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NBA Barometer: Beat the Drummond

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.

After a 22-game absence due to a stress fracture in his lower back, Drummond is back on the court and ready to be unleashed.

The 19-year-old returned to action for the Pistons last week and was immediately inserted into the teams starting lineup a move that was going to be made two months ago before Drummond's back issues put him on the shelf.

In his first three games, Drummond has averaged a modest 9.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.0 block. While those numbers probably aren't as eye-popping as most expected from his first three starts, owners (or potential owners who are about to rush to their waiver wire) should keep in mind that Drummond logged under 21 minutes per game in those three contests and still needs to work himself back into game shape after his lengthy absence.

Drummond is raw on the offensive end of the court and has some extreme troubles from the free-throw line, but he also possesses uncanny athleticism for a player his size (6-11, 279) and can be an absolute game changer in fantasy due to his potential in the rebounding and blocked shots categories.

Don't give up hope on Drummond based on his first few games back from injury. As long as he's healthy, he'll make a fantasy impact down the stretch.

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 Valanciunas has been in the "Stock Up" section of this article numerous times throughout the season, but he still remains wildly available in Yahoo leagues. Over his past eight games, Valanciunas has averaged 15.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 33 minutes per game. He's an efficient low-post scorer (55.8 percent), and unlike many big men, Valanciunas won't hurt you at the charity stripe (75.9 percent). With Andrea Bargnani (elbow) out for the remainder of the season and likely on the trading block this summer, Toronto is clearly focused on making Valanciunas one of their primary building blocks now and for the long-term future. Fantasy owners should take the same approach.

Greg Smith, F, HOU With Donatas Motiejunas providing uneven play at the starting power forward spot, Houston has decided to give Smith a look in that role. Smith has provided solid production for the past four games (two starts), averaging 10.3 points and 10.0 rebounds in 27 mpg. Smith is primarily known for his ability to clean up the glass, and that's the main area he'll be able to chip in at for your fantasy squad. If you need rebounds for the final two weeks of the regular season, Smith could be a decent option depending on the depth of your league.

Jimmy Butler, G/F, CHI Butler, who made solid fantasy contributions earlier this season, is seeing heavy run in Chicago again. The 23-year-old swingman has averaged 14.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.4 treys in 42 mpg over the past five contests. There's no telling when Chicago will activate Marco Belinelli (abdomen), Richard Hamilton (back), or Derrick Rose (knee), so as long as Butler is seeing 40+ minutes a night, he's worth a look in fantasy.

Beno Udrih, G, ORL E'Twaun Moore was originally expected to see a boost in value when Jameer Nelson went down with an ankle injury last week, but the Magic opted to turn the reins over to Udrih instead. Over his past three contests, Udrih has averaged 15.7 points, 9.0 assists, 2.0 three-pointers, and 1.0 steal in 36 mpg. The veteran point guard might not continue scoring at such a quality clip, but he should remain a solid source of dimes until Nelson returns to action.

Derrick Favors, F, UTA A dislocated shoulder suffered by Enes Kanter last week has opened up more playing time for Favors off the bench. Favors has responded by averaging 13.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals over the past four games. The Jazz are entrenched in a battle with the Lakers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, so Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap will continue to log heavy minutes, but Favors has proven that he can do plenty of damage when handed the 25-30 mpg he should see while Kanter is out.

Check Status

LeBron James, F, MIA James has now sat out back-to-back games with a strained right hamstring. The injury is not considered serious, and the Heat are likely just erring on the side of caution with their superstar forward with the top seed in the Eastern Conference already locked up and their impressive win streak now snapped. Miami will likely pick spots to rest James for a couple of more games down the stretch, so be ready to plug in a replacement off your bench if you're in a head-to-head playoff battle.

Tony Parker, G, SAN Parker is scheduled to receive a night off Wednesday to rest his sore left ankle. He's expected to return to action for Thursday's playoff-positioning battle against the Thunder, but Parker could see his fair share of nights off between now and the playoffs. The Spurs are notorious for resting their star players before the playoffs, so like your handling of LBJ, make sure to have your reserves on the ready.

LaMarcus Aldridge, F/C, POR Aldridge will miss his fourth consecutive game Wednesday due to a left ankle sprain. Portland is no longer in the playoff picture, but Aldridge's status of "questionable" on Wednesday morning doesn't portend to a looming shutdown for their star big man. His next chance to return will be Friday against the Rockets.

Stock Down

Nicolas Batum, G/F, POR Unlike his teammate, Batum's season is considered to be in jeopardy. The versatile swingman could be shutdown due to weakness and soreness in his right arm, which is the same arm he had surgery on two seasons ago. Owners will want to try and hold on to Batum until a definite decision surfaces from the Blazers' camp, but there may be a tough roster decision coming if your playoff matchup could be decided by a mere one or two games missed.

Ty Lawson, G, DEN Lawson is slated to miss the next two weeks due to a slight tear of his right plantar fascia. The Nuggets are still jostling for playoff seeding, but there's no chance they'll rush Lawson back until he's 100 percent. Andre Miller will start in Lawson's place and would be the ideal replacement for your fantasy squad.

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