Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2012-13 NBA season is headed down the home stretch with only about 25 games remaining, so your fantasy team ought to be working at peak efficiency given that you have had 50-55 games or so to tweak your lineup.
Unfortunately, life and most fantasy lineups don't work that smoothly. Injuries, trades, trade rumors and guys in prolonged slumps frequently keep your team from playing its best.
Below are six players who are currently playing well outside the parameters that fantasy owners have come to expect from them - based on the first two- thirds of the season.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas - Nowitzki began the season on the sidelines (knee surgery) and even when he returned to the court he wasn't the guy who has been a top-10 fantasy selection in recent seasons. In four December games, he averaged a very un-Nowitzki-like 7.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. Even in January, when he was installed back into the starting lineup, he averaged just 16.9 ppg and 5.8 rpg. Better, but nowhere near what fantasy owners have come to expect. Over his last three games, however, Nowitzki has regained his old form, and fantasy owners who hung with the 15-year veteran were rewarded. He's averaging 25.3 ppg, 13.3 rpg and 2.7 apg as well as a couple of steals. Those numbers are much more in line with what fantasy owners need from the "big fella." Welcome back, Dirk!
Al Horford, Atlanta - The son of former NBA player Tito Horford, Al has always played the game the right way. He quietly went about his job without much fanfare, so he frequently got overlooked on a team with Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. With Johnson in Brooklyn this season and the team trying everything they could to trade Smith, the Hawks have become Horford's team, and he's stepped up his game to the delight of fantasy owners. He's already averaging more points and rebounds than in any of his first five seasons and as we approached the trade deadline, he turned into a fantasy stud, averaging 24.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.7 blocks per game. As a late second-round selection on Draft Day (Yahoo ADP 19), he could turn out to be one of the best picks in the entire draft.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers - Paul has been a fantasy star since coming into the NBA in 2005-06, but this season has been a struggle to keep his superstar status. While he's still dishing out the assists (9.5 apg) and leads the league in steals for the fifth time in six seasons, his 16.0 ppg average is the lowest of his career. His numbers are down significantly in eight February games while he has dealt with injury and also yielded some time to talented backup Eric Bledsoe. Add in the return of Chauncey Billups 10 games ago and some of the smile has come off Paul's fantasy owners. He's not playing horribly, but prospects of returning to his past form are unlikely.
Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia - Holiday made his first All-Star team this month and deserved it. But he and the Sixers have struggled in February and Holiday's scoring is down more than three points per game this month. He's still putting up almost 18 a contest, but fantasy owners were expecting the production of the first three months to continue for him. And if/when center Andrew Bynum ever makes it onto the floor, Holiday's scoring statistics could take another hit.
Jeremy Lin, Houston - It was just last February when Lin's fantasy owners were basking in the glow of ridiculously big trade offers as the then-Knicks point guard averaged 20.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 8.4 apg in 14 games that month. Those in keeper leagues should have accepted the deals as his numbers have significantly dropped since that point. Lin jumped to Houston in the offseason, then became a peripheral cog in the Rockets offense when the team obtained James Harden from Oklahoma City. Lin is averaging 12.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 6.2 apg, and over the past couple of games hasn't even been able to keep up to that pedestrian pace. After scoring 29 points (just his ninth 20-point game in 58 games after doing in nine times in February 2012) as he and Harden demolished OKC, Lin has scored just 14 total points in his last two contests. He's in danger of becoming the Rockets' No. 3 option as second-year small forward Chandler Parsons gains confidence in his own offensive skills.
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee - The trade deadline deal of J.J. Redick to Milwaukee has taken a huge toll on Jennings' production - at this point the most of any player in the NBA. Jennings was averaging 19.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 6.2 apg over his first 53 games this season while playing 37 minutes per contest. Since Redick's arrival, the Bucks have played two games and Jennings' minutes are down 20 percent (31 mpg) while his scoring has taken a drastic hit to 9.5 ppg. If you can find a decent trade offer while his season-long statistics still look good, it might be your best strategy.