Rotation Shakeup In Washington
With his team down 14 points at the half Tuesday against the Bucks, Wizards coach Randy Whitman decided to switch things up. The interim coach opted to bench Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Trevor Booker for the start of the third quarter to send a message to some of his younger players: Play the right way or don’t play at all.
The Wizards responded by outscoring the Bucks by 11 points in the third quarter before eventually losing by one point. Of the three players who were benched, only Booker returned to the floor during Tuesday’s loss. He responded by scoring 16 of his season-high 20 points in the second half. McGee and Young stayed planted on the bench Tuesday night and both saw less than 19 minutes off the bench Wednesday night against the Magic.
Washington doesn’t have much frontcourt depth, so it’s hard to envision McGee not returning to a starting role, or at the very least playing a significant role off the bench. Given his shot-blocking skills, McGee will remain a fantasy option, but his overall production will be dulled in the short term.
Young’s outlook going forward is a bit dicier. He suffered a leg injury during Wednesday’s game and is currently scheduled for an MRI. Plus, the Wizards have a suitable replacement for Young in Jordan Crawford, who easily sees the largest boost in fantasy value following Whitman’s tweaks to the rotation. Don’t be surprised if Young struggles to reclaim his starting job, especially considering he’s headed to unrestricted free agency this summer and the Wizards probably won’t bring him back.
The fantasy landscape in Washington definitely saw some swings this week, but now it’s time to turn our attention to the rest of 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 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 Bass, F, BOS – Bass has started at power forward in his first two appearances since returning from a six-game absence due to a knee injury. In those two starts, Bass has averaged 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in 36 minutes per game. Jermaine O’Neal (hand) currently doesn’t have a timetable for a return, so Bass could stick with the starting five for an extended period. The overall production might not jump out of the box score, but Bass is a consistent and efficient option at power forward as long as he’s in the starting lineup.
Josh Howard, G/F, UTA – Over the past four games, Howard has averaged 15.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals. The boost in production corresponds with Howard taking over a spot in the starting lineup for the injured Raja Bell (oblique). Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has been so impressed with Howard’s play that he’s considering giving him a longer look with the starting five, even after Bell returns. Given his chances to keep the starting gig long term, Howard is a solid speculative add.
Jamal Crawford, G, POR – Crawford has started the past two games at point guard for the Blazers. The veteran guard has taken advantage of the promotion, averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and a whopping 5.0 three-pointers. Given the season-long shooting slumps of Raymon Felton and Wes Mathews, Crawford has a good chance to hold on to his new gig. Try grabbing him from an unsuspecting owner now before he completely locks up the job.
Ekpe Udoh, F/C, GS – Udoh has started to show glimpses of the potential that made him the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft. Over the past four games, Udoh has averaged 9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steals. He’s still raw on offense and will see inconsistent playing time, but Udoh has the defensive skills to be a useful specialist in deeper formats.
Steve Novak, F, NY – Like Udoh, Novak’s overall fantasy appeal is limited, but he specializes well enough in one area to garner attention. For Novak, that area is three-pointers. The sharp-shooter out of Marquette has knocked down 14 treys over his past three games. The Knicks had a full compliment of their players over that stretch, so Novak should continue to see opportunities in the rotation. He won’t continue to hit four or five threes per night, but Novak is good for a couple of threes in 15-20 mpg if you’re looking for a three-point specialist.
Paul Millsap, F, UTA – Millsap sat out Wednesday’s win over the Rockets with a bruised left heel. X-rays came back negative, so it looks like this injury is of the day-to-day variety. His next chance to return to the hardwood is Friday against the Heat.
Danilo Gallinari, F, DEN – Gallinari, who has been sidelined since early February with a severe ankle sprain, hopes to return to action next week. The swelling has gone down significantly and he expects to start running and jumping in the next few days. Go grab Galo off waivers if he was dumped following his injury.
Stephen Curry, G, GS – Curry has sat out all but one second – in which he was used as a decoy – over the past two games due to a sprained deltoid ligament in his right foot. While it’s disconcerting that Curry continues to deal with foot and ankle injuries, owners can take some solace in the fact he dressed Wednesday and is listed as day-to-day. Nate Robinson figures to see the biggest boost in value if Curry misses any more action.
Manu Ginobili, G/F, SAN – Ginobili (oblique) is a game-time decision Friday’s game against the Bobcats. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich originally said Ginobili would be sidelined for “several weeks” after suffering the injury, so owners should be pleasantly surprised that the veteran swingman is nearing a return after missing just four games.
Andray Blatche, F, WAS – Blatch, who has been sidelined with a strained left calf since Jan. 29, returned to practice Thursday. The Wizards haven’t announced a timetable for his return yet, but it would appear Blatche is nearing day-to-day territory. He’s another solid waiver wire target who might have been dumped due to injury.
JaVale McGee, C, WAS – See Introduction.
Nick Young, G, WAS – See Introduction.
Amar’e Stoudemire, F, NY – In the three games the Knicks have sported a full compliment of players since “Linsanity” started, Stoudemire has averaged just 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. He also recently admitted that the 20 pounds of muscle he added in the offseason has affected his explosion around the rim. He’ll bounce back some, but now that the Knicks are loaded up with other scoring options, it’s hard to envision Stoudemare returning to his 21.7 points career scoring mark. There’s still plenty of name value here, so shop him around for the best offer.
Brandon Jennings, G, MIL – After shooting over 44 percent through the first 20 games, Jennings reverted back to his efficient ways in February. Over his past 15 games, Jennings is shooting just 33.6 percent from the floor, which has lowered his shooting percentage for the season under the 40-percent mark. Jennings showed what kind of fantasy impact he can have when shooting at an efficient clip, but until he’s capable of hitting shots with more consistency there will be one too many flaws in his game for him to reach the elite-level he teased at earlier this season.
Jarret Jack, G, NOH – A knee injury Jack suffered in early February put him on the shelf for six out of seven games. Over that stretch the Hornets plugged Greivis Vasquez into the starting lineup. Vasquez has remained the starter since Jack returned to action six games ago. Despite coming off the bench, Jack is actually playing more than Vasquez and outproducing the second-year guard. That said, Jack’s overall production is down from when he had the starting gig. In six games as a sub, Jack is averaging 12.8 points and 4.8 assists. While those numbers are still useful in many formats, it’s quite a drop off from the 15.2 points and 6.7 assists he averaged as a starter.