Ryan Knaus

Position Battles

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Raptor Redux

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Welcome to another edition of Position Battles. Unfortunately this will be the last one I'll write this season, but both The Week Ahead and Buy Low, Sell High are going strong. If you haven't read Buy Low, Sell High, it's probably because you don't have Rotoworld's Season Pass. What are you waiting for?

Bulls backcourt -- Kirk Hinrich vs. Larry Hughes

This is a one-round K.O. for Hinrich. The Bulls had been using Hughes as their backup point guard, due to sheer necessity. For his career, Hughes is averaging 3.2 assists and 2.2 turnovers -- not exactly the ideal ratio. Look no further than the minutes played in Hinrich's first game back -- Hughes dropped from 41 minutes in a loss to the Thunder on Saturday (without Hinrich) to just seven minutes on Monday (with Hinrich). Coach Vinny Del Negro was supposed to limit Captain Kirk to just 10 minutes in his first game back, but ended up playing him over 20. Hinrich isn't a threat to Derrick Rose or Ben Gordon, but Hughes' run as a relevant fantasy player is officially over.

On a brief side note, the return of Luol Deng crushes Thabo Sefolosha's playing time and, therefore, his fantasy value. Thabo barely had value in deep leagues anyway, so it shouldn't be an emotional breakup for his (handful of) owners.

Pacers swingmen

If you traded Marquis Daniels at any point this season, congratulations. You almost definitely came out ahead, considering Daniels' value has plummeted in the past week. A lingering groin injury is one thing -- nearly every player in the league will sidelined by injury at some point this season. The biggest problem facing Daniels' owners is Mike Dunleavy's terrific play since returning from his knee injury. Coach Jim O'Brien absolutely loves Dunleavy, saying he counts the minutes until he can put him in the game. Right now Dunleavy is still restricted to around 20 minutes per game, but that will increase in four- and five-minute increments over the next few weeks, hopefully resulting in regular starters' minutes. Assuming that goes as planned, i.e. without any setbacks to his knee, he will move into the starting five before long.

One hopeful note is that O'Brien hasn't ruled out using a small lineup featuring T.J. Ford or Jarrett Jack, Danny Granger, Daniels, Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. On the strength of that possibility, I recommend hanging onto Daniels as long as you reasonably can. Dunleavy's return has reduced Daniels' value, no doubt, but it hasn't destroyed it entirely.

Timberwolves sixth-man Mike Miller vs. Rodney Carney

So it's come to this for Mike Miller -- battling with Rodney Carney for minutes off the Timberwolves bench? At least things can't get much worse, though that's not saying much. Miller's ankle injury triggered his move to the bench, but the strong play of Sebastian Telfair at point guard (and/or the strong play of Randy Foye as a shooting guard) is likely to keep him there. The Wolves' rotations aren't likely to change for at least a few weeks -- they have won five consecutive games, and there's no reason to mess with success.

One thing that jumps out at me is just how expendable Miller is right now -- the Wolves could trade him without missing a beat. He has been rumored to be on the trading block, and I'll be very surprised if he isn't moved before the deadline. The likelihood of a trade is even more reason to think he won't rejoin the starting five any time soon -- if you own Telfair or Foye, expect their value to remain at its current level, unless of course the Wolves trade Miller for another talented guard.

As for Carney, he's worth a pickup in deep leagues and worth watching everywhere else. Two solid games aren't enough to qualify him as a solid option, but his numbers in limited minutes suggest lurking versatility. In just 12 minutes per game this season, he's averaging 4.4 points, 0.6 three-pointers, 1.4 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks. As I said, it's hard to read much into such a small sample size, but at least the potential is there.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already given up on Rashad McCants, please do so now. He has fallen completely out of the rotation and is a streaky, inconsistent player even when he's getting regular minutes.

Raptors center -- Jermaine O'Neal vs. Andrea Bargnani

This might not even become an issue -- once O'Neal's knee is healthy (that's a relative term, and when it will be is anyone's guess) it's probable that he'll resume starting at center. But you can't overlook how much Andrea Bargnani has elevated his game recently, and not as a small forward. That's right -- Bargnani has been effective at center. He's not backing down or shying from contact, he's staying out of foul trouble and he's evolving into a key cog for the Raptors' offense.

This is just a guess, but Toronto will probably want to keep Bargnani in the starting five, which means he'll slide back to small forward once J.O. is healthy. Jamario Moon hasn't been doing much to keep the starting gig anyway, so that side of the equation is no difficulty. I imagine Toronto is having buyer's remorse after trading for O'Neal this past summer. They aren't even close to being a contender in the Eastern Conference, and owe him a lot more money than they owed to T.J. Ford. Even slow-as-molasses Rasho Nesterovic is suddenly looking like a pretty solid backup center.

But getting back to the present day...many Raptors fans are already calling for O'Neal to be traded, with the understanding that Toronto would have to take on a horrible contract to get it done. Beat writer Michael Grange actually floated the idea of swapping J.O. and Anthony Parker for Stephon Marbury and Malik Rose. That's obviously never going to happen, but it highlights just how ineffective O'Neal is at this stage of his career.

There is also a chance that O'Neal will start coming off the Raptors bench. I haven't heard anything about that happening, but logic dictates that Bargnani's growth as a player is more important than stroking O'Neal's ego. If you can trade O'Neal for anyone of value, pull the trigger.

That's it, folks. Position Battles is no more, at least under my watch. Thanks to all of you for reading along these past few months. I know some of you have expressed your appreciation for the column, and I hope that our other columns --mine, Dr. A's and Matt Stroup's-- will keep you informed and entertained for the rest of the season. And of course, if you ever have specific questions or comments, I'm just an email away. Have a great week. RK


Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
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