By Jeff Case, NBA.com
Posted Nov 5 2009 12:23PM
Two small-name moves from the summer are making a lasting impact in this week's list.
We all know Shaq got moved from Phoenix to Cleveland in a blockbuster deal to help LeBron. But the guy who's filled The Big Shaqtus' place in the Suns' starting lineup isn't doing too bad himself. Channing Frye has gone from afterthought big man in Portland to a possible contender for Most Improved Player.
Sure, it's great that Steve Nash is an assist machine yet again, Amar'e is finally healthy and the Suns are back to that run-and-gun style. Yet without Frye, where would the Suns be? He's given Nash a weapon he's never had (namely, a big man with 3-point range) and Frye has regained the confidence that made him an All-Rookie first teamer back in 2006.
In Orlando, the Magic offset Hedo Turkoglu's eventual departure by trading for Vince Carter. They even got Dwight Howard some rebounding help by signing Brandon Bass. Yet it's Ryan Anderson -- the "other guy" in the Carter trade -- who is helping as much (if not more) than Carter and Bass.
Anderson, who starts at power forward, has made the loss of Rashard Lewis to a 10-game suspension much less painful. He's emerged as the team's fourth-best scorer, it's leader in 3-pointers and is helping Orlando stay among the East's elite while Lewis serves his time.
Frye and Anderson are my frontcourt choices this week, but it wasn't easy. Shelden Williams is hardly tearing up the stat sheet each night, but watch him play and you'll see he's filling that Leon Powe role for the Celtics pretty well. Andrea Bargnani, Nenad Krstic and Mareese Speights are other bigs I watched that seemed to be on the rise and are pushing for bigger roles on their teams.
Overall, guard play among the lesser-known/rising players seems to be on a level playing field. That means I'm giving any edge to backcourt players on winning teams.
The Next Five:
Cs: Jermaine O'Neal, Heat and Chris Kaman, Clippers -- O'Neal gets a nod for his quick start (back-to-back 22-12 games to start the season) and showing his summer work to regain his All-Star form might not be all hype. Bonus tough-guy points, too, for playing without a protective mask despite having a broken nose.
Although the Clippers have struggled out of the gate, the oft-injured Kaman is back and is successfully transitioning from complimentary player to go-to guy in L.A.
PF: Andray Blatche, Wizards -- Some dazzling dishes from this big man in the post caught my eye this week. After years of teasing Washington's fans with oodles of potential, he seems to be putting it all together and turning into a reliable rotation player.
SF: Dahntay Jones, Pacers -- The Pacers are 19th in the league in scoring, but imagine how much worse they'd be without Jones. The defensive stopper has emerged as Indiana's sixth man and its No. 2 scorer behind Danny Granger.
SG: Danilo Gallinari, Knicks -- Turns out all that talk from coach Mike D'Antoni about Gallinari being one of the best shooters in the league was true. He already leads the league in 3-pointers made, has tripled his scoring average and I'd probably have him in the Five on the Rise were it not for the Knicks' awful play.
PG: Randy Foye, Wizards -- It's so far, so good for the Foye-Gilbert Arenas backcourt combination. Though they've only started together once, Foye and Arenas are playing well off each other and are often on the court together at crunch time for Washington. He's been a big reason why the Wizards are staying in the early race for the Southeast title.
NBA.com's Five on the Rise are just one man's opinion and are released every Thursday during the season. If you've got an issue with the names on this list, or have a question or comment for Jeff Case, send him an e-mail
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