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Don't look now, but Evan Turner is finally starting to live up to his draft pedigree.
After taking home National Player of the Year honors in his final season at Ohio State and being selected No. 2 overall by the Sixers in 2010, Turner was a real-life and fantasy disappointment through his first two seasons in the NBA.
Following the Andre Igudola trade to the Nuggets this past offseason, Turner was pegged as a breakout candidate this year, but he started off the season with only modest gains, averaging 11.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.4 treys through the Sixers' first 12 games.
Fortunately for his owners, something clicked in Turner after those first dozen games. In his past six contests, Evans has averaged 20.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 treys. The slight drop in rebounds and assists has been trumped by gains in steals and three-pointers – two categories that Turner severely lacked in his first two seasons. His usage rate has also spiked, rising to 23.9 percent over the six game stretch. That usage rate ranks higher than the current season marks for superstars Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love.
Turner's minutes per game and shooting percentages have also risen recently, but the gains are modest enough to seem legit for a player who appears to be coming into his own. He's been a top-35 fantasy player over the last week and a half, and if his improvements in the steals and three-point category hold, we should all get used to Turner being a top-35 fantasy player.
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.
Larry Sanders, F/C, MIL – Sanders has been bouncing between being owned and available on the waiver wire all season. After starting the year hot, he fell into an eight-game funk that saw him average just 4.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in limited run. He snapped that slide with authority last week by posting the first triple-double of his career, finishing with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks in a loss to the Timberwolves. The 24-year-old big man followed that monster effort up with two more solid outings to finish with averages of 12.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 7.7 blocks over the past three games. Sanders was rewarded for his great play with a promotion to the starting lineup for Wednesday's game against the Spurs. Bucks coach Scott Skiles has been shuffling his starting lineup so often this season that there's no telling how long Sanders will remain with the first five, but his breakout this past week, and pure dominance in blocks, is enough to warrant a roster spot in any format.
Jason Maxiell, F, DET – Mad Max has provided the Pistons with muscle and hustle play for years, but his production has rarely been good enough to warrant much fantasy consideration. Based on his production over the past three games (nine points, nine rebounds, 4.3 blocks), Maxiell is looking to scratch his way to fantasy relevance. Pistons coach Lawrence Frank recently shortened up his rotation to nine players while relying more heavily on his starting unit, a five-man group which Maxiell is a part of. As a result of Frank's rotation changes, Maxiell has averaged over 30 mpg. Maxiell's per-36 averages have always hinted at a player with the potential to average a double-double while swatting two shots per game. Though he won't get quite that many minutes, Maxiell is starting to fulfill some of his promise, especially in the block department. He's a decent shot blocker to target in mid-to-deep leagues.
Kevin Seraphin, F/C, WAS – After inconsistent playing time to start the season, Seraphin has seen a steady stream of games playing over 30 mpg the past two weeks. In his last six games, Seraphin has played 31 mpg while averaging 14.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. The most encouraging thing is that this boost in playing time has come with the Wizards working Nene Hilario back into the rotation. There was some concern how Washington's frontcourt rotation would iron out once Nene returned to action, but the early indications are that Seraphin will be a big part of the equation going forward.
Randy Foye, G, UTA – Foye was promoted to the Jazz's starting lineup back on Nov. 17, but his value didn't start to rise much until he was recently handed more playing time. He averaged just 23 mpg through his first six starts but has easily eclipsed the 30-minute mark in each of the past three games. Over that three-game stretch, Foye is averaging 17.0 points, 3.7 assists, 3.7 three-pointers, and 1.7 steals. The starting job alone makes Foye worth a look in most formats, while his recent boost in playing time only widens his appeal to shallower formats.
Carlos Delfino, G/F, HOU – Delfino has been a huge asset off the Rockets' bench since returning from a groin injury on Dec. 1. In his first two games back in action, Delfino has averaged 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 dimes, 3.0 treys, and 1.0 steal in 24 mpg. Houston ran nine-man rotations in both games since Delfino's return, and he's been one of the primary bench options each time out. His value is capped in a reserve role, but Delfino provides enough instant offense and three-point shooting to help in deeper leagues.
