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NBA Barometer: Fit for the Kings

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.

Fit for the Kings

The Timberwolves opted to part ways with Derrick Williams this week, sending the 22-year-old forward to the Kings in a deal that brought back Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Not exactly a king's ransom for a former No. 2 overall draft pick, eh?

Coming out of Arizona, Williams was one of the top prospects in the 2011 draft, garnering serious consideration to be the top overall selection. At the very least, Williams and Kyrie Irving, who went No. 1 overall that year, were considered the two best prospects in their draft class, leaps and bounds over the rest of the field.

Talent-wise, Williams received high grades across the board. He was one of the most efficient players in college during his final season as a Wildcat, scoring 1.16 points per possession while shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor, 57 percent from downtown and 75 percent from the charity stripe. While not considered a physical freak, Williams still graded out above average with his physical tools. But it was his skill-level and high basketball IQ that hinted at a lengthy and successful NBA career.

The only true question mark was his size. At 6-9, 250, Williams was too big to play at small forward and too small to play the four. With the dreaded "tweener" tag firmly applied from Day 1 with the Timberwolves, Williams was never able to carve out a role. He was entrenched behind Kevin Love at the power forward position, and Timberwolves coach Rick Adleman was always reluctant to give Williams much of an opportunity at the three. As a result, Williams was never trusted with ample playing time. He finished his 155-game stint in Minnesota with averages 10.1 points and 4.9 boards in 23 minutes per game.

Moving from Minnesota to Sacramento should lead to Williams finally getting an opportunity to live up his high cost on draft day in 2011. The Kings have two building blocks in DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore, but the team is sorely lacking in premium talent at both forward positions. Despite his ups and downs, Williams has shown flashes of productivity at the NBA level. His career per-36 averages remain solid (16.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.1 treys, 0.8 steals and 0.7 blocks), and he had some very strong outings while Love was sidelined for an extended period last season.

The talent that led to Williams being a high draft choice just 30 months ago remains, and I'm willing to take a flier on the former highly-touted prospect finally living up to his draft pedigree with the Kings.



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

Kosta Koufos, C, MEM With Marc Gasol (knee) out for the next four-to-six weeks (or longer), Koufos taken over the center job in the Grizzlies' starting five. The promotion has led to an immediate boost in production for the sixth-year big man. In two starts at center, Koufos has averaged 7.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 33 minutes per game. Fantasy owners have seen enough of Koufos over the years to know he's limited on the offensive end of the court, but he's a capable big man who can post strong rebounding and block totals while Gasol is sidelined.

Jared Sullinger, F/C, BOS Sullinger is another big man who has seen a recent spike in value due to a promotion to the starting lineup. The former Buckeye has now started five consecutive games for the Celtics. He's been a double-double threat each night since his promotion, averaging 15.0 points and 10.2 rebounds in nearly 32 mpg. Sully doesn't offer much production on the defensive end of the court (0.6 steals, 0.6 blocks), but his scoring and rebounding upside will be high enough to warrant consideration in most formats.

Glen Davis, F/C, ORL After sitting out the first 11 games of the season with a foot injury, Davis finally made his season debut for the Magic last weekend. The rotund big man came off the bench in his first two games, but he's received back-to-back starts at power forward in Orlando's two most recent contests. In those two starts, Davis has averaged 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in over 33 mpg. He won't make an impact in blocks, and Davis has never been an efficient shooter (44.5) for a big man, so owners shouldn't expect much production outside of points, rebounds and steals. The Magic are in full-blown rebuild mode, and the team will likely be happy to part ways with Davis later this season, but he remains a viable fantasy option while receiving heavy playing time.

Luol Deng, F, CHI Following the loss of Derrick Rose (knee) for the remainder of the season, Chicago will be looking for a new primary scorer on the perimeter. Enter Luol Deng. In the three games since Rose went down, Deng has averaged 24.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.7 treys and 1.0 steal in 39 mpg. Deng had a similar opportunity to expand his role with the Bulls last season, but he was hampered by a myriad of minor injuries. Now healthy and looking to earn a big paycheck in free agency next summer, look for Deng to ramp up his production for the rest of the season. Get your trade offers out now.

