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, role or skill level.
Marc Gasol, C, MEM – Of all the players on the Grizzlies who will receive a bump in value with Zach Randolph (knee) out the next couple months, Gasol could see the biggest. In five games since Randolph went down, Gasol is averaging over 40 minutes per game. His scoring average hasn’t seen the expected uptick yet thanks to two stinkers from the floor – a 3-of-11 showing last week and an 0-of-9 performance Sunday – but Gasol is averaging 12.2 boards, 3.4 assists, 2.6 blocks and 1.6 steals since Randolph went down. All of those numbers represent career highs for Gasol. With heavy playing time, he will continue to post strong numbers across the board, and his scoring will soon start to reflect the increased opportunities. Try acquiring Gasol in a trade before he blows up.
DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, SAC – As expected, the firing of Paul Westphal last week has motivated Cousins to start living up to his potential. Under new Kings coach Keith Smart, Cousins has averaged 18.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in four games. His body language and effort in games have been noticeably better under Smart. As long as Cousins has a smile on his face, he’s going to be a monster in fantasy. His volatile personality is still somewhat worrisome, but his upside is worth the risk. Shoot out buy-low offers for Cousins while you still can.
Nikola Vucevic, F/C, PHI – One of the more under-the-radar aspects of the 76ers’ trade of Marreese Speights to the Grizzlies last week was the spot in the rotation it freed up for Vucevic. The rookie out of USC has impressed since establishing his role, averaging 6.0 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 61 percent from the floor in 17 minutes per game over the past four contests. The Sixers are a deep team, and Vucevic’s playing time will be limited going forward, but his per-minute production is legit. If starting center Spencer Hawes swoons or gets injured, Vucevic will make for an interesting speculative addition in deep fantasy leagues.
Kawhi Leonard, F, SAN – After back-to-back solid efforts off the bench, Leonard was rewarded with a start at shooting guard Wednesday against the Rockets. The rookie out of San Diego State finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in nearly 38 minutes. Leonard has picked up his pace lately, averaging 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks over his last three games. The Spurs shipped George Hill to Indiana on draft day to land Leonard, so the team is obviously high on his potential. He doesn’t possess the long-range skills of a prototypical shooting guard, but Leonard’s ability to slash to the basket will fit in nicely with a Spurs team that has numerous three-point shooters. Leonard has the length and athleticism to be a terror on the defensive end of the court, and showed superb rebounding ability in college, so don’t hesitate to run to the waiver wire to grab him.
Byron Mullens, C, CHR – Mullens spent his first two seasons buried on Oklahoma City’s bench, but he’s starting to carve out a role now that he’s in Charlotte. Over the past six games Mullens has averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 points and 0.8 blocks in 21 minutes per. The Bobcats have a shallow frontcourt, running out the likes of an undersized Boris Diaw and a talent-deprived DeSagana Diop at starting center, so it wouldn’t be a surprise for Mullens to eventually get a shot at the starting gig. He’s worth a speculative add in deep leagues for fantasy owners that can afford to be patient with a still developing big man.
Chandler Parsons, F, HOU – Parsons was a surprise addition to the Rockets’ starting five last week, taking over at small forward for Chase Budinger on Saturday against the Thunder. The second round pick out of Florida has remained the starter since, averaging 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 31 minutes per agme. One area where Parsons has struggled since being named a starter is his three-point shooting (18.2 percent), but he has a nice stroke from downtown and should help in that category as well. As long as the starting gig is his, Parsons is worth a look.
Nate Robinson, G, GS – Another move that fell under the radar was the Warriors’ signing of Robinson last week. The diminutive guard has needed just three games to prove he’ll be a factor with his new squad. Over that stretch, Robinson has averaged 14.7 points, 4.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 treys in nearly 32 minutes per game. His role has been larger than expected due to the absence of Stephen Curry (ankle), but Robinson will still be leaned on heavily as a sparkplug off the bench once the Warriors get their star point guard back. Deep leaguers needing help with threes and steals should look in Robinson’s direction.
Derrick Rose, G, CHI – Rose sat out Wednesday’s win over the Wizards while dealing with a turf toe injury. His toe first became an issue when he left Tuesday’s game briefly, but Rose was able to return and play nearly 42 minutes. He said after Tuesday’s game that he wouldn’t miss any time going forward, but the Bulls obviously felt differently about playing their superstar point guard at less than full strength. Rose seems determined to not let this injury sideline him for long, but owners will want to keep a close eye on the situation going forward.
