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NBA Barometer: Third Season's a Charm for LaVine

Juan Carlos Blanco

Winner of the FSWA 2016 Newcomer of the Year Award, Juan Carlos Blanco has been playing fantasy sports for close to 20 years and covers NBA, MLB, and the NFL for Rotowire.com, including serving as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' beat writer. He has previously written for KFFL.com and remains an avid season-long and daily fantasy player in multiple sports.

RISERS

Marc Gasol, C, MEM -
With Mike Conley (back) sidelined, Gasol has stepped up his offensive game significantly, averaging 27.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.8 steals over the last four games, and has even drained 10 threes over the last five. He sports a 28.6 percent usage rage with Conley off the floor this season, and this will likely be the norm as long for the next several weeks while the latter is sidelined.

Wesley Matthews, G, DAL - Matthews seemed to be in a season-long slump in 2015-16, his first campaign in a Mavs uniform. However, he's significantly stepped it up this season, and has been particularly heating up over the last seven games, averaging 20.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He's also has seven straight double-digit scoring tallies, along with a whopping 32 made three-pointers in that stretch.

Zach LaVine, G, MIN - LaVine flashed a mix of high upside and inconsistency his first couple seasons but is starting to even out his performances in his third campaign. He's averaged 23.0 points, on 50.4 percent shooting from the field and 35.1 from three-point range the last eight games, while averaging a healthy 17.4 shot attempts per game.

Lou Williams, G, LAL - Williams has benefited greatly from the extended run afforded by the absences of D'Angelo Williams (knee), Nick Young (calf) and Jose Calderon (hamstring), averaging 34.3 points on 52.6 percent shooting over the last four. He's had his trademark three-point shot working overtime, as he's drained 16 shots from beyond the arc during that stretch. The eventual return to health of the aforementioned trio will inevitably cut into his playing time, but he remains a highly viable option while they remain sidelined.

Tobias Harris, F, DET - Harris is enjoying his best stretch of the season, averaging 18.3 points and 5.3 rebounds on 50.8 percent shooting over the last eight games. He's also impressively shot 42.9 percent from long range over that span, which has helped round out his fantasy production nicely. Harris has gone for more than 20 in four games in that stretch as well, as he's starting to find the offensive groove in Motown that made him an emerging star in Orlando two seasons ago.

Dennis Schroder, G, ATL - Schroder has hit his stride as the starting point guard, rattling off double-digit scoring performances in nine straight, with two outings of more than 30 points during that span. He posted scoring averages of 20.6 points, 7.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds during the last eight, and has shot a stellar 52.4 percent over the last four. He's largely taken the reins of the offense, particularly with recent injuries to Kent Bazemore and previously, Paul Millsap.

INJURIES

Rodney Hood, G, UTA -
Hood's hamstring will keep him out for a second straight game, which will likely provide Dante Exum another start at shooting guard while fellow reserve Shelvin Mack fills in for George Hill (toe) at point guard.

Jerryd Bayless, G, PHI - Bayless' wrist continues to keep him sidelined, which will in turn extend the starting tenure of Sergio Rodriguez, and also afford extra minutes to T.J. McConnell. Rodriguez has had his moments this season, and has double-digit scoring tallies in five of his last seven games.

Dion Waiters, G, MIA - Waiters' groin injury has improved to the point where he emphasized that he is feeling much better and hopes to get back on the court by next week. Waiters is expected to eventually return to a starter's role, which would result in playing time reduction for Rodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington in particular.

T.J. Warren, F, PHO - Warren was cleared for practice, and given that he's already been working out on his own for the last week, he could be within just a few days of a return. P.J. Tucker has been getting extended run during his 10-game absence, but he's struggled over the last four games in particular, averaging just 5.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists across 27.0 minutes over the last four games.

Derrick Rose, G, NYK - Rose is expected to return Sunday from the back issues that sidelined him the previous two games, which would put an end to Brandon Jennings' brief starting run, as well as the slight uptick in minutes for Justin Holiday.

Isaiah Thomas, G, BOS - Thomas is targeting a Wednesday return from his groin injury, which has caused him to miss the last two games. Marcus Smart has received the starts at point guard in his stead, and has posted three straight double-digit scoring efforts.

J.R. Smith, G, CLE - Smith's knee problem kept him out for a second straight game on Friday, which provided DeAndre Liggins another run with the first unit. Liggins has posted six and five points, respectively, in the two games Smith has missed, while playing 21 and 26 minutes in those contests.

E'Twaun Moore, G, NOP - Moore missed his third straight game Saturday, which gave rookie Buddy Hield another opportunity with the first unit at two-guard. Hield posted 16 points in his first start in Moore's stead and had 15 Saturday after more modest totals of eight and six in the previous two games.

Kent Bazemore, F, ATL - Bazemore had a Wednesday MRI on his knee, which cleared him of any structural damage. However, he's still not slated for return until Tuesday against the Celtics at the earliest. Tim Hardway Jr. has started in place of Bazemore, scoring 12 to 18 points in three of the last four.

FALLERS

LaMarcus Aldridge, F, SAS -
Aldride has frequently frustrated fantasy owners and sports his lowest scoring average (16.7) since his rookie season. He's also averaging almost two full rebounds less per game over last season, and perhaps most glaring is the fact that he's averaging a full six less shot attempts per game (13.9) than his last season in Portland two campaigns ago. That last number perhaps best illustrates Aldridge's reduced role in the Spurs' offensive pecking order. He's also scored no more than 19 points in any of his last six games, with two single-digit scoring outings in that stretch.

Thaddeus Young, F, IND - Speaking of reduced offensive roles, Young's continues to seemingly shrink with each passing week. He's posted three single-digit scoring efforts in the last five contests, and no more than 17 points in the last seven games. Young is averaging almost four less shot attempts (9.3) than last season, and with Paul George and C.J. Miles both having returned to the lineup recently, his downturn could continue.

Kent Bazemore, F, ATL - Bazemore is sidelined with a knee ailment, but he struggled even prior to being sidelined. He'd posted three single-digit scoring efforts in four games before going scoreless over 18 minutes on Dec. 5, his last game before his current absence. His biggest issue has been his shooting, as his current 35.8 percent shooting percentage represents a near nine-point drop from last season's 44.1 percent tally, while also averaging almost two boards less per game (3.3). With seven other single-digit scoring outputs and another scoreless effort on his resume this season, Bazemore has been hard to trust

Kenneth Faried, F, DEN - Faried has seen a rather sudden playing time reduction over the last three games, having seen 13, 12 and no minutes, respectively, over that span. This has naturally led to a precipitous drop in production during that brief stretch. While he's not of long-term concern yet, this is a situation to keep an eye on.