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 game every now and then - unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time, rotation role, or performance.
Brandon Jennings, G, MIL – After failing to show much progress during his sophomore year, Jennings has took his game to a new level this season. The 22-year-old point guard is averaging career-highs in points (20.6), three-pointers (2.5), steals (1.7) and shooting percentage (43.9). He’s attempting 17.6 shots while setting up 5.6 buckets for his teammates. With Andrew Bogut (ankle) out for the next couple months and Stephen Jackson in Bucks coach Scott Skiles’ doghouse, Jennings’ usage rate will continue to soar. Jennings should hints that he could develop into a star player during his first two seasons in the league and now he’s taking that next step.
Drew Gooden, F/C, MIL – Gooden is another Buck whose value is on the rise. He has taken over as Milwaukee’s starting center since Bogut went down. Over those four starts, Gooden has averaged 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists. His shooting percentage (46.8) has always been low for a big man and he doesn’t offer much value on defense, but Gooden has countered that by hitting over 80 percent of his freebies throughout the latter half of his career. Despite some obvious flaws, his scoring and rebounding numbers along make him worth a look in even the shallowest of formats.
Jerryd Bayless, G, TOR – Bayless has come alive for the Raptors over the past four games, averaging 15.8 points and 2.0 treys in nearly 26 minutes per contest. He started the two middle games of that four-game stretch but appears destined to be used as an offensive sparkplug off the bench going forward. Even in a reserve role, Bayless has the skills to fill it up and be a decent scoring and three-point option in deeper formats.
Ed Davis, F, TOR – Hyped as a sleeper before the season, Davis got off to a slow start out of the gate. After back-to-back double-doubles, the second-year big man out of North Carolina finally appears to be living up to his potential. His solid play resulted in a promotion to the starting lineup Wednesday, taking over at power forward for the struggling Amir Johnson. Davis responded with 10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in 38 minutes. The Raptors have been juggling their rotation on a regular basis of late, but if Davis can hold on to a significant role, he’ll be a nightly double-double threat going forward.
Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN – With a solid three-game stretch where he filled in at starting center for an ill Darko Milicic, Pekovic is staking claim on remaining in the Timberwolves’ first unit. The 26-year-old Yugoslavian averaged 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds while filling in for Milicic over the past week. While Milicic was given his starting gig back Wednesday, the veteran big man was outplayed by Pekovic, who finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. Given the way Pekovic has outplayed Darko, it could be only a matter of time before Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman makes a permanent switch to his rotation.
Jared Dudley, G/F, PHO – After spending five games coming off the Suns’ bench, Dudley found himself back in the starting lineup last week. He has responded to the promotion by averaging 16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.0 treys and 2.0 steals over his past three games. These are numbers more in line with the production Dudley posted during his breakout late last season. With the starting job now back in hand, he’s a good bet to continue being a fantasy asset.
Greivis Vasquez, G, NOH – Vasquez exploded for 20 points (7-of-10 FG, 3-of-3 3Pt, 3-of-3 FT), 12 assists and six rebounds in Wednesday’s loss to the Suns. He obviously won’t shoot 70 percent every night, but the solid all-around performance should earn the second-year pro more playing time going forward. At 6-foot-6, 211 pounds, Vasquez has the frame to play shooting guard, so don’t be surprised if he continues to see playing alongside Jarrett Jack, especially considering the Hornets other options (DaJuan Summers and Marco Belinelli) aren’t too appealing while Eric Gordon (knee) is shelved.
J.R. Smith, G, FA – Smith erupted for 60 points while knocking down an insane 14 three-pointers on Wednesday. Unfortunately fantasy owners didn’t reap the benefits of Smith’s monstrous performance, as he’s still stuck playing in the China. Luckily, the end to Smith’s foray into foreign ball is nearing, as he’s allowed to sign with an NBA team at the conclusion of the Chinese Basketball Association’s season. The CBA’s regular season ends Feb. 15th, but with Smith’s team (Zhejiang) will likely make the playoffs, pushing his return back a couple weeks. It’s probably a little bit too early to consider stashing Smith on your bench, but he should definitely start factoring into your game plan. The same goes for Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler and Aaron Brooks, all of whom will be joining Smith on this side of the pond when the CBA season ends.
