This was one of the busiest weeks of the year for player movement so far, as no fewer than 27 separate players were either added or dropped in 10 percent or more of CBSSports.com Fantasy Basketball leagues. We lost a handful of major players across the league to injury, while a six-player, three-team trade last Wednesday shook up a few rotations in a big way.
The biggest gainer and loser came from the same team, as Magic rookie forward Maurice Harkless was added in 42 percent of leagues, the same number that dropped Glen Davis in the same time. Davis suffered a broken foot that required surgery and will likely cost him most, if not all, of the remainder of the season. Another Magic forward, Andrew Nicholson, also saw his ownership jump from 7 percent to 17 percent, so we need to see which of these two rookies is going to see the biggest jump from Davis' absence.
The early returns suggest it will be Harkless who sees the lion's share of the minutes with Davis out, as he was already working his way into the starting lineup prior to Davis' injury. In the four games since Davis went down, Harkless is averaging 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while shooting just 36.3 percent from the field.
Nicholson has also recently joined the starting lineup with Harkless, and he has shown flashes of possibly being a better option at this time. In three starts, Nicholson is averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 56.0 percent from the field. He has been more efficient and effective than Harkless, however he has been unable to take on quite as heavy a load, averaging just 23.7 minutes per game to Harkless' 37.8 per game.
Nicholson was selected four spots after Harkless, and is four years older, so the Magic may be faced with a conundrum moving forward -- Harkless' development is more important for the long-term future of the franchise, while Nicholson may be able to provide more immediate value, based on the small-sample size data.
I would guess Harkless is going to see more consistent playing time than Nicholson, despite Nicholson looking more capable of making an impact right now. On the season, Nicholson is averaging 3.5 minutes per game fewer than Harkless, but is contributing more points (7.4 to 4.7) and only slightly fewer rebounds (3.3 to 3.7). Both players are going to see bigger roles moving forward, but Harkless' upside makes him worth hanging on to. He could end up putting up solid numbers on a bad team over the second half of the season.
Most Added Guards
Nate Robinson, Bulls: Robinson and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau have made an odd pairing all year long, with Thibodeau's intense, defense-first style seemingly at odds with Robinson's shoot-first (and if that doesn't work, shoot-always) approach. And yet, necessity has brought the two together and has produced some rather impressive results recently. "Nate has always been a shot-maker, and that was a need," Thibodeau told Grantland.com Tuesday. "I think he's capable of playing good defense when he's focused. He's older now. He's gained some experience." Robinson is on fire recently and Thibodeau has been relying on him heavily, to prop up an offense that has struggled at times. The diminutive 28-year-old has now scored in double-figures in each of the last 11 games, while averaging 28.1 minutes per game. One thing to keep in mind with Robinson is that this ride is almost certainly going to come to an end before long, as the Bulls expect Derrick Rose to return from knee surgery soon, possibly in the next few weeks. That will almost certainly lead to Robinson's return to Fantasy irrelevance, which explains why so many Fantasy owners are hesitant to use a roster spot on him. I think he is worth snagging in all available leagues right now; handle Rose's return when it comes. (66 percent owned; +35 percent)
Jerryd Bayless, Grizzlies: Somewhat surprisingly, Bayless has been the biggest beneficiary of the Rudy Gay trade, as the Grizzlies have left him in the starting lineup since losing their starting small forward. Bayless got hot with Mike Conley dealing with an injury, and coach Lionel Hollins has opted to keep him in their smaller starting lineup even with Conley back. Bayless got off to a disappointing start to the season, and it has taken him a long time to actually get going. He averaged less than 7.5 points per game in each of the first three months of the season, though he has been showing plenty of life recently. Bayless is averaging 10.1 points per game over the last 10 games, and 19.6 over the last five, as his resurgence has come very recently. Bayless is not particularly efficient as a scorer, and he does not always do well when asked to create for others, but the Grizzlies are sill badly in need of some offensive help. Bayless should continue to see solid minute, as the Grizzlies' 18th-ranked offense needs off-the-dribble creation whenever possible. Don't expect 20-plus points consistently, but I would continue to suggest grabbing Bayless. (57 percent owned; +25 percent)