Khris Middleton, F, MIL Middleton has been a pleasant surprise for the Bucks this season. Acquired in the Brandon Jennings sign-and-trade deal with the Pistons this past summer, Middleton was originally viewed by many as a throw-in player to make salaries match up. Instead of toiling away at the end of the Bucks bench like he did in his rookie season with Detroit, Middleton has earned a spot in Milwaukee's rotation. The 6-7 small forward has even started seven games, including the past two contests. In his two most recent starts, Middleton averaged 13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.5 three-pointers in 27 mpg. A lingering knee issue caused Middleton's stock to drop in college, which led to him being a second-round pick for the Pistons, but there is some legitimate talent here. The ceiling isn't too high, but he's a versatile player who can contribute in multiple categories when given significant run. Deeper leagues will want to give Middleton a look.

Channing Frye, F/C, PHO Following a two-week stretch of solid play, Frye has worked his way back onto the fantasy radar. Over the last seven games, Frye has averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.7 treys, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals in 30 mpg. He's clearly caught fire, hitting 54 percent of his field-goal attempts and 48 percent of his attempts from downtown. Some caution should be heeded here, though, as Frye has been a streaky shooter in the past. He hit just 32 percent of his shots through the first eight games of the season and will continue to have his ups and downs. His playing time will fluctuate depending on his stroke, so owners who do add Frye will want to practice patience through the valleys.

Check Status

Jeremy Lin, G, HOU Lin exited the Rockets' win over the Hawks on Wednesday in the first quarter with a right knee contusion. His status for Friday's tilt against the Nets is still up in the air. Patrick Beverly will be in line for an increased role if Lin sits out any games.

Chris Paul, G, LAC Paul, who's putting together one of the best seasons of his career, hit a minor speed bump Wednesday night against the Knicks. CP3 left Wednesday's win after just 26 minutes with a strained left hamstring. He plans on playing Friday night, so it doesn't look like owners will have to worry about losing their star point guard. But there remains a chance the Clippers opt to err on the side of caution given their matchup against the hapless Kings. If Paul does miss any action, Darren Collison would see his value increased exponentially.

Jameer Nelson, G, ORL Like Lin and Paul, Nelson was forced to exit his tilt Wednesday with an injury. Nelson suffered a sprained left foot in the second quarter of Wednesday's win over the Sixers. His status for Friday's game against the Spurs is still uncertain, but owners shouldn't be surprised if Nelson misses at least one game. Victor Oladipo and E'Twuan Moore will see their roles increase if Nelson sits.

James Harden, G, HOU Harden continues to deal with a lingering foot injury, which has held him out of action for three consecutive games. The star shooting guard is convinced the injury won't be a long-term issue and seems optimistic about making a return to the hardwood soon.

Stock Down

Maurice Harkless, G, ORL Following recent returns of Big Baby Davis and Tobias Harris (who is now out again), Harkless has seen his role in the Magic's rotation shrink significantly. Over the past three games, Harkless has averaged just 4.3 points while logging under 14 mpg. Harris is an important cog in the Magic's long-term plans, and the team seems set on giving heavy minutes to Davis, which leaves little opportunity for Harkless to carve out a big role in the immediate future. Most owners in mid-sized formats will want to find a replacement.

Marc Gasol, C, MEM Gasol's season was sidetracked last week when he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee last Friday. The original timetable hinted was six-to-10 weeks, but the latest reports have Gasol possibly returning to action in three-to-four weeks. There's still nothing concrete coming from the Grizzlies, but owners should be prepare to have Gasol miss an extended period either way.

Derrick Rose, G, CHI The aforementioned Rose is set to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus in his right knee this week. The Bulls hope for a full recovery by June with Rose returning at full strength for the 2014-15 season. Kirk Hinrich will fill in at point guard for the Bulls in Rose's absence.