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NBA Barometer: Prince of Thieves

Shannon McKeown

Shannon McKeown

Shannon McKeown is the VP of Advertising Sales and Basketball Editor for Rotowire.com. He's a two-time FSWA finalist for Fantasy Basketball writer of the year. He also covers the Pistons and Tigers for the site.

Ricky Rubio was a one-man show against San Antonio on Tuesday night, dominating the Spurs en route to his first career triple-double.

He finished with a season-high 21 points, a career-high 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.

This was easily the best game of Rubio's career, but given the way he has played over the past five weeks, we shouldn't be all that surprised by Tuesday's outburst. Since Feb. 4, Rubio has averaged 13.4 points, 9.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.9 (!) steals in 35 minutes per game. The only hole in his game remains his shot, as Rubio is shooting just 35.5 percent in 77 career games since joining the NBA.

The scary thing is that we aren't even close to seeing Rubio's ceiling yet. At just 22, Rubio is a few years away from entering his prime. He'll never be an elite shooter, but Rubio will likely work out his kinks and become at least somewhat respectable with his stoke. Once that happens, we'll be looking at a fantasy monster.

Barometer

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.

Stock Up

Jonas Valanciunas, C, TOR – With Andrea Bargnani out for the remainder of the season due to an elbow injury, the door is open for Valanciunas to see an increased role down the stretch. While he has been a member of the starting five in the majority of his appearances this season, Valanciunas has seen inconsistent playing time, and as a result, his production has been inconsistent, too. His per-36 averages (11.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks) suggest a nightly double-double threat, so hopefully the lottery-bound Raptors start giving their 2011 first-round pick the long look he deserves.

Jermaine O'Neal, C, PHO – O'Neal is another player who's set to benefit from a teammate hitting the shelf. Suns starting center Marcin Gortat is in danger of missing the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a Lisfranc sprain last week. Luis Scola has started in place of Gortat over the past three games, but O'Neal is expected to assume a large role at the center position now that he's back with the team after being away for personal reasons last week. The 34-year-old big man has been playing his best basketball since the 2009-10 season, posting per-36 averages of 16.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. It remains to be seen how heavy of a workload O'Neal's body can handle, but he's worth a speculative add in most mid-sized formats while Gortat is out.

Shaun Livingston, G, CLE – Livingston was promoted to the starting lineup Tuesday, filling in at point guard for Kyrie Irving, who's expected to miss the next three-to-four weeks with a left AC sprain. In eight starts this season, Livingston has averaged 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Those numbers aren't all that appealing for most formats, but Livingston should be able to find more comfort and improve on those averages now that he's set to start for a longer stretch instead of just the occasional spot start that he's seen up to this point.

Gerald Henderson, G/F, CHA – In the three games since Ramon Sessions went down with a sprained MCL, Henderson has averaged 24.3 points in 35.5 minutes per game. Sessions was the second leading scorer on the Bobcats at the time of his injury, and the early indication is the team will look to Henderson and Ben Gordon to make up for those lost points. Henderson won't continue scoring at an elite level, and he doesn't help much in other areas, but his point production and playing time will remain above his current season averages while Sessions sits out the next few weeks.

Tobias Harris, F, ORL – Harris, who has been one of the hotter pickups since the trade deadline, reserved another boost in value last week when he was promoted to the Magic starting lineup. He struggled with foul trouble in his first start, but Harris has bounced back to average 16.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 2.0 treys in 39 mpg over his most recent two starts. Despite his success since joining the Magic, Harris remains available in over 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Don't let him sit on the waiver wire any longer if you're in one of the leagues that hasn't caught on to Harris' breakout yet.

Brandan Wright, C, DAL – Wright has re-established himself as part of Dallas' rotation during the team's current four-game win streak. During that stretch, Wright has averaged 12.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks. He's shooting an unsustainable 71 percent from the floor over these past four games, so some regression in the scoring department should be expected. That said, Wright remains a decent streaming option for boards and blocks if he continues to play 26 mpg.

