After dropping 33 points on 12-of-17 shooting in a win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday, Rudy Gay is the proud owner of a 52.6 field-goal percentage in 17 games with the Kings.
Two years ago, a similarly efficient stretch wouldn't have carried much significance for Gay, but that was before he posted a career-worst 41.6 percent from the floor in 2012-13. He played a bit better upon joining the Raptors in a midseason trade last year, yet still wasn't able to find the form that had come so easily in his first six seasons in the league.
Owners expecting a bounce back were burned earlier this season, as Gay shot just 38.8 percent in 18 games with the Raptors, while hoisting up a whopping 18.6 field-goal attempts per game. He was still providing value with counting stats but was single-handedly destroying his owners' field-goal percentage.
What's happened since the early December trade to Sacramento has to be surprising to even the biggest Rudy Gay supporter. He's attempted just 14.9 shots per game with the Kings, which would be his lowest mark since his rookie season. And yet, his scoring average of 20.8 points in Sacramento would actually be the highest mark of his career. Seemingly overnight, he has transformed from a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer to a medium-volume, high-efficiency scorer. The development is all the more surprising given that Gay didn't really meet either of those descriptions in his first six seasons.
Ultimately, Gay is a career 45 percent shooter and is unlikely to maintain his recent production. However, with the Sacramento sample size now at 17 games, there's no denying that he's back to his pre-2012-13 form, at the very least. With DeMarcus Cousins tearing the league apart, Gay won't be the Kings' go-to scorer anytime soon, and that's probably a good thing for both the team and fantasy owners. As the second option, though, Gay should still have plenty of opportunities to shoot the ball, and at some point, he could ramp up the volume.
Look for Gay's field-goal attempts to rise, while his shooting percentage comes back to Earth. He may still flirt with 50 percent shooting in a Kings uniform this season, which would require him to make about 48 percent of his shots from here on out. 48 percent, while still well above his career mark, is a much more realistic goal than 52.6. If Gay can up the volume a bit, while only suffering a small efficiency decline, he could be headed for the best half season of his fantasy career.
Nene, F/C, WAS – Nene returned to the starting lineup Monday, and in two games against the Bulls and Heat this week, he's averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds, seven assists, 2.5 blocks, and two steals in 35 minutes. The fact that he was starting actually had very little to do with the production, as the bigger factor was coach Randy Wittman's decision to go with an eight-man rotation. The call left Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin stuck on the bench, freeing up more minutes for Nene, without cutting into Trevor Booker's playing time. The Wizards are 2-0 in the meantime, so we'll likely see more of the same on Friday night against the Bulls. If Wittman is serious about making a run at the No. 3 seed, he'd be wise to stick with the current plan. Otto Porter and Vesely may be intriguing from a potential perspective, but both are liabilities at the moment, as is Seraphin.
Marco Belinelli, G, SAS – With Danny Green (fractured hand) expected to miss four weeks, someone needs to cover his 22 minutes per game. We know that Gregg Popovich won't be significantly upping Manu Ginobili's minutes in response to a regular-season injury, which leaves us with Belinelli, who is averaging 31 minutes and 13.5 points in two outings since Green went down. It certainly doesn't hurt that the Italian sharpshooter has been playing his best basketball of the season recently, and added playing time should lead to three-pointers galore. Belinelli has hit 1.7 threes per contest this season, while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc. In the month of January, he's improved those numbers to 2.1 and 57.7 percent, respectively.
Alec Burks, G, UTA – Heading into Friday's contest against the Pistons, Burks is averaging 23.3 points on 54.2 percent shooting in his last three games. Gordon Hayward's (hip) absence has clearly had a major impact on the recent spike in Burks' production, but Burks has still made an excellent case for an increased role upon Hayward's return. Jazz coach Ty Corbin confirmed as much Wednesday, when he said that he eventually wants Burks to grow into a "34-plus minute guy."
Deron Williams, G, BKN – Williams (ankles) missed Thursday's game in London but is officially considered a game-time decision Monday against the Knicks. Upon his return, Shaun Livingston's value will likely fall back to what it had been for most of the season, despite the fact that Livingston has thus far helped the Nets to a 6-1 record in Williams' absence. Alan Anderson also figures to see fewer minutes once Williams is healthy, even though coach Jason Kidd has recently been using a small starting lineup with Livingston, Anderson, Joe Johnson, and Paul Pierce.
