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.
Troy Murphy, F, IND - Numerous players on the Pacers' roster figured to benefit when Danny Granger went down with a foot injury last week, but Murphy could be the player who sees the biggest uptick in production. The three-point shooting big man was putting together a disappointing campaign, but he has started to show signs of life in December. Through six games this month, Murphy is averaging 15.8 points, 9.7 boards and two treys. He has been working with the coaching staff to become more aggressive with his shot selection, so look for Murphy's recent surge to continue. The window to buy low will close quickly.
C.J. Watson, G, GS - With little depth in their backcourt due to a rash of injuries, the Warriors have turned to Watson to be their No. 3 guard. He has split time between a starting spot and reserve role in the past eight games with his playing time eclipsing 30 minutes in each outing. During that span, Watson is averaging 13.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 treys and two steals. Raja Bell and Kelenna Azubuike are both expected to miss most or all of the season, so Watson should continue seeing significant run for Golden State. He's a solid pickup in most formats.
Richard Hamilton, G, DET - Rip made a surprise return on Saturday after missing 21 games with a severely sprained left ankle. He was thrown to the fire, rejoining the starting lineup and playing over 36 minutes. Hamilton was a bit rusty with his shot (6-of-15 FG), but he still managed 18 points. Make sure you get him back in your lineup.
Charlie Villanueva, F, DET - After battling injuries and foul trouble early in the season, Villanueva is finally getting into a flow with the Pistons. He has averaged 20 points and 5.8 boards in the past four games. The Pistons are deploying him off the bench, but as the team's only legitimate scoring threat on the block, he'll continue to see ample playing time.
Jarrett Jack, G, TOR - Jack has thrived in the past four games while filling in for the injured Jose Calderon (see below). Over that stretch, Jack has averaged 14.8 points, five rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.5 steals. His value will take a hit when Calderon returns, but Jack is worthy of a pickup while he's in the starting lineup.
LaMarcus Aldridge, F, POR - Of all the Blazers, Aldridge has seen the most immediate spike in value after Greg Oden's season-ending knee injury. In four games without Oden, Aldridge has averaged 23 points and 8.5 boards. With Oden no longer clogging up the middle, Aldridge is the Blazers' clear-cut No. 1 option in the post. His overall stat line is still below his averages from the past two seasons, so there still may be a chance to acquire Aldridge at a discounted price.
Mike Conley, Jr., G, MEM - After missing one game with a shoulder injury, Conley has bounced back to average 14 points, 4.6 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.8 three-pointers in the past five games. More importantly, the Grizzlies have won four of those games. Conley's main competition for playing time, Jamaal Tinsley, has had trouble seeing the floor recently, as the Grizzlies continue to show more confidence in their young guard. He's battled inconsistency throughout his young career, but Conley appears to have a firm hold on the starting point guard job and deserves a look in most formats.
Dorell Wright, G, MIA - Wright was buried on the Heat's bench through the first six weeks of the season, but he has worked his way into the rotation recently. In the past three games, Wright is averaging 13 points, three rebounds and three assists. The Heat like his ability to handle the ball, often pairing him with Dwayne Wade in the backcourt. He has shown flashes of ability in past seasons but has never been able to sustain any sort of consistency. Most leagues can monitor Wright from afar, but deeper formats may want to take a chance on the 24-year-old swingman.
Mike Miller, F, WAS - Miller, who has been sidelined with a torn calf muscle since Nov. 22, is expected to start running this week. He was originally slated to miss three-to-five weeks, which would put his return at late December. Keep an eye on his rehab this week as it could give as a more concrete timetable for his return.
Michael Redd, G, MIL - Redd (knee) returned to the lineup Saturday night against the Blazers. He has missed 16 of 22 games this season, returning briefly for a three-game stint in late Novemeber before hitting the shelf again. Given his injury history, Redd's return needs to be watched carefully.
Leandro Barbosa, G, PHO - Barbosa is still hurting from the sprained ankle he suffered on Nov. 29, pushing his return to sometime around Christmas. The Brazilian Blur is notorious for taking the maximum amount of time needed to recover from injuries, so don't plan on seeing him any earlier.
Ben Gordon, G, DET - Gordon has missed three consecutive games with a sprained left ankle, but he appears to be nearing a return. The high-scoring sixth man returned to practice on Monday and may be ready in time for Tuesday's matchup against the Rockets.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, G, NJ - CDR missed Sunday's game against the Hawks with a mild left knee sprain. The injury isn't considered serious, but his status will be in doubt for the short term. You're probably better off going with a healthier option this week.
Tyrus Thomas, F, CHI - Thomas had the splint removed from his broken forearm and has been cleared to begin minor contact next weekend. He's still a couple of weeks away from returning, but now might be the time to scoop him up and stash him on your bench.
Jose Calderon, G, TOR - Calderon was just getting out of a season-long funk when he was sidelined by a hip injury last week. He has missed three of the past four games, while only appearing briefly in the lone contest he managed to suit up for. No timetable has been announced for his return, but Raptors coach Jay Triano doesn't expect the Spanish guard to join the team on their upcoming two-game road trip that tips off on Tuesday.
Ryan Gomes, F, MIN - Gomes suffered a sprained left knee and twisted left ankle on Saturday night. The X-rays came back negative, but he's still expected to miss a few games. The fifth-year forward out of Providence will still be a useful fantasy option when he returns, but don't be surprised to see his role shrink slightly now that Kevin Love is back in action.
Kirk Hinrich, G, CHI - In three games since returning from a sprained right thumb, Hinrich has shot a horrendous 5-for-27 from the floor. Even before the thumb injury, he was struggling with his shot, and now he has an inflamed elbow and twisted ankle to worry about, too. Unlike last season, the minutes are available in the Bulls' backcourt for Hinrich to be a regular fantasy contributor, but he'll have to round back into shape before playing up to his potential.
Amar'e Stoudemire, C, PHO - Stoudemire is still a solid, if not great, fantasy player, but he hasn't been putting up the numbers that most expected when selecting him in the first or second round this preseason. Through 24 games, STAT is averaging 19.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and one block per game. Those numbers are still very useful to fantasy owners, but nowhere near the elite-level stats he was producing during his prime. The Suns are back to a fast-paced offense, and Shaq isn't in town any more to clog up the middle, so maybe the numerous injuries throughout Stoudemire's career are catching up to him.
Lamar Odom, F, LAL - Since Paul Gasol returned to the Lakers' lineup on Nov. 19, Odom is averaging just 6.7 points and 7.5 rebounds. Those numbers might be acceptable if he were helping out significantly in other categories, but Odom is averaging less than one three-pointer, steal and block since Gasol's return as well. Given the Lakers' depth, Odom won't be asked to put up the numbers he has in the past, so get used to this type of production.
Article first appeared on 12/14/09