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D.J. Augustin: With Brandon Jennings out for the season with an Achilles injury, Augustin becomes Detroit’s new starting point guard. Over four starts this season, he’s averaged 18.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.3 3pt while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 90.0 from the line. Three of those four starts came when Josh Smith was still on the team, while the other was Sunday’s huge performance (35 points, eight assists, 12-20 FG with five threes). Those numbers are obviously unsustainable, but Detroit has played far better since Smith’s departure, and Basketball Monster projects Augustin to be a top-100 player over the rest of the year. He’s currently owned in just 54 percent of Yahoo leagues, which should rapidly increase.
Nikola Pekovic: He returned from a two-month absence while recovering from an ankle injury last week, and while he struggled during Monday’s game, Pekovic is already back in the starting lineup, which was hardly a sure thing given Gorgui Dieng’s strong play (he's remained in the starting five, shifting to power forward). Dieng’s emergence should hurt his value some, but Pekovic has been a top-70 fantasy player each of the past two seasons and appears to be back to 100 percent healthy.
Brian Roberts: Kemba Walker will be sidelined for the next 6-to-8 weeks with a torn meniscus, resulting in Roberts becoming Charlotte’s starting point guard. He’s not going to be a star, but Roberts has averaged 13.0 points, 4.0 assists and 1.0 3pt in three starts this year and is a career 92.3 percent free throw shooter (although admittedly he doesn’t get to the line much). Roberts can be a useful player as long as Walker is out and is still owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
LaMarcus Aldridge: While it’s unusual to upgrade someone who’s now dealing with a torn thumb ligament, fantasy owners have to be ecstatic Aldridge is going to play through an injury that originally ruled him out for 6-to-8 weeks. He attempted 22 field goals and made all eight of his free throw attempts during his surprising return Saturday, and he plans to play through the pain over the rest of the season. It’s a pretty big turn of events for someone who was even briefly removed from Yahoo’s Can’t Cut List, as it’s rare to be given a timetable of missing possibly two months and then return to the court immediately. Aldridge has been a top-10 player so far this season.
George Hill: He’s back in action and should return to the starting lineup soon enough. It’s been a rough year in terms of health so far for Hill, but there’s quietly a lot of upside here if he can avoid injuries moving forward. With the Pacers so depleted this year compared to last, Hill should set a career high in Usage Rate by a wide margin. In fact, he’s averaging a career-best 14.4 ppg despite playing a lowly 23:50 mpg (he got 10.3 ppg in 32:01 mpg last season). It’s been a small sample (seven games), and there’s no guarantee Hill returns to full health and stays that way, but he’s been the No. 16 ranked fantasy player on a per 36-minute basis in 2014/15.
Dwyane Wade: He had a strong performance Sunday, but it marked the first time Wade shot better than 45.5 percent from the floor in 10 games, a span in which he’s gone 0-of-9 on three-point attempts. Wade’s mpg (32:28), rpg (3.9), spg (1.1) and bpg (0.4) are all the lowest of his career, while his tpg (3.3) are his most since 2009/10. This all despite Wade having the third-highest Usage Rate (32.2) in the NBA thanks to LeBron James leaving town. The concern with Wade has always been health, but he’s been just the No. 88 ranked player when on the court this season (and No. 263 over the past two weeks).
Roy Hibbert: He got off to a fantastic start to the year, and it was reasonable to expect it to continue considering the Pacers lost both Paul George (injury) and Lance Stephenson (free agency) during the offseason. But since then, Hibbert has been nothing short of a disaster. Despite a nice game Sunday, the big man has averaged 7.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.0 steals and 0.5 blocks while shooting 43.3 percent from the floor over the past four games. Hibbert is seeing the fewest mpg (25:02) since his rookie campaign and has been the No. 163 ranked player over the past two months.
Kobe Bryant: Normally I shy away from downgrading injured players, since that’s so obvious, but there are two points to be made here. First, it’s sad watching how Bryant’s career is winding down (he’s going to miss a total of 123 games over these last two seasons, not to mention he wasn’t even a top-100 player this year despite owning the second-highest Usage Rate in the NBA). The second problem is unfortunately there really aren’t any obvious beneficiaries on the Lakers despite the team losing a player who nightly attempted 20.4 FG and 6.9 FT. A handful of Los Angeles players deserve a slight upgrade, but the loss of Bryant doesn’t move the needle on any specific one.
Mario Chalmers: With LeBron James out of Miami (and Dwyane Wade continuing to miss time), Chalmers has seen a big jump in responsibility on the Heat this season (his 19.0 Usage Rate is easily a career high), which resulted in a terrific start to the year. But it’s been downhill from there, as Chalmers has struggled mightily shooting, as he’s gone an ugly 38-for-112 from the field (33.9 FG%) over the past 15 games, including going 4-of-23 from downtown over the past nine contests. He’s shooting a career-low 27.3 percent from beyond the arc, which especially hurts owners since he attempts 3.0 per game. Chalmers has been the No. 199 ranked player over the last two months.
Lance Stephenson: Owners keep waiting for Stephenson to bounce back, which makes perfect sense considering he was the No. 111 ranked player last season and has moved to a Charlotte team in which he’s been given a much bigger role (his current 20.3 Usage Rate is a career high). But bad keeps going to worse, as he’s shooting a hideous 15.3 percent from downtown on the year and has been the No. 357(!) ranked player over his last 15 games. Stephenson is still owned in more than 75 percent of Yahoo leagues.