Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With only about 20 games left in this shortened NBA season, it's imperative that you start your best lineup, whether that means sitting a big name star or starting an unknown. He who hesitates is lost.
Jerryd Bayless, Toronto - Bayless has been a fantasy star since the Raptors' starting point guard, Jose Calderon, went down with an ankle injury five games ago. Bayless has averaged 21.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 7.6 apg in his absence. That may all come to an abrupt end, however, with Calderon expected back Tuesday night. Bayless may not be able to continue at the level he produced over the past handful of games, but he certainly has earned more playing time and it will be interesting to see how coach Dwane Casey handles the backcourt minutes between Calderon, Bayless and DeMar DeRozan. The safe move is to bench Bayless on Tuesday until you see how the playing time is divided.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta - Johnson has been on a tear since Hawks coach Larry Drew shifted Johnson from shooting guard to small forward. In the six games since the change, Johnson is averaging 26.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 4.1 apg versus his season average of 19.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 3.8 apg. Atlanta is 3-3 with this new lineup, so we will continue to monitor whether they stay with it long-term, but Johnson is a must-start no matter where he plays in the Hawks lineup.
Klay Thompson, Golden State - The massive personnel changes going on in Golden State created opportunities for fantasy owners who were paying attention. When Monta Ellis took his 19 shots per game to Milwaukee, it left a huge hole in the Warriors offense. Add in the continuing ankle injuries to Stephen Curry and one-third of the team's shot opportunities were there for the taking. Thompson has stepped up into the void, earning the starting shooting guard role, and he's averaged 18.6 ppg since Ellis' departure. He's not yet a huge contributor in other fantasy categories, but that should change as he gets more comfortable. It appears the owner wants to build around Curry, David Lee and Thompson, which means Thompson will likely start for Golden State for the foreseeable future.
Alonzo Gee, Cleveland - Gee has made excellent strides over the past few seasons to become a valuable asset to the Cavaliers and in doing so is quickly becoming a solid fantasy value. Since becoming a starter 12 games ago, Gee is averaging 13.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 1.4 apg. All signs point to his continued productive play and if you need late-season help at small forward he should certainly be on your radar.
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto - Bargnani's return from a calf injury has been slow and damaging to fantasy owners. After missing 20 games, he's averaging just 12.8 ppg and 5.1 rpg in six contests. Considering fantasy owners are used to getting 20-plus points and half-a-dozen rebounds, this level of production is frustrating owners. We expect he will quickly knock the rust off his game and become the player we are all used to seeing for the stretch drive. Continue to start him in your lineup.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland - Perhaps it is all the new faces around him, but Aldridge's game has slipped over the past two months. He was playing at a MVP level before the All-Star break (22.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 2.7 apg), but in the 11 games since he has averaged just 18.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.9 apg. He hasn't scored over 21 points or pulled down double-digit rebounds in over a week and the downward trend looks like it will continue. You can't sit him and the trade deadline has passed in most leagues, so you are simply stuck with his fading production and prayer.
Nicolas Batum, Portland - You would have thought the trade which sent Gerald Wallace to New Jersey would have opened up an opportunity for Batum to shine in the Trailblazers' lineup. You would be wrong. Batum is averaging 9.8 ppg in his last four contests, which is well below his season average of 13.6 ppg. It's not for lack of playing time because he's getting 34 minutes per game. His fall is just as frustrating as teammate Aldridge's.