Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Please Please (Keep) Play(ing) Me

Today we’ll take a look at a few personal favorites who for various reasons are seeing increased playing time. Monitor them; they could help you this year, but they could really pay dividends next year.

Matt Bonner
Here’s one rookie that has flown way under the radar, but is certainly one to keep an eye on. He was a second round pick by the Bulls back in 2003 but didn’t make the team and instead went and dominated in Italy. Now back in the States he’s been an incredibly solid bench performer for the Raptors. In 18.2 mpg he’s gone for 7.4/3.4/0.5 with a truly remarkable 54.6% from the field to go along with 84.5% from the line. He also throws in 0.3 3s, 0.4 steals and 0.3 blocks. With the Raptors coming to grips with being lottery-bound and also with the fact that Donyell Marshall is a goner, Bonner has started to see some increased PT as of late, at the expense of Marshall. After seeing 30+ minutes just once all season, he’s seen 30+ in each of the last three games and has averaged 12.3/5.7/1.0 with 1.7 3s while maintaining his excellent shooting, at 59%. Even if Bonner doesn’t crack the starting lineup next year, he’s someone to keep an eye on as he could offer similar value to Marshall, offering a little bit of help all over the board.

Andres Nocioni
Since I saw him in person earlier this year, I’ve developed a strange fondness for Nocioni. Maybe it’s the fact that his shaggy hair makes it look like he’s always hustling, but I like what he can bring to the table. And that – similar to Bonner – is a nice, well-rounded game. The biggest difference between the two is that Nocioni shoots a very lame 40% from the field, which is bad. But with Luol Deng out, Nocioni has shows over the last three games that he can at least be a decent source of rebounds and the occasional, 3, steal or block. In those three he’s at 10.7/8.0/2.0 with little help in the other cats. Not much to write home about, but if Deng continues to sit out, Nocioni With foreign players we sometimes expect them to not go through rookie struggles, but it’s important to remember that Nocioni is a rookie, and he could certainly show improvement next year. Still, that doesn’t do much to clear up the crowded rotation in Chicago.

Kwame Brown
Yes, Kwame Brown. With the Wizards decimated by injuries, Kwame has had a chance to start the last five games. I’ll be the first to admit that his 8.0/10.0/1.6 line (on 37% shooting, no less) is far from inspiring, but you should still keep an eye on him. Even in last night’s game, where he shot 0-for-8 from the field, he flashed the potential that made him the #1 pick. Yes, after four years you’d hope that he’d be past the point of simply flashing potential. But remember that he’s been hurt much of the year and is just rounding into shape. You can see how active he’s been on the boards, and him and the vastly-improved Brendan Haywood have a certain chemistry. I’m not saying it will happen, but if I were Eddie Jordan, I’d keep Kwame in the starting lineup the rest of the season. Antawn Jamison is much better off as a SF, and Jared Jeffries just can’t handle playing the 4 in the NBA right now. Going with a lineup of Brown and Haywood would give them two 7-footers. For now, Kwame is a fine source of boards and not much else. But don’t forget that he was a pretty consistent 15/10 player the second half of last year. Yes, this just might be wishful thinking from a Wiz fan, but expect the Wiz to re-sign Kwame this off-season and for him to be a fantasy contributor next year.

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