Pacers Coaching Change
After three and a half lackluster seasons, Indiana decided to part ways with coach Jim O’Brien on Sunday. O’Brien finished his stint with the Pacers with a record of 121-169. Assistant coach Frank Vogel has been named the interim coach in place of O’Brien.
Now it’s time for fantasy owners to rejoice.
Under O’Brien, the Pacers ran frustrating rotations that saw potential fantasy studs like Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert criminally underused. In the two games since Vogel has taken over, Collison has played 32 minutes per game while averaging 19.0 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.0 threes. Hibbert has also seen a spike in playing time and production, averaging 18.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in over 30 minutes per contest.
Another player in the Pacers’ rotation who has seen a nice boost in value because of the coaching change is rookie Paul George. The 2010 lottery pick had already seen his role increase under O’Brien, but Vogel plans to concentrate more on developing the Pacers’ youth, which should lead to even more time on the hardwood for George. Under his new coach, George is seeing 22 minutes per game while averaging 14.5 points, 2.0 threes, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. If those numbers aren’t inspiring enough for future fantasy owners, George also posts extremely efficient percentages for a young wing player, nailing 48.6 percent of his shots from the floor and 79.0 percent from the charity stripe.
Vogel plans to continue riding his youngsters while trimming fat (T.J. Ford, James Posey) from the rotation. Fantasy owners would be wise to take note of the change in coaching philosophy by targeting Collison, George and Hibbert. Whether it’s via buy-low trade offers or scooping any of the three off the waiver wire in shallow formats, target these three Pacers.
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, role or skill level.
LaMarcus Aldridge, F, POR – Amid a disappointing, injury-riddled season in Portland, Aldridge has established himself as an All-Star-caliber big man. The 25-year-old forward is averaging career-best numbers in scoring (21.3), rebounding (9.0), steals (1.1) and blocks (1.2). With Brandon Roy (knee) possibly sidelined for the rest of the season, Portland will continue to lean heavily on Aldridge for offensive production. If you can find an owner who doesn’t believe Aldridge’s breakout will last the remainder of the season, shoot him/her an offer immediately.
Ben Gordon, G, DET – Gordon’s tenure with the Pistons has been a disappointment, but the electrifying scorer finally appears to be hitting a groove. The 27-year-old guard has stepped into the starting lineup the past three games, filling in for an injured Rodney Stuckey (shoulder). Over that three-game stretch, Gordon has averaged 25.3 points and 4.3 three-pointers. Pistons coach John Kuester hasn’t hinted at a permanent switch to the starting lineup, but Gordon’s recent play should earn him a larger role going forward.
Amir Johnson, F, TOR – Johnson’s up-and-down season has made him a regular on the Barometer. His value in on the up tick once again, as the 23-year-old forward has seen a spike in playing time and production the past two weeks. He has eclipsed 33 minutes four of the past five games, averaging 17.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals over that stretch. Johnson has always been an intriguing per-minute player and now that he’s receiving ample run he’s worth a start in most formats.
DeJuan Blair, F/C, SA – Blair is another per-minute stud who has seen a boost in playing time of late. In his past two contests, Blair has averaged 14.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals in 30 minutes per game. If he continues to hover around the 30-minute mark, Blair will be a nightly double-double threat.
Marcus Camby, C, POR – Camby said his return from knee surgery is “right around the corner,” although coach Nate McMillan said the big man is actually “weeks” away from returning. The disconnect is puzzling, but if he’s able to return fairly soon, the Trail Blazers will probably want to showcase a healthy Camby prior to the trade deadline, so he should step right back into the rotation once he’s healthy. Feel free to grab and stash Camby if any impatient owners dumped him last month.
Deron Williams, G, UTA – An MRI on Williams’ injured right wrist confirmed that the All-Star point guard is dealing with a strained tendon. While this is good news for Williams’ long-term outlook, it’s still uncertain when he’ll return to action. He’s officially listed as day-to-day going forward.
Andrew Bynum, C, LAL – Bynum sat out Tuesday’s overtime win against the Rockets with a bone bruise in his right knee. The 23-year-old center expects to return Thursday night against the Spurs, but anytime Bynum is dealing with a knee injury owners will want to keep close tabs on it.
Andrew Bogut, C, MIL – Bogut was forced to sit out Wednesday’s loss to the Suns after an MRI revealed a bone bruise in his right knee. This injury shouldn’t worry owners too much, but be sure to check on his status for the next couple games.
Trevor Ariza, F, NOR – Ariza suffered a severely sprained ankle during Wednesday’s loss to the Thunder. He’s currently sidelined “indefinitely,” but we should have a more concrete timetable after Thursday’s evaluation. Rookie Quincy Pondexter is one of the candidates to replace Ariza in the starting lineup.
Emeka Okafor, C, NOR – Here’s another Hornet who recently hit the sidelines due to injury. Okafor is expected to miss the next one to three weeks with a left oblique strain. Jason Smith has stepped into the starting lineup in place of Okafor, but his value will be limited to deeper formats.
Ben Wallace, F/C, DET – Wallace (personal) returned from a three-game absence Wednesday night. He came off the bench in the loss to the Bobcats, finishing with zero points, four rebounds and two blocks in under 17 minutes. Pistons coach John Kuester doesn’t have any immediate plans to insert Wallace back into the starting lineup, so he can be dropped in all but the deepest formats.
Mehmet Okur, F/C, UTA – Okur is currently sidelined with a back injury that has forced him to miss three consecutive games. The veteran big man appeared to be a decent pickup off the waiver wire when he returned from offseason Achilles surgery in December, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to log much playing time. He might still be worth stashing in leagues with a deep bench, but most formats will want to look elsewhere for help.