Kyle Lowry has been one of the hottest players in fantasy over the past week, averaging 23.3 points, 10.8 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 three-pointers and 1.5 steals in nearly 37 minutes. During that four-game stretch, the Raptors' starting point guard has been a top-six fantasy option. And Lowry has been a top-20 option in most formats over the course of the entire season.
Normally, owning a player like Lowry, who's far exceeding preseason expectations and carrying fantasy squads on his back, is a breeze. You plug him in your lineups and reap the rewards. Unfortunately, Lowry owners don't have that luxury.
Following the Raptors' trade of Rudy Gay in early December, the team was clearly in tank mode, with a ticket to the 2014 lottery seemingly punched after the move. Additional deals, including a likely trade of Lowry and his expiring contract, were soon to follow.
Or, at least, that's how things were supposed to play out.
Instead, Lowry and the rest of the Raptors started to play quality ball. Since trading Gay, the Raptors have gone 17-9 and sit atop the Atlantic Division. Now, the Raptors' front office is in neutral, with plenty of questions unanswered. Do they stand pat and risk missing out on a lottery pick and true franchise player (which, despite the recent surge, is something Toronto still lacks)? Is the risk of not getting any return on Lowry after the season worth enraging the fan base? Would the haul for Lowry even be worthwhile if the team decides to shop him?
Lowry's value for the remainder of the season hinges on the answers to these questions. If traded, it's unlikely that he'll be in a role as significant as the one he plays for the Raptors. But if he stays in Toronto, Lowry could help owners nail down a championship.
The safest approach for owners might be to shop Lowry around while he's on his current hot streak. If another top-20 option with less volatility can be had, it's worth pulling the trigger.
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.
DeMarre Carroll, F, ATL – Carroll has quietly put together a rather productive stretch this month. Over his past 10 appearances, he's averaged 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.5 three-pointers in 34.1 minutes. He has also been efficient from the floor (54.4 percent), while taking care of the rock (0.6 turnovers per game). The low turnover rate is a huge boost in nine-category leagues, in particular. Despite his solid play over the past month, Carroll remains widely available. A handful of missed games over the past 30 days likely has something to do with his low ownership level, but he looked healthy his last time out when he logged a season-high 42 minutes. The ceiling here isn't as high as other options, but Carroll should be guaranteed a significant role in the Hawks' rotation, as long as he can stay healthy.
Terrence Ross, G, TOR – Ross has been a favorite of mine since Rudy Gay was traded to Sacramento – a fact that's made evident by my ownership of the second-year wing in five of six leagues. But even a true believer like myself wouldn't have been able to forecast Ross eclipsing 50 points in a game like he did last week against the Clippers. Make no mistake; his 51-point effort was an aberration, but it does hint at a higher ceiling than many would have expected for him. Over the last 11 seasons, 30 players have reached the 50-point plateau. Skimming through that list, you'll realize that 29 of those players were All-Star caliber players with plenty of fantasy value in the prime of their careers. Don't be surprised if Ross makes it 30-for-30.
Timofey Mozgov, C, DEN – Mozgov has shown flashes of fantasy value this season but struggled to post the consistent numbers most owners demand. Based off his past three performances, he finally appears to be establishing that long-lost consistency. The big Russian center has scored 15, 14 and 15 points over his past three games, while averaging 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 25 minutes. As the Nuggets' biggest and best defensive option in the low post, Mozgov should continue to see steady run off the bench. He's worth a look in most mid-sized leagues.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., G, NY – The rookie out of Michigan has seen his role in the Knicks' rotation steadily grow throughout the season. A rash of injuries to the Knicks' frontcourt has forced the team's hand at playing small ball, opening up even more minutes for Hardaway. Over the past three games, he's averaged 14.7 points and 2.7 treys in nearly 30 minutes. The Knicks have won all three of those contests, so there's a chance the team will give the small-ball rotation a longer look, even after some of their bigs get healthy.
