There was some confusion when the Trail Blazers added forward J.J. Hickson to their roster once he was waived by the Kings a few weeks back, as there didn't appear to be much room on their roster for another offensive-minded forward, even if it didn't cost them anything.
The move was criticized heavily by many, with some pointing to it as an example of the Blazers attempting to expedite the tanking (and subsequent rebuilding) process by adding an offensive black hole who plays no defense. And at the time, it certainly didn't seem like an unfair characterization; after all, Hickson had just spent 35 games floundering with the lottery-bound Kings, shooting 37.0 percent from the field on his way to 4.7 points per game, while adding just .5 blocks per game as well.
|1.||Charles Jenkins, G, Warriors||2|
|2.||Tony Allen, G, Grizzlies||19|
|3.||Kevin Seraphin, F, Wizards||7|
|4.||Brandan Wright, F, Mavericks||2|
|5.||Mario Chalmers, G, Heat||22|
|6.||Donald Sloan, G, Cavaliers||0|
|7.||Chase Budinger, F, Rockets||3|
|8.||Linas Kleiza, F, Raptors||4|
|9.||Greivis Vasquez, G, Hornets||13|
|10.||Zaza Pachulia, C, Hawks||54|
With all of that being said, it is probably an understatement to say Hickson has been a pleasant surprise in his limited time with the Blazers so far; he has been downright impressive. After Friday's 29- point, 13-rebound performance in LaMarcus Aldridge's absence against the Clippers, Hickson is now averaging 16.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in five games.
Hickson has even managed to make an impact in games where Aldridge has played, as the Blazers have made use of him at center, meaning that even if Aldridge's sprained left elbow is better by the time Week 15 (April 2-8) starts up, Hickson should be able to continue producing at a high level, which earns him the Start of the Week honors.
We have seen this type of play from Hickson before, as he put up very solid numbers last year with the Cavaliers, especially after the All-Star break, when he averaged 16.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game as the team's primary offensive weapon.
Hickson may not help the Blazers win too many games down the stretch, as the concerns about his lack of attention to detail on defense still hold true, however he very well may help some savvy Fantasy owners put themselves over the top in the season's last few weeks with this kind of production. With games against the 24th, 22nd, 7th and 21st ranked defenses in the NBA on the way in Week 15, expect Hickson to continue to impress offensively.
Gerald Green, Nets (@LAL, @POR, WAS, CLE): The great thing about the end of the NBA season is that seemingly every season sees one player plucked from obscurity out of the D-League step up to play a big role on a lottery team. This season Green has been that guy, as he has been on fire for the Nets since joining the team. Green is averaging 14.0 points per game on 53.7 percent shooting in the last 10 games, topping 20 points in three of them. Green is a former first-round pick, so him showing flashes of talent is not surprising; however he has done a lot more than show flashes. With four games on the way and an increased role in the offense, Green should continue to play well in Week 15.
Shannon Brown, Suns (@SAC, @UTA, @DEN, LAL): Brown has stepped into the starting lineup recently after news broke that Grant Hill underwent knee surgery that would require him to miss at least a few weeks, and has done a solid job of providing some scoring punch with the first unit. Brown is averaging 22.5 points in the two games he has started since Hill's injury and 18.5 overall in four starts on the season. Brown should remain the starter for the time being, and with the Suns facing three of the league's seven-worst defenses to start the week, he should be able to remain productive.
Sleeper Alert: Avery Bradley, Celtics (SA, @CHI, @IND, PHI): Bradley has been filling in for the injured Ray Allen over the last few games, and has surprisingly taken on a large role on the team, playing an average of 40.3 minutes per game over the last four games and averaging 15.0 points per game in that span. Allen could return at anytime as he continues to deal with a bum ankle that has been bothering him for some time. Fantasy owners who have Allen may want to pick up Bradley as a handcuff option, especially in daily leagues, where you can determine which to go with based on Allen's health.
D.J. Augustin, Bobcats (@TOR, @ATL, @MIL, ATL): A terrible season continues to just get worse seemingly every day for Augustin, who appears to have hit bottom recently, averaging 2.8 points per game on 21.7 percent shooting over the last five games. Augustin has been dealing with some soreness in one of his knees, which Bobcats coach Paul Silas blamed partially for his struggles, however Fantasy owners should not be concerned with why he is struggling, unless he can figure out a way to turn it around. Augustin is showing no signs of doing so right now, so Fantasy owners need to avoid him, especially with a couple of matchups with the tough Hawks.
Jamal Crawford, Trail Blazers (UTA, NJ, @DAL, @MIL): Crawford has been struggling even worse than Augustin with his shot recently, and unlike Augustin, he does not have a physical problem to point to as a potential excuse for shooting 20.4 percent over his last five games. Crawford's minutes have stayed mostly the same in this time span, however his overall production has just evaporated, down to 6.4 points and 1.8 assists. And this is not really a small sample size issue, as he slogged through the month of March on 34.0 percent shooting. Crawford actually faces some decent matchups in Week 14, however his matchup has not made an impact recently; he has simply been bad against everyone. At this point, Crawford looks like he is just going through the motions until he can opt-out of his contract at the end of the season, so don't expect him to get his spark back this week.
Bust Alert: Richard Hamilton, Bulls (HOU, BOS, @NY): Hamilton should finally be back on the floor for Week 15, although we have been saying that for a while now, as the Bulls continue to play coy with the status of their injured players. Hamilton has been a game-time decision for well over a week, suggesting that the health and stability of his shoulder is still a question. Even if Hamilton does return this week, he has hardly earned the benefit of the doubt from Fantasy owners this season, so don't expect much from the veteran as he works his way back into game shape.
