Magic overhaul helpful to lesser players
Two trades involving a bevy of fantasy-relevant players occurred this past weekend, as the Suns shipped Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to the Magic for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus. The Magic also sent Rashard Lewis to the Wizards for Gilbert Arenas, completing a roster overhaul that leaves them with a potent offense but questionable defense.
The swaps shouldn't drastically alter the fantasy values of Richardson and Arenas, although the rest of the players involved could see an upgrade. Both Gortat and Pietrus should benefit from moving to the Suns, where Gortat should vie for the starting center job and certainly get more minutes. Pietrus should enjoy the green light jacking 3-pointers in the desert and get decent minutes, as he automatically becomes the Suns' best perimeter defender on their now-more-traditional roster. Carter will step into Richardson's role as the scoring guard and should put up his best numbers in years if he can stay healthy.
For the Magic, Turkoglu should enjoy working with Dwight Howard again and be motivated by moving back to the place where he saw his greatest success. And Lewis should get a fresh start in a place where he didn't sign that insane contract and play small forward, his natural position. Brandon Bass and Nick Young also benefit, while Jameer Nelson and Al Thornton look like the biggest losers impacted by the deals.
Charlie Villanueva started at power forward for the Pistons on Sunday and played 40 minutes, dropping 17 points with 6 rebounds, a block and a 3-pointer. This brings his averages in the past five games to 16.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.8 3s, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks. His value should increase by getting more than the 26.1 minutes per game he currently averages, and even though he might not have quite the green light he did coming off the bench as the offensive spark plug, I'm still upgrading him now that he's starting. Linas Kleiza put up his second straight double-double Sunday, with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 4 3s starting in place of Sonny Weems. He's taken a while to readjust to the NBA game after spending time in Europe but is putting up better stats in fewer minutes in December compared to November, so he should be in line for increased minutes. Sasha Vujacic is averaging 28.5 minutes off the Nets' bench in his first two games and should be a valuable source of 3s and steals. He averaged 1.6 3s per game in just 17.8 minutes in 2007-08 and 1.0 3s and 1.0 steals in 16.2 minutes in 2008-09 for the Lakers, so he could flirt with 1.5 in both categories if he continues to get minutes in the upper 20s in Jersey. Andrew Bynum scored 16 points with seven rebounds and a block, going 8-for-10 from the line in just 18 minutes Sunday night as he eases back into his role with the Lakers. Even when he's at full strength, I'd be surprised if Bynum averages minutes in the 30s, as the Lakers will want to keep his fragile body healthy for the playoffs. As soon as he is regularly notching 20-plus minutes per night, however, Bynum should be back in your lineup. DeMarcus Cousins has been doing damage in the middle for the Kings and dropped 19 points, 8 boards and 4 blocks Sunday. He's averaging 17.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in his past four contests, numbers worth starting in any format. Both Aaron Brooks and Josh Howard returned during the weekend. Monitor their minutes closely, especially those of Brooks, who is a must-start as soon as he's back in the starting lineup after leading the league in 3-pointers made last season. Say goodbye to Kyle Lowry's glorious run, however.
We'll get our first look at the new Magic lineup against the Hawks on Monday, and feel free to start Brandon Bass, who should thrive as the starting power forward in Orlando. Rashard Lewis gets to play against the Bobcats; the Wizards will be without John Wall, which means they'll need Lewis' help on the offensive end. Nick Young is coming off a 30-point effort and should start once again with Wall out, so look for another big game from him. Gerald Wallace has missed the past two games and is doubtful for Monday's contest. Both Brandon Roy and Brandon Jennings are out for Monday's Bucks-Blazers matchup, and Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby are also questionable.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.