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.
DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, SAC – Cousins has shown steady growth throughout his sophomore campaign, but a recent surge in production hints at even greater things to come. Over the past four games, Cousins has averaged 28.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks. The increase in production is due largely to an increase in playing time, as Cousins has averaged nearly 40 mpg over that four-game stretch. To put that into perspective, Cousins had only eclipsed 36 minutes of run nine times prior to these past four games. If he can continue to avoid foul trouble and keep his head in the game, Cousins will continue to see ample playing time and owners will be rewarded with monstrous lines. Don’t be surprised if Cousins is one of the more highly targeted big men in drafts next year.
Iman Shumpert, G, NY – An injury to Amar’e Stoudemire (back) has opened up more playing time for Shumpert. Stoudemire’s injury has forced the Knicks to go small, pushing Landry Fields and Carmelo Anthony to the three and four while opening up the starting shooting guard spot for the rookie out of Georgia Tech. Shumpert has excelled in his first two starts, averaging 18.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.0 treys and 1.0 steals. Those scoring numbers are a bit inflated, but Shumpert should be a decent source of all-around production while in the starting lineup.
Courtney Lee, G, HOU – Despite starting nine consecutive games at shooting guard Lee remains vastly under-owned in fantasy leagues. As a starter, the 26-year-old is averaging 13.6 points, 1.7 three-pointers and 1.3 steals in nearly 37 minutes per game. His value will take an immediate hit when/if Kevin Martin returns from a shoulder injury, but Lee remains a solid fantasy option for the time being. Look his way if your team needs help with threes and steals.
Carl Landry, F, NOH – Landry has been on fire since returning from a 23-game absence last week. In four games since his return from a knee injury, Landry has averaged 18.3 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 60.0 percent from the floor and 86.4 percent from the charity stripe. He has started at power forward each of the past two games and could stick in that spot long term with Emeka Okafor still sidelined from a knee injury of his own. Go grab Landry if you need help at the four.
Austin Daye, G/F, DET – Injuries to Ben Gordon (groin) and Rodney Stuckey (hamstring) has opened up playing time for Daye. After barely getting off Detroit’s bench for over a month, Daye is now set to start at shooting guard Friday night against the Bulls. Daye has been inconsistent all season, but he’s put up solid averages when given extending playing time. In his five appearances with more than 27 minutes of run, Daye has averaged 14.0 points, 1.6 treys, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks. Gordon and Stuckey might not be out long, but Daye will be an intriguing option in any games those two are inactive.
Marc Gasol, C, MEM – Gasol sat out Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves, taking the night off to rest a previously hidden ankle injury. He has been sitting out practice all week, but a return on Friday is expected. Owners will want to keep a close eye on Gasol going forward, but he should be safe to deploy sooner than later.
Eric Gordon, G, NOH – Prior to Thursday’s game against Portland, Hornets coach Monty Williams said Gordon (knee) is getting “really close” to a return. Williams refused to give any sort of concrete timetable, but given Gordon’s full participation in practice earlier in the week, a return should come sooner than later. Gordon may be rusty initially, but he’s one of the few players available on waiver wires this time of year that can provide a major impact.
Jarrett Jack, G, NOH – Jack was late scratch for Thursday’s loss to the Blazers, sitting out the game due to a sprained right ankle. The severity of Jack’s injury is still unknown, so owners should consider him day-to-day for now. Greivis Vasquez filled in admirably for Jack earlier this season and will be the go-to option on the waiver wire should the veteran guard miss any more action.
Ray Allen, G, BOS – Allen has missed the past four games with a sore right ankle. He’s listed as a game-time decision for Friday’s tilt against the Timberwolves. This injury isn’t considered serious, but Boston will do everything possible to have their veterans at full strength come playoff time. Continue to monitor Allen and other Celtic veterans closely for the remainder of the season. Don’t be surprised if any of the Big Three see occasional rest for minor bumps and bruise down the stretch.
Jeremy Lin, G, NY – Friday night will mark the third consecutive game Lin has missed due to a sore left knee. Despite the missed time, the injury isn’t considered serious and Lin is listed as day-to-day. Baron Davis has filled in nicely during Lin’s absence and will continue to be a decent option until the Knicks’ regular starting point guard returns to action.
Amar’e Stoudemire, F, NY – Stoudemire is expected to miss the next two-to-four weeks with a bulging disk in his back. Surgery has been avoided for now, so a return before the end of the regular remains possible, but by that time the damage to your fantasy dream will have been done. The Knicks will use primarily a small lineup while Stoudemire is sidelined, so there’s not a traditional in-house replacement to grab at power forward.
Kyle Lowry, G, HOU – While Lowry has been making strides in his recovery from a bacterial infection, the 26-year-old point guard still doesn’t have a timetable for a return. He admitted earlier this week that it’s possible he sits out the remainder of the season. Leagues with deep benches can probably afford to keep him stashed away, but fantasy squads currently battling it out in head-to-head playoffs should look for a replacement that can contribute immediately. Goran Dragic has been great in Lowry’s absence and will continue to be a good source of production for as long as the Rockets’ star point guard is out.
Maurice Williams, G, LAC – Originally expected to be day-to-day with a toe injury, Williams is now set to miss at least two weeks. With the fantasy playoffs underway in many leagues, a two-week absence is enough to warrant severing ties. The Clippers will rely more heavily on Nick Young and Randy Foye in Williams’ absence. Try to scoop up one of Williams’ teammates if you’re looking for a suitable replacement.
D.J. Augustin, G, CHA – Augustin is currently dealing with tendinitis in his right knee. He has played through the injury, but his shooting (5-of-26 FG) over his past five games has been drastically affected. The 24-year-old point guard has been sitting out practices to get extra rest, but he fully intends to continue playing in games. The injury has obviously resulted in lesser production, and it’s hard to envision Augustin returning to the levels we saw from him early this season. Charlotte’s season has been all but over for months now, and with Kemba Walker waiting in the wings, Augustin’s role is bound to shrink. His injury gives the team even more reason to start transitioning playing time over to Walker.