Spencer Hawes, C, PHI – Hawes sat out Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks with back spasms. The big man wanted to play, but with Wednesday marking the Sixers’ third game in as many nights, the team decided to err on the side of caution. Hawes’ next chance to return will be Friday against the Wizards.
Danilo Gallinari, F, DEN – Gallinari is off to the best start of his career, averaging career-highs in points (17.2), assists (2.9) and steals (1.8). Despite the early-season success, Gallinari still has room to improve thanks to uncharacteristic struggles from beyond the arc. Through 11 games, Gallinari is hitting just 28 percent of his three-pointers. However, as evidenced by his 7-of-13 three-pointing shooting over the past three games, Gallinari is starting to find his stroke from downtown. Gallinari will be closer to a 20-point-per-game scorer once he gets back to the 37.1 three-point rate he has put up throughout his career. He’ll be expensive to acquire in a trade, but you’ll be landing someone who hasn’t hit their peak yet this season. Start sending your offers now.
Joakim Noah, C, CHI – Noah strained his surgically-repaired left thumb in Wednesday’s win over the Wizards. He returned to play seven minutes in the third quarter before sitting out the remainder of the game. The Bulls’ energetic big man is already off to a slow start (7.1 points, 7.5 rebounds) and a lingering injury would only make it more difficult for him to right the ship. X-rays were negative, so this doesn’t appear to be a long-term issue, but owners will want to monitor the situation closely.
Devin Harris, G, UTA – After a successful 17-game stint with his new team late last season, Harris has struggled to find his comfort zone with the Jazz this year. Through 10 games he is averaging just 8.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 0.7 steals. His low scoring totals can be attributed to his 34.7 percent shooting from the floor, and dips in other categories are partially due to an average playing time of just 26 mpg. He has logged over 30 minutes in three straight games, and the Jazz really don’t have any young point guards who will challenge him for playing time, so he should continue playing increased minutes. Once his shots start falling, his numbers should start to resemble those he put up with Utah last season. Harris can probably be had for peanuts right now in a trade. Send out an offer before he starts putting his game together.
D.J. White, F, CHR – White was an early-season surprise, posting solid production while starting the first seven games of the season for the Bobcats. However, he has moved to a bench role over the past three games and will spend most of his time coming off the pine going forward. Charlotte’s lack of frontcourt depth should help White see around 20-25 mpg, but he’ll be hard-pressed to match the production (11.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) he posted as a starter.
Jason Kidd, G, DAL – Kidd has sat out the past three games with a lower back injury. He’s reportedly close to a return, but the hit on his fantasy value might be permanent. At 38, Kidd’s age may finally be catching up to him. Even before being shelved, he was averaging career lows in scoring (4.9) and assists (4.5). The Mavericks don’t have anyone else to carry the load at point guard, so Kidd will slide right back into the starting lineup when healthy. However, at his age a back injury and general ineffectiveness are worrisome, especially with this season’s condensed schedule. Kidd will still dish out enough assists, hit enough threes and swipe the ball with enough regularity to hold some value, but your fantasy squad would be better off with a younger player who has more upside.
Michael Beasley, F, MIN – Beasley has missed the past three games with a sprained foot. He’s still in a walking boot and is now expected to miss at least another 3-to-4 games. To make matters worse, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman is considering moving Beasley to a sixth-man role upon his return. While moving Beasley to sixth man makes tons of sense for Minnesota, the change would have a negative impact on his value from a fantasy standpoint. If Beasley is moved to the bench, Anthony Randolph or rookie Derrick Williams could be moved into the starting lineup.
Chase Budinger, G/F, HOU – As previously mentioned, Budinger lost his starting job to Chandler Parsons last week. Since being moved to a bench role, Budinger is averaging just 3.0 points in 16 mpg. First-year Rockets coach Kevin McHale wasn’t around when Budinger broke out late last season, and he appears to favor Parsons as the starter going forward. Budinger is a streaky three-point shooter who will still hold value in spots, but he has an uphill battle to provide consistent enough production to warrant a roster spot in shallower formats.