis who, despite what many may think, still has the talent to produce in the NBA. Francis didn't exactly light the world on fire last week, but he did average 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals in his two games with extended minutes. He may be a long shot, but the upside is there, and there is a decent chance that Adelman might stick with him.
Anthony Carter is in his ninth professional season, holding career averages of 4.8 points, 3.7 assists and 0.9 steals in 19.1 minutes per game. Doesn't excite you? Me neither, but then I take a look at his 109 career starts and averages of 7.0 points, 5.8 assists and 1.1 steals in those starts and while I'm still not excited, I am a little intrigued. Carter should be able to hold onto the starting gig until Chucky Atkins returns, so he'll be a decent addition for those looking for assists and steals.
I've never been a huge Sebastian Telfair fan, and I think Marko Jaric is the much better option when healthy, but it wouldn't be diligent of me if I didn't acknowledge Telfair's increased playing time and solid play of late. Averaging 13.0 points, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals during his past five games, it sure looks like Telfair is starting to come around. He should have some nice short-term value until Jaric returns from the foot injury that has sidelined him for the past two games.
Tim Duncan gave his owners a major scare on Sunday night when he went down with a bruised right knee and sprained right ankle, but his owners can breathe easy as it now looks like he avoided a serious injury. He'll still miss a few games, so there is an opportunity for an unknown to put up some numbers in San Antonio. Fabricio Oberto and Francisco Elson will take the bulk of Duncan's minutes, but if I had to pick a Spur other than Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, it would probably be Brent Barry. Barry has averaged 1.8 3-pointers per game this season, and could be asked to provide more offensive punch if Duncan misses any time.
Jason Maxiell has turned it up a notch as of late, averaging 13.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during his past five games. Problem is, as long as Antonio McDyess is healthy, Maxiell's value will fluctuate on any given night. Both McDyess and Maxiell are solid options in deeper formats, but neither will be dominant unless an injury strikes.
I'll leave you today with two former fantasy stars, Kenyon Martin and Rafer Alston. Alston isn't going to come close to last year's value, but he is still able to hand out assists, knock down 3s and create some steals on the defensive end. He's owned in just 13.8 percent of ESPN leagues, which is not nearly enough for a guy that's averaging 10.0 points, 5.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 3-pointers during his past five games. Martin, on the other hand, actually had a nice night on Sunday with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He's a long shot, for sure, but it doesn't hurt to keep your eye on him, does it?
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
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