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.
Eric Gordon, G, NOH – Gordon returned from a knee injury Wednesday, which ended a 51-game absence. He started at shooting guard while finishing with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and two treys in 35 minutes. His immediate inclusion into the starting lineup and heavy run is a good sign he’s back at full strength. Expect some inconsistency over the next few games, but Gordon will have the opportunity to return to the 22-point-per-game form we saw from him with the Clippers last season. He’s worth grabbing in almost any format.
J.J. Hickson, F, POR – Hickson has been able to carve out a sizable role in Portland’s rotation since joining the team a couple of weeks ago. In eight games with the Trail Blazers, Hickson has averaged 14.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks in over 27 minutes per game. He has made a couple of spot starts and could eventually find a permanent role in the starting five, which would lead to more minutes and more production. The 23-year-old forward’s production has always been sporadic, but his current role and upside if given a full-time starting job make him worth a look.
Marcus Camby, C, HOU – Camby has turned back the clock since joining the Rockets’ starting lineup. Over the past three games, the 38-year-old center has averaged 9.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and 2.3 steals in nearly 35 mpg. The Cambyman hasn’t seen that kind of run since his days in Denver, when he was routinely a defensive player of the year candidate. It’s uncertain how long his aging (and often, injury-prone) body will be able to log such heavy playing time, but Camby is a good gamble to take in fantasy right now, especially if you need defensive stats and rebounding.
Gerald Green, G/F, NJ – The former slam dunk champ is one of the more surprising stories in fantasy this year. After toiling away overseas for two seasons and starting this year in the NBA Developmental League, Green is now making an impact for the Nets. The 26-year-old swingman has become a regular in the Nets’ rotation, averaging 15.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.7 treys over the past six games. He’s averaging nearly 28 mpg during that stretch while working as one of the Nets’ primary options off the bench. Green is a better shooter and defender now than he was as a young buck with the Celtics. He was drafted straight out of high school back in 2005 because scouts saw this kind of upside in him. Owners in mid-sized leagues would be wise to take advantage of Green’s breakout if he’s still available.
Kemba Walker, G, CHA – Each season a rookie who has had up-and-down production seems to break through for the last few weeks of the regular season. Walker is one of the better bets to be the rookie who gives fantasy owners a late-season boost this year. The Bobcats are currently sporting the league’s worst record and regular point guard D.J. Augustin is dealing with knee tendinitis. Those two factors should lead to an increased role and an increase in production for Walker down the stretch.
Jose Barea, G, MIN – Luke Ridnour is sidelined with an ankle injury, leaving Barea as the Timberwolves’ primary option at point guard. In his first start in place of Ridnour, Barea totaled 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three treys. Barea has dealt with his fair share of minor injuries all season, but he’s been highly productive on a per-minute basis when healthy. He could hurt your team in field-goal percentage and turnovers, but Barea’s plus production in other areas more than makes up for those minuses. He’s worth grabbing while Ridnour is on the shelf.
Terrence Williams, G/F, SAC – Like Green, Williams is a former prospect who has spent time on the fringes of professional basketball the past couple seasons. He made just 33 appearances for the Nets and Rockets over the past two seasons, but was planted at the end of the pine most nights. The Rockets cut Williams loose at the trade deadline, which opened the door for the talented but mistake-prone swingman to sign with the Kings. Williams’ role with the Kings has expanded over the past five games, as he’s averaging 11.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 26 mpg over that stretch. Marcus Thornton is currently sidelined with a calf injury, which could open up even more playing time for Williams going forward. He’ll turn the ball over plenty and has a suspect shot, but Williams has the ability to post across-the-board production that could help in mid-sized leagues.
David Sloan, G, CLE – An injury to Kyrie Irving (shoulder) has opened up the door for Sloan to make a splash in fantasy. Sloan started at point guard Wednesday, finishing with 12 points and eight assists. With Ramon Sessions now in Los Angeles, Lester Hudson is Sloan’s only competition for playing time while Irving is out. Hudson, who was recently promoted from the NBDL, is better suited to play shooting guard, so Cleveland coach Bryon Scott will likely stick with Sloan. There’s not a ton of upside here, but Sloan could be a decent source of assists until Irving returns.
Jarrett Jack, G, NOH – Jack has sat out two of the past four games with an ankle injury. X-rays showed no structural damage, but he’s still experiencing pain. He’s currently listed as day-to-day. Greivis Vasquez had success earlier this season while Jack was out and would be an ideal replacement candidate if you’re in the midst of head-to-head playoffs right now.
Danilo Gallinari, F, DEN – Gallinari, who has been sidelined since mid-March with a broken thumb, hopes to return to action Monday. That would mark the second time this season Galo has returned from an injury earlier than originally expected. Not sure what they feed growing boys in Italy, but other regulars in the “Check Status” section need to do some digging and discover Gallinari’s secret.
Marcus Thornton, G, SAC – The aforementioned Thornton is currently day-to-day with a calf injury. The injury was originally labeled as a bruise, so this shouldn’t keep the Kings’ sharp-shooting guard on the shelf for much longer.
Derrick Rose, G, CHI – After being listed as day-to-day with a groin injury for the past 12 games, Rose finally appears to be nearing a return. Rose said prior to Thursday’s win over the Celtics that he would return Sunday against the Knicks. Get ready to plug him back in your lineup.
Kyrie Irving, G, CLE – The Cavaliers shut down Irving for the next seven to 10 days after the rookie of the year frontrunner tweaked a shoulder injury Tuesday night. This comes at a bad time for head-to-head owners with the fantasy playoffs currently underway. The Cavaliers will have just nine regular season games remaining if Irving returns after 10 days off. If your fantasy playoffs end in the next week or so, cut Irving loose.
C.J. Watson, G, CHI – With Rose returning this weekend, Watson’s stint as a useful fantasy option is nearing an end. Watson is dealing with minor bumps and bruises of his own, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if his role is drastically scaled back or if the Bulls decide to give him a couple days off once Rose is back in the lineup. Start shopping for a replacement if you were deploying Watson during his time as the Bulls’ starting point guard.
Luke Ridnour, G, MIN – Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said Ridnour will sit out at least one week with the sprained ankle he suffered Tuesday night. Minnesota hasn’t been officially eliminated from the playoffs yet, but the team has been in a free fall since Ricky Rubio’s season was ended by a knee injury. The team won’t have much incentive to rush Ridnour back, so look for him to miss at least that full week, if not more.
Marco Belinelli, G, NOH – Following the return of Gordon earlier this week, Belinelli has gone from useful fantasy option to seldom-used reserve. Belinelli managed just five points in 18 minutes off the bench during Gordon’s return Wednesday night. The Hornets will continue to give Gordon heavy minutes at shooting guard for as long as he’s healthy, which will result in a limited role for Belinelli going forward. Look elsewhere for three-point help.