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 game every now and then - unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time, rotation role, or performance.
Lou Williams, G, PHI – Through the first four games of the season, Williams is looking like a candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Williams is a combo guard that comes off the bench, but he is averaging a team-high 19.8 points while dishing out 4.2 assists and knocking down two treys per game. With 8.8 free-throw attempts per contest, Williams is going to the charity stripe at more than double his career rate, so his scoring will likely take a dip as that normalizes. Still, it’s clear first-year Sixers coach Doug Collins plans to rely heavily on Williams as his offensive spark off the bench.
John Wall, G, WAS – His pregame dancing should be toned down some, but you won’t hear any complaints from us on Wall’s game after the tip. The No. 1 overall pick has exceeded lofty expectations with his early season play, averaging 23.7 points, 10.3 assists and 4.0 steals. He turns the ball over at an alarming rate (4.7) and still needs to work on his jumper, but Wall’s overall production already has him approaching elite status in fantasy.
Dorell Wright, G/F, GS – After six seasons spent as a bench player with the Heat, Wright finally has a chance at significant playing time as the starting small forward for the Warriors. Wright is averaging 19.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.7 three-pointers, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks in nearly 35 minutes per game. He won’t continue to hit deep balls at that rate, but Wright is a legit threat to average more than one three, steal, and block per game; and given the Warriors lack of depth, he should not have trouble keeping the starting gig all season. Make sure he is universally owned.
James Jones, F, MIA – With Mike Miller (hand) out until January, Jones has emerged as the Heat’s primary three-point option off the bench. Playing alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Jones is able to plant himself behind the three-point line and launch uncontested shots all night. He won’t help in other areas, but if you need a three-point specialist, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option on the waiver wire.
Reggie Evans, F, TOR – Here is another specialist that has become fantasy relevant in the early going. Evans is taking advantage of a career-high 32 mpg and pulling down a ridiculous 16.3 boards per night. He has always been a rebounding machine, but his offensive deficiencies forced him into limited roles in the past. The Raptors don’t seem to mind that Evans is a non-factor on offense (2.7 points), and you shouldn’t either. Go grab him if you need some rebounding help.
Glen Davis, F/C, BOS – Big Baby is providing the Celtics with a solid offensive punch off the bench, averaging 13.3 points in a career-high 27 mpg. Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal. and Jermaine O’Neal are all in the twilight of their careers and will be preserved for the playoffs, so Davis should continue seeing extended run.
Ryan Anderson, F, ORL – Anderson was promoted to the starting lineup for Wednesday’s tilt against the Timberwolves. The move might not be long term, but it makes Anderson worth a look in deep formats, especially if you need some help with three-pointers.
Eric Bledsoe, G, LAC – Bledsoe made his first career start earlier this week, filling in for the injured Baron Davis. While Davis’ injury is considered minor, he has never been a staple of health. The rookie out of Kentucky would likely take over full-time duties at the point if Davis misses significant action this season, so he is worth a speculative add in deep leagues.
Antawn Jamison, F, CLE – Jamison sat out Tuesday’s game against the Hawks with a sore left knee. He wasn’t able to return to practice Wednesday, but he also hasn’t been ruled out of Friday’s game yet. Given his questionable health and slow start to the season, keep Jamison on your bench until he proves his worth on the court.
Stephen Curry, G, GS – Curry sat out the Warriors’ last two games due to a nagging ankle injury. He tweaked his ankle in each of the first three games of the season, so the Warriors are probably better off erring on the side of caution and resting their star point guard for another game or two. Continue to keep tabs on the situation before returning him to your lineup.
Anthony Randolph, F/C, NY – Randolph (ankle) was set to make his season debut with the Knicks on Tuesday, but the game was canceled after asbestos fell from the Madison Square Garden ceiling. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni plans to ease Randolph back into the rotation, so those in daily leagues don’t need to rush him back into the lineup. However, he should be a solid play as soon as next week.
Michael Beasley, F, MIN – Beasley left Tuesday’s loss to the Heat with a hip injury. X-rays came back negative and Beasley was making a push to play in Wednesday’s game against the Magic, but the Timberwolves decided to err on the side of caution. Look for Beasley to make a quick return.
Richard Hamilton, G, DET – Hamilton is nursing an ankle injury that will keep him sidelined until the weekend. Detroit has not announced whether he will return for Friday’s game against the Bobcats or Sunday’s against the Warriors, so keep a close eye on the situation before plugging him back into your lineup.
Spencer Hawes, C, PHI – Hawes is struggling to find his way with his new squad. Through five games with the Sixers, the 7-1 center is averaging just 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 16 minutes per contest. Sixers coach Doug Collins has attributed Hawes’ slow start to time missed due to a back injury during the preseason, but he did not look like a good fit even before suffering the setback. Don’t be shy to make a roster move if there is a solid replacement roaming your waiver wire.
Austin Daye, F, DET – Daye was a popular sleeper after being named the Pistons’ starting power forward, but through five games he has not provided much value to owners who took a chance on him. The slender (6-11, 205) forward is averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest; and because he has been overmatched on the defensive end by opposing power forwards, he has been limited to just 23 minutes per game. Unless the Pistons decide to free up minutes by moving Tayshaun Prince and his expiring contract, Daye will have trouble finding enough run to be a consistent producer in most standard sized leagues.
Marco Belinelli, G, NO – Here is another sleeper who hasn’t lived up to the hype. After an impressive preseason in which he won the Hornets’ starting shooting guard gig, Belinelli has averaged just 8.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists through the first three games of the regular season. Now he has to worry about Marcus Thornton stealing playing time off the bench. Belinelli will have the occasion night where he goes off from downtown, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be a consistent all-around contributor.
Darko Milicic, C, MIN – Timberwolves president David Kahn has made quite a few questionable moves in his brief time running the team, but signing Milicic to a four-year deal this past summer may have been the worst of the bunch. The 25-year-old center is averaging 3.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks through the first four games of the season. While the blocks are nice, he is not providing enough value in any other area to warrant roster consideration in most formats.
John Salmons, G/F, MIL – Salmons has gotten off to slow start this season, averaging 7.8 points on 26.8 percent shooting through four games. He is a solid buy-low option because he does not appear to be 100 percent after missing the preseason and will eventually find his way out of his slump, but don’t pay for Salmons expecting the 19.9-point scorer from last season. With the continued development of Brandon Jennings, and the offseason additions of Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden, the Bucks won’t need to lean as heavily on Salmons to spark the offense this year.
Travis Outlaw, F, NJ – After inking a five-year, $35 million contract with the Nets this offseason, Outlaw was tabbed as a breakout candidate. Instead of finding his stride with his new team, Outlaw appears to be the same inconsistent player we saw with the Blazers and Clippers the past seven seasons. He’ll have the occasional decent outing, but Outlaw’s production isn’t consistent enough to warrant a roster spot in most shallow to mid-sized leagues.