Frustrating Rotations in Phoenix
Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter must hate fantasy basketball.
Hunter was named interim head coach of the Suns on Jan. 20. The Suns have gone 4-7 under Hunter's watch, which is only a slight improvement considering the team was 13-29 under ex-coach Alvin Gentry. The marginal gains in the team's on-the-court results would make one think not much has changed during Hunter's time in Phoenix, but that's not the case.
The first-year coach has deployed a deeper rotation, often times giving up to nine to 10 players 20 minutes of run. The deepened rotation means less playing time for starters. The two starters who have been hurt the most by Hunter taking the helm have been Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley.
Gortat has seen his playing drop from his season average of nearly 32 minutes per game to under 27 mpg over the past two weeks. In February, Gortat is averaging just 9.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks, which ranks him outside of the top 150 for fantasy purposes.
Dudley has seen an even steeper drop in value. The 27-year-old vet has seen his playing time drop from 32 mpg in January to 22 mpg this month. His averages sit at just 8.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.3 steals through seven games this month.
Reserves like Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Beasley have seen their respective values increase slightly under Hunter, but their overall production is still too limited for many leagues.
Both Gortat and Dudley have had their names bandied about in trade rumors recently, and with the trade deadline hitting late next week, we could see one or both of them moved. But if both end up staying in Phoenix, the two will have a tough time reverting back to their early season fantasy value given Hunter's current rotation.
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.
Jonas Valanciunas, C, TOR Uneven play earlier this season and a five-week absence due to a broken finger led to Valanciunas being dumped in many fantasy leagues, but the Raptors rookie center is finally starting to show off some of the skills that made him a popular preseason sleeper. Valanciunas has put together three consecutive solid outings, averaging 11.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in nearly 31 mpg. He was handed the starting center gig on Sunday and appears locked into the role going forward. There will still be some bumps in the road for the 20-year-old rookie, but his averages should approach the double-double range while adding solid percentage and block totals.
Bryon Mullens, F, CHA Mullens is another player who recently returned from injury to regain some of his early-season value. After missing over five weeks with an ankle injury, Mullens returned to action on Feb. 4. He came off the bench in his first two games back, but Charlotte quickly reinserted the seven-footer back into the starting lineup after he showed little to no rust. The 23-year-old has been dominant in his return to the starting lineup, averaging 20.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.7 treys in nearly 40 mpg. It's doubtful Mullens will continue to post double-doubles averages, but he is one of the rare players with center eligibility who can make a significant impact in the three-point category.
Kawhi Leonard, G/F, SA Leonard has been one of the most under appreciated fantasy options all season. Despite being the 21st ranked player based on per-game averages, Leonard is still only owned in 62 percent of Yahoo! leagues. His play has picked up considerably of late, with averages of 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.8 three-pointers over the past two weeks. The lack of interest is likely due to Leonard's modest season-to-date scoring (10.4) and rebounding (5.4) averages, but his solid contributions in three-pointers (1.3), steals (1.4), and efficiency (49.8 FG, 82.7 FT, 0.9 TO) make him a worthwhile investment in most formats.
Nene Hilario, F/C, WAS After struggling through a plantar fasciitis injury earlier this season, Nene finally appears to be rounding into shape. The Brazilian big man has averaged 15.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in nearly 33 mpg over the past two weeks. He's currently riding a three-game double-double streak and played a season-high 37 minutes against the Bucks on Monday. When at full strength, Nene has proven to be a top-40 fantasy option. As long as he can stay out of the trainer's room, owners should expect this recent surge to continue.
Jeff Green, F, BOS Jared Sullinger's season-ending back injury has opened the door to more playing time for Green. The 26-year-old veteran has seized the opportunity, averaging 15.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7, blocks and 1.0 trey over his past six games. The injury-ravaged Celtics are desperate for some of their role players to step up and help Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett with the workload, so Green's increased role should remain in tact for the rest of the season.
Ricky Rubio, G, MIN Rubio is finally starting to show off some of the potential he put on display before suffering a devastating knee injury last season. The second-year point guard is averaging 12.9 points, 9.1 assists, and 1.9 steals in seven February contests. His playing time has steadily increased, and he's now played over 33 minutes in four of the past five games. He still struggles with his shot (35.3 FG) and has troubles with turnovers, but Rubio is starting to look every bit as promising as he did last year. Owners looking for assists should target him.
