Lingering position battles offer red flags as well as opportunities
At this point in the season, most NBA teams have established their rotations and the positional battles that were anticipated before the season started have been settled. For example, Marco Belinelli is getting nearly 30 minutes a game New Orleans, while Marcus Thornton has been relegated to garbage time for the Hornets. Anthony Morrow is the starting shooting guard for New Jersey, while Terrence Williams is out of the Nets' lineup completely and is currently playing in the NBA Development League.
But teams that are struggling, like the Kings, Pistons and 76ers have lineups that are still very much in flux as their coaches search for any spark. For a lot of fantasy owners -- especially those who own any Kings -- these lineup changes can cause headaches. But they also provide opportunities for players to become fantasy relevant and for owners to quickly improve their teams. Here are some the more recent lineup changes and positional battles and what they mean for fantasy purposes.
• In his second start after replacing rookie Evan Turner in 76ers starting lineup, Jodie Meeks exploded for a career high 26 points, making 7 of 10 shots from three-point range. Meeks was so impressive that Doug Collins called him a "flame thrower" out on the court. Unlike Turner, Meeks can thrive without the ball in his hands and provides the 76ers with better spacing on offense since teams have to respect his ability to hit the outside shot. As a result, Meeks will likely remain in the 76ers starting lineup for the immediate future and should be scooped up by fantasy owners in need of points and threes -- although don't expect him to contribute much in other categories.
• Kings' Coach Paul Westphal has been tinkering with his starting lineup nonstop this season and the results have been a disaster for both the Kings and fantasy owners. Beno Udrih, Donte Greene, DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi have all been shuffled in and out of the starting lineup at various points this season. Westphal's latest victim is Carl Landry, who was benched last week in favor of Jason Thompson. In the four games since losing his starting job, Landry has yet to score more than 8 points or grab more than 5 rebounds in a game. Despite his depressing performance since moving to the bench, Landry owners may want to hold onto him for few more games just to see if the Kings' lineup changes again this week and Landry becomes a starter again.
Thompson has been a popular add in fantasy leagues since taking over as a starter, although his games in that role have been a mixed bag. He followed up a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double with a 4-point, 1-of-5 shooting game over the weekend. It's likely that the starting job will not be Thompson's long-term, and given his inconsistency on a game-to-game basis, he is not worth owning in all but deep leagues at the moment.
• Marcus Camby owners had to get a little nervous when he was benched on Friday by Nate McMillan for a lack of hustle on the court. His benching also coincided with the return of Joel Przybilla from knee surgery. While Przybilla will eventually eat into some of Camby's minutes, Camby owners can breathe easy after his 12-point, 19-rebound game on Sunday.
• How long can Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy coexist at the shooting guard position for the Pacers? If their last game is any indication, it could be a while, as the two combined for 37 points, 12 rebounds and 5 threes against the Suns. Long-term, Rush will probably win out as he is a better option for the team on defense than Dunleavy.
• Detroit rookie Greg Monroe has gone from not getting off the bench in the Pistons' first two games of the season to earning a consistent 25 minutes a game. The Pistons are not going to make the playoffs this year and currently have the injury prone 36-year-old Ben Wallace starting at center, so expect Monroe's role to continue to grow as the season progresses. He's a center carved out of the Brad Miller mold with a decent offensive game, a high basketball IQ and good passing skills and is someone to keep an eye on in roto leagues going forward.
• Serge Ibaka owners already know what he can do when given the minutes. In 11 starts this season, he's put up 11.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game. But Nenad Krstic is the team's starting center as long as he remains healthy, and Krstic will do his best to spoil Ibaka's fantasy value while providing little-to-none of his own. The 21-year-old Ibaka is bound to breakout eventually given his skill set and athleticism, but it will likely have to wait until next season to happen.
• Mario Chalmers was a huge fantasy disappointment last year, losing his starting job a third of the way through the season and struggling with inconsistency all year. But Chalmers may soon take Miami's starting point guard spot back from Carlos Arroyo. Against the Hawks on Saturday, Chalmers played a season high 27 minutes off the bench, scoring 9 points and adding 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. For comparison, Arroyo only played 21 minutes, finishing with 2 points and 2 assists. Chalmers is not going to score a lot of points or rack up assists, but he did average 1.4 threes and 2 steals a game his rookie season.
• Speaking of the Heat, are they getting the least production from their center position out of any position for any team in the league? In Miami's last game, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joel Anthony and Erick Dampier combined for 0 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist in 49 minutes on the court. The one bright side to their performance was that they did have 4 blocked shots.