By Shannon McKeown
RotoWire Staff Writer
Around the League
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again - unless they're extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level.
Andray Blatche, F/C, WAS Of all the players directly or indirectly involved in the seven-player swap between Dallas and Washington over All-Star Weekend, Blatche has a chance to see the biggest spike in value. Wizards coach Flip Saunders has been non-committal about his post-trade rotation, but Blatche should have the first chance to claim the starting center position left vacant with Brendan Haywood's departure. In four games as a starter, Blatche has averaged 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. There's a good chance the Wizards deal away some of their other veterans before Thursday's deadline, so Blatche could end up finding himself as one of the team's primary offensive options for the second half of the season.
Josh Howard, G/F, WAS After being considered one of the franchise cornerstones the past few seasons, the oft-injured Howard became just another piece of the rotation in Dallas this year. He split time between the Mavs' bench and starting lineup, averaging less than 30 minutes per game for the first time since his rookie season. Things should change for Howard in the nation's capital. Howard should step immediately into the Wizards' starting small-forward position. When healthy and given the playing time, Howard's an All-Star talent who can help any fantasy squad.
Mike Miller, G/F, WAS Here's yet another Wizard who will see a boost in value following the big trade. Aside from picking up some of the scoring lost with Caron Butler gone, Miller should be in line for more ball-handling duties. He averaged 4.5 dimes for Minnesota last season as a part-time distributor and should see plenty of opportunities to set up teammates now that Gilbert Arenas and Butler aren't dominating the ball.
Anthony Morrow, G/F, GS Morrow's roller coaster production is sure to frustrate numerous owners, but there's no doubt he's a valuable fantasy asset when he gets on a tear. Well, he's on one now. In the two games before the All-Star break, Morrow averaged 29.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, five assists and four three-pointers. His jump in production is partially tied to Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette sitting out both games with injuries, but the two outings also proved Morrow's over the knee injury that sidelined him 10 games. He won't be the across-the-board contributor he has been the past couple outings, but Morrow is a solid play for anyone in need of scoring and three-point help.
J.J. Hickson, F, CLE The second-year forward out of North Carolina State has picked up his play in February, averaging 13 points and five rebounds in five games. But what makes him most appealing is his likely exit from Cleveland before the trade deadline. He's one of the most appealing trade chips the Cavs hold, and there's little doubt Cleveland will make at least one move by Thursday. Mid-to-deep sized leagues looking to make a pre-deadline speculative move should look in Hickson's direction.
Travis Outlaw, F, LAC Outlaw was traded to the Clippers in exchange for Marcus Camby on Tuesday. He's still on the road to recovery from the broken foot he suffered in November, but it sounds like he'll be back on the court before the end of the month. With Outlaw, Nicolas Batum and Martell Webster, the Blazers were deep at small forward. The Clippers don't have that same luxury, so Outlaw should step into a significant role as soon as he returns to health. At 6-foot-9, he could also see time at power forward, the position Camby manned in La-La Land. Given his rare ability to rack up threes, steals and blocks, Outlaw could become a solid mutli-category filler if given more than 30 minutes per game with his new squad.
Monta Ellis, G, GS Ellis is scheduled to have his injured right knee evaluated by Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. As most fantasy owners know, it's never good when a player has a visit scheduled with Andrews. Ellis will miss Tuesday's tilt against the Lakers, but he hasn't been officially ruled out of Wednesday's game against the Kings. Hopefully, his visit with Andrews is just for precautionary reasons. Keep close tabs on the situation.
Joakim Noah, C, CHI Noah has been dealing with a bout of plantar fasciitis for most of the past month. He sat out the four games leading up to the All-Star break, but appears to be nearing a return. The Bulls have four games in five nights beginning Tuesday. He's listed as questionable for Tuesday's game, but a return later seems more likely.
Maurice Williams, G, CLE Williams is eyeing a return from his shoulder injury in the next week or so. He still hasn't logged any practice time, but a return next week would be right at the four weeks he was originally expected to miss.
Francisco Garcia, G/F, SAC Garcia, who has been sidelined all season with a broken forearm, expects to return to the hardwood in the next two weeks. His place in the Kings rotation is hard to sort out at this point, but he has proven to be a fantasy commodity in past seasons, so it's worth monitoring his return.
Leandro Barbosa, G, PHO Barbosa's rehab from wrist surgery is on schedule, which puts him anywhere from one to three weeks away from a return. He hasn't returned to practice and will stay in Phoenix for the team's next road trip, so a return later in that timetable seems more likely.
Erick Dampier, C, DAL Brendan Haywood's inclusion in the trade package with Washington will push Dampier to a reserve role. The big man flashed some fantasy value earlier this season, but knee injuries have limited him since early January. Given his spotty health and expected cut in playing time, Dampier can be cut loose in most formats.
Jason Terry, G, DAL The addition of Butler will push Terry back to a reserve role. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year will still provide plenty of value as the Mavs' primary scorer off the bench, but he won't be able to match the 19.5 points he averaged in the past 12 games as a starter.
Steve Blake, G, LAC Blake was a part of Tuesday's deal that landed the Blazers Camby. In Portland, Blake was a favorite of coach Nate McMillan, averaging more than 27 minutes per game as part of a three-guard rotation with Andre Miller and Brandon Roy. It's hard to imagine Blake being leaned on that heavily in Los Angeles. He'll still see action backing up Baron Davis, but the Clippers acquired Blake for his expiring contract, not his playing ability. Without extended playing time, Blake's usefulness will be limited to only the deepest of leagues.
Amare Stoudemire, C, PHO Stoudemire's name has been popping up in trade rumors all season. With a large expiring contract and a desire to test free agency, it appears Phoenix is ready to part ways with the All-Star. Cleveland and Miami are the frontrunners to land Stoudemire, and while he'll help both squads tremendously, a move to either destination would be a hit to his fantasy value. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are both fine distributors, but neither is on the same level as Steve Nash when it comes to creating for teammates. Not to mention Stoudemire would have to go from leading scorer to the clear second fiddle. He'll be a great fantasy option regardless of what jersey he wears, but Stoudemire will see a dip in production if he leaves Phoenix.
Al Harrington, F, NY Harrington is another name being bandied about in trade rumors. He's among the names being mentioned in a deal to bring Tracy McGrady to the Big Apple. Much of Harington's value is tied to playing in Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense, so a move to Houston or another slower-paced contender would hurt his fantasy value.
Article first appeared on 2/16/10