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.
With preseason play underway, we can now start evaluating players based on how they perform on the hardwood. Many coaches like to experiment with their rotations during the preseason, but there are still usually enough hints given to start gauging which players have seen a change in value. Let's jump right in.
Evan Turner, G/F, PHI -- We touched on Turner in this space last week, but after a report surfaced that Turner would be entrenched as the Sixers' starting small forward, he deserved another mention. The 2010 No. 2 overall pick will finally be given a chance to make good on his draft pedigree. In 20 starts last season, Turner averaged 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals. But those stats came when Turner had to share the ball with Andre Iguodala. With Iggy now in Denver, Turner figures to have the ball in his hands a lot more, which is when he thrives. He needs to improve his three-point shot, free-throw shooting and defensive production to become a stud, but Turner will at least graduate from fringe fantasy option to useful cog this year, and there's upside for much more. Don't sleep on Turner in the mid-rounds of your draft.
Tristan Thompson, F/C, CLE -- Thompson is another youngster whose spot in the starting lineup was confirmed this week. After an up-and-down rookie campaign, the Cavaliers will give Thompson a chance to establish himself as the team's starting power forward to start the season. In his 25 starts during his rookie season, Thompson averaged 10.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 0.6 steals. At 6-9, Thompson doesn't have prototypical height for a power forward, but he makes up for it with energy, athleticism and a 7-1 wingspan. The lengthy wingspan is especially intriguing as it allows for Thompson to be a terror on defense, as evident his 20 multi-block performances as a rookie. His upside probably falls somewhere between Tyrus Thomas and Josh Smith, and while that's an awfully big spectrum, I'm intrigued enough by Thompson this year to invest a late-round pick on the Cavaliers new starting power forward.
Michael Beasley, F, PHO -- After flaming out in both Miami and Minnesota, Beasley is set to get another chance to finally live up to his draft pedigree in Phoenix this year. The Suns have a glut of 3-4 types on their roster (Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Markieeff Morris), but Beasley appears to be the favorite to start at small forward. In Wednesday's preseason opener, Beasley led all starters in scoring with 14 points while playing 24 minutes. While Beasley has been given starting opportunities in the past and flamed out, his opportunity with the Suns is different because the team doesn�t have a clear-cut go-to scorer. He played second fiddle to Dwyane Wade in Miami and had to defer to Kevin Love in Minnesota, but Beasley has a legitimate chance to carve out a role as the Suns lead scoring option this season. For all his faults, there's no mistaking Beasley's ability to score seemingly at will, and now that he has the opportunity to be the lead dog, we could see Beasley finally start living up to the potential that made him the No. 2 overall pick behind Derrick Rose in 2008.
George Hill, G, IND -- Hill sat out the Pacers preseason opener on Wednesday as a healthy scratch. Normally a player sitting out a game doesn�t portend to an increase in value, but in Hill's case, that's exactly what his absence means. After all, David West was also a healthy scratch Wednesday night, and he'll be the Pacers starting power forward. After splitting duties at point guard with Darren Collison last year, Hill is set to be the starter for the Pacers this season. The Pacers invested $40 million in Hill this past offseason and didn't feel the need to rush him out for preseason action. Don't be scared off by the presence of D.J. Augustin, Hill will be running the show in Indy.
Terrence Jones, F, HOU -- Jones hasn't been getting nearly as much fantasy attention as other members of the 2012 draft class, but after his stellar preseason debut Wednesday (20 points, six rebounds), we should start keeping an eye on the University of Kentucky product. The main concern with Jones is deciphering how he'll fit into the Rockets' crowded frontcourt rotation -- Hell, even Houston's coaching staff doesn't know how that will play out yet. That said, if Jones continues posting 20-point efforts in the preseason, he'll carve out a role. There's no reason to rush out and draft Jones or pick him up off waiver wires just yet, but he definitely warrants some monitoring over the next couple weeks to see what kind of role he can establish for the Rockets.
Dirk Nowitzki, F, DAL -- Nowitzki has been dealing with a sore and swollen right knee in training camp, and now there's some worry that he may need arthroscopic surgery if his knee doesn't respond to treatment. Surgery is the last resort for Nowitzki, and even if that becomes a realization, he would only be expected to miss a few weeks. The 34-year-old big man dealt with a similar issue to his knee last year, but he still managed to play in 62 of 66 regular games. This news is alarming enough for me to stay away from Nowitzki in the first round, but he doesn't deserve much of a downgrade unless the situation worsens.
Kyle Lowry, G, TOR -- Lowry sat out Monday's exhibition against Real Madrid and Wednesday's tilt against the Pistons due to the strained abductor muscle in his left leg. He's also scheduled to sit out Friday. Despite Lowry's absence for this week, Raptors coach Dwayne Casey has stated the injury isn't considered serious and the team is just being cautious. Casey even said that Lowry could have played Monday if it were a playoff game. At this point, we'll take the coach's word that Lowry will be ready in time for the season opener, but should a setback occur make sure to downgrade Lowry while bumping Jose Calderon up your cheat sheets.
Ryan Anderson, F/C, NOR -- Anderson has played a reserve role off the bench in the Hornets' first two preseason games. New Orleans coach Monty Williams hasn't made an official announcement that this is the role Anderson will play to start the season, but the possibility alone is enough to give Anderson a slight downgrade. While he thrived with the Magic last year, Anderson was in a scenario where he was handed 32 minutes per game while benefiting from playing alongside arguably the league's most dominant big man in Dwight Howard. Things won't be as easy playing with a bunch of youngsters in New Orleans and a drop in playing time would make it next to impossible for Anderson to repeat last year's breakout.
Eric Gordon, G, NOR -- Gordon, who's limited by a knee injury, sat out the first two preseason games for the Hornets and he's not expected to practice at all this week. For most star-caliber players I wouldn't be too worried about this type of status early in the preseason, especially given Gordon expects to be ready by opening night, but there's too much injury history here to not give me pause. Over the past three seasons, Gordon has missed 103 of 230 games. When healthy, Gordon has the upside to be a top-5 shooting guard, but he just hasn't stayed healthy enough to warrant selecting with an early-round pick at this point.
Nene Hilario, F/C, WAS -- Nene is another player who has dealt with numerous injuries in the past and is currently on the shelf. He's currently sitting out due to plantar fasciitis, an injury that plagued him last season and during his Olympic stint with Brazil this summer. Plantar fasciitis tends to linger and can only heal with significant rest. Nene previously stated that he expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, but now he's noncommittal about a timetable for his return to the hardwood. If Nene rushes back, he could deal with the injury all season, and if he decides to sit out and let it heal, we could be looking at a lengthy stint on the shelf. That's too many "ifs" for someone who would cost an early- to mid-round draft pick.