Often in sports we see individuals who, when injured, decide to throw on their big boy pants, tie up their laces extra tight and step out on the floor ready to compete in spite of the pain. These competitors choices may defy logic, yet at the same time they can inspire their team to victory. Often the key to finding this success falls in the hands of the coach, to monitor and limit their minutes to make sure they stay effective and are utilized at the right time. Their gutsy play and no quit attitude demands respect from all who watch. Perhaps none better than Amir Johnson represents that type of player on the Raptors, as we have seen him step up time and time again when needed to play through injuries and help the team to victory. However, I do not come here today to praise him, but rather to draw akin to his warrior-like mentality, as I am fresh off of wrist surgery on my shooting hand. So, to stay effective I’m cutting straight to the chase.
At the trade deadline Ujiri managed to move an unused piece in Austin Daye and turn him into a potentially effective secondary piece in Nando De Colo. When given minutes in San Antonio last year, often to give Tony Parker a chance rest a spell, de Colo showed he could be a potent scorer and confident ball handler when given the minutes. With the Spurs this season he has averaged 4.3 PTS off .452 FG%, with 1.7 REB, 1.2 AST and 0.6 STL in 11.6 minutes per game. Unfortunately, passport issues delayed his debut, but I imagine we’ll see him this evening. I look forward to seeing how coach Casey will use him in the weeks ahead, because with the coach’s desire for multi-guard play, the combo guard could quickly notch out some floor time for himself, if he starts his tenure with the team on a hot note.
Gotta Have Em!
DeMar DeRozan – Season player rating raises this week from 49th up to 47th, and is owned by 100% of the leagues at ESPN. With a couple of subpar scoring performances against Cleveland and Washington (14 pts in each), DeMar’s PPG has taken a dip over the last seven days to 20.0 PTS, off of .423 FG% and .889 FT%. Since the All-Star break he has yet to hit a three-point shot or earn a steal. While I don’t believe this trend will continue, it is a concern as his added defensive production and one three-pointer made per game as of late were nice bonuses that his fantasy owners were becoming accustomed with. A rematch in Cleveland and a big game in Toronto against Washington coming up this week should see DeMarvelous in top form as these are important games for the Raptors to win. Expect big performances.
Kyle Lowry – Season player rating holds at 12th this week and is owned by 100% of the leagues at ESPN. Kyle has picked up where he left off before the All-Star break. Over the last seven days he has maintained his 18 PTS per game and increased his free-throw percentage to an impressive .941. Unfortunately, the trend of poor shooting from the floor that started before the break has continued, with .378 FG% off 15 shots per game. He’s making up for it with 8.7 AST, 4.3 REB and 2.0 STL per game. A small concern to note from Friday’s game, when sitting on the bench in the second half I saw Kyle rubbing at his knee, wincing some in pain. He’s taken a lot of hard bumps this year with all the charges that he’s drawn and has surely been playing through some fatigue as well. Hopefully there’s nothing to be concerned about, as fantasy owners and Raptors fans alike would not want to see any long-term problems arise due to Lowry playing through any injuries.
Keep An Eye On
Amir Johnson – Season player rating climbs from 71st up to 69th and is owned by 40.2% of the leagues at ESPN. Amir has come back from the All-Star break with some much improved numbers. Over the last seven days he has averaged 9.0 PTS off .522 FG%, with 5.0 REB, 3.0 AST, 1.3 BLK and 1.3 STL. His only detriment has been his .429 FT%, but with only shooting just over two per game it shouldn’t hurt your team. Seeing production in almost every category is always nice for any fantasy owner and all this comes in just over 25 MPG. Look for Tall Money to maintain these numbers or even increase them in the week ahead with big games on the line for the franchise.
Jonas Valanciunas – Season player rating raises from 108th up to 102nd and owned by 84.2% of the leagues at ESPN. JVs first two games after the All-Star break left much to be desired, but it seems that against Cleveland he managed to get things back on track. Jonas has shown that if he can get double digit attempts good things happen both for the franchise and your fantasy team. Over the last week he averaged 10.0 PTS off .636 FG%, along with 4.7 REB and 1.0 BLK in only 23 min. per game. It looks as though Big V has hit the “rookie wall” at this point in his sophomore season. This is something he didn’t get to experience last year because of the hand injury and it is quickly becoming obvious that conditioning will be a major factor to work on in the upcoming off-season. For now expect tighter minutes for JV as the coach is likely to monitor his minutes to have him rested and ready come playoff time.
Patrick Patterson – Season player rating continues to rise from 150th up to 137th and owned by 2.5% of the leagues at ESPN. 2Pat’s point production has come down since the All-Star break sitting at 7.7 over the last seven days, shooting .429 FG%. Despite this, he’s continued to add 1.3 three pointers per game, 5.7 REB and 1.3 AST and has increased his steals production up to 2 per game. His ability to not only play the stretch four, but to move his feet on defence and fish the passing lanes has come in handy and is a needed addition to the rotation. Look for his minutes to continue to increase in the week ahead.
Terrence Ross – Season player rating moves up from 136th to 132nd and owned by 15% of the leagues at ESPN. T.Ross is coming off his best performance since his 51 point night 12 games ago, going for 20 points and three steals against Cleveland. After not hitting a three-pointer in his first two games after the break, Ross found himself back on track hitting two on Friday. Though his output has varied over the past week (2, 9, 20 respectively) he’s managed to stay efficient, increasing his shooting to .483 FG% for 10.3 PTS, and adding a defensive presence with 1.7 STL per game as well. Despite a couple of off nights from behind the arc, Flight 31 is still a great source of threes on any given night averaging 1.7 over the last 15 days. If he continues to play better defense like he did on Friday, he should see more floor time again, which will equal greater fantasy value moving forward.
They Try and Try
Greivis Vasquez – Season player rating moves up from 194th to 189th and is still owned by 30.5% of the leagues at ESPN. General Greivis has stuck to his guns and continued to play his game and over the last seven days has hit 1.7 three-pointers per game and has averaged 9.7 PTS off .500 FG%, with 3 AST and 1.3 REB in 19.3 minutes a night. The addition of Nando de Colo to the team is sure to affect him one way or the other. It will either motivate him to play at a higher-level or it will allow coach to give him a quick hook if he doesn’t play sharp.
Tyler Hansbrough – Season player rating of 288th, projected to go 294th and is currently owned by none of the leagues at ESPN. After being out with a bruised ankle for some time, Tyler has finally found his way back into the lineup as he moves up the depth chart in front of Chuck Hayes. Since the All-Star break, HansBro has been averaging 7.0 PTS off an impressive .714 FG%, while adding 5.3 REB and 1 BLK per game on nearly 20 minutes per contest. The opponents in the upcoming week offer a lot of front court depth and HansBro could be called upon for extra minutes if the starters get into foul trouble or fail to find that extra gear. If you’ve been waiting all year for that right moment to add him into your lineup for a night, now may be that time.