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It's finally time to separate the wheat from the chaff. The fantasy basketball playoffs are upon us.
Weekly leagues that tipped off Monday are locked into their current lineups, but daily leagues can still do some tinkering between now and Sunday.
If you have a strong squad with little need for streaming, continue stashing guys like Kevin Love and Derrick Rose on your bench. But for the owners who are battling for their fantasy basketball lives, it's time to start dropping dead weight and streaming in options who can help you on a nightly basis.
Need help in the three-point category? Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington, and Toney Douglas are available in plenty of leagues.
Is your squad lacking rebounding? Andrew Bogut, Tyler Hansbrough, Reggie Evans, and Josh McRoberts should be on your radar.
Does your team need help on defense? Maurice Harkless, Courtney Lee, Derrick Favors, and Brandan Wright can provide some assistance in those areas.
We're at the time of the year when you have to start looking at any and every option to keep your championship hopes alive. Don't hold out hope that a mid-tier player like Dion Waiters returns next week; dump him now and start streaming in players in his spot on a nightly basis. Take initiative or someone else will be taking home the championship.
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.
Martell Webster, G/F, WAS – Webster has been lights out for the Wizards over the past six games, averaging 20.2 points and 4.3 three-pointers in 36 minutes per game. Hiss shooting from the floor has only spiked a handful of percentage points during this torrid stretch, so this run can't simply be brushed off as a hot streak. While there isn't much production from Webster outside of the scoring categories, he's worth a look as a streaming option for a team in need of three-pointers during the playoffs, at the very least.
Wayne Ellington, G, CLE – With rookie Dion Waiters (knee) hitting the shelf, Ellington will be given a look as the Cavaliers' new starting two guard. His per-36 averages since joining the Cavs sit at 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.3 treys, and 1.0 steal. The Cavs are currently without both Waiters and Kyrie Irving (knee), meaning Ellington's playing time should be ample other the next week or so. He's another decent streaming option for teams in need of three-point help.
Gordon Hayward, G/F, UTA – After establishing himself as one of the better sixth men in the NBA over the past few months, Hayward was finally promoted to the Jazz's starting lineup last weekend. In his two starts since the promotion, Hayward has averaged 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.0 treys, 2.0 blocks, and 1.0 steal in over 37 mpg. The 23-year-old swingman has flashed this type of potential all season and shouldn't give up his new starting role anytime soon. He should be universally owned, regardless of format.
Maurice Harkless, G/F, ORL – Despite being in the Magic's starting lineup for the better part of two months, Harkless still remains available in the majority of fantasy leagues. The rookie swingman has picked up his play recently, averaging 11.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 three pointers, and 2.4 steals in 10 games this month. His scoring production is spotty, but Harkless more than makes up for his lack of points with elite production in the steals category. Grab him if you need help in defensive categories for your playoff run.
Josh McRoberts, F, CHA – After being exiled to the end of Orlando's bench for the majority of the season, McRoberts has found new life since being traded to Charlotte. He originally looked like a depth option for the Bobcats, too, but lackluster play from Byron Mullens has opened the door for McRoberts to step into Charlotte's starting lineup. In his past four games as a starter, McRoberts has averaged 12.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.0 block in nearly 36 mpg. The main reason for McRoberts' promotion was the upgrade on the glass he provided over Mullens, who has underwhelmed in the rebounding department all season. As long as Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap continues to value rebounding so heavily, McRoberts should continue to see significant run for his new squad.
David West, F, IND – West has sat out back-to-back games due to a sprained lower back. He officially remains day-to-day, but his status for Friday's game against the Bucks is now in doubt. Make sure to keep a close eye on West's status before plugging him back into your lineup. Tyler Hansbrough, who has averaged 16.0 points and 12.5 rebounds over the past two games, will continue to be a solid plug-and-play option if West misses any additional time.
Andre Drummond, F/C, DET – Drummond appears to be nearing a return from the back injury that sidelined him in early February. The rookie big man took part in team drills Monday and will be re-evaluated before Friday's tilt against the Knicks. If everything checks out, he could make his return that night. The Pistons were toying around with the idea of plugging Drummond into the starting lineup before he hit the shelf. He might need a handful of games to shake of the rust, but Drummond will likely work himself into the starting five before long. He's worth grabbing and stashing in most formats if you can afford using the bench spot.
Derrick Rose, G, CHI – Rumors circulated this week that Rose would finally return from his knee injury after practicing hard again Sunday. Monday's game against the Nuggets came and went without Rose returning. The Bulls and Rose remain non-committal on a return date, but hopefully there was some truth to the rumors that surfaced over the weekend and Rose makes a return sooner than later.
Ersan Ilyasova, F, MIL – Ilyasova is expected to sit out Wednesday's game against the Hawks, which will be his second consecutive missed game due to back and hip pain. The Turkish forward sustained the injuries by diving out of bounds for a loose ball during Sunday's win over the Magic. While owners will have to deal without Ilyasova for at least one more game, he's not expected to be sidelined long term with this ailment. Samuel Dalembert, who started Tuesday in place of Ilyasova, is expected to fill in again Wednesday night.
Tony Parker, G, SAN – Parker, who has been sidelined since March 1 with an ankle injury, was a full participant in practice Tuesday. He has already been ruled out of Wednesday's game against the Warriors, but a return appears to be coming soon. Go scoop Parker off waivers if owners dumped him at the time of his injury.
Evan Turner, G/F, PHI – Turner has had some solid stretches this season, but for the most part, his season has been a disappointment. Touted as one of the bigger breakout candidates this year by many pundits (myself included), Turner has failed to be much more than a mediocre fantasy option. He currently ranks 150th overall based on per-game averages. His rebounding (6.5) and assist (4.4) totals are solid for a shooting guard/small forward, but Turner doesn't help much in three-pointers (0.7) or defense (0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks), and his shooting percentage (41.6) is a drain. His shooting percentage continues to go south as the season wears on, too, as he has shot just 37.9 percent from the floor since the All-Star break. At 24, there's still plenty of time for Turner to mature as a player, but he'll need to show drastic improvements with his shooting stroke and start contributing more in the secondary categories to improve his fantasy value.
Tyson Chandler, C, NY – Chandler has been ruled out for the next week due to a bulging disc in his neck. While one week absences during the regular season are usually manageable, Chandler owners who are currently battling to advance in the playoffs may have no choice but to cut him free and find an option for the remainder of this week.
Andrew Bynum, C, PHI – The Sixers have finally made it official: Bynum will not suit up this season. The oft-injured big man will undergo surgery on both of his knees, ending his season before it even began. Counting all 82 games this year, Bynum has now missed 212 out of a possible 476 games over the past five seasons. His injury-riddled track record will make him tough to invest in next season.
Kevin Love, F/C, MIN – Love admitted over the weekend that there's a chance he won't be able to return from his hand injury this season. He's scheduled to have his hand evaluated by a specialist again in two-to-three weeks, at which point it'll be determined if he can return for the final couple weeks of the season. While Love would still like to play in the final eight to 12 games, it's entirely possible he won't be cleared medically or your fantasy squad won't survive deep enough into the playoffs for him to be of use.
Dion Waiters, G, CLE – The aforementioned Waiters is out for at least the next week after an MRI revealed a small piece of loose cartilage in his sore left knee. After one week, Waiters will be re-evaluated and arthroscopic surgery could be an option if his situation doesn't improve. The Cavaliers are near the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference without much incentive to rush Waiters back. Don't be surprised if the team handles this situation with kids gloves.