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NBA Barometer: The Second Half

Jerry Donabedian

Jerry Donabedian

Jerry Donabedian writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Last week's trade deadline didn't exactly fill fantasy owners with joy, as most of the key pieces involved—namely Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Steve Blake—moved from major roles on cellar-dwelling teams to lesser roles on contenders.

Turner, who was the biggest deadline acquisition in regular basketball terms, is predictably averaging just 23 minutes per game off the bench in his two contests with the Pacers. As expected, his value has cratered with the move away from Philadelphia, where he averaged 34.9 minutes per game for the league's fastest-paced team.

Hawes has been spared the same fate as Turner thus far, averaging 30.5 minutes, 14.3 points, nine boards, two treys and 1.3 blocks in four games for the Cavaliers, while Anderson Varejao (back) has been sidelined with an injury. Unfortunately for Hawes' owners, Varejao seems to be making progress and may be back within the next few games. The Brazilian's return, whenever it happens, will cut into Hawes' playing time and fantasy value, likely in a significant way.

There's really not much to say for the third major piece, Steve Blake, who was an automatic drop in most formats upon being traded from Los Angeles to Golden State. He's averaging 19.8 minutes, 4.8 points, 4.8 field-goal attempts, and 2.5 assists in four games with the Warriors, and there's no reason to expect much more going forward.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have made surprising use of Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, the pieces they received in return for Blake. Neither Bazemore nor Brooks was worth a second look at the deadline, but the former is averaging 35 minutes through four games with his new team, while the latter has logged 22.3 minutes.

Bazemore has been of particular interest, turning his 35 minutes into 17.3 points, three assists, 2.3 boards, two steals, and 1.5 treys. He makes for a nice short term add, and if he plays well enough, Bazemore may be able to maintain a significant role once Xavier Henry (knee) and Nick Young (knee) are healthy. Don't get too excited, however, as Henry and Young both seem to be nearing returns, while Bazemore posted a hideous 37.1 field-goal percentage in very limited playing time during his one-plus seasons with Golden State.

Moving beyond Bazemore, Philadelphia is probably the best place to look for post-deadline value, though the Sixers are still sorting things out. Henry Sims is getting a look at center, and there are a number of candidates to replace Turner's minutes, namely James Anderson, Hollis Thompson, Tony Wroten and Elliott Williams. Anderson and Wroten are the most intriguing of the bunch, as Wroten has shown the ability to score in bunches, while Anderson is already averaging a solid 28.6 minutes per game.

One more thing to keep an eye on in Philadelphia: Thaddeus Young, who is averaging 22 field-goal attempts in three games since the deadline. With Turner and Hawes out of town, Young and Michael Carter-Williams are easily the two best players remaining, and both may need to shoot more often.

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

Tony Allen, G, MEM – After missing seven weeks with a fractured hand, Allen has looked like his usual self in three games since returning. Courtney Lee is still playing well, which likely limits Allen's minutes to the 25-30 range, but that's about what he's used to, anyway. The Grizzlies' notorious wing defender is averaging a career-best 1.9 steals this season, while scoring 10.4 points per game on 51 percent shooting. He obviously isn't a great bet to pile up points, rebounds or assists, but Allen is still a monster with the steals, and the field-goal percentage is a nice touch.

Aaron Brooks, G, DEN – The move from Houston to Denver clearly improved Brooks' situation, but the early returns have come with Ty Lawson (ribs) out of the lineup. Filling in for an injured Lawson, Brooks is averaging 13.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 treys in 31.5 minutes through four games with the Nuggets. Lawson's missed the last eight games and will likely be out longer, but he doesn't figure to miss the rest of the season, meaning that Brooks will return to a backup role, possibly in the very near future. Still, a steady backup role is better than what Brooks had in Houston.

Ben McLemore, G, SAC – With Marcus Thornton shipped off to Brooklyn, McLemore has assumed starting shooting guard duties and is averaging 33.7 minutes over the last three games. The opportunity is there, but McLemore is just 10-for-35 (28.6 percent) from the field over the three-game stretch, including a miserable 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. While the improved team context makes him worth a speculative add in some formats, McLemore still needs to improve his play to have any real impact.

