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.
Nate Robinson, G, NY - After a month rotting away on the bench, Robinson exploded for 41 points off the bench in Friday's win over the Hawks. He followed that up with a stinker against the Pacers, but the important thing the Knicks still won. Robinson has clearly found his way back into the Knicks' rotation and should be able to replicate last year's production (17.2 points, 4.1 assists, 1.7 treys and 1.3 steals) if given around 30 minutes per game.
Nene Hilario, C, DEN - With Chauncey Billups (groin) and Carmelo Anthony (knee) nursing injuries, Nene has stepped up to take over the Nuggets' scoring load. In the past three games, Nene has averaged 23.7 points, 9.3 boards and 3.3 steals. Neither Billups nor Melo is expected to miss much time, but Nene's recent surge should lead to increased touches for the Brazilian big man the rest of the way.
Wilson Chandler, G/F, NY - After recording just four 20-point games through December 27, Chandler has reached that plateau three times in the past four games. During that stretch, Chandler is averaging 21.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, one steal and one block. His play has steadily improved since early December, corresponding with the Knicks turning things around in the standings. Coach Mike D'Antoni routinely lets Chandler stay on the court for close to 40 minutes, so Chandler will have plenty of time to replicate his recent success going forward.
Andrew Bynum, C, LAL - Remember when Bynum was a double-double monster to start the season? Get ready to see a return to that type of production. With Pau Gasol nursing a hamstring injury, Bynum will once again be asked to dominate the post for the Lakers. While Gasol's injury isn't considered too serious, the Lakers were cautious with him earlier in the season and will probably take the same approach this time around, so look for Bynum's resurgence to last at least a handful of games.
Luther Head, G, IND - Due to injuries and constant lineup juggling by coach Jim O'Brien, numerous players on the Pacers roster have seen their values rise and drop throughout the season. Head is the latest to see a bump in value. After spending most of his time on the bench for the first two months of the season, Head was inserted into the starting lineup last week. He has responded by averaging 23 points 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.3 treys in three starts. While production like that can't be counted on from a career 8.6 ppg scorer long term, Head will continue being a solid source of points and threes while playing over 30 minutes per game.
Earl Watson, G, IND - Another Pacer on the rise is Watson. He was reinserted into the starting lineup again on Jan. 2, and this time the move looks to be permanent, as T.J. Ford has been demoted to third point guard on the depth chart. Watson's current line (7.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists) isn't all that impressive, but his production per 36 minutes is at a solid 10.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 threes and 1.7 steals. If the increase in playing time sticks, Watson will provide valuable muti-category production in most formats.
Matt Barnes, G/F, ORL - Barnes struggled to find his niche through his first two months with the Magic, but he has been producing at a high clip since rejoining the starting lineup on Dec. 30. Since the promotion, Barnes is averaging 16.7 points, seven rebounds and 1.7 threes with solid percentages. Coach Stan Van Gundy originally stated the move to the starting five wouldn't increase Barnes' playing time much, but he has played over 30 minutes in back-to-back games for the first time since early November. As long as the minutes are there, Barnes is worth a look.
Francisco Garcia, G/F, SAC - Recovering from a broken forearm, Garcia made a surprise return to practice on Monday. He was originally expected to be out until mid-February, but his presence at Monday's practice is a good indication that he's ahead of schedule in his recovery. No need to rush out and grab him now, but make sure to monitor the situation, as Garcia could be a nice midseason addition to your roster.
Mike Miller, G/F, WAS - Wizards coach Flip Saunders said Miller will be making his return from a calf injury this week. The precise date is still uncertain, but Saunders expects Miller on the court by Friday at the latest. Miller was starting at shooting guard when he sustained the injury and should reclaim that spot shortly after returning.
Troy Murphy, F/C, IND - Murphy has been sidelined the past three games with an ankle injury. He was originally expected to miss up to a week, which places a return on the horizon. It would be a surprise to see him on the court for Tuesday's tilt against the Magic, but he should be back over the weekend.
Kevin Garnett, F, BOS - Garnett has missed the past two games after hyperextending his surgically-repaired right knee. The Celtics have been understandably cautious with their star big man and will likely continue to take that approach. Make sure to monitor the situation closely before returning him to your lineup.
Carmelo Anthony, F, DEN - Anthony suffered a knee injury last week and has missed the past two games. Luckily for owners, it appears he's nearing a return. 'Melo is hopeful he can return to the court Tuesday against the Warriors, but he'll be a risky play this week.
LaMarcus Aldridge, F/C, POR - Aldridge suffered a left ankle sprain last week which caused him to miss back-to-back games. He's hoping to return to the hardwood on Tuesday but will likely be a game-time decision. Keep tabs on his status, but with the Blazers already ravaged by injuries, Aldridge could make a solid play even if he's not 100 percent.
Gilbert Arenas, G, WAS - Arenas owners who haven't been paying attention to the firearm scandal surrounding Agent Zero need to start following the situation closely. Eventually, there's going to be a suspension handed to Arenas. The length of the suspension probably won't be determined until more details surface, but there's a chance it could be for a significant amount of time. Keep him in your lineups for the time being, but have a Plan B ready.
T.J. Ford, G, IND - Ford was the Pacer to take the biggest hit in value during the team's most recent lineup juggling. After starting 25 of 31 games to start the season, Ford has been demoted to third on the depth chart behind Watson and A.J. Price. The demotion has resulted in back-to-back DNP-CD's for Ford. Coach Jim O'Brien plans to continue running out the lineup that gives his team the best chance to win, and for at least the short term, he doesn't believe that lineup includes Ford.
Pau Gasol, C, LAL - Gasol suffered a mild-to-moderate left hamstring strain over the weekend. The good news is this injury isn't considered too serious, and Gasol will be listed as day-to-day going forward. Unfortunately for Gasol owners, the Lakers showed earlier this season they weren't afraid to give their big man extra time to recover. Expect the same route to be taken this time around.
Devin Harris, G, NJ - Harris vaulted up to the early rounds of drafts this season after averaging over 21 points and close to seven assists as he took over primary scoring duties for the Nets last season. Through 20 games this year, it doesn't look like he'll be able to live up to that lofty draft slot. Yes, he's still producing at a solid clip with 16.9 points and 5.7 assists, but that's not the type of production you expect from a second or third-round point guard who doesn't help out much from behind the arc. The Nets have shifted direction and are now building around second-year center Brook Lopez. So while Harris will still be a good play, he has an uphill climb to reach the elite-level he hinted at last season.
Jason Richardson, G, PHO - Normally a gunner from downtown, Richardson is having some serious trouble with his three-point shot lately. Over the past 16 games, Richardson has shot just 25 percent from beyond the arc. His shooting woes started in mid-December after he suffered a hand/wrist injury, and given the continued futility from the floor, we'd say the injury is lingering. Richardson isn't the 20-point scorer he used to be with Charlotte and Golden State, so his value goes down significantly when he's unable to drain threes at a high clip.
Article first appeared on 1/5/10