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.
LeBron James, F, CLE - It's absurd to think a player of James' caliber could get any better in fantasy, but that's exactly what he's done the past two weeks. Since Maurice Williams went down with a shoulder injury, James has ramped up his distribution numbers, averaging 10.1 dimes over the past nine games. Of course, James is continuing his across-the-board contributions as well with averages of 30.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 threes and 1.8 steals. If you're lucky enough to own him, bask in the glory. And the scary part is, at just 25, there's still a good chance the best is yet to come.
Ryan Gomes, F, MIN - Gomes was moved back into the starting in mid-January, but he's just now starting to put up fantasy relevant numbers. In his past two games, he has averaged 19 points and 4.5 rebounds. The increase in production is due in part to a hot-hand from beyond the arc (7-of-12 3Pt), but just as important is his jump in playing time as he has played over 32 minutes in both games. With the Timberwolves sporting a healthy roster, it's unlikely Gomes can re-live last year's second-half success, but he makes for a nice addition in mid-sized leagues.
Chris Duhon, G, NY - After a two-game stint as a reserve, Duhon has been reinserted into the starting five. He'll continue to be a maddening player to own, but it's hard to pass up on 6.2 assists per game. Fantasy squads in need of dimes will want to look Duhon's way if an owner cut bait with him after last week's demotion.
T.J. Ford, G, IND - Ford returned from an 18-game benching to make a fantasy splash over the weekend. He averaged 15.5 points, three rebounds, four assists and 1.5 threes in the two outings while backing up A.J. Price. Regular starter Earl Watson missed both games to attend a funeral. It's still uncertain how Pacers coach Jim O'Brien will handle the point guard situation going forward, but Ford's production after such a long layoff is an encouraging sign that he could return to fantasy relevance this season.
Donte Greene, F, SAC - Greene has picked up his play in the month of February, averaging 15.8 points, five rebounds and 1.8 treys in four games. Kings coach Paul Westphal said he plans to stick with Greene and Omri Casspi as his starting forwards for the time being. Francisco Garcia's pending return could throw a wrench into that plan, but for now, Greene's a solid play.
Roy Hibbert, C, IND - With Jeff Foster undergoing season-ending knee surgery on Monday, Hibbert's in line to play a significant role for the Pacers for the remainder of the season. Hibbert's worst stretch of the season came during the 16 games Foster was in the lineup, so this should help ease worries about another possible swoon for Hibbert.
Devin Harris, G, NJ - Harris suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder when he collided with teammate Jarvis Hayes during Saturday's loss to Detroit. He missed Monday's practice and is listed as day-to-day going forward. With just two games before the All-Star break, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Nets give Harris the extra rest to assure he's back to full strength for the second half.
Carmelo Anthony, F, DEN - After teasing owners with his status as a game-time decision for most of the past two weeks, Melo finally appears to be nearing a return from his sprained left ankle. He called himself "probable" for Tuesday's game against the Mavericks, but owners will likely have to wait until just before tip-off for the final decision to be made.
Marcus Thornton, G, NOH - Thornton has missed three consecutive games with a sore lower back. He was on an absolute tear before sustaining the injury, and his replacement (Morris Peterson) hasn't done much in his absence, so a return to his spot in the starting lineup should be secure. Unfortunately that may not be until after the All-Star break.
Kobe Bryant, G, LAL - Bryant has missed back-to-back games with a sore left ankle. He was originally hoping to return for Wednesday's tilt against the Jazz, but now he might sit out through the break, including Sunday's All-Star Game.
Andrew Bynum, C, LAL - Add Bynum to the list of Lakers who might not play again before the All-Star break. Bynum is dealing with a bruised hip that he sustained in Saturday's win over Portland. He was still in too much pain to suit up for Monday's game against the Spurs, so it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if the Lakers gave him extra time to rest.
Allen Iverson, G, PHI - Iverson has missed the past three games to be with his sick child. It's still unclear if Iverson will return for either of the Sixers games this week, but he does hope to play in Sunday's All-Star Game.
Nate Robinson, G, NY - That was quick. After two games as a starter, Robinson has been moved back to a bench role. Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni doesn't view Robinson as a point guard, so he'll probably be stuck in a reserve role the rest of the season. To make matters worse, he's also nursing a groin injury. The injury isn't considered serious, so Robinson should be good to go after the All-Star break. He'll still provide value off the bench, but not as much as owners were probably hoping for when they scooped him off of the free-agent pile following last week's promotion.
Joakim Noah, C, CHI - Noah is sidelined indefinitely as he battles through a case of plantar fasciitis. He has already been ruled out through the All-Star break and could miss more time if he doesn't show improvement over the weekend. The success Noah has had this season is due in large part to his energetic play, and if he's not 100 percent, it'll be tough for him to be the double-double machine we've come to expect.
Anthony Randolph, F, GS - The original timetable for Randolph's return from the broken ankle he suffered in January was mid-March, but his rehab has been coming along slower than expected which may cause him to miss the rest of the season. We'll have to wait until his next evaluation in early March before anything's written in stone, but it's looking more and more likely Randolph won't be able to help fantasy squads down the stretch.
Louis Williams, G, PHI - Williams' role with the Sixers became clear last week. With Iverson out for personal reasons, Sixers coach Eddie Jordan opted to insert Willie Green into the starting lineup instead of Williams. Jordan prefers to use Williams off the bench, and it doesn't appear that will change anytime soon. Williams still provides value in a reserve role, but he's nowhere near as valuable as he was when starting earlier in the season.
Erick Dampier, C, DAL - Dampier has sat out two of the past three games as he deals with a swollen left knee. The injury has been a problem since early January, affecting Dampier to the extent that he has hinted at offseason surgery. Don't be surprised if Dampier continues to sit when the Mavericks play undersized opponents. Teammate Drew Gooden will see a nice bump in value on nights when Dampier sits, but the uncertainty of when that will happen will drive owners of both players nuts.
Article first appeared on 2/9/10