Jason Thompson (Getty)
Tyreke Evans deferred to John Salmons as a starter on Tuesday because of the confidence he had seen from Salmons and the team during back-to-back wins while he sat with a left ankle sprain. Evans also acknowledged after the game that his ankle was only "halfway there" when it came to feeling good. Given the team's success and Evans' limitations, it's not unlikely that he'll come off the bench for at least a few more games [schedule]. Salmons' play has technically improved, but not enough to warrant action from many fantasy owners - he's not long for major minutes even if he continues to start and has pedestrian averages of 10.1 points on 52-percent shooting, 0.9 threes, and 2.8 assists in 28 minutes over the past nine games.
• George Hill isn't the Pacers' starting point guard (yet), but he played 28 minutes (15 points, 6-7 FG, 3-3 3PT, 4 boards, 6 assists, +14) to Darren Collison's 25 (4 points, 1-4 FG, 2 assists, +1) on Tuesday, and George was on the court in Collison's place for the final 16 minutes of the game. Collison has been bad enough over the past month (30 minutes, 9.6 points, 42% FG, 0.5 threes, 3.8 assists, 0.9 steals) that it's absolutely safe to look elsewhere in standard leagues (72% owned). The only reason for pause here is the Pacers' five-game slate next week, but the vast majority of the league has four games and quantity doesn't always trump quality. I'd roster Hill (31% owned) ahead of Collison if I had to choose between to two, and that upcoming five-game week is a clear positive when considering Hill for an end-of-the-rotation spot.
• Jose Calderon's return understandably pushed Jerryd Bayless back to the Raptors bench, but Bayless ended up playing just 13 minutes (7 points, 4 assists, 2 steals) in the 106-87 loss to the Knicks. The qualifiers here are that he picked up two quick fouls during his first six minutes and then couldn't play more than one minute in the fourth quarter because of a hip pointer. Both Calderon (35 minutes) and Gary Forbes (15 minutes) saw more than their typical allotment of playing time in the game. The expectation remains that Bayless will remain squarely in the team's guard rotation on most nights, and I'd advise giving it at least one more game (Wed CHI, assuming he plays) before you cut Bayless outright.
• The second opinion on Josh Howard's knee was more optimistic than the first, but he's still headed for arthroscopic surgery and his regular season is very likely to be finished. The loss of Howard puts the onus back on Gordon Hayward (32 minutes, 11 points, 8 boards, 2 steals, 1 block on Tuesday) and C.J. Miles (28 minutes, 10 points, 5 boards, 3 steals). Hayward has remained inconsistent but has been improving on a per-game basis and is the preferred add. He's posted averages of 12.9 points, 0.6 threes, 3.6 boards, 3.4 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.9 blocks in the 17 games where he's seen at least 30 minutes this season. Keep in mind that Raja Bell (groin) could return on Thursday and Tyrone Corbin has yet to decide on his new starting lineup, but losing Howard opens up around 25 rotation minutes and that's good for Hayward and Miles in any case.
• Status updates: Derrick Rose (groin) is out again Wednesday .. Still no updates on Kyle Lowry's status, but he does not appear close to returning .. Nikola Pekovic (ankle) is expected to miss the next two games, freeing up surplus playing time for Derrick Williams .. Shawn Marion (knee) will be a game-time decision on Wednesday .. Danilo Gallinari (thumb) says he's pretty sure it won't take four weeks before he active again, but we'll have to wait for something a bit more concrete .. Rodney Stuckey (foot) is out Wednesday .. I'm not reading too much into Ersan Ilyasova's smallish line from Tuesday (23 minutes, 7 points, 4 boards). The Bucks blew out the Blazers and he was dealing with the remnants of a broncial infection. If he's marginalized during the Bucks' upcoming back-to-back-t0-back [schedule], then we'll need to reconsider .. We knew Randy Foye was headed for the bench, but Tuesday's DNP-CD qualified as a surprise. Nick Young started at shooting guard and played 36 minutes, while Mo Williams saw 28 minutes as sixth man. Williams' impact should hold steady if Foye is simply removed from the rotation .. Steve Blake scored for the first time in three starts on Tuesday (19 minutes, 2 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, -6) but again provided little evidence that he should be playing ahead of Ramon Sessions (29 minutes, 14 points, 4 assists, 1 steal, +3). Keep Sessions in your plans .. The Spurs are frontrunners to sign Boris Diaw, but he'll be at/near the bottom of a very deep rotation. At best, he'd be worth a spot start in deep leagues on the days that Tim Duncan will get a rest.
• Scanning the Buzz Index leaders: Yes, I'm in favor of your adding Carlos Delfino, who has averaged 16 points on 61-percent shooting, 3.3 threes, 7 boards, 2.7 assists, and 2 steals over the past three games. His spot-up game is a perfect complement to the team's dual drive-and-dish threats and the supporting stats have been there all season .. If you are on the fence about dropping Andre Miller, then by all means jump off, and that's even without his shoulder injury factored in. He hasn't warranted heavy fantasy ownership in almost two months, averaging 9.2 points on 41-percent shooting, 5.9 assists, 2.9 turnovers and 0.7 steals since February 1 (25 games) .. Welcome back, Wesley Matthews? The Blazers have no depth, so he's going to play a ton and has been excellent in three games since returning to the starting five (34 minutes, 18.3 points, 50% FG, 4 threes, 4 boards, 2 steals) .. It's hard to keep the faith with James Johnson now that Andrea Bargnani is back in the starting five. Dwane Casey's rotation consistently runs nine deep and you never know what you'll get on any given night at the three-through-five. The big-time potential is still there - he's averaged 1.1 steals, and 1.6 blocks in 23 minutes over the past eight games, but also just 8 points and 3.8 boards .. Richard Jefferson is fourth on the Warriors with 33 minutes in two games since his trade, ahead of Mark Jackson favorites Brandon Rush (27) and Dominic McGuire (23). The Warriors have gone small and given David Lee the majority of the minutes at center in those games, but J.J. Hickson's presence will change that a bit. For that reason, don't expect the 30-plus trend to continue.
- Jason Thompson