Charlie Villanueva, F, DET With Andre Drummond (back) hitting the shelf for the next month, Villanueva is set to see his role off the bench increase. In the three games since Drummond was officially shut down, Villanueva has averaged 14.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.0 treys in 26 mpg. Villanueva's streaky shooting will lead to plenty of stinkers, but he's still worth a look for in deeper leagues for owners in need of three-point shooting.
Deron Williams, G, BKN Williams will sit out the Nets' final two games before the All-Star break to rest his ailing ankles. The Nets star point guard received a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection to help reduce inflammation in both ankles. He's expected to be back on the court after the All-Star break. Williams has dealt with ankle problems all season, but he's been able to play through the pain. There have been reports Williams will explore surgery options during the offseason, but this doesn't look like an ailment that will sideline him long term this year. C.J. Wilson will see spot start duty in Williams absence.
Danny Granger, F, IND Granger (knee) had hopes at making his season debut Wednesday night, but he was held out of action after coming down with an illness. The good news here is Granger's knee has held up to full-court practice sessions, and he should be back on the hardwood for the Pacers first game after the All-Star break.
Mo Williams, G, UTA Williams had the pins removed from his surgically-repaired right thumb Wednesday. No concrete timetable has been set for Williams' return to action yet, but he's expected to need at least a couple weeks of rehab before playing in a game. Now might be a good time to grab and stash Williams if you have room on your bench.
Larry Sanders, C, MIL Sanders is set to miss his fourth consecutive game with a back injury Wednesday. The injury was originally labeled as minor, but he's still dealing with pain, which forced him to seek a second opinion on Tuesday. Details on that second opinion haven't surfaced yet, but owners will want to keep an eye out for that report before making any long-term decisions on Sanders. For now, continue to consider him day-to-day.
Enes Kanter, F/C, UTA Unlike the other players featured in "Check Status," Kanter is completely healthy. He deserves monitoring due to the fast approaching trade deadline, which hits on Feb. 21. Kanter isn't expected to get traded, but the Jazz have long been expected to move the expiring contract of either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson. If either of those veteran big men leaves Utah, Kanter will be in line for a huge boost in playing time. The second-year center has flashed double-double potential, posting per-36 averages of 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Deeper formats with the extra roster space to make a speculative move can grab and stash Kanter now, while owners in shallower formats will want to make sure they're quick to the waivers if the Jazz do make some deals on deadline day.
Andre Drummond, F/C, DET Drummond's promising rookie season hit a road bump last week when he suffered a fracture of his fifth lumbar vertebrae. The injury came at the absolute worst time for fantasy owners who were banking on a second-half breakout from Drummond, as reports suggest he was just about to get inserted into Detroit's starting lineup. The initial timetable has Drummond returning in four-to-six weeks, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Pistons err on the side of caution and hold him out longer since the team appears to be headed to the lottery again this season.
Kyle Korver, F, ATL Korver, who has been one of the most surprising fantasy values this year, saw his value take a hit this week when he was removed from the starting lineup for Monday's game against the Mavericks. The sharp-shooting swingman has been on a tremendous run over the past month, averaging 14.4 points, 3.2 threes and 1.1 steals in over 36 mpg. He's hit over 52 percent of his three-point attempts during his hot streak, and while there's no doubting Korver has a sweet stroke from downtown, odds are the career 42-percent three-pointer shooter cools off some. It's still unclear if Korver's demotion from the starting lineup will be permanent, but now wouldn't be a bad time to try and sell-high on one of this season's biggest bargains.
Tyler Zeller, C, CLE The rookie big man looked poised for a breakout once Anderson Varejao was lost for the season, but Zeller has seen his playing time scaled back this month. The dip in playing time directly coincided with Marreese Speights arrival in Cleveland. Since Speights' debut game with the Cavaliers, Zeller has averaged 6.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks in 27 mpg. Zeller looked in over his head at times while logging 34 mpg in January, so the drop in playing time could be good for his long-term development, but he obviously sees a drop in value for one-year formats.