In the course of an NBA season, a player's outlook can change on a weekly basis. Between injuries, trades and just the random whims of a coaching staff, team rotations prove to be particularly malleable.
That proves especially true at the lower end of the NBA talent spectrum, where players tend to be more replaceable -- it is infinitely easier to find a sixth man than a star, after all. Finding these marginal players as they move into a bigger role is one of the keys to sustained Fantasy success. The latest example of this has been Bucks center Samuel Dalembert, who was the most added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues this week (up 34 percent).
From Jan. 2 through Feb. 2, Dalembert appeared in just 10 of the team's 17 games, playing 122 of 816 possible minutes and scoring 49 points. Dalembert looked like a total non-factor in the team's rotation, thanks to the emergence of Larry Sanders as a major contributor. Something unexpected happened Feb. 5 in Denver to change Dalembert's outlook, and it is up to us to determine whether this is a new, improved Dalembert we are dealing with.
Despite Dalembert dropping a career-high 35 points in just 27 minutes against the Nuggets (and following it up with a pair of double-doubles), I am inclined to say that Dalembert is hardly worth rushing out to grab off the waiver wires. At 31, Dalembert has a long track record of being a mostly mediocre player, and he is still averaging just 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on the season, albeit with a a career-high 59.1 percent mark from the field.
The Bucks rightly view Sanders as their future at the center position and are reportedly actively looking for trades involving Dalembert, despite just acquiring him in the offseason from Houston. Dalembert has stepped up his individual numbers in Sanders' absence due to an injury, however that has meant little for Milwaukee's' prospects as a team; they have lost each of the last four games since Sanders' injury.
Dalembert can pitch in for Fantasy owners in a pinch in Sanders' absence, but there is likely little reason to view him as a long-term piece -- the Bucks certainly don't. As soon as Sanders is ready to get back on the floor, Dalembert should be cast back to the scrap heap. The only issue complicating things is Sanders is unsure when he will be able to return, as his bruised lower back seems to be healing slowly. Sanders is set to receive a second opinion in the coming days, which should give us a better picture of when we can expect Dalembert to return to his role on the bench.
Most added guards
Martell Webster, Wizards: In eight NBA seasons, spanning over 1,500 three-point attempts, Webster has established himself as a solid sharpshooter, so his recent success should not come as a huge surprise. We always knew Webster could shoot, but he has been mostly unable to get a grip on a full-time role, largely thanks to injuries. Webster is in a particularly good spot in Washington, where point guard John Wall has come back to take control of the offense and is consistently putting Webster in position to succeed. According to analysis by BulletsForever.com, a Wizards-centric blog, Wall led the league in assists on corner three-pointers, a type of shot that Webster has been feasting on this season. A total of 95 of Webster's 186 three-point attempts this season have come below the break, and he is shooting an astounding 51.6 percent on those attempts. Webster is averaging 12.6 points per game since John Wall returned to the lineup Jan. 12, and while he will likely not continue shooting 52.2 percent from the field, he is clearly benefiting from Wall's presence. I don't see much of a drop-off in store as long as the Wizards' franchise point guard stays healthy. (53 percent owned; +26 percent)
Nate Robinson, Bulls: I've written plenty about Robinson in recent weeks, as the diminutive guard has exploded in the absences of Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich has yet to play in the month of February while Rose has been out all season, and Robinson has taken advantage. Robinson is averaging 17.2 points and 8.3 assists per game in six February games, however the Bulls have gone just 2-4 in that stretch, a stat that will certainly not sit well with Chicago's notoriously competitive coach, Tom Thibodeau. Robinson's long-term value increased with the USA Today report Tuesday that Rose has no plans to return before the next few weeks. When asked how close he is to 100 percent, Rose said, "Right now, probably in the high 80s. Far away. Far away." If Rose cannot return healthy this season (a possibility he hinted at in the story), that would certainly change Robinson's long-term outlook. Hinrich is out until at least after the All-Star break, and it is not clear when he will return at this point. Fantasy owners who have picked up and ridden Robinson during this hot streak may end up disappointed with Robinson's play upon Hinrich's return, however. (81 percent owned; +17 percent)
