By Shannon McKeown
RotoWire Staff Writer
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 or role or skill level.
Rasual Butler (NO) – The absence of Peja Stojakovic (back spasms) has opened the door for Butler to take over the reins as the Hornets primary outside scoring threat. In five March outings, Butler's averaging 18.8 points and 2.2 3-pointers. The Hornets are hopeful that Stojakovic returns by the end of the week, but with his history of back problems we wouldn't be surprised to see him nurse the injury a tad longer. Butler will be a solid play as long as Stojakovic's sidelined.
Nenad Krstic (OKC) – The Thunder have won four of the past five games, even though Kevin Durant (ankle) and Jeff Green (back) have been sidelined with injuries. Krstic's one of the main reasons for the recent surge, averaging 18 points and six boards for a hobbled Oklahoma City roster. Durant and Green are both nearing a return, but the recent success of the team should help keep Krstic in the mix for the remainder.
Marc Gasol (MEM) – Gasol has quietly been one of the most consistent members of this year's rookie class. Through 62 games, he's averaging 11.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. While exceptional for a rookie, those averages are run-of-the-mill when compared to Gasol's recent tear. Starting with a 17-point, 14-rebound outburst against his brother Pau and the Lakers on March 3, Gasol has averaged 21.3 points, 9.8 boards and 2.8 swats per game for the month. He's showing a newfound aggressiveness around the basket, which is enabling him to get to the line more often and shoot a ridiculous 71.8 percent from the floor in the past four games. That shooting percentage will drop, but if he continues to attack the rim, Gasol shouldn't have a problem posting improved lines.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (MIL) – Here's another rookie who has been overlooked this season. Thanks to his all-around hustle and defensive tenacity, Mbah a Moute has managed to stick in coach Scott Skiles' rotation for the majority of the year. Mbah a Moute's play has turned up another notch since the beginning of March, with the rookie averaging 12.8 points, 7.5 boards and 1.5 steals. He's not asked to put up big lines for the Bucks on a nightly basis, but as an energy player with solid skill, he's capable of helping fantasy squads when he's getting the minutes.
Andes Nocioni (SAC) – Nocioni received his first start as a King on Sunday night, and he took advantage of the opportunity with 23 points, five rebounds and three treys. At 29, Nocioni's not exactly a key cog in your typical rebuilding plan, but he's under contract for the next three seasons, so Sacramento might as well utilize him. In 142 career starts, Nocioni has averaged 13.9 points, 6.1 boards and 1.3 3-pointers, making him a solid play if he sticks with the starting five.
Eric Gordon (LAC) – Gordon returned from a four-game absence due to a shoulder injury on Sunday and exploded for 35 points (12-of-18 FG, 5-of-6 3pt). The Clippers are 15-48 and don't have much else to accomplish this season other than letting Gordon run wild. If an impatient owner cut him loose while he was sidelined, make sure you scoop him up pronto.
Leon Powe (BOS) – Glen Davis was escorted off the court during Sunday's loss to the Magic with an ankle injury, leaving a hole at power forward that's likely to be filled by Powe. The game prior to Big Baby's injury, Powe poured in 20 points and grabbed a season-high tying 11 boards, so he should have already been on fantasy radars, but now that type of line could become a regular occurrence from the third-year forward.
Chris Kaman (LAC) – After months of uncertainty, it looks like Kaman's finally inching towards a return from plantar fasciitis. An MRI last week cleared the big man for a return Tuesday night against the Cavaliers. He hasn't played since Nov. 26, so the Clippers will likely ease him back into the rotation, but he could provide a nice spark for fantasy squads heading to the playoffs.
Jeff Green (OKC) – Sidelined for the past four games with back problems, Green is targeting a return Tuesday against the Kings. With Durant still on the mend, Green could post some solid lines once he makes his return.
Rajon Rondo (BOS) – Rondo (ankle) has already been ruled out of Wednesday's tilt against the Heat, and coach Doc Rivers doesn't expect him to play Friday versus the Grizzlies, either. There's a chance Rondo could make an appearance on Sunday, but with the Celtics still hovering near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, they don't need to rush their star point guard back to the court.
Carlos Boozer (UTA) – As if Boozer owners haven't already been through enough this season, they now have to deal with a sprained ankle. He missed Sunday's win against the Raptors and is expected to be a game-time decision Tuesday night. The Jazz are on an 11-game win streak and can probably afford to rest Boozer a couple more games if necessary. Keep tabs on the situation before committing him to your lineup.
Samuel Dalembert (PHI) – For what seems like the 1,000th time this season, Dalembert finds himself in the "Stock Down" portion of the Barometer. He had seemed to turn the corner in February, averaging a season-best 9.2 points while grabbing 10.3 boards per game, but he's back to laying stinkers, including Sunday's zero-point, three-board performance. The Sixers are frustrated with Dalembert's inconsistent effort and have been repaying him with equally inconsistent playing time. Unless he gets his head on straight and focuses more on his strengths - rebounding and defense – the roller coaster ride will continue.
Kevin Garnett (BOS) – Coach Doc Rivers said he's targeting a return for Garnett (knee) on March 20 or 21. That would leave the Big Ticket with 11 or 12 games left on the season when he makes a return. And if you factor in the Celtics lofty position in the standings, there's a chance Garnett receives extra rest done the stretch. I'm placing the over/under at games Garnett plays 25-plus minutes at seven. Not exactly what you want from your first-round pick entering the playoffs.
Greg Oden (POR) – For the second straight week, Oden (knee) sees his stock plummet. News recently surfaced that Blazers team doctor Don Roberts suggested Oden could miss up to six weeks after viewing the first batch of MRIs following the fragile rookie's latest injury. Surgery has already been ruled out, but Roberts's worst fears don't appear too far-fetched right now. Oden's still feeling pain in his knee and has trouble walking up stairs. If you're still holding out for his return, you'd probably be better served finding a replacement.
Article first appeared on 3/10/08