Andray Blatche, F, BRO – Blatche, who was originally expected to break out when Brook Lopez (foot) was sidelined for the remainder of the season, finally appears to be turning a corner. The 27-year-old big man has scored 17 or more points in five of the past six games, leading to averages of 17 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks in under 26 minutes. His role as a reserve could lead to some inconsistency, but Blatche's recent play has put him back on the radar for most standard leagues.
James Harden, G, HOU – The Rockets' superstar guard has sat out back-to-back games with a bruised thumb. The injury doesn't appear to be serious, as Harden was a true game-time decision for both contests that he missed. His next chance to return to the lineup will be Saturday against the Cavaliers. If Harden does unexpectedly miss more action, Jeremy Lin will see a boost in value for those games.
Anthony Davis, C, NOR – The Unibrow was a surprise late scratch Wednesday against the Timberwolves. He suffered a dislocated finger in Tuesday's win over the Cavaliers, but Davis played through the injury and seemed probable for Wednesday's tilt. While owners can be breath a sigh of relief that this ailment doesn't appear to be too severe, Davis' status should still be monitored closely leading up to Saturday's contest against the Bulls.
Greivis Vasquez, G, TOR – The absence of DeMar DeRozan (ankle) on Wednesday night opened the door for Vasquez to make his first start since joining the Raptors. But the real reason Vasquez gets slapped with a "Check Status" label this week is due to the uncertain future of Lowry. If the Raptors decide to move Lowry before the trade deadline, Vasquez would be the heir apparent to the starting point guard job. Assuming Toronto doesn't land any other point guards in a Lowry deal, Vasquez would be handed a full complement of minutes and have a chance to return to the levels of production that he saw in New Orleans last season. Teams desperate for point guard help with room to stash a player for a couple weeks should look in Vasquez's direction.
Ty Lawson, G, DEN – Lawson sat out Wednesday's loss to the Bobcats with a strained left rotator cuff. The speedy point guard is listed as a game-time decision for Friday's game against the Raptors. Nate Robinson (knee) has already been ruled out of that tilt, which opens the door for Randy Foye and Evan Fournier to follow up on their big performances from Wednesday night, should Lawson sit once again.
Dwyane Wade, G, MIA – Over the past 30 days, Wade has put up just 15.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.8 blocks and 0.3 three-pointers in less than 32 minutes per game. Of course, the bigger concern for owners is the fact that he has sat out 13 games this season, including five of the past nine. At this point, owners have to consider Wade day-to-day for the remainder of the season, as he continues to deal with "general soreness." There's still value to be had when he's on the court, and his name still likely carries a lot of weight, but owners shouldn't shy away from trying to pawn off the veteran guard for a top-50 fantasy option, if said option is available.
Tobias Harris, F, ORL – Despite being arguably the Magic's best player for the past couple weeks, Harris was demoted to a reserve role upon Nikola Vucevic's return Wednesday night. Orlando is currently sporting the second-worst record in the league, so odds are they're using this opportunity to showcase Glen Davis in hopes of finding a deal before the trade deadline. Owners of Harris may have to deal with a short-term stock hit, but the 21-year-old forward should bounce back soon.
Monta Ellis, G, DAL – While he's still been performing at a top-70 level overall, Ellis' production has cooled off each month this season. The trend has worsened in the past four games, as he has averaged 13.5 points, 5.3 assists and 5.5 turnovers in 34 minutes. His drop-off in production coincides with Devin Harris returning to action and shaking off the rust, as Harris has been able to log 24 minutes or more in back-to-back games off the Mavericks' bench. Even with Harris now in the mix, Ellis' value will remain high enough to deploy him in almost any format, but owners shouldn't expect the first-year Mav to return to the levels that he posted early in the season.
Derrick Williams, F, SAC – Williams was the flavor of the week off the waiver wire when last discussed, but a prompt return to action for Rudy Gay has led to a quick nosedive in value for the former No. 2 overall pick. The reinsertion of Gay into the Kings' starting lineup Wednesday night pushed Williams back to a bench role, and he finished with just eight points and one rebound in 19 minutes. Marcus Thornton's value also takes a huge hit, as the Kings won't ask for him to shoulder much of the scoring load now that the roster is getting healthy.