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.
Kemba Walker, G, CHA – After winning just two of their first 12 games of the season, the Bobcats decided to start playing for the future and inserted Walker into the starting lineup. The 21-year-old rookie hasn’t helped Charlotte much in terms of putting a winning product on the floor, but he has sparked the team’s offense. In three starts, Walker is averaging 17.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 threes and 2.7 steals in 38 minutes per game. He’s a streaky volumes shooter who will hurt your field goal percentage (38.7), but Walker provides solid value in nearly every other category. He should be owned in most formats.
J.J. Redick, G, ORL – A knee injury suffered by Jason Richardson has opened a spot in Orlando’s starting lineup for Redick. The sixth-year guard out of Duke has taken advantage of his opportunity, averaging 13 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 treys and 33 minutes in three starts. Redick has struggled from the floor in his past two games (6-of-20), so his numbers would be even more impressive if his shots were falling at his career mark of 43 percent. Redick will likely be pushed back to a reserve role once Richardson returns from his injury, but the sharpshooter should continue seeing consistent playing time for a Magic team that’s not quite as deep as past seasons. Those in mid-sized to deep leagues in need of a sneaky source of scoring and threes should look in Redick’s direction.
Ian Mahinmi, F/C, DAL – When Tyson Chandler signed with New York this offseason, Brendan Haywood was expected to be the primary beneficiary in Dallas. Instead, Mahinmi is the big man in Big D who has seen the biggest boost in value. Seldom used throughout his first three NBA seasons, Mahinmi is now a vital part of the Mavericks’ rotation. He’s averaging 8.0 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 65.3 percent from the floor in 20 mpg. The 25-year-old Frenchman is still somewhat raw on both ends of the court and often battles foul trouble, but he could end up being the Mavs’ No. 1 center if Haywood continues to struggle. Those in deep leagues that value backups should take notice.
Trevor Ariza, F, NOH – Ariza, who was battling a groin injury, returned from an eight-game absence Wednesday night. In his first two games back, Ariza averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals. He struggled with the Hornets during his first season with the team, but Ariza will be asked to do more for the rebuilding franchise this year. His best season came in 2009-10 when a mediocre Houston team asked him to take on the most expansive role of his career. The Hornets are in a similar situation this year, so we should see similar production from Ariza. Go grab him now while his value is still down.
Shannon Brown, G, PHO – After a slow start to the season, Brown has started to carve out his role with the Suns. Over the past eight games, Brown has averaged 12.0 points, 0.9 threes and 1.0 steals in 25 mpg. Suns coach Alvin Gentry has started tweaking his starting lineup, specifically at shooting guard. Given Brown’s consistency over the past couple weeks, he should get a stab at the gig before long. Brown has shown the ability to post solid lines when given starter’s minutes. If he gets promoted to the Suns’ starting five, move fast to add him to your squad.
Jason Thompson, F, SAC – Thompson was promoted to the Kings’ starting lineup Wednesday, taking over for J.J. Hickson at power forward. He responded with one of his better games of the season, finishing with nine points, 10 rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes. For his career, Thompson averages 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.8 blocks as a starter. After getting a win in Thompson’s first start of the season, Kings coach Keith Smart will likely give the 25-year-old big man a few more chances to solidify his new role. Thompson doesn’t help much on the defensive end, but he can post double-digit scoring averages while contributing in rebounds as long as he’s a member of the Kings’ starting five.
Chris Paul, G, LAC – Paul has sat out three consecutive games with a sore hamstring. The injury isn’t expected to be a long-term issue, but the Clippers are being cautious with their star point guard anyway. CP3’s next chance to return to action will be Friday against the Timberwolves. Maurice Williams, who returned from a foot injury Wednesday, and Randy Foye would be the biggest beneficiaries should Paul miss any more time.
Baron Davis, G, NY – The Knicks are hopeful Davis (back) will return to practice next week. It’s still unclear how much practice time Davis will need before returning to game action, but the time to add the veteran guard is now. Point guards always thrive under Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni and Davis will be the best floor general on the roster once he returns. He should assume the starting job shortly after returning to games.
Hedo Turkoglu, F, ORL – Turkoglu will sit out Friday’s game against the Lakers with back spasms. Friday’s contest will mark the second consecutive game Turkoglu has sat out with the ailment. Back issues tend to linger, especially with older players, so keep a close eye on Turkoglu going forward.
Dwyane Wade, G, MIA – Wade, who has been dealing with ankle and foot problems this season, returned to practice Friday. He’s officially listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Sixers, so we’re probably looking at a game-time decision. The Heat are 5-0 without Wade this year, so the team can continue to be patient with their star shooting guard. Don’t expect him back on the floor until he’s at full strength.
Rodney Stuckey, G, DET – Stuckey missed four games earlier this season with a groin injury and will sit out Friday with “general soreness.” While none of his injuries have been serious enough to downgrade him significantly, Stuckey’s time off the court has cleared a path for rookie Brandon Knight to take over as the Pistons’ starting point guard. Now, even when healthy, Stuckey will be stuck in a bench role. The Pistons are using primarily a three-guard rotation, so Stuckey will still see enough run to post decent lines. Still, his value in shallow formats has taken a significant hit.
Brendan Haywood, C, DAL – The aforementioned Haywood has failed to live up to the sleeper status he held on draft day. Through 16 games Haywood is averaging 4.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 21 mpg. He hasn’t shown enough consistency to warrant more playing time, and with other options such as Ian Mahinmi playing well, Haywood’s role won’t grow. He still holds some value in extremely deep leagues, but those in shallower formats would be better off grabbing a more productive option.
Jared Dudley, G/F, PHO – Dudley was a causality of Suns coach Alvin Gentry’s lineup juggling earlier this week. In his first game of the season off the bench, Dudley was scoreless in 17 minutes of action. The 26-year-old swingman was a popular breakout candidate this season because he was expected to play heavy minutes every night; but with those minutes now gone, he should be bound for your waiver wire.
Amar’e Stoudemire, F, NY – Among the top 20 players heading into the season, Stoudemire has seen the biggest decrease in value that wasn’t injury-related. While still productive (18.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals), Stoudemire is nowhere near the levels he posted last year (25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks) when he was a legit MVP candidate. The drop in rebounds and blocks (to just 0.4 per game) can be attributed to the presence of Tyson Chandler, who was brought in to dominate in those two areas. On the offensive end, Stoudemire has been affected by the lack of a true point guard and the ball-dominating ways of Carmelo Anthony. The arrival of Baron Davis and a bounce back from his current 40.8 percent shooting percentage will help Stoudemire regain some of his value, but he has an uphill battle to return to the levels we saw last season.
J. J. Hickson, F, SAC – Hickson was pushed to the Kings’ bench in favor of Jason Thompson earlier this week. In his first game off the pine, Hickson saw under 11 minutes of action. He was effective in those 11 minutes (six points, five rebounds), but Hickson will be hard-pressed to sustain those rates if his playing time remains minimal.