Check Status

Eric Bledsoe, G, PHO – Bledsoe was cleared for 3-on-3 drills Monday and may be cleared for 5-on-5 activity over the weekend. A return during the upcoming week seems likely, so this would be the time to pounce, if it isn't already too late. Goran Dragic (ankle) owners/suitors will also want to keep an eye on Bledsoe's return, as Dragic (again) took his game to a new level while his backcourt mate was sidelined. Dragic may not need to do as much with Bledsoe back in the fold, but
it's still hard to justify taking the ball out of the Slovenian's hands.

Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN – Out since Jan. 27, Pek (ankle) is honing in on a return, possibly as soon as Saturday. His health will presumably bring an end to Dante Cunningham's usefulness in all but the deepest of leagues. While Pekovic remains an injury risk, he rarely shows any ill effects from all the ailments when he's able to play. The big Montenegrin will likely be eased back in at first, but he should be back to full value within two or three games of returning.

Spencer Hawes, C, CLE – As mentioned above, the Hawes/Varejao situation is worth watching. To this point, Hawes has been able to maintain his production from Philadelphia, but he obviously figures to take a big hit once the Brazilian is healthy. Of course, Varejao's ugly injury history means that the next injury may just be right around the corner, a reality that boosts Hawes' value. Varejao will miss a ninth consecutive game Friday but hasn't been ruled out beyond that.

Stock Down

Nene, F, WAS – Nene suffered a sprained MCL and is out 4-6 weeks, meaning that a late March return represents his best-case scenario. In all likelihood, the bulky Brazilian won't be back until the final week or two of the season, which means he can be dropped in most leagues, unless you're already in a position to focus chiefly on the playoffs. No obvious replacement has stood out through the first two games of Nene's absence, as the candidates for added playing time are Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin (knee), Chris Singleton, Al Harrington and the recently-signed Drew Gooden. Booker is the choice if you need to pick up one of those guys immediately, but none of the aforementioned players has much upside, so it's probably best to wait and see how this one plays out.

Chris Kaman, C, LAL – As expected, the return of Pau Gasol has taken away a huge chunk of Kaman's minutes. Adding injury to insult, Kaman is dealing with a back issue that kept him out of Wednesday's game, after averaging just 19.7 minutes in the first three games with Gasol back in the lineup. Kaman can pile up points and rebounds when given the chance, but his horrid defense will limit him to a bench role, unless Gasol suffers another injury.

Glen Davis, F, LAC – After being bought out by the Magic and signed by the Clippers, Davis logged a mere five minutes in his first game with Los Angeles on Wednesday. He'll see more playing time once he's acclimated, but there obviously isn't any room in the starting lineup, and Davis can kiss his 30 minutes per game goodbye. Back in Orlando, Tobias Harris is spending more time at power forward in Davis' absence, which in turn leaves more minutes for Maurice Harkless, who has been starting at small forward and averaging 30.8 minutes per game since Big Baby left. Harkless combined for 35 points in games on Tuesday and Wednesday, but he generally seems to be allergic to statistics, and he'll move back to the bench once Aaron Afflalo (ankle) is healthy. Power forward Andrew Nicholson has also seen some added time in the wake of Davis' departure, though Nicholson is averaging just 1.3 points and four rebounds in 13.8 minutes over the last four games.

Reggie Jackson, G, OKC – With Russell Westbrook easing back into things, Jackson didn't initially see his playing time decline. Reality struck in Westbrook's third game back in the lineup on Wednesday, when Jackson logged just 24 minutes. He's still OKC's top guard off the bench, and he'll still see some run alongside Westbrook, but Jackson won't be averaging more than 32 minutes per game, as he did during Westbrook's absence in January and February. While his December stats – 14.2 points, 3.6 assists, four rebounds, 1.2 treys and a 46.6 field-goal percentage in 26.5 minutes – offer some hope, Jackson will probably fall back to approximately 25 minutes per game, and he hasn't looked particularly good lately. He'll need to recapture his form from December (the best month of his career) to overcome the impact of Westbrook's return.

Enes Kanter, C, UTA – While Derrick Favors' hip is still worth keeping an eye on, the Georgia Tech product returned for games on Monday and Wednesday, averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 27.5 minutes between the two contests. Favors certainly played like he was healthy, and the Jazz won both games while Kanter logged just 42 total minutes. Utah would be wise to give Kanter more playing time as the season winds down, but the Turkish center's value is still highly dependent on Favors' health. Kanter's season-long averages (12 points, 6.2 boards, 0.6 blocks) are an optimistic prediction of what to expect on a nightly basis while Favors is healthy.

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