Zach Randolph, Grizzlies (@OKC, GS, @DAL, @MIA, DAL): Z-Bo hasn't been himself since returning from a knee injury midway through March. In fact, he has been struggling so much that the team has decided to move him back out of the starting lineup, a move that has been met with a drop in his Fantasy value, as he has averaged just 8.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in the three games since his demotion. Hardly numbers that bring to mind a must-start Fantasy option. While Randolph is by no means a must-start Fantasy option right now, his Grizzlies do play five games in Week 15, with a couple against subpar defenses to start the week to give him a chance to get his footing. He should provide much better value this week.
Kawhi Leonard, Spurs (@CLE, @BOS, NO, UTA): Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is a tough nut to crack; he is singular among NBA coaches in his willingness to change his rotations at the drop of a hat, which causes all sorts of problems for Fantasy owners trying to gauge the value of his players. Luckily for Leonard, he has found himself back in Pop's good graces recently, and he is responding with the best play of his young career, averaging 11.9 points and 7.3 rebounds on 55.3 percent shooting over the last 10 games. Besides the Celtics, none of the Spurs' Week 15 opponents rank among the NBA's top-10 defenses, meaning Leonard should be able to continue right on with his strong play.
Sleeper Alert: Gary Forbes, Raptors (CHA, @PHI, CLE, @OKC): The Raptors have had any number of different players take their turns putting up numbers on the wing, and Forbes is the next one in line. The second-year small forward has been taking advantage recently, averaging 11.3 points per game over the last 10 games and besting that in the last five with averages of 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. Forbes has two double-doubles to his name in the last five games while also hitting exactly half of his attempts from three-point range. If injuries have left you scrambling, Forbes is not a bad option for Week 15, especially with lightweights like Cleveland and Charlotte on the way.
Steve Novak, Knicks (@IND, @ORL, CHI): Novak has become something of a cult figure in New York this season, as he has been just about automatic from three-point range all year as a member of the team's hugely popular bench unit. He has been less valued in Fantasy leagues, however he has become pretty valuable as a low-end specialist in Rotisserie formats. However, even with a rash of injuries that continues to open up minutes for him, it is hard to see him continuing to play well in Week 15 against three of the league's top six defenses, so keep him inactive.
Derrick Williams, Timberwolves (@SAC, GS, @NO): Injuries have pressed Williams into the starting lineup over the last two weeks, and Williams is likely to stay there moving forward, as the Wolves are invested in his development. Despite this, he appears to have hit a wall here in his rookie campaign, as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 Draft is shooting just 34.8 percent from the field over the last 10 games. Williams will have the occasional solid game here and there, however the Wolves play just three times in Week 15, so you simply can't take the risk with such a small margin of error late in the year.
Bust Alert: Thaddeus Young, 76ers (@MIA, TOR, ORL, @BOS): Young has mostly managed to maintain his level of production despite the Sixers extended struggles in the second half of the season, however the losing might be taking its toll, as he has slumped to 8.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game over the last five games. Young has long been the type of Fantasy player that you like to have when things are going well, but he has hit a rough patch here, and the Week 15 schedule does not appear to do him any favors. He might disappoint when facing off against three of the top 10 defenses in the league.
Marcus Camby, Rockets (@CHI, @LAL, @SAC): As of Friday, Camby was back in the starting lineup for the first time since joining the Rockets at the trade deadline, and he put up a vintage performance, scoring just seven points but adding 16 rebounds and six blocks in a big win over Memphis. Camby moved into the starting lineup because Samuel Dalembert was dealing with the flu, however given that Dalembert did actually play in the game, it seems possible Camby could remain in the starting lineup moving forward. If he does, you know what to expect: He'll crash the boards, block a bunch of shots and almost never score. Despite a brief Week 15 schedule that features just three games, there is value to be found in the veteran big man.
Sleeper Alert: Byron Mullens, Bobcats (@TOR, @ATL, @MIL, ATL): It has been a couple of months, but Mullens is back to being somewhat relevant in Fantasy, posting three games of at least 17 points in the last five. He is not a traditional big man by any stretch of the imagination, however he has been productive in stretches this season, and this is another one of those stretches. He is even back in the starting lineup due to injuries. If you need a center in an emergency for this week, Mullens' somewhat unique skill set can provide value, especially as he has hit a couple of three-pointers over the last few weeks.
Ian Mahinmi, Mavericks (LAC, MEM, POR, @MEM): Mahinmi has been stuck in low-end Fantasy limbo all season, as he has been good enough to be worth owning in many leagues at the shallow center position, but not good enough that he can be relied on with any consistency. With the return of Brendan Haywood from injury, things likely won't get any better for Mahinmi, who will now return to a center platoon that will limit his minutes and opportunities even further. Steer clear from here on out, barring further injury to Haywood.
Bust Alert: Chris Kaman, Hornets (DEN, @SA, MIN): Kaman has been dealing with an illness that has caused him to miss the last five games. The Hornets have been pretty tight-lipped about the cause of the illness or when he might be back, and they don't seem to be in a particular hurry to bring him back despite a number of other injuries on their squad. They start the week with a couple of days off before three games in four nights, and at this point it is hard to see him playing in any games this week, let alone all three, so he simply is not worth the risk.