This is the final edition of the NBA Barometer this season, so we’ll be taking a slightly different approach. First, we’ll do quick tidbits on players of interest heading into the final week of the regular season, with the focus on those who are worth a look as streaming options. The article will be wrapped up with a look ahead to the offseason, focusing on players who have caught our eye down the stretch and look primed to become consistent fantasy contributors during the 2011-12 season.
Streaming Options Down the Stretch
Jerryd Bayless, G, TOR – Bayless has looked great while filling in for the ailing Jose Calderon (hamstring) the past three games. The 2008 first-round pick has averaged 22.7 points, 7.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 threes during his most recent stretch as a member of the Raptors’ starting five. Toronto doesn’t have much incentive to bring Calderon back for the final four games of the season, so look for Bayless to continue racking up stats.
Maurice Evans, G/F, WAS – A rash of injuries have left the Wizards with nine healthy players for the remainder of the regular season, opening the door for Evans to move into the starting lineup. He has averaged 14.2 points and 1.6 treys in his first five starts and should be able to post similar numbers in the final week of play.
Ryan Hollins, F/C, CLE – Normally underwhelming, Hollins has posted a few quality outings since joining the Cavaliers’ starting five March 23. He’s averaging just 7.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 12 starts, but he has picked up his play this month with double-digit scoring efforts in two of three games. Hollins is hit-or-miss, but if you have an open roster spot during the final week of the season, he’s worth a roll of the dice as a one-day option.
Earl Watson, G, UTA – Watson averaged 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists while filling in for the injured Devin Harris (hamstring) over the past week. Harris is still trying to return before the season ends, but Watson is worth a look for any games Harris doesn’t suit up for.
Martell Webster, G/F, MIN – Webster has caught fire from three-point land this month, hitting 9-of-13 shots from beyond the arc in three games. Any fantasy team in need of treys in the final week of the season should look his direction.
Will Bynum, G, DET – With Rodney Stuckey in Pistons coach John Kuester’s doghouse, Bynum has been handed the keys to the car, serving as the team’s starting point guard. Bynum has averaged 15.3 points and 2.7 steals in his first three games since the promotion. He won’t offer the assist numbers most starting point guards provide, but Bynum is worth grabbing while Stuckey remains out of the rotation.
Dante Cunnigham, F, CHR – Cunningham has started the past three games for the Bobcats, averaging 11.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 32 minutes per game. Sunday’s four-point, five-rebound performance highlights how inconsistent he can be, but Cunningham should remain in the starting lineup for the final four games of the season.
Players of Interest For the 2011-12 Season
Greg Monroe, F/C, DET – Monroe started his rookie season slow, but he emerged as one of the most productive players of the 2010 draft class after the All-Star break. In his past 20 appearances, Monroe has averaged 14.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He doesn’t offer much in blocks (0.5) and struggled from the charity stripe (60.4), but Monroe looks primed to be a double-double machine for years as the Pistons’ primary building block.
Jordan Crawford, G, WAS – Remember that video of a college kid dunking over LeBron James in 2009? That was Crawford. As such, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised about his late-season breakout. Over the past 30 days, Crawford has averaged 21.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.3 threes. Since cracking the starting five, Crawford has established himself as a better all-around player than injured starter Nick Young, who is out for the season with a knee injury. It will be interesting to see how the Wizards handle Crawford’s minutes with a healthy roster next season, but our early guess is he’ll retain the starting gig alongside John Wall.
Marcus Thornton, G, SAC – Since being traded to Sacramento in mid-February, Thornton has averaged 21.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists 2.1 threes and 1.6 steals in 22 games. He has continued to play well since Tyreke Evans returned to the lineup, giving the Kings one of the more promising young backcourts in the Association. Unfortunately for Sacramento, Thornton becomes a free agent this offseason. He’ll be a highly targeted fantasy player next year if he re-signs with the Kings, but his production will likely drop again if he opts to sign on as a depth option with a contending team. Thornton is still worth targeting in keeper leagues, but where he lands this offseason could drastically alter his fantasy value going forward.
Gordon Hayward, F, UTA – Like Monroe, Hayward started off slow; but he has made strides late in his rookie season. With Andrei Kirilenko nursing a knee injury, Hayward has seen a spike in playing time this month, averaging 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 three-pointers in over 34 minutes per game. Hayward’s game has been getting respect from his peers of late, with both Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant noting how impressed they were by him in the past couple weeks. Kirilenko is destined for free agency, so barring any big free-agent signings by the Jazz, Hayward should have a much larger role next season.
Kyle Lowry, G, HOU – Lowry has averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 2.6 threes and 1.1 steals while shooting 44.0 percent from the floor and 91.4 percent from the charity stripe in the past month, numbers that made him a top-10 fantasy option over that stretch. He’ll be hard-pressed to put up that type of production over a full season, but Lowry should definitely be considered a top-10 point guard heading into the 2011-12 campaign.
Serge Ibaka, F/C, OKC – Ibaka has been a consistent fantasy contributor all season, but his game has reached a new level since the Thunder acquired Kendrick Perkins at the trade deadline. Now free to roam the paint, Ibaka has averaged 3.4 blocks over the past month. He has also shown improvements in scoring (11.8) and rebounding (8.9) over that stretch. He’ll be just 22 years old heading into next season, so expect the improvement to continue. Already an elite shot blocker, the sky’s the limit for Ibaka going forward.