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.
Richard Hamilton (DET) – With Allen Iverson (back) and Rasheed Wallace (calf) both on the shelf, the Pistons have turned to Hamilton to facilitate the offense. Hamilton's increase in scoring since rejoining the starting lineup has been well documented – he's averaging 22.8 points in eight starts this month – but it's his assist totals that have also helped his stock rise. In the past four games, Rip has dished out 47 assists. He's never averaged more than 4.9 assists per game in his career, so this newfound playmaking ability is pretty surprising. But as long as the Pistons are short handed, they'll use Rip to initiate the offense.
Mario Chalmers (MIA) – Overshadowed by the otherworldly play of his backcourt mate Dwyane Wade, Chalmers has quietly put together his best month of the season, averaging 12.9 points, 4.4 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.6 3-pointers in eight March outings. His biggest improvement has come at the charity stripe, where he's shooting 96 percent this month, a sign that he's become more comfortable as a professional.
Thabo Sefalosha (OKC) – After Kevin Durant and Jeff Green returned from injuries, Sefalosha figured to take a back seat to the cornerstones of the franchise, but he's remained in the starting lineup, and his production has held up. Sefolosha was brought to Oklahoma City because of his skills on the defensive side of the ball, but he's locked in as the starting two guard and should continue to see enough looks as the fourth or fifth scoring option to still warrant strong fantasy consideration.
Renaldo Balkman (DEN) – Kenyon Martin's back problems have opened the door for Balkman to join the starting rotation, and third-year forward seized the opportunity by posting back-to-back double-doubles. His stay in the starting five hinges on Martin's recovery, but make sure Balkman's in your lineup for the time being.
Keith Bogans (MIL) – Bogans has found a spot in the Bucks' rotation, filling the role of defensive stopper and draining threes on the other end of the court. His minutes and production have steadily increased, leading to averages of 10.5 points, 6.3 boards, two steals and 2.3 treys in the past four games.
Ronny Turiaf (GS) – Turiaf's value fluctuates around the health of Andris Biedrins, who's out for the next week with a sprained ankle. The Warriors play four games this week, and Turiaf is expected to start at center. He's averaging 10.2 points, 6.1 boards and 1.9 blocks in nine starts this season, so if you need a quick fix, look Turiaf's way.
Rasheed Wallace (DET) – 'Sheed has missed three consecutive games since straining his left calf against the Magic on March 9. Thanks to the pathetic sub-.500 battle for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, Detroit has a magic number of 12 to make the playoffs. With only 17 games left on the schedule, that means the Pistons can take their time getting Wallace back on the court. He's doubtful for a two-game Texas swing that kicks off on Tuesday and could miss more time if need be.
Leandro Barbosa (PHO) – It's not often that we worry about a player averaging 19.3 points per game in his past six, but Barbosa has been dealing with an abdominal strain. So far, he's been able to play through the pain, and doctors have assured him it's not a sports hernia, but if Phoenix falls out of the playoff race, don't be surprised if Barbosa sits.
Danny Granger (IND) – Granger made an unimpressive return to the court from a foot injury Sunday night, scoring 10 points in 19 minutes of action. Owners have to be thrilled to see their star player return, but I'm still skeptical he'll be around come fantasy playoff time. Like every other team in the East not named the Wizards, the Pacers are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, but they won't be for long. As soon as that door closes, so could Granger's season.
Devin Harris (NJ) – The Nets are in a similar position to the Pacers, so we view Harris' return from a recent sprained shoulder with skepticism as well. He sat out Monday's tilt versus Denver, and his status for Wednesday's game won't be determined until he undergoes an MRI on Tuesday. If the news isn't good, don't be surprised if Harris joins the long list of stars already shelved for the remainder.
Shawn Marion (TOR) – A trade to the Raptors prior to last month's deadline was supposed to renew Marion as a fantasy force. Here was a once fantasy stalwart being reunited with his old boss, president Bryan Colangelo, and moving from a half court offense to a team looking to establish a run-and-gun mentality. Unfortunately, Marion has been more disappointing north of the border than he was in South Beach. In 12 games with the Raptors, Marion is averaging 13.3 points, 7.5 boards, 0.6 blocks and has yet to hit a three pointer.
Caron Butler (WAS) – The aforementioned Wizards are the cellar dwellers in the hapless Eastern Conference. Butler has missed three of the past seven games with hamstring issues and was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday. Regardless of the results, the Wizards have no reason to rush Butler back to action.
Bobby Jackson (SAC) – Jackson had come on strong for the rebuilding Kings, averaging 13.2 points and 4.7 dimes while filling in for the injured Beno Udrih (foot) for six games. Now Jackson will swap spots with Udrih and hit the sidelines after suffering a fractured cheekbone Friday night against Cleveland. He's scheduled to undergo surgery this week, and while his status won't be determined until the surgery is completed, there's a strong chance Jackson's season is over.
Josh Howard (DAL) – He's technically listed as day-to-day, but when a player openly admits to just wanting to get healthy for the playoffs, I'm not going rely on him to help me down the stretch.
Article first appeared on 3/16/08