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.
Andre Miller, G, POR - It took him nearly half the season, but Miller has finally found his groove with the Blazers. For the month of January, Miller is averaging 19.6 points and 7.5 assists in 11 games. He has benefited from a rash of injuries that has hit the Blazers, and with recent ailments to Brandon Roy (hamstring) and Jerryd Bayless (ankle), Miller's statistical output should continue to be at a high level.
Andrew Bogut, C, MIL - Bogut has battled injuries and inconsistency ever since being the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, but the big man from Down Under is finally starting to live up to his draft pedigree. The seven-foot Australian has racked up eight double-doubles in January, on way to averages of 16.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 12 games. With Michael Redd (knee) done for the season and Brandon Jennings hitting a bit of a rookie wall, Bogut will continue to play a large role within the Bucks' offense and should easily finish with career-best stats across the board.
Carlos Delfino, G, MIL - After a string of solid performances off the bench, Delfino was moved back into the starting lineup last week. In three starts since his promotion, Delfino has averaged 18.3 points, nine rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals and three treys. Those numbers will be a bit hard for the Argentinean swingman to sustain, but his per-36 averages of 13 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, one steal and two treys are well within grasp if he sticks as a starter. Mid-to-deep leaguers with a dead spot on their roster should take a look at Delfino.
Arron Afflalo, G, DEN - Afflalo has been a permanent fixture in the Nuggets' starting five since mid-November, but it wasn't until the calendar flipped to 2010 that he started displaying the consistency that makes him a viable fantasy option. Through the first 11 games of the month, Afflalo has chipped in 11.8 points and 2.1 three-pointers per game. His strong play at the defensive end of the court keeps him locked into the lineup and as long as he's hitting from downtown, he's worth a look in deeper leagues.
Goran Dragic, G, PHO - With Leandro Barbosa scheduled to undergo wrist surgery this week, Dragic will be bumped up to No. 3 in the Suns' guard rotation. Dragic poured in 20 points while connecting three times from behind the arc in the first game without Barbosa. The 23-year-old point guard has shown flashes of productivity as a backup this season and will be a decent source of points and threes while Barbosa is rehabbing for the next month or so.
Brandon Rush, G, IND - After showing plenty of potential down the stretch in his rookie campaign, Rush has battled through inconsistency as a sophomore. His struggles have forced him in and out of the starting lineup, but Pacers coach Jim O'Brien has decided to give the former Jayhawk another shot at the starting gig. Rush has made good on his latest chance, averaging 12.2 points and 1.8 threes in five games. Rush showed during the last month of the 2008-09 season that he has the ability to be a fantasy asset, and with the Pacers near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings once again, he should get extra run in the second half of the season.
Monta Ellis, G, GS - Ellis missed his first game of the season on Friday due to a sprained right ankle. He's scheduled to be re-evaluated on Monday, which should determine his status for Tuesday's tilt against the Kings. The good news is it's not his surgically repaired ankle that's bothering him, so owners can breathe a little easier knowing this probably won't keep him sidelined long term.
Carmelo Anthony, F, DEN - Melo suffered a sprained left ankle in Saturday's win over the Hornets. He has already been ruled out of Monday's game against the Bobcats, but the injury is considered mild, and a Wednesday return is likely. The Nuggets have four games on slate this week, so Anthony will still be a solid play in weekly formats if he does indeed return on Wednesday.
Erick Dampier, C, DAL - Dampier was sidelined for Sunday's game against the Knicks after experiencing swelling in his left knee. He hopes to return to action Tuesday against the Bucks, but Saturday was the third time this month Dampier has had to sit with swelling in his knee, so owners will want to keep a close eye on the big man going forward.
Francisco Garcia, G/F, SAC - Garcia continues to inch closer to his return from a broken forearm that has sidelined him the entire season. He has been practicing with the team since Jan. 4 and should be back in the rotation by early February. He probably won't be inserted into the starting lineup immediately upon his return, but he showed enough fantasy value as a reserve the last two seasons to warrant a look in mid-sized leagues.
David West, F, NO - West sat out his first game of the season on Saturday with a sprained left ankle. The injury isn't considered serious, so West should return sometime this week. Still, he's listed as questionable for Monday's tilt against the Blazers, so owners should be ready to plug in a replacement early in the week if needed.
Kevin Martin, G, SAC - Martin has had three solid games and three horrendous games since returning from his broken wrist. It would be easy to write off his struggles as rust, but there's more than just poor shooting at play here. Since taking over the role as the Kings' primary scorer in 2006, Martin has averaged over 15 shots per game. In the six games since returning from injury, Martin is slinging up just over 11 shots per game from the field. He's too good of a shooter to continue hitting at the 33-percent clip he has the past six games, but owners should be worried about his new role with the team. Sacramento is handing the reins over the rookie Tyreke Evans, so it'll be difficult for Martin to regain his status as one of the league's leading scorers. And if Sacramento officials decide an Evans-Martin backcourt doesn't work, Martin will likely be traded to a contender with plenty of other proven scorers already vying for shots.
Maurice Williams, G, CLE - Williams suffered a sprained left shoulder last week that's expected to keep him sidelined for four-to-six weeks. Luckily, Mo was able to avoid surgery, but owners will still have to make due during his lengthy absence. Delonte West (finger) and Daniel Gibson should both get extra playing time while Williams is on the shelf.
Leandro Barbosa, G, PHO - The aforementioned Barbosa has finally opted to have corrective surgery on the cyst in his right wrist that has hindered him all season. He's expected to miss up to four weeks following the procedure. Barbosa was shooting a career-worst 42.2 percent from the floor, so the surgery could be a blessing in disguise. Hopefully he has a full recovery and can help owners down the stretch.
Ron Artest, F, LAL - Artest has been dealing with plantar fasciitis in both of his feet recently, which should help explain his January averages of 9.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.5 steals - all down from his usual marks. His stats have been down all season as a result of joining the Lakers' star-studded lineup, but this latest injury has dropped his production enough for shallower leaguers to consider dumping him. At the very least, owners should move him to their benches until he rounds back into shape.
Article first appeared on 1/25/10