Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
There are still a lot of injured stars sitting on the sidelines which has opened up opportunities for some youngsters to shine. Don't be afraid to take a chance on guys like Kemba Walker, Austin Daye and Chase Budinger.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte - On Saturday night, the rookie posted the first triple-double of his career, toasting Washington for 20 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and two blocks. With the Bobcats hurting for offense due to injuries to D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson and Corey Maggette, Walker figures to be the primary weapon for the near future. He's a must-start at least until some of the walking wounded return. Even then he may continue to play at a high level - that's the problem with rookies...it's hard to know what is "real" (season average 12.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.5 apg) and what might be a temporary "mirage" (last five games - 16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 4.6 apg). Walker is still available in 30% of all leagues.
Austin Daye, Detroit - Daye took advantage of an opportunity when Tayshaun Price missed two games (personal). Off Day's excellent performance these last three games (14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg) it may not be possible for head coach Lawrence Frank to keep him buried on the bench. Prince returned on Saturday and Daye still played 27 minutes which bodes well for his continued production. With a 4-17 record, the future in Detroit is with youngsters like Daye, Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe, not veterans Prince, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Daye could be a nice long-term project in keeper leagues.
Paul Pierce, Boston - Pierce is getting a lot from his tired 34-year-old body. Having to carry the Celtics in the absence of injured Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, Pierce averaged 24.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 8.0 apg over his last five starts. Allen is back, but with Rondo isn't likely to return until the All- Star break, Pierce should continue to produce huge numbers. He is, however, the perfect "sell high" candidate as we approach mid-February or Rondo's return to the court. If you own him send, out a few trade offers for players who have more fantasy long-term value than him, but are playing below Pierce's current production level.
Other hot players; Joakim Noah, Chicago; Mo Williams, Los Angeles Clippers; Chase Budinger, Houston; Paul Millsap, Utah.
Stephen Jackson, Milwaukee - Even when he hasn't been suspended (twice so far this season), Jackson hasn't produced what fantasy owners were expecting of him. He's not starting and is averaging just 12.8 ppg off the bench while shooting an ugly 36.7% from the field. Unless he gets his head straight, you should stay away, stay far away.
Kyle Lowry, Houston - The Rockets have won seven of their last eight games, but Lowry has struggled over that time. While the team has excelled, Lowry is averaging just 11.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 7.0 apg down from his season average of 14.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 8.3 apg. Those are still solid numbers and well above his career average. No reason to panic yet, but keep an eye on him to verify that its just a temporary slump.
Monte Ellis, Golden State - Ellis has scored just 17 points total in his last two games - not what you expect from a career 19.4 ppg guy. While Ellis' scoring is down as well as his shooting percentage, he is learning to contribute in other ways. His assists are up to a career-high 7.1-per-game and he's still pulling down almost three rebounds-per-contest. Now is not the time to "sell" as he figures to find his shot sooner or later.
Other cold players; Jose Calderon, Toronto; Norris Cole, Miami; Andrew Bynum. Los Angeles Lakers.