The Ageless Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan has found the fountain of youth.
After ranking as the 52nd (2011-12) and 37th (2010-11) best fantasy player on a per-game basis the past two seasons, Duncan currently chimes in as the 5th best player in all of fantasy hoops for the 2012-13 campaign.
The 36-year-old future Hall of Famer has reverted back to being a walking double-double while posting some of the most ridiculous stat lines of the season. Tuesday's monstrous 31-point, 18-rebound, six-assist, five-block, two-steal game being his latest gem.
He's currently averaging 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds in nearly 31 minutes per game. On the surface, Duncan's campaign looks similar to his 2009-10 campaign, until you notice he's been much more efficient this season while also re-establishing himself as a dominate defensive presence. Duncan is shooting a career-high 80 percent from the free-throw line while tying personal bests in turnovers (1.6) and steals (0.9). He's also swatting away 2.6 shots per game, which is his highest mark since the 2004-05 season.
Duncan's resurgence has been a huge boon for fantasy owners who only had to use a fifth or sixth round pick to nab the veteran. But can he continue to play at this high of a level? There's really nothing to suggest Duncan's per-game production will drop off much, but owners should probably worry about his playing time dropping slightly, and the occasional game off that's become a trademark of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, which could become a huge problem for head-to-head leagues during the playoffs.
There's no wrong way to handle Duncan at this point, but I'd suggest trying to sell-high on the veteran, as we've probably seen his ceiling for this season. If you're able to land a top-10 talent in return, it's a smart move. And if you don't get anyone to bite, continue to enjoy the ride.
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.
Paul George, G/F, IND – Danny Granger's knee injury opened up the opportunity for George to act as Indiana's primary scoring threat this year. George struggled in the role out of the gate, hitting just 39 percent of his field-goal attempts through the first 17 games of the season. After going 0-for-7 in an outing against Golden State on Dec. 1, George worked on his stroke in a two-hour shooting session. Since putting in the extra practice time, George has been one of the hottest players in the league, averaging 22.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.6 threes, 1.6 steals, and 1.1 blocks. He's shot 49 percent during his hot streak, which could actually be sustainable for a third-year player who entered the season as a 48-percent shooter. George's upside has been raved about for the past couple years, and he's finally starting to fulfill some of it. His versatile game is a perfect fit for fantasy, and now that he's scoring at an All-Star level, George will have the opportunity to provide top-20 fantasy value for the remainder of the season.
Gerald Henderson, G/F, CHR – Henderson was a popular early-season waiver wire target after opening the year with an 18-point effort on opening night. He was quickly dumped back to the waivers after a foot injury put him on the shelf for 13 games. Now healthy, Henderson should garner plenty of attention from owners looking for an upgrade. He's been back in action for a total of nine games, but it wasn't until his two most recent outings that Henderson was reinserted into the Bobcats' starting lineup. Over those two games, Henderson has averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 three-pointers, and one steal in 36 mpg. Henderson proved to be a solid scorer last year, but he didn't help out much in other areas. He has shown off an improved three-point shot this season while also chipping in modestly in the steals category. As long as Henderson continues hit shots from downtown and pick the occasional pocket, he'll be worth a look in most nine-category leagues.
Spencer Hawes, F/C, PHI – It took him 20 games to figure things out, but Hawes is finally starting to take advantage of Andrew Bynum's absence. Over the past five games, Hawes has averaged 15.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.0 block in 27 mpg. Hawes has shown the potential to be a double-double threat in the past, but his playing time has been rather inconsistent since he joined the Sixers. With Bynum's return from a knee injury still very much in the air, and a lack of other frontcourt options for Philadelphia, Hawes should continue to see the extra run he's been handed the past five games. Look his way if you're looking for a big man in a mid-sized format.
Rodney Stuckey, G, DET – Stuckey saw his stock plummet earlier this season. He opened the year on a 1-for-23 shooting slump, which eventually led to a voluntary demotion from the starting lineup for the 26-year-old guard. After some uneven play during his first handful of games as a reserve, Stuckey now appears to be coming into his own as the Pistons' sixth man. In nine December contests, Stuckey has averaged 15.3 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and 0.9 treys while playing 31 mpg off the bench. As the Pistons' sixth man, Stuckey is being deployed as a combo guard, which has always been a much better fit for him. He recently missed a game with back spasms, but he returned to the court Wednesday against the Raptors. Stuckey's recent production and playing time is right in line with his stat lines from the past three seasons, which made him a serviceable option in many formats.
