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.
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.
Samardo Samuels, F, CLE – With Antawn Jamison out due to a broken finger, Samuels has emerged as the Cavaliers’ starting power forward. The undrafted rookie showed his potential in his first start, finishing with 23 points (10-of-18 FG, 3-of-5 FT), 10 rebounds and three assists. He played nearly 34 minutes in his first game as a starter and should continue to see extended run, especially when you consider the lack of other options on the Cavs’ roster. At 6-8 Samuels is a bit undersized, and might not be able to contribute much in blocks, but he should be a decent source of points and rebounds as long as the heavy minutes continue.
Anthony Randolph, F/C, MIN – Randolph put together his first big game as a member of the Timberwolves on Wednesday, totaling 19 points and 10 rebounds in a win over the Pistons. The athletic big man’s playing time has risen in each of his four appearances with Minnesota, topping out at nearly 25 minutes Wednesday night. His boost in playing time was aided by the absence of Darko Milicic (personal), but the Timberwolves will likely continue giving Randolph run even after Milicic returns. Randolph is an extremely talented player who has always frustrated coaches with mental errors. It remains to be seen if Randolph’s mental errors will get in the way of his progress in Minnesota, but he’s worth a speculative add for the stretch run.
Gerald Henderson, G, CHR – Henderson moved into the Bobcats’ starting lineup after the team shipped Gerald Wallace to the Trail Blazers at the trade deadline last week. The second-year pro went off for 21 points in his first start, but he has had trouble finding his shooting touch (5-for-21 FG) the last two games. The important thing is Henderson has averaged 31 minutes per game since his promotion. Charlotte invested a lottery pick on Henderson in 2009 and should continue to give him plenty of opportunities to hold on to the starting gig. He’ll be over his shooting slump in no time, so don’t hesitate to scoop him up off the waiver wire.
Maurice Williams, G, LAC – Since his trade to the Clippers, Williams has averaged 16.5 points, 8.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.0 threes. Like we saw with Baron Davis earlier this season, Williams has been rejuvenated playing alongside Blake Griffin. The Clippers had Williams waive the early-termination option on his contract when they traded for him, so it’s obvious the team wants him to be an important part of their plans going forward. He was battling through a disappointing, injury-riddled campaign in Cleveland, but Williams looks primed to finish the season strong.
Chris Kaman, C, LAC – Here’s another Clipper on the rise. After missing 45 of 47 games with an ankle injury, Kaman has gradually worked his way back onto fantasy radars the last two weeks. The seven-footer is averaging 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks over his past three games. He’s still taking a back seat to DeAndre Jordan at center, but the veteran has received about 25 minutes per game over the past three contests. The limited action could be a boon to Kaman, as it will help keep him fresh – and hopefully healthy – down the stretch. Even at just 25 minutes per, Kaman is worth a look most formats.
Ekpe Udoh, F/C, GS – Udoh was promoted to the Warriors’ starting lineup this week, taking over for Andris Biedrins at center. The sixth overall pick of the 2010 draft didn’t do much on offense (six points) in his first start, but he showed his strength on the other end of the court with three blocks and one steal. As an extremely raw talent on the offensive end of the court, Udoh will be a risky fantasy play, but he has enough upside on defense to garner a look as a specialty player.
Troy Murphy, F, BOS –Murphy signed with the Celtics on Wednesday after being bought out by the Warriors earlier in the week. While it’s nice to finally see Murphy land with a team that is willing to give him playing time, it’s unlikely he’ll see enough run with Boston to be much of a fantasy factor. Monitor his first few games with the Celtics to see how he’s deployed, but don’t hold out hope that he’ll provide the type of production we saw from him over the last couple seasons.
Stephen Jackson, G/F, CHR – Jackson sat out Thursday’s practice to rest a pulled hamstring. The veteran swingman plans to play through the injury Friday night against the Lakers, but this is a situation owners will want to keep a close eye on going forward. The Bobcats are still in the playoff hunt, but if they fall out of contention down the stretch, Jackson could receive some rest if he’s still dealing with the injury.
Deron Williams, G, NJ – Williams continues to deal with the wrist injury that held him out of action for four games in late January/early February. The All-Star point guard plans to play through the pain Friday night against the Raptors, but this could become a problem later in the season if New Jersey decides they don’t want to risk further injury to their new franchise player. Owners should keep a close eye on Williams over the remainder of the season.
Josh Smith, F, ATL – Smith is dealing with a right knee ligament sprain that will likely keep him out of Friday’s game against the Thunder. The Hawks won’t risk further injury with Smith, so owners should prepare to be without him for the entire weekend.
Tyson Chandler, C, DAL – Chandler is expected to miss at least the next two games with a sprained right ankle. The Mavericks have a quality backup in Brendan Haywood, so the team can be cautious if needed. Keep a close eye on Chandler’s rehab.
Antawn Jamison, F, CLE – Jamison is expected to miss the next 5-to-7 weeks after having surgery on his fractured left pinky finger. Given the fact the Cavs are currently sporting the worst record in all of basketball, odds are Jamison is done for the season. Feel free to cut ties with him.
Rashard Lewis, F, WAS – Lewis has been bothered by knee problems for since January, and now the veteran forward might have to go under the knife. The 31-year-old forward is expected to make a decision on season ending knee surgery sometime soon. Even if he opts to play through the nagging tendinitis in his right knee, Lewis hasn’t been productive enough of late to slot into most fantasy lineups. Owners should not wait for a decision on the surgery and should start searching for a replacement now.
Mario Chalmers, G, MIA – Following the Heat’s signing of Mike Bibby earlier this week, Chalmers is in danger of losing his starting point guard job. Chalmers has been a steady, if unspectacular, fantasy option since joining the Heat’s starting five, but a return to a bench role will squash most of his value. Owners should start looking elsewhere for help with three-pointers and steals.
Tracy McGrady, G/F, DET – Of all the Pistons involved in last week’s alleged player protest, McGrady appears to be the one who’s taking the most heat. The former All-Star has gone from starting point guard to DNP-Coach’s Decision in less than a week. He hasn’t appeared in a game since missing Friday’s shootaround, and the Pistons now look determined to give young players like Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey more playing time. Start shopping around for a replacement if you haven’t done so already.
Andris Biedrins, C, GS – Biedrins was moved to the bench in favor of Ekpe Udoh on Wednesday. The 24-year-old Latvian has been abysmal since the All-Star break and will have an even tougher time turning things around now that he’s in a reserve role. Feel free to look for better options on the waiver wire.