Nicolas Batum, F, POR – Batum suffered a knee injury during Monday’s loss to the Jazz. The injury has been labeled a left knee contusion and forced Batum to sit out Wednesday’s win over Charlotte. He’s also expected to sit out Thursday night against the Kings. The Blazers will hold Batum out until he’s pain free, so make sure you keep him on your bench for the time being.
Caron Butler, F, LAC – Butler sat out Wednesday’s win over the Jazz with a sore lower back. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but back injuries are always tricky. Move him to your bench and keep a close eye on the veteran swingman in the short term.
Gerald Henderson, G, CHA – Henderson left Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Blazers with a sore right hamstring. This comes after he missed two of the previous four games with a back issue. Wednesday’s game was out of hand well before halftime, so it’s still unclear if Henderson suffered an injury of any significance or if the Bobcats were just being cautious in a lopsided game. Monitor him closely.
Chris Kaman, C, NOH – Kaman has been banished to the end of the Hornets’ bench, failing to appear in any of the past five games despite being healthy. New Orleans has made the big man available in trade talks and is currently shopping around for the best offer. From a fantasy perspective, Kaman would be better off landing on a team in need of a starting center, but that scenario seems unlikely at this point. The two teams currently considered frontrunners to land Kaman are Houston and Indiana. In either of those situations, Kaman would likely be used in a backup role, which would make his value similar to what we saw while he was in the Hornets’ rotation. Keep tabs on the situation to see which team finally coughs up enough to land Kaman. If he lands a starting gig somewhere, he would be a solid addition in most formats. In a reserve role, his value would be limited to deeper leagues.
Andrew Bogut, C, MIL – Bogut suffered a left ankle fracture on Jan. 25th which will sideline him for the next 8-to-12 weeks. Assuming that timetable is accurate, Bogut could return anywhere from March 23rd to April 20th. The regular season ends on April 26th, so Bogut would have to return near the beginning of that timetable to make much of a fantasy impact this year. This marks the fourth consecutive year Bogut has dealt with an injury that will sideline him for a significant period. Keep that in mind when targeting him in drafts next year.
Stephen Jackson, G/F, MIL – Jackson is another Buck who has fallen on hard times. Unlike Bogut, Jackson is completely healthy. After receiving a one-game suspension on Jan. 20th for missing the morning shootaround, Jackson has lost his spot in the starting lineup and now appears to be near the end of the Bucks’ bench. The veteran swingman was a DNP – Coach’s Decision on Monday against the Pistons and played under 10 minutes Wednesday against the Heat. Since Jackson’s team-issued suspension, the Bucks have gone 6-2 and the coaching staff doesn’t want to mess with success, meaning he’ll probably be stuck in a bench role for a while.
Darko Milicic, C, MIN – The aforementioned Milicic missed three games with an illness and now he’s in danger of losing his spot in the starting lineup permanently. Even when healthy and starting for the Timberwolves, Milicic plays under 19 minutes per game and manages to be a fantasy asset in just blocks. Don’t be fooled by his 22-point performance on Jan. 20th – there’s not much upside here.
George Hill, G, IND – Hill has a small chip fracture in his left ankle, which is expected to sideline him for at least the next three weeks. A.J. Price and Lance Stephenson will see a little more time off the Pacers’ bench, but the team will mainly ask Danny Granger, Paul George and Darren Collison to just shoulder even more of the scoring load while Hill is out. Deep leagues with room on their bench can consider stashing Hill away, but shallower formats will want to find a replacement.
Amir Johnson, F/C, TOR – Johnson has been moved in and out of the Raptors’ starting lineup over the past two weeks. He’s come off the bench four out of the past six games, including Wednesday’s loss to Boston. Over that six-game stretch, Johnson has played just 17 minutes per game. He’s a nightly double-double threat when seeing 30-plus minutes per contest, but his fantasy value has taken a huge hit with a dwindling role.