Adam Levitan

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Galloping Greivis

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Position: Center
Yes, Samuel Dalembert was simply benched on Monday night en route to seven minutes. “We had no zip,” coach Kevin McHale explained.

Dalembert often has his head in the clouds. Prior to Monday’s benching, he hadn’t topped 30 minutes since Jan. 21. He played 20 minutes against the Wolves on Saturday night and had one rebound. He needed to get benched, to get a message.

Dalembert is competing for minutes with Jordan Hill and Jeff Adrien. It shouldn’t even be a contest. Once refocused, 25-28 minutes will be a cinch. No one should be making a habit of dropping guys capable of 2.0 blocks per game. It’s too rare of a commodity.

Position: Shooting guard
Manu Ginobili (hand) is expected back “in the next week or so,” according to coach Gregg Popovich. That will finally put to rest the mess that has become the Spurs’ rotation.

Kawhi Leonard will return to a defensive stopper off the bench role and Gary Neal will be the designated bomber off the bench. Ginobili should quickly ramp back up to 25-28 minutes per night -- his broken hand didn’t prevent him from conditioning over the last month.

Position: Power forward
Coach Alvin Gentry has messed around with his lineup a lot this season. When Channing Frye first lost his starting power forward job, the Suns were 4-9. They proceeded to go 2-3 with Markieff Morris starting. Then Frye reclaimed the gig and the Suns are 4-2 in their last six, including a win at Atlanta on Monday night.

The bottom line is that Frye needs to make shots. His old college coach, Lute Olson, came by practice to try to help. Gentry has been preaching confidence. Frye admits that after he misses a couple, he gets gun-shy. That’s when Gentry has no choice but to take him out of the game.

Frye is a career 44.6 percent shooter that is at 36.0 percent this year. He’s only 28 years old. The smart money is on Frye getting hot and giving owners those unique 3-point/block/rebound numbers. Even if he’s capped around 27-30 minutes, the extreme roto-friendly nature of Frye’s game makes him worth a hold.

Position: Power forward
As always, coach Scotty Brooks’ rotation remains among the most stable in the league. He made the mistake of starting James Harden in place of an injured Thabo Sefolosha last week and quickly realized the error, sticking Harden back in his sixth man role next time out.

Still, the spot that continues to cause the most hand-wringing is Serge Ibaka’s minutes. Things are starting to look up there for owners. On the season, Ibaka is averaging 27.1 minutes. But in the last 10 games, he’s at 31.2 minutes and blocking an absurd 3.4 shots per night.

While Brooks has never and should never phase out a glue guy as good as Nick Collison, Ibaka is earning more and more burn. His field-goal percentage (49.4) and free-throw percentage (58.3) are both well below expectation. There’s a lot of room to grow here.

Position: Center
Darko Milicic has missed four of the last six games due to an illness and knee/quad issues. But make no mistake, Nikola Pekovic was on the verge of supplanting Darko as the Wolves’ primary center anyway.

Pekovic has played 20 or more minutes six times this season. The Wolves are 5-1 in those games and 7-11 in all other games. It’s not a coincidence. In those six games, 6’9/290 Pekovic is averaging 14.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 0.5 blocks. He gives the Wolves a toughness that Milicic is simply incapable of.

Even if Milicic sticks as the starter, it’s not a huge concern to Pekovic owners. Darko is one of the most foul- and injury-prone players in the league. He’s never played more than 24 minutes per game over the course of a season and is at 18.3 this year. Pekovic’s floor going forward projects as 20 minutes a night, with the potential for much more when Darko is hurt and/or saddled with foul issues.

Position: Sixth man
Nicolas Batum is one of the better all-around players in the league at age 23. He’s proving to be an elite shooter and scorer while also acting as the Blazers’ top perimeter defender. The minutes will come.

Right now, Batum is stuck in the 26-29 minute range. But all it takes is one injury to any member of the Blazers’ core for that to change. Raymond Felton (foot) is out now, Marcus Camby will be hurt soon, Gerald Wallace has missed at least six games in each season of his career. Batum is a hold with the potential to be a beast when in the 31-35 minute range.

Position: Small forward
Dorell Wright didn’t play in the fourth quarter or overtime on Saturday, but that was just due to game flow.  Nate Robinson and Klay Thompson sparked a surge, so they stayed in the game.

The real news is that Brandon Rush hasn’t been threatening Wright at all. Over the last 10 games, Rush us playing just 22.7 minutes even though he’s shooting 58.1 percent from the field. During that same span, Wright is playing 29.1 minutes and shooting 48.2 percent from the field.

More importantly, Wright has started every single game he’s been active for this season and has found his shot of late. Over the last five games, Wright is shooting 52.5 percent and has made 17-of-34 3-pointers. There’s room for his fantasy-friendly game to keep growing after that horrific start.

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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