Harden Hitting His Stride
Through his first 27 appearances of the season, Harden averaged 23.4 points, 5.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 treys, and 1.3 steals in nearly 39 minutes per game. No matter which way you slice it; Harden was performing at an elite level.
Despite his stellar production, owners who selected Harden with a top-5 pick dealt with minor disappointment about his value through those 27 games. Sure, Harden was still performing like a stud, but his production had dipped just enough to see him post second-round value instead of battling it out for the No. 3 position in fantasy supremacy behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
But any worries owners had should be quelled after Harden's last three games. Over that stretch, the Rockets superstar has averaged 37.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 4.0 three-pointers, and 2.3 steals. He has attacked the rim more in these three games, resulting in 11 free-throw attempts per game. And his shooting has improved with clips of 52.9 percent from the floor and 42.0 percent from three-point land.
While Harden's increase in free-throw attempts and his spike in three-point percentage are nice, as those were two areas where he had seen a noticeable dip from last year, owners should be most excited about the fact that he finally looks healthy. The ankle and foot issues that held him out of six games and limited him in other contests appear to be a thing of the past.
Players of Harden's caliber can never truly be "buy-low" targets, but envious owners should still do their due diligence and see if Harden can be ripped away from his current owner in exchange for a player with second-round value.
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.
Darren Collison, G, LAC – Chris Paul's shoulder injury has opened the door for Collison to fill in at starting point guard for the Clippers. In three games since taking over the starting gig, Collison has averaged 16.7 points, 6.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 steals, and 1.3 three-pointers in 35 mpg. The pending return of J.J. Redick will eat into some of Collison's minutes (Jamal Crawford and Redick will share the backcourt together for stretches), but Collison is still poised to hold solid fantasy value over the next month or so.
Gerald Green, G/F, PHO – Green is another player who has seen his fantasy value rise due to an injury suffered by a teammate. With Eric Bledsoe (knee) possibly missing the remainder of the season, Green's boost in value should be long term. Through his most recent four-game stretch filling in for Bledsoe in the starting five, Green has averaged 15.5 points, 2.5 threes, and 2.5 steals. He won't help much in other categories, but owners in need of points, three-pointers and/or steals should grab Green off waivers.
Randy Foye, G, DEN – Foye has been on a hot streak since rejoining the Nuggets' starting five last week, averaging 17.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 3.4 treys in 35 mpg. His return to a starting gig certainly gives him a boost in value, but owners who acquire Foye via free agency should note that his current run is boosted by unsustainable shooting percentages (50.8 FG, 48.6 3Pt). He's a solid short-term pickup in mid-sized leagues, and Foye should hold on to some of his current value in deeper leagues as long as he's a member of Denver's starting five.
Pero Antic, C, ATL – Last week, Mike Scott appeared to be the biggest benefactor from Al Horford's absence, but Antic has surprisingly taken the lead in the discussion about which Hawk to grab from the free agent heap. Antic has started four consecutive games, averaging 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.0 thress in 24 mpg over that stretch. He's very fond of the three-point arc, so don't expect Anti to help much in the traditional big-man categories, but he's worth a look in deeper formats.
Brian Roberts, G, NOR – Roberts is set for an expanded role following Friday's news that Jrue Holiday is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right tibia. The Pelicans are expected to deploy Roberts as the starting point guard in Holiday's absence. While this will unquestionably give Roberts a boost in value, don't be surprised if Tyreke Evans takes on a much larger load, which will limit Roberts' ceiling. Still, if Roberts is able to carve out 25-30 minutes per night, he should approach averages of 10 points and five assists while chipping in from downtown.
Kenneth Faried, F, DEN – Faried is currently riding one of his better stretches of the season, averaging 15.7 points, 13.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and one steal over the past three games. The key to his latest surge is a spike in playing time, as he's averaged 30.1 mpg over those three tilts. Faried eclipsed the 30-minute plateau just twice through his first 31 appearances this season. As long as Faried continues to log 30 or more minutes, he'll be a monster on the boards.
