Every week, we’ll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We are 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.
Wilson Chandler, F, DEN – Chandler finally signed with the Nuggets this week, inking a long-term deal Sunday. He debuted off the bench Monday, finishing with 13 points, four rebounds, two steals, one trey and one block in 27 minutes. Originally, Chandler was expected to continue coming off the bench and posting similar lines to the one we saw Monday. Now his role has already increased due to a broken finger suffered by Danilo Gallinari. With Gallinari expected to miss up to a month, Chandler has now stepped in as the Nuggets starting small forward. In 200 career starts, Chandler has averaged 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 threes, 0.9 blocks and 0.8 steals in 34 minutes per game. In the Nuggets fast-paced scheme, that type of production should be easily attainable. Go grab Chandler now.
Wesley Matthews, G, POR – Matthews was slotted back into the Blazers’ starting lineup following the trade of Gerald Wallace last week. In four starts since his promotion, Matthews has averaged 18.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 threes and 2.2 steals in 35 mpg. He has been absolutely lights out from downtown over that stretch, going 16-of-21 from beyond the arc. His hot three-point shooting will eventually cool down, but his spot in the starting lineup is secure going forward. This will allow him to return to the form we saw from him last season.
Gordon Hayward, G/F, UTA – The recent injuries to Josh Howard (knee) and Raja Bell (groin) have opened up more playing time for Hayward. This second-year pro started the last two games and averaged 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks over that stretch. Howard is likely out for the remainder of the season, which should mean Hayward’s spot in the starting lineup is all but guaranteed. The 22-year-old forward has proven to be a decent scorer at the NBA level and his sneaky athleticism allows him to post useful numbers on the defensive end of the court. He’s worth adding in most mid-to deep-sized leagues.
Kawhi Leonard, G/F, SAN – The trade of Richard Jefferson last week has allowed for Leonard to slide over to his natural position of small forward. The move has paid off so far, seeing as the rookie has averaged 12.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.3 treys in nearly 36 mpg over his past three starts. Leonard was playing out of position at shooting guard for much of the season, which could warrant some of his inconsistencies. The Spurs have multiple players they can plug into the two and three, but as long as Leonard is seeing around 36 mpg, he will be worth a look in fantasy.
Tristan Thompson, F, CLE – Thompson has started the past three games for Cleveland, averaging 15.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. Those averages include the monstrous 27-point, 12-rebound line he posted Monday, which inflated the numbers. However, they also show what kind of upside the youngster has for the remainder of the season. One area where Thompson is sure to excel is on the defensive end of the ball where we see him averaging 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes this season. Recent surges by the Knicks and Bucks have put the Cavs out of playoff contention, so the team will likely stick with the youngster for the remainder of the season.
J.J. Hickson, F, POR – Hickson had an eventful week when he was cut by the Kings and then scooped up by the Trail Blazers. Once deemed untouchable by the Cavaliers, his value has since taken a huge nosedive, but there is a chance for redemption in Portland. Outside of LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers don’t have much going on in the frontcourt. While Hickson appears set for a reserve role, he could easily work his way into receiving the second most minutes on the team at the four and five. Don’t expect much initially, but Hickson could establish himself as a decent play in deep leagues again this season.
Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN – Pekovic, who was sent back to Minnesota earlier this week to rest his injured ankle, hopes to return to action Sunday against the Nuggets. The injury has never been considered too serious, so hopefully the extra rest will allow Pekovic to make a return at full strength. Rookie Derrick Williams has seen the biggest bump in value with Pekovic’s absence.
Kevin Martin, G, HOU – An MRI on Thursday revealed a tear in the labral of Martin’s injured right shoulder. This was a preexisting injury that Martin had played through in the past, which gives fantasy owners some hope he will be able to return. The Rockets sharpshooter is still officially listed as day-to-day, but could obviously be out quite a bit longer. Keep close tabs on the situation before making any roster decisions on Martin.
Rodney Stuckey, G, DET – Stuckey is listed as questionable for Friday’s tilt against the Heat, as he continues to deal with a toe injury. Ben Gordon stepped up big in Stuckey’s absence Wednesday, putting together a historic 45-point effort while hitting all nine of his attempts from behind the arc. Despite Gordon’s big game, Stuckey will assume the starting job upon his return, as he’s shown more consistency all season and was on a roll himself before sustaining his injury.
Maurice Williams, G, LAC – Williams incurred a left big toe injury during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game against the Hornets. An x-ray came back negative, but Williams will get an MRI on Friday. He was in significant pain and needed to be helped off the court, so it wouldn’t surprise us if this injury keeps him out for at least a couple games. Nick Young and Randy Foye would see increased value if Williams is out long term.
Evan Turner, G/F, PHI – After making a meteoric rise when inserted into the Sixers’ starting lineup earlier this month, Turner has now come back down to earth over the past week. In his past four games, Turner has averaged 6.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 30 mpg. His drop in production is due in part to a shooting slump (30.8 FG), but it also coincides with the return of Spencer Hawes, who allows the Sixers to run a more traditional half-court offense. Turner still deserves attention in many formats, but his recent dip in production shows how the breakout of two weeks ago didn’t capitulate him into a fantasy mainstay just yet.
Danilo Gallinari, F, DEN – Gallinari suffered a fracture in his left thumb Monday against the Mavericks. The broken thumb is expected to sideline the Italian sharpshooter for up to a month. Assuming that timetable sticks, Gallinari wouldn’t come back until the final week of the regular season. Most fantasy leagues will be wrapped up or nearing an end by that point, which makes Gallinari expendable in most formats. The aforementioned Wilson Chandler has taken over for Gallinari in the Nuggets’ starting five and would be an ideal replacement for your fantasy squad.
Josh Howard, G/F, UTA – Howard is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. An MRI earlier in the week revealed a chip in the lateral femoral cartilage of Howard’s left knee and he’ll have to go under the knife soon. The 31-year-old veteran had recently emerged as a decent fantasy option, averaging 11.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 18 starts for the Jazz.
Andray Blatche, F, WAS – In less than one year, Blatche has gone from one of the Wizards’ rebuilding blocks to a misshapen piece now out of rotation. His 2011-12 campaign has been sidetracked by injuries, but even when on the court, Blatche has looked lost. The 25-year-old forward has averaged just 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 24 mpg. The Wizards have shut him down for the next few weeks so he can get his conditioning back up to par. No concrete timetable has been set for his return, but even if he does get him back into shape, Blatche might not return with enough time (or production) to help your fantasy squad.
Gustavo Ayon, F/C, NOH – Ayon was demoted from the starting lineup Thursday in favor of Jason Smith, who recently returned from a concussion. Smith held the starting job before his 20-game absence and it appears the Hornets’ coaching staff plans to keep him in that spot going forward. Ayon had a decent run as a starter (8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals), but his production as a reserve (4.4 points, 2.9 rebounds) won’t hold much weight in most formats.