Jordan Crawford, Wizards: While Webster and the Wizards are soaring -- by their generally floor-bound standards, anyways -- one player has crashed and burned recently. Crawford has long had a well-earned reputation as a score-first gunner who cannot operate within a successful team concept, and that has certainly proven to be true this season. The Wizards have been consistently more competitive all year long with Crawford on the bench; the Wizards are being outscored by just 1.0 points per 100 possessions with Crawford on the bench, as compared to a 7.4 points-per-possession deficit with him on the floor. Crawford has not played more than 24 minutes in any game since Jan. 4, a streak that has coincided with the Wizards going 11-8. The team's success with Crawford seeing a smaller role should came as no surprise, given the numbers. Fantasy owners do not get extra points for team success, but Wizards coach Randy Wittman has obviously come to the realization that Crawford is not part of a winning combination. When the coach can't keep a player on the floor, it is time to cut him loose. (41 percent owned; -12 percent)
Most added forwards
Lavoy Allen, 76ers: Allen showed some potential as a contributor in his rookie season, but has not taken a step forward as a 23-year-old. If you had told me that at the beginning of the season I would have assumed it was natural with Andrew Bynum's dominance of the center minutes in Philadelphia, but that has clearly not been the issue here. Even without one of the league's best centers sopping up minutes, Allen has been unable to consistently step up in a larger role. Allen has had some big performances over the last week, including a massive 14-point, 22-rebound game against the Bobcats last Saturday. Fantasy owners are probably hoping that his three-game double-digit scoring streak portends big things to come for Allen, but that would be a surprise; he followed up that stretch with four points and a pair of rebounds in his next game. I would not expect him to be worth starting in the future. (43 percent owned; +34 percent)
Charlie Villanueva, Pistons: Villanueva has fallen badly out of favor in Detroit since signing a five-year contract four years ago, but he has a chance to prove his worth in the next few weeks. With the news that Andre Drummond will miss at least a month due to a fractured tailbone, Villanueva may end up being the de-facto replacement for second units, even though he and Drummond's games could not be any less similar. Drummond had his best two-game stretch immediately following news of Drummond's injury, as he scored 39 points and grabbed 21 rebounds last Friday and Saturday. What remains to be seen moving forward is whether the Pistons will ask him to continue to carry a large offensive load with the bench units. Villanueva has a unique skill set that can make him a useful Fantasy option, but he is a full four seasons removed from actually being one in a consistent manner. Continue to monitor the Pistons' usage of the 28-year-old, as he may be worth a flier. (21 percent owned; +18 percent)
Ed Davis, Grizzlies: No player in the league saw his ownership drop like Davis', as Fantasy owners awakened to the fact that the Grizzlies simply do not plan on featuring Davis heavily. The trade that sent him to Memphis was the worst possible scenario for the 23-year-old, who looked to be coming into his own in Toronto. In five games with the Grizzlies, Davis is averaging just 2.6 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, as the team's fourth big man in the rotation. Barring injury, Davis is unworthy of owning in any Fantasy formats at this time. (32 percent owned; -23 percent)
Most added centers
Byron Mullens, Bobcats: It is not always pretty -- or particularly efficient most of the time – but Mullens continues to put up the kind of numbers that Fantasy owners simply cannot turn down. The gawky seven-footer has come back from his ankle injury and hit the ground running, averaging 17.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game over his first five games, all while shooting 45.9 percent from the field. Mullens has struggled with his efficiency all season, so his hot shooting since returning from the injury is likely just an illusion. Even if a few shots stop falling, Mullens should be back to being a decent Fantasy option, if a frustrating one on a nightly basis. The Bobcats are one of the league's worst offensive teams, and Mullens certainly doesn't help that much. But, his youth and size are enough to ensure that the team will continue to throw him out there, results be damned in another lost season. With how shallow the center position is, it would not be going too far to say that he is worth owning in just about every Fantasy format. (88 percent owned; +13 percent)
Robin Lopez, Hornets: Lopez is in a world of Fantasy limbo, as he consistently hovers between 60 and 80 percent ownership, mostly based on how well he has played over the last few games. The Hornets situation has not changed much through this season, with a few early injuries to rookie Anthony Davis being the only catalysts for change. This jump in Lopez's ownership is largely based on his recent run of very strong play, as he is averaging 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game over the last eight, while shooting a blistering 65.1 percent from the field. His playing time has increased a bit (30.3 minutes in this stretch, compared to 26.1 per game for the season as a whole. Lopez is enjoying a career-best season, but Fantasy owners should be aware that he averaged just 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the eight games prior to this most recent stretch. His Fantasy value will fluctuate seemingly at random for the rest of the season, but Lopez is absolutely worth leaning on when times are good. (71 percent owned; +9 percent)