Ricky Rubio, G, MIN – Rubio (knee) took part in full-contact practice Sunday for the first time since his injury. He reported no setbacks and is currently on a schedule to return to game action on Dec. 12. Given the way Minnesota snuck Kevin Love back into the lineup last month, I wouldn't be surprised to see Rubio return before that date. Make sure you're ready to plug him back into your lineup at a moments notice.
Kyrie Irving, G, CLE – Despite not being expected to return from a broken finger for another couple weeks, Irving was active for Monday's loss to the Pistons. Of course, he didn't play, as he wanted to sit on the bench but forgot a sports coat, which is mandatory per the NBA's dress policy. Smells kind of fishy to me, as Cleveland was extremely short-handed that night (no Waiters, either) and may have needed Irving's help in a pinch. The Cavs' franchise player has been making steady progress in his rehab, even taking part in non-contact portions of practice. His official timetable still remains late-December, but it sure seems like Irving may be able to sneak back into the lineup before then. Be ready to deploy him once he is active.
Derrick Rose, G, CHI – Conflicting reports on Rose's recovery from a torn ACL recently surfaced, which has put a timetable for a return to practice in question. Some of Rose's teammates reportedly believed the star point guard could return to practice in a matter of weeks, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau quickly shot down that idea and said Rose is a "long ways" from practice. For all we know, Thibs believes a few weeks is an eternity, so the situation deserves monitoring as Rose continues to make progress in his rehab. Once a concrete timetable is established, Rose will garner consideration for a roster spot in any format.
Derrick Favors, F, UTA – Favors sat out his third consecutive game Wednesday, as he continues to deal with plantar faciitis. He's currently listed as day-to-day with a target to resume basketball activities Friday. This is an ailment that tends to linger, so keep a close eye on him going forward.
Ersan Ilyasova, F, MIL – Admittedly, I'm the last one to the boat here, but it's time to officially downgrade Ilyasova. Easily the biggest healthy bust of the early season, Ilyasova has averaged just 6.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23 mpg. While he's safe to cut in shallow leagues that offer quality free agents, deeper leagues should still hold on to hope that Ilyasova bounces back. Despite a recent benching and inconsistent playing time, the Bucks handed Ilyasova a four-year, $40-million deal this past offseason, indicating the team views him as part of their long-term plan. He should definitely be cemented on your bench, but only drop Ilyasova if the available replacements can actually make an impact for your squad.
Dwight Howard, C, LAL – Make no mistake, Howard is an absolute beast in head-to-head fantasy leagues, but he's an extreme liability in the rotisserie format. Howard's per-game average rank on Yahoo! currently sits at 304. That's behind lesser-known players such as Mirza Teletovic, Ryan Hollins, and Kim English. Obviously, Howard is a better option than those players, but his complete drain in free-throw percentage makes him a difficult player to own in rotisserie leagues. Not only is Howard shooting just 47 percent from the free-throw stripe, but he also leads the league with 11.3 free-throw attempts per game, which puts even more weight on his biggest categorical flaw. Given his averages of 18.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, and 1.2 steals, there are plenty of positives in Howard's game, but those are better deployed when playing in a H2H league where it's easier to tank a category. If you own Howard in a rotisserie format, it wouldn't be a bad idea to shop him around for someone who won't all but guarantee you the lowest score in one of the categories. And keep this in mind for future years when considering Howard with an early-round pick in roto leagues.
Amar'e Stoudemire, F/C, NY – Reports surfaced this week that Stoudemire is unsure if he'll be able to return from his knee injury by Christmas, a date he previously targeted. Add that to the fact Stoudemire might not rejoin the Knicks' starting five upon his return, and he's an easy downgrade. Even as a reserve, Stoudemire would be productive enough to warrant a roster spot in most formats, but shallower leagues with numerous solid players on the waiver wire may want to consider making a swap for a healthier player who can help now.
Luke Ridnour, G, MIN – With the return of Ricky Rubio looming, Ridnour's value is set to take a hit. Surprisingly, Ridnour's numbers while playing alongside Rubio last year are similar to his production this season, but the Timberwolves also had fewer options at that time. Now part of a much deeper squad, Ridnour will surely have to hand over some of his playing time upon Rubio's return. A handful of lost minutes will drop Ridnour's value from its current level and make him a deep-league option only.
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- Evan Turner
- Jason Maxiell