Marc Gasol, C, MEM – Gasol returned to action Tuesday, after being sidelined for more than six weeks due to a sprained MCL. Unfortunately, he doesn't look sharp thus far, averaging just six points and 4.5 rebounds over 19 minutes in two games. In all likelihood, he's just shaking off the rust and will be back to his usual ways within a week or two. However, for the time being, it may make sense to leave Gasol on the bench for a few more days, if owners have other steady options. Once he's back to handling his full complement of minutes, there will be less to go around for Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, and possibly James Johnson.
Nikola Vucevic, C, ORL – Vucevic is still battling concussion symptoms, and his return remains uncertain. In his absence, Orlando has been starting Tobias Harris at power forward and Glen Davis at center. The development has been useful for their owners, but the Magic hasn't won since Dec. 29. Meanwhile, backup big men Kyle O'Quinn, Andrew Nicholson, and Jason Maxiell have all been pretty bad. Vucevic's return, whenever it happens, will likely push either Harris or Davis back to the bench, giving the Magic some semblance of frontcourt depth.
Rajon Rondo, G, BOS – Just a reminder that Rondo is expected to return from a torn ACL for Friday's game against the Lakers. He'll be on a limit of 18-to-20 minutes but should benefit from kicking things off versus one of the worst teams in the league. Assuming no setbacks, Rondo should approach a full workload before the All-Star break in mid-February. He's obviously still a very valuable commodity but will have to adjust to life on a lousy team for the first time since his rookie season in 2006-07. His return could provide a small boost to other Celtics, as Rondo's distribution skills vastly surpass those of nearly every player in the league, including the departed Jordan Crawford, who was traded to Golden State on Wednesday.
J.R. Smith, G, NYK – You could make a case that he should be a "stock down," but with Smith already suffering through a horrible season, the recent benchings aren't necessarily a negative development. Although he was benched for two of the last four games, he saw 25 and 27 minutes in the other two contests and is expected to rejoin the rotation Thursday in Indiana. The leash seems to be growing thin, and that bears watching, but there's also some possibility, however slim, that the recent adversity will help Smith turn things around.
Jordan Crawford, G, GS – This one's rather obvious, as Crawford will be moving from the starting point guard role in Boston to the backup point guard role in Golden State. Much like Jarrett Jack last season, Crawford figures to see some run alongside Steph Curry, thus allowing Curry to spend more time off the ball. Crawford can play both guard spots capably and should have an intriguing role with the Warriors, but he won't be able to maintain his averages of 30.7 minutes, 13.7 points, and 5.7 assists per game. A major drop-off is likely coming.
Ryan Anderson, F, NOP – The latest reports have Anderson (back) missing a minimum of two months with a herniated disc that could require surgery. There's a real chance that he won't return this season, and the Pelicans' recent struggles don't help his odds. Jason Smith has been starting alongside Anthony Davis, who hasn't missed a beat since Anderson went down. Smith, on the other hand, hasn't been able to take advantage of the opportunity, averaging just eight points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 0.2 blocks over 22.8 minutes in six games since Anderson was forced out of action. Alexis Ajinca and Greg Stiemsma could also see added opportunities as a result of Anderson's injury, though neither is currently on the radar outside of the very deepest of leagues. As for Anderson himself, the sharpshooting big man can probably be dropped in most leagues.
Danny Green, G, SAS – Green is expected to be out for four weeks due to a nondisplaced fracture of the second metacarpal in his left hand. Prior to sustaining the injury, he was suffering through an ugly cold streak, as has been all too common during his maddeningly inconsistent 2013-14 season. When healthy, Green still has the potential to drain six or seven three-pointers on any given night, but he's shooting a modest 38.4 percent from beyond the arc this season, down from last year's 42.9 clip. Thus far in Green's absence, Marco Belinelli has received added playing time, while Manu Ginobili has been starting but sustaining his former workload.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, G/F, CHA – Douglas-Roberts wasn't doing much anyway, and with the recent return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist , CDR has essentially fallen out of the rotation. After topping 20 minutes in five consecutive games, Douglas-Roberts played just four minutes combined in MKG's first two games back in action.
Jamal Crawford, G, LAC – Crawford topped 30 minutes in 14 consecutive games, then fell below the 30-minute barrier in each of J.J. Redick's first two games back on the court. Redick looks fantastic so far, piling up 52 points, eight three-pointers, and seven assists in those two games, despite logging just 54 minutes. To be fair, Crawford may be more of a "check status" than a "stock down," as his efficiency seemed to suffer a bit from the boost in playing time. Even with Redick healthy, nobody doubts that Crawford is a huge part of the Clippers' plans this season.