Adam Levitan

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Gibson's Window

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


All NBA teams deal with injuries throughout an 82 game season. But only a handful of teams truly get decimated. The Blazers are a good example of what can happen when massive injuries strike: LaMarcus Aldridge has been given room to fully bust out while upside players such as Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum become fantasy assets.

The Cavs are going through an injury binge of their own right now. Already one of the thinnest teams in the league, the remaining talent is about to be pushed to the limit.

Each week in this space, I'll explore the rotations of half the league's teams while attempting to get inside coaches' heads and rotations. The idea is not to tell you what Kevin Durant and LeBron James are going to do -- it's to decipher how much production we can get out of fringe players. Last week, I kicked things off with the West. Now, it's time for the East. Let's start with those Cavs.

* Note that lineups listed reflect the starters in the team's previous game. Stats are through Monday's games unless otherwise noted.

CLEVELAND
PG Mo Williams
SG Manny Harris
SF Alonzo Gee
PF Antawn Jamison
C J.J. Hickson

The Cavs have lost 13 straight games, Mo Williams has been extremely banged up all year and he aggravated a hip flexor strain on Saturday. This has disaster written all over it for the veteran, who is averaging five-year lows in minutes (30.3), points (13.6), treys (1.0) and field-goal percentage (38.7) anyway. Never fear, however. Bad teams decimated by injuries often open doors for fantasy production.

Look for Ramon Sessions and Daniel Gibson to form the Cavs' starting backcourt Wednesday. Sessions has played 30 minutes or more eight times this season. In those eight games, he's averaging 17.7 points and. 5.6 assists. Gibson's 11 starts this season have produced 14.4 points, 2.4 treys and 1.3 steals per game. Both players are looking at major minutes, have fantasy friendly games and possess long-term upside.

At age 34, Antawn Jamison is playing 36.5 minutes a night over his last eight games. He's also been on fire, averaging 22.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.1 3-pointers and 1.3 steals over that span. The chances of Jamison maintaining that torrid pace on his balky knees is mildly concerning, but the prospect of him being dealt to a contender is downright frightening. He could very well be asked to come off the bench and his shot attempts would plummet. Sell high.

Quickly on J.J. Hickson: Since Anderson Varejao (ankle) went down, Hickson has started four straight games and played 35-plus minutes in three of them. Motivated to prove his early-season funk was a fluke, Hickson's substantial talent will shine through over the final 40 games. The Cavs must develop him as a building block.

ATLANTA
PG Mike Bibby
SG Joe Johnson
SF Josh Smith
PF Al Horford
C Jason Collins

The mystery surrounding Marvin Williams' back injury has sparked Jamal Crawford's season. Over the last eight games Williams has missed, Crawford is averaging 22.3 points per game. In the other 34 games, he's averaging 14.3. Williams' seemingly imminent return can't help Crawford.

As for Williams, his role was always as a non-featured scorer that does little else. Now that the Hawks have gone 6-2 in his absence, his arrow is pointing down. Coach Larry Drew seems to like the idea of starting Jason Collins against bigger front lines, leaving Williams as the second man off the bench in those instances.

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BOSTON
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Ray Allen
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Shaquille O'Neal

Glen Davis' production as a starter vs. a reserve really is not all that different. In nine starts, he is averaging 13.7 points and 4.2 rebounds. In 30 games as a sub prior to Monday night, he was averaging 12.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in five less minutes a night. The explanation is simple: The hefty Davis wears down easily, settles for jumpers when he gets tired and is better around 29 minutes a game off the bench. That's what he'll get now that Kevin Garnett (calf) is back, but without real rebound, block, steal or assist upside, Big Baby is a low-end play. Garnett has taken enough time off to ensure he is 100 percent and will quickly ramp back up to his usual 30-32 minutes nightly.

Looking ahead, Kendrick Perkins (knee surgery) has returned to full practices and is targeting early February for his return. It's an extremely rapid recovery as Perkins had ACL surgery just over five months ago, meaning the Celtics and owners should keep expectations low. Perkins' effectiveness in spot minutes off the bench will decide if he eventually takes his starting job back from Shaquille O'Neal. For now, Perkins belongs on waivers.

CHARLOTTE
PG D.J. Augustin
SG Stephen Jackson
SF Gerald Wallace
PF Boris Diaw
C Kwame Brown

Michael Jordan has been saying that Kwame Brown should be the starting center for months now. Unlike Larry Brown, new coach Paul Silas is listening to his boss -- and it's paying off. Showing renewed motivation, Brown has started eight straight games and averaged 9.3 points and 9.1 rebounds over that span. He'll stick as the clear starter over Nazr Mohammed, but the problem is that Brown doesn't even leave his feet to try to block shots. The former No. 1 overall pick has two blocks over his last eight games.

Owners should not panic over D.J. Augustin's miserable 4-of-16 performance Monday afternoon. He simply missed wide open shots that he normally makes in his sleep. Augustin is in no danger of losing his 33-35 minutes nightly to backup Shaun Livingston.

CHICAGO
PG Derrick Rose
SG Keith Bogans
SF Luol Deng
PF Taj Gibson
C Kurt Thomas

There is a ton of controversy over the Bulls' starting shooting guard spot for no reason. Ronnie Brewer is the better player and gets 10-13 minutes more than Keith Bogans per game even though Bogans starts. Kyle Korver is also in the mix to spread the floor when he gets hot. Fantasy owners should simply ignore this whole mess.

Injuries to both Joakim Noah (thumb) and Carlos Boozer (ankle) have opened the door for both Taj Gibson and Luol Deng. Gibson's offensive game remains shaken by that concussion, but he has quietly developed into a premier shot blocker. He's swatting 2.5 shots per game over his last seven, despite playing 20 or fewer minutes in four of those games. As long as Boozer is out, Gibson is locked into 35-plus minutes making him a strong fantasy play.

Once Boozer returns, Kurt Thomas is a good bet to remain in the starting five no matter how well Gibson plays. But at age 38, Thomas is not a real fantasy option. He is showing signs of running out of gas and a healthy Gibson should be able to steal plenty of minutes. Just be ready to drop this situation once Noah gets back in late February.

Editor's Note: For weekly projections, daily pickup advice, exclusive columns and much more, check out Rotoworld's Season Pass!


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Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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