Deron Williams, G, BKN – Just after he appeared to have turned a corner, Williams' long-term battle with ankle problems has popped up again. The Nets' star point guard received cortisone and PRP injections in his ankles Monday. He has already missed two games and will sit out both games this weekend. His earliest chance at a return will be Thursday against the Hawks. Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson will both see an increased workload in Williams' absence.
Marc Gasol, C, MEM – Gasol (knee) was cleared for "light on-court action" this week. The Grizzlies haven't set a concrete timetable for his return or mentioned a schedule for the big man to ramp up his activities, but the team did hint at a possible return by Jan. 11 last month. That date may be a bit too optimistic, but owners should keep a close eye on Gasol's progress in practice over the next few days to see if he's close to being activated.
J.J. Redick – The Clippers received a big blow when they lost CP3 last week, but the team will get some relief soon with Redick (wrist) nearing a return. The sharp-shooting guard was originally expected to miss six-to-eight weeks when he hit the shelf in late November, but he's now eying a possible return Friday against the Lakers. It's still unclear if Redick will be reinserted to the starting five upon his return, but he should still be able to carve out a significant role if deployed off the bench.
Eric Bledsoe, G, PHO – Consider this a "Check Status" and "Stock Down" note for Bledsoe. The Suns combo guard underwent surgery Friday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He's expected to pursue a return later this season, but a concrete timetable for that return hasn't been set yet. If Bledsoe is able to defy the odds, he could return in four-to-six weeks, but he also may sit for the remainder of the season. Owners have a tough choice on their hands. Start canvassing the free-agent market, and don't hesitate to make a move if you don't have room to stash a player with a long-term injury.
Nikola Vucevic, C, ORL – Vucevic returned from an ankle injury Monday night against Clippers, but he managed just 19 minutes before hitting the shelf again, this time with a concussion. The Magic sent him home from their current road trip, so owners shouldn't expect Vucevic back in the lineup until Jan. 15 at the earliest.
Chris Paul, G, LAC – The aforementioned Paul hit the shelf this week with a Grade 3, AC joint separation of his right shoulder. The good news is Paul was able to avoid surgery, but owners will still have to deal with their superstar point guard being sidelined for up to six weeks. The only move here is to stash him on your bench.
Dwight Howard, C, HOU – This "Stock Down" notice only pertains to rotisserie leagues. Over the past 14 days, Howard is shooting just 42.8 percent from the free-throw line. Despite averages of 16.6 points and 11.0 rebounds during that same stretch, Howard's fantasy rank doesn't crack the top-200 in most formats. The odds are the owner of Howard in your rotisserie league is sitting near the bottom of the standings, or at least the bottom half of the standings. That's the case in all three of my rotisserie leagues. There's still tons of value to be had from Howard in head-to-head leagues, but he's drain in standard rotisserie leagues.
Greg Monroe, F/C, DET – In per season averages, Monroe ranks as the 140th best player on Yahoo (nine categories) and the 92nd best player on ESPN (eight categories). The main culprits for his disappointing rankings are field-goal percentage (50.4; low for a big man), free-throw percentage (62.8) and turnovers (2.2). He also doesn't chip in much on defense, averaging just 1.5 steals and blocks combined. The double-double production remains nice, but his negative production in multiple categories saps his overall value.
Andre Iguodala, G/F, GS – Since returning from a 12-game absence in December, Iguodala has averaged just 7.2 points while reaching double-digits in scoring just twice in 13 contests. Over that 13-game span, the Warriors have gone 11-2, so the current shot distribution is clearly working. Iguodala still holds plenty of value by chipping in across the board, but his drop in scoring forces owners to look for help in that category. Owners shouldn't be shy about shopping Iggy around and trying to capitalize on his name value.
George Hill, G, IND – After putting together a career-best campaign last season, Hill's production has taken a noticeable step back this year. He's seen drops in playing time (-3.0 mpg), points (-3.3), rebounds (-0.3), assists (-1.4), threes (-0.2), and steals (-0.2). With increased roles being handed to Paul George and Lance Stephenson, not to mention the recent return of Danny Granger, it's unlikely Hill will be able to return to his numbers from last season. There's still value to be had here in most formats, but Hill is a fringe top-100 player in his current role.