Jodie Meeks, G, LAL – Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense works best when his teams have multiple three-point shooters. Fortunately for Meeks, the Lakers have a dearth of capable three-point shooters, which has led to an increase in playing time over the last two weeks. Spanning his last eight games, Meeks has averaged 14.3 points and 2.8 treys in 29 mpg. He's shooting a sustainable 39-percent from behind the arc in those eight games while chucking up over seven three-point attempts per tilt. Meeks won't be of much help in any other areas, but fantasy squads in need of a three-point shooter can look his way.
Amar'e Stoudemire, F, NY – Stoudemire, who has yet to play this season due to a knee injury, is scheduled to return to practice Thursday. The Knicks will wait to see how Stoudemire's knee responds to Thursday's practice, but there's a very real chance he'll return to game action this weekend. Given the success the team has had with Carmelo Anthony starting at power forward, it looks like Stoudemire will be in a reserve role upon his return. Being deployed as a reserve will make it difficult for him to post lines like we've seen in the past, but the odds are that the Knicks will still give him 30 mpg once he rounds into shape, which is more than enough playing time for a player of Stoudemire's caliber to be a fantasy asset. Get ready to activate him.
Andrew Bynum, C, PHI – Bynum is scheduled to visit with an orthopedic doctor on Dec. 20 to gauge the condition of his injured knee. The Sixers big man has said he's feeling "much better," but we'll have to wait to see how his evaluation turns out before getting a better idea on a timetable. If you still have Bynum on your bench, continue to keep him stashed until the results from his doctor's visit surface.
Eric Gordon, G, NOR – Like Bynum, Gordon is expected to get his injured knee re-evaluated soon. The Hornets' star shooting guard is currently wrapping up his final week of rehab before heading to New Orleans to be looked at by team doctors. We still don't have a timetable for Gordon's return, but this is an obvious step in the right direction. Hopefully the situation becomes a bit more clear after he returns to the team next week.
Dirk Nowitzki, F, DAL – Nowitzki took part in a full practice Wednesday for the first time since undergoing knee surgery back in October. While it seems like Nowitzki could be on the verge of returning to game action, the Mavericks have hinted that they'll continue to take it slow with Nowitzki and possibly hold him out until early January. Owners might have to wait another week or two, but Nowitzki's return is looming.
Robin Lopez, C, NOR – With Anthony Davis back from his ankle injury, Lopez is back to being the third peg in the Hornets' frontcourt rotation. Lopez is still starting at center, but he's averaged just 20 mpg over the past week while Davis and Ryan Anderson are playing well over 30 mpg during that same stretch. In the 11 games that Davis has been active, Lopez has averaged just 8.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. That type of production doesn't hold value in many leagues.
Andray Blatche, F/C, BRO – After filling in nicely for the Nets and fantasy squads during Brook Lopez's seven-game absence, Blatche's days as a viable fantasy option appear numbered. In three games since Lopez's return, Blatche has averaged just 11.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 21 mpg. His playing time only figures to dwindle more as Lopez rounds into shape. Blatche will still have the occasional solid game off the bench, but his playing time and production will be too inconsistent to hold value in shallower formats now that Lopez is back.
Al-Farouq Aminu, G/F, NOR – Despite averages of 6.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists over the past 30 days, Aminu remains owned in 18 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He was demoted from the starting lineup again this week and has seen just 12 minutes of floor time over the past two games. If you're among that 18-percent ownership of Aminu, start shopping around for a replacement.
Antawn Jamison, F, LAL – Like Aminu, Jamison was a popular free-agent pickup earlier this season who's now safe to dump back to the waiver wire. Jamison is holding a roster spot in 29 percent of Yahoo! leagues despite playing just 19 minutes over the past three games. With Pau Gasol now back in the rotation, Jamison will have an even tougher time earning minutes for the Lakers. Find yourself a more productive option with an easier path to playing time.