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.
Evan Turner, G/F, PHI – Turner was promoted to the starting lineup Monday. He was atrocious from the floor in his first start of the season, finishing with two points on 1-of-12 shooting, but he showed his upside in other areas by grabbing 12 boards with a steal and a block. His second start went much better as he finished with a career-high 26 points (11-of-19 FG, 1-of-3 3Pt, 3-of-4 FT) in 37 minutes. Turner’s talent has never been in question – he just never was given the role or playing time to be much of a force. Sixers coach Doug Collins has already said he plans to stick with his new rotation, which includes Turner and point guard Jrue Holiday splitting the ball-handling duties, so it appears Turner’s newly expanded role is here to stay. He’s worth a look in most formats.
Derrick Williams, F, MIN – As the No. 2 overall pick of this year’s draft class, Williams’ overall production of 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19 minutes per game has been disappointing, but he’s starting to show some of the skills that made him such a highly-coveted prospect last summer. Over the past seven games, Williams has averaged 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 treys in 25 mpg. He has passed Michael Beasley in the Timberwolves’ rotation, and given the improvements Williams offers on the defensive end of the floor over Beasley, the increased role should stick long term.
Bismack Biyombo, F/C, CHA – Biyombo is another member of the 2011 draft class that has elevated his play of late. In his past 12 games (all starts), Biyombo has averaged 8.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. He’s still extremely raw on offense, averaging just 5.5 points per game as a starter, but he picks up enough easy baskets while cleaning the offensive glass to occasionally reach double-digits. The Bobcats are lottery-bound once again, so the team is sure to overlook Biyombo’s shortcomings and allow him to continue developing as a starter.
Ekpe Udoh, F/C, GS – Udoh’s boost in value was touched on last week, but after Warriors coach Mark Jackson declared the second-year big man the starting center for the remainder of the season Monday, he deserves another look. Like Biyombo, Udoh can struggle on the offensive end of the court, but he makes up for that deficiency by blocking a ton of shots. Through his first four starts, Udoh is averaging 13.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. The scoring may dip, but expect his production in other areas to hold steady.
Alonzo Gee, G/F, CLE – Gee has started the past three games at small forward for the Cavaliers. Over that stretch, he’s averaging 15.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 threes and 1.7 steals. The non-drafted athletic swingman is in his third season. While he wasn’t highly coveted out of the University of Alabama, Gee has shown he has the chops to be a successful cog in an NBA rotation. At 24, he’s young enough to be a part of the Cavaliers current rebuilding process, so don’t be surprised if he holds on to the starting job for the remainder of the season. His production will be somewhat inconsistent, but as long as he’s seeing over 30 mpg, Gee is worth a look in mid to deep sized leagues.
Jared Dudley, G/F, PHO – Dudley has come alive since the All-Star break, averaging 16.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 three-pointers in his past four games. He’s averaging over 36 mpg over that stretch. If that playing time holds up, he’ll finally be able to make good on his sleeper status many pundits were raving about following his late-season surge in 2010-11.
Kyle Lowry, G, HOU – Lowry is currently dealing with a groin injury and an illness. An MRI on his groin showed no significant damage, so that doesn’t appear to be a long-term issue, but his status for Saturday still remains in the air. Backup point guard Goran Dragic is dealing with a foot injury, which means the Rockets could be forced to turn to seldom-used Jonny Flynn on Saturday. Keep a close eye on Lowry going forward.
Stephen Curry, G, GS – Curry continues to be hampered by foot problems. He has come off the bench in each of the past two games but played just 35 total minutes. The 24-year-old guard sat out Thursday’s practice and underwent a precautionary MRI. The results still haven’t surfaced, but owners will want to keep an eye out for that information as it could give an indication whether or not Curry will continue to be limited going forward.
Josh Smith, F, ATL – Smith reportedly wants out of Atlanta. The athletic power forward has stepped up his game this year to help offset the early-season loss of Al Horford (chest) and diminishing production of Joe Johnson. If Smith gets traded to a contender with one or two go-to players, his production could actually see a slight dip, specifically his current career-high scoring mark of 18.6 ppg. Owners shouldn’t panic, but it’s worthwhile to keep tabs on Smith to see if he ends up landing in a less-than-ideal situation.
Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN – Pekovic has been sidelined for the past two games with an ankle injury. The big (6-11, 243) Montenegrin center insists the injury isn’t serious and hopes to make a quick return. His status for Friday’s tilt against the Lakers is still up in the air. Darko Milicic will continue to start at center if Pekovic misses any more action.
Michael Beasley, F, MIN – Beasley has seen a significant drop in playing time of late, averaging just 15 mpg over the past four contests. Over that stretch, his averages have dipped to 5.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.5 treys. As previously mentioned, Beasley has been leapfrogged in the rotation by rookie Derrick Williams. Given his one-dimensional game (scoring), Beasley could continue to see limited playing time. Of course, his name does continue to pop up in trade rumors, so Beasley could find himself atop this list next week if the Timberwolves decide to move him to a destination that will offer a more significant role.
Corey Brewer, G/F, DEN – While Brewer remained in the Nuggets starting lineup Wednesday night, his stint as a starter will soon be over. With Danilo Gallinari back from an ankle injury, Brewer will eventually be pushed back to a bench role. Brewer has averaged just 8.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 20 appearances off the bench. His drop in production will come fast, so make sure you dump him for a more attractive option soon.
D.J. Augustin, G, CHA – Augustin remains the Bobcats’ starting point guard by name, but he’s starting to hand more and more playing time over to rookie Kemba Walker. Since March 1, Augustin and Walker have both averaged 25 mpg. Walker has outplayed Augustin over that four-game stretch, averaging just 7.5 points on 31.4 percent shooting from the floor. Given the fact that the Bobcats currently have the league’s worst record (5-32), don’t be surprised if Walker, who was one of Charlotte’s lottery picks in the 2011 draft, continues to see his role expand.
Dorell Wright, G/F, GS – Wright is mired in an extended shooting slump, hitting just 10-of-40 attempted from the floor over the past six games. The constant struggles with his shot now appear to be putting his playing time in danger. Warriors coach Mark Jackson took the initiative Wednesday night, giving Wright just 10 minutes of run. With capable replacements like Brandon Rush and Klay Thompson on the bench, Wright could continue to get a quick yank. If his shooting woes don’t improve his starting job will be in jeopardy. Shallow formats should ignore his preseason ranking and find a steadier option.