Does Derrick Rose make the Bulls the best team in the Eastern Conference? Their record (18-5, .783 winning percentage) suggests so on paper, but let's take a closer look.
The Bulls have lost only once at home (by five points to Indiana), and while they still went 4-1 in the games Derrick Rose missed, none of the opponents they beat has a winning record. This doesn't necessarily show how important Rose is to the team. While the take away for many from Sunday's game was that Rose choked by missing critical shots in the last minute against Miami, I'd argue the exact opposite. There's no way the Bulls would have been in the game without Rose. He finished with 34 points, six assists and six rebounds. Therefore, without him there wouldn't have been the chance for him to fail in the final minute. His response Monday after the tough loss was to repeatedly humiliate the Wizards, running the pick and roll at the top of the key and making one-handed floating jump shot after one-handed floating jump shot. After Monday's game he now has three consecutive games with at least 34 points.
When it comes down to it, he's easily the best player in a Bulls uniform since Michael Jordan. The toe injury that cost him those five games is a thing of the past; reports say he doesn't feel anything anymore. It's wearing the Captain Obvious hat to call Rose good, but if you had to start a franchise tomorrow, wouldn't Rose be in the conversation with Kevin Love and Kevin Durant as the first player you'd take? Beside Rose, the keys for the Bulls will be to get Luol Deng back to 100 percent somehow and keep Carlos Boozer out of foul trouble when the games matter. Deng and Ronnie Brewer can keep Lebron James somewhat in check over a seven-game series. Joakim Noah and Boozer can provide an inside presence few teams in the East can. Kyle Korver, Richard Hamilton and Taj Gibson all are fine role players in their own regard. As with any team, health could be an issue and the Bulls would be wise to add a player or two before the trade deadline to add some depth if they want to make another deep run into the playoffs.
Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but it at least offers some players to put on the radar.
Chris Duhon, G, ORL - With Jameer Nelson missing up to a week with concussion-like symptoms, Duhon has taken over running the point for the Magic. Since Nelson's injury, Duhon has played at least 31 minutes in each of the last three games. Unfortunately, the extra time hasn't translated into production for Duhon, who has averaged only 7.7 points, four assists, three rebounds and a steal. In other words, he probably isn't relevant in most leagues. However, he could just need some time to adjust to playing with Dwight Howard and the rest of the starters, and his numbers could improve until Nelson returns. Given that concussions tend to linger, it's possible that Duhon sees long stretches of playing time if Nelson does not completely recover. At the very least he's a player to keep an eye on.
Jerryd Bayless, G, TOR - I won't go too deep into Bayless after discussing him last week, but unlike Duhon, he's someone with actual talent who was stuck too far down the depth chart. A couple of injuries have opened up some more minutes and Bayless has taken advantage by scoring 35 points with eight rebounds, six assists, four three-pointers and a steal over his last two games. He started Tuesday night and the Raptors may stick with him as long as he has a hot hand.
Ronnie Brewer, F, CHI - The loss of Luol Deng has opened a lot of playing time for Brewer, who has logged at least 38 minutes in each of his last four games. His per game averages have been respectable during that time: 11 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and two steals. His value is directly linked to the availability of Deng, who is expected to make his return soon. However, Deng's injury does not sound good and if he were to aggravate it, surgery could be an option, ending his season.
Each week we'll look at players who can help your fantasy team in the standard nine categories. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee he will contribute in other areas.
Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN - With No. 2 overall bust Darko Milicic out due to an illness, Pekovic stepped in an provided the Wolves with a presence in the paint. The last three games with Darko out, Pekovic has averaged 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds. While it would be nice to see Pekovic block more than a shot per game, he shoots more than 76 percent from the charity stripe, which is a high mark for a center. If he can keep the fouls under control and move past Darko on the depth chart when he returns, Pekovic is worth a look for those who need big-man help.
Vince Carter, G, DAL - Fantasy owners looking for scoring should grab Carter as soon as possible. He's looked like the Vince of old his last three games since returning from a foot sprain, totaling 54 points. Vince has always been active on the floor, which means you can expect him to chip in with a handful of assists and rebounds if he continues to get about 28 minutes a night. Keep in mind he's not the model of health, but he's definitely worth a pickup while healthy.
Goran Dragic, G, HOU - Is something wrong with Kyle Lowry? The starting point guard for Houston is mired in a terrible slump, shooting 9-for-39 (23.1 percent) over his last four games and appears to be losing playing time to Dragic. Goran has played in the mid-20s his past six games, averaging 10.7 points and seven assists over his last three games. It could be possible that this slump will pass for Lowry, or could it be that his foot injury from earlier this month has resurfaced? Either way, Lowry's owners would be wise to add Dragic, as would anyone willing to take a gamble on potential assists.
Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies there.
Donte Greene, SAC - Now eligible at shooting guard
Yi Jianlian, DAL - Now eligible at center
Andre Miller, DEN - Now eligible at shooting guard
Shane Battier, MIA - Now eligible at shooting guard