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.
Jodie Meeks, G, PHI – After a couple solid showings off the bench in November, Meeks was promoted to the starting lineup last week. Through his first three starts, Meeks has averaged 17.0 points and 4.3 treys in 28 minutes per game. The sweet-shooting guard is a perfect fit in the Sixers’ offense, as he stretches the floor and opens up more lanes for slashers like Andre Igudola. Any fantasy team in need of scoring or threes should look Meeks’ direction.
Terrence Williams, G/F, NJ – Williams’ fantasy value has been up and down all season, but it’s back on the rise after a stellar stint in the D-League. In three starts with Springfield of the NBA Developmental League, Williams averaged 28.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 10.7 assists and 1.3 steals. He won’t average anywhere near a nightly triple-double for the Nets, but the talented swingman should be able to put up steady production in all of those categories as soon as head coach Avery Johnson decides to start giving him playing time.
Amir Johnson, F, TOR – With Reggie Evans (ankle) expected to be out up to eight weeks, Johnson has stepped into the Raptors’ vacant starting power forward spot. In four December starts, Johnson is averaging 13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks in 30 minutes per contest. By the time Evans returns, Johnson will likely have done enough to hold on to the job long term. Talented rookie Ed Davis will also see a nice boost in value with Evans sidelined.
Jerryd Bayless, G, TOR – Bayless is another player north of the border who is turning heads. He has averaged 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 treys over the past four games while seeing 21+ minutes in three of those four contests. Bayless’ playing time may be a bit erratic, but he is clearly getting more of an opportunity in Toronto than he did in either New Orleans or Portland. Bayless is worth a look in deeper formats.
Earl Barron, C, PHO – Barron is the latest Sun to be promoted to the starting five. The seven-footer hasn’t done much with the opportunity – 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in four starts – but he does add a much-needed big body to clog the paint for Phoenix. He’ll have a chance to hold on to the gig until Robin Lopez (knee) returns, making him worth a roll of the short-term dice in deep leagues.
Shawne Williams, F, NY – Williams has snuck his way into the Knicks’ rotation, averaging 13.3 points, 3.3 three-pointers and 1.0 blocks in 23 minutes per contest this month. The 2006 first-round pick has never been given much playing time to prove he could contribute at the NBA level, but he appears to be a natural fit in Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense. Like other back-end-of-the-rotation types for the Knicks, Williams’ value could be short-lived, but he is worth a look in deep formats while his shots are falling and the playing time is there.
Brandon Rush, G/F, IND – Pacers coach Jim O’Brien continues to plug Rush into the starting lineup once in a while, but the third-year swingman has been providing steady production regardless of his role as a starter or reserve. Prior to Wednesday’s five-point effort against the stingy Bucks, Rush averaged 20.7 points and 4.0 three-pointers in his previous three games. On the off chance Rush wasn’t scooped up in your league during his mid-to-late November surge, he’s definitely worth the addition now.
Josh McRoberts, F, IND – McRoberts is another Pacer finding his groove. He has been starting at power forward all season, but it was only recently that his playing time has begun to register at 25+ minutes on a nightly basis. Through three December contests, McRoberts is averaging 12.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 blocks and 2.3 threes. Tyler Hansbrough has been relegated to garbage time, so look for McRoberts’ increase in playing time and production to hold steady.
Nick Young, G, WAS – Despite Gilbert Arenas and John Wall both playing at 100 percent, Young has been able to pour in 50 points over his past two games. Expectations should be tempered because Young is a streaky player, but he is worth a look while he’s filling it up.
Mike Miller, G/F, MIA – Miller (thumb) has been eying a return to action on Christmas since mid-November, but Heat forward LeBron James thinks his teammate’s return is only "a week or two away." Last we checked, James isn't a part of the team's medical staff, so this news needs to be taken with a grain of salt; but it's still promising to have Miller's teammates think he is very close to a return. If Miller is available on your waiver wire, he's worth grabbing and stashing in most formats.
Rajon Rondo, G, BOS – Rondo missed Sunday’s win over the Nets with a hamstring injury, and now the Celtics plan to “strategically rest” their star point guard to keep him fresh. That plan could lead to Rondo getting shut down for a couple games in the short term, so be sure to keep an eye on the situation.
Andrew Bynum, C, LAL – Bynum (knee) has finally set a target date for his return: Dec. 14 against the Wizards. He was originally expected to make a return near the end of the Lakers' upcoming six-game road trip, but a return on Dec. 14 would actually be the night before the team hits the road. Those in weekly leagues will have a tough decision for the next scoring period unless we hear a definitive word on his status before lineups decisions are due.
Aaron Brooks, G, HOU – Brooks (ankle) is reportedly eying a return Friday against the Bucks, but the speedy guard still hasn’t participated in a full practice yet. He is hoping to participate in Thursday’s practice, so keep a lookout to see how he responds in that session before plugging him back into your lineup.
Darren Collison, G, IND – Collison was listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Bucks after suffering a leg injury in Monday’s game against the Raptors, but he suited up and scored 17 points in nearly 32 minutes. Collison’s injury does not appear serious, but owners will want to keep an eye on him in the short term.
Yao Ming, C, HOU – The Rockets shut down Yao (ankle) for the rest of the week on Wednesday. The big man’s return from November 10 ankle injury has been pushed back numerous times now. He was originally expected to miss only one week, but his absence will eclipse one month this weekend. Given his injury history, the odds of Yao returning to full strength and staying that way for the remainder of the season are unlikely.
Chris Kaman, C, LAC – After making two brief appearances, Kaman is back on the shelf with an ankle injury. An MRI on Tuesday revealed a deep bone bruise that could keep Kaman sidelined for a while. Owners won’t want to make any rash moves until a timetable is set for his return, but make sure he’s on your bench for the time being.
Kirk Hinrich, G, WAS – Hinrich started the first 18 games for the Wizards, but he was moved to the bench in favor of Arenas and Wall on Tuesday night. Over the past two games, Hinrich has managed just five total points while seeing 20 minutes per contest. Unless Hinrich starts logging 30-plus minutes again, his fantasy value will be limited.
Jason Maxiell, F, DET – Anyone who added Maxiell when he took over as the Pistons’ starting power forward needs to start shopping for replacements as soon as possible. Maxiell still holds the starting gig, but he has topped the 20-minute plateau just once in the past four games. Pistons coach John Kuester plans to go with a three-guard rotation on a more regular basis going forward, which will push Tayshaun Prince to the four and Maxiell to the bench. Maxiell’s window of opportunity to be a productive player has passed, so owners shouldn’t be shy about moving on.
Jordan Farmar, G, NJ – With Devin Harris returning from a knee injury over the weekend, Farmar has been pushed back to a reserve role. Farmar still holds value as a backup point guard, but that only stretches to deeper formats. Expect Farmar’s numbers to revert back to the level they were at before his two-game stint in the starting lineup.
Evan Turner, G/F, PHI – Turner was the Sixer moved to the bench when Jodie Meeks took over at starting shooting guard. Sixers coach Doug Collins insisted that Turner’s move to the bench would allow the rookie to be in a more comfortable position with the ball in his hands, but the swingman out of Ohio State has averaged just 4.3 points since moving to a reserve role. There’s still plenty of upside here, but Turner isn’t worth owning in shallow re-draft leagues right now.