Mike James, G, DAL – It's been about five years since James has warranted any fantasy consideration, but he's currently making a case to be scooped in mid-sized leagues. The 37-year-old veteran has snuck his way into the Mavericks starting lineup, taking over at point guard for Darren Collison. Since joining the starting five, James has averaged nine points, 4.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds and two three-pointers. His shooting touch has been hit-or-miss from game-to-game, but he's also has been a solid source of assists and three-pointers as a starter. The Mavericks are still clinging on to hopes of a playoff berth, so look for James to continue getting starts as long as the team continues to win.

Check Status

Brandon Knight, G, DET – Knight had a rough stretch on the hardwood to open the week. First, he became the butt of all NBA-related Internet jokes after getting posterized by DeAndre Jordan in Sunday's blowout loss to the Clippers. Looking for redemption the next night against Utah, Knight's outing was cut short after he suffered an ankle injury just three minutes into the game. X-rays came back negative, but Knight was seen on crutches, and the injury has been described as a “severe” ankle sprain by Pistons assistant coach Brian Hill. He's currently listed as day-to-day, but we wouldn't be surprised to see Knight miss multiple games. Rodney Stuckey will see a boost in playing time while Knight is sidelined.

Pau Gasol, F/C, LAL – Gasol's recovery from a partially torn plantar fascia has progressed enough that he's running again without any complications. The next step is a likely return to practice within the next week or so with a return to game action shortly thereafter. He's worth grabbing and stashing on your bench now if another owner dumped him when the injury was suffered.

Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN – Despite claiming to no longer feel pain in his abdomen, Pekovic didn't travel with the Timberwolves on their current two-game road trip. His next chance to return to action will be Sunday against the Hornets.

Stock Down

Andrea Bargnani, F, TOR – Bargnani will miss the remainder of the season due to an avulsion sprain in his right elbow. He finishes the season with averages of 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.1 three-pointers in 29 mpg. This is the third consecutive season Bargnani has missed significant time due to injury.

Darren Collison, G, DAL – A second-half slump has pushed Collison to bench duty for the Mavericks. After a solid stretch of play in January and February, Collison has struggled in March, averaging just 8.2 points and 3.7 assists while shooting 38 percent from the floor. As previously discussed, Collison has been replaced in the starting lineup by Mike James, who has helped lead the Mavericks to a four-game win streak since the swap. Shallow leagues can search for a replacement, but deeper formats may want to keep Collison stashed away on the bench to see if he can reclaim the starting gig.

Kyrie Irving, G, CLE – Irving is expected to miss the next three-to-four weeks with an AC sprain in his left shoulder. The final game of the regular season is just five weeks away, and given the Cavaliers current place in the standings, there's a very real chance the team decides to shut Irving down for the remainder of the year. While he's clearly one of the best young players in the league, Irving has now missed large chunks of the season in each of his first two years in the NBA while also missing most of his lone season at Duke due to injury. Hopefully he can shake off the injury bug and continue to establish himself as one of the brighter up-and-coming stars in the league next season.

Amar'e Stoudemire, F/C, NY – Stoudemire is scheduled to undergo right knee debridement and miss the next six weeks. That timetable means Stoudemire could make a return for the playoffs, which is of little use for fantasy owners. Assuming he has played his last regular season game, Stoudemire finishes the 2012-13 season with averages of 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 24 mpg.

Byron Mullens, F, CHA – Last month, Mullens appeared to be on his way to a strong finish to the season, as he averaged 14.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.5 treys in 11 February contests. He's done a 180 in March, averaging 5.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 0.7 threes in 13 mpg. Mullens has dealt with some nagging knee and back problems this month, but the main reason for his drop in playing time is his lack or rebounding. Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap has stated multiple times that Mullens' playing time will be dictated by his effort on the glass, which has been non-existent.

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