Eric Bledsoe, Clippers: Chris Paul has missed eight of the last nine games, and while this has been a boon for Bledsoe's Fantasy value, it has brought the Clippers' rise to prominence to a screeching halt. Los Angeles has lost seven of the last nine games, despite Bledsoe stepping his game up and averaging 12.8 points and 5.9 assists over that span. Bledsoe's increased role, and the improved numbers that have come with it, have led to an increase in Fantasy value, but owners need to be aware that it is an improvement that is unlikely to be sustained. ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Paul expects to be back by the weekend, which will move Bledsoe back to the bench. Bledsoe averages just 8.4 points and 2.6 assists per game when coming off the bench, so be prepared to drop him one Paul returns. (73 percent owned; +16 percent)
Most Added Forwards
Taj Gibson, Bulls: In the span of one week, Gibson has gone from a Fantasy non-entity to one of the hottest commodities around, as injuries have decimated the Bulls' frontcourt. Forward Carlos Boozer was forced to miss three of the last four games with a hamstring injury, while center Joakim Noah was forced out of the last three due to a plantar fasciitis issue. Those injuries have left the Bulls stretch, and coach Thibodeau has relied heavily on Gibson as a result. Gibson has played at least 40 minutes in each of the three games since Noah was sidelined, and he is averaging 15.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. As with all players who see a big boost due to injury, Fantasy owners will obviously need to keep an eye on the Bulls' injury report. Clearly, all Gibson needs to be a Fantasy contributor is a chance; unfortunately, his chance depends on other players getting hurt. As long as Noah remains out, Gibson is worth keeping on the roster. (47 percent owned; +42 percent)
Michael Beasley, Suns: I expected a breakout season from Beasley, on a rebuilding Suns team that seemed likely to need an offensive boost. While Phoenix's 24th-ranked offense has certainly needed help this season, Beasley has very rarely provided the sort of lift we thought was coming when he signed a three-year deal this offseason. Lately, however, there have been signs that Beasley is finding his comfort zone as a scorer, as the former No. 2 overall pick has reached double-figures in seven of the last 11 games, including four 20-point efforts. Many Fantasy owners have hung on to Beasley, but there has still been enough room for movement for him to have been the sixth-most added player this week. Beasley is still maddeningly inconsistent, scoring in single-digits in four of the last 10 games, despite averaging 15.8 per game. The Suns seem to have developed a policy wherein they ride Beasley when he is hot, and give him a quick yank otherwise; he has played fewer than 28 minutes in each of his single-digit scoring games. Fantasy owners will not like the day-to-day production Beasley is providing, but his overall production is starting to push him back into low-end starting territory, despite being unpredictable. (82 percent owned; +24 percent)
Jimmy Butler, Bulls: Like his teammate Gibson, Butler emerged as a Fantasy option due to injuries in the Bulls' rotation. Unlike Gibson, Butler has been able to prove his worth even with the team healthy, as he is still seeing upwards of 30 minutes per night with Luol Deng back. Butler first made his name a few weeks ago by stepping up in Deng's absence, but he has slid in nicely at the shooting guard spot next two Deng, while also showing the ability to guard three positions. He is still developing as a shooter, but it looks like he has worked his way safely into coach Thibodeau's circle of trust. Butler should be good for a dozen points and five-to-six rebounds per game moving forward, so continue to add the 23-year-old. (62 percent owned; +23 percent)
Most Added Centers
Aaron Gray, Raptors:Gray exploded with a 22-point game last Monday, and has been on Fantasy owners minds since. He is averaging 28.8 minutes per game in the last four games, and seems to be cemented in as the team's starting center in the aftermath of the Ed Davis trade. Gray has 21 total points in the three games since Davis was moved, however he has grabbed 35 rebounds in that same span. Fantasy owners snagging him are surely hoping that he can fill in as a low-end option in the shallow center position, but I would not do more than pencil him into the lineup. At 28, we pretty much know who Aaron Gray is, and there is little to indicate that he will be worth keeping on the roster for long. Don't rush out to grab him, despite his entrance into the starting five. (17 percent owned; +16 percent)
Byron Mullens, Bobcats:Mullens was one of the more unique players in Fantasy prior to his injury, as he was averaging 7.9 rebounds per game while attempting more than one-third of his shots from three-point range. That combination led to some ugly efficiency numbers for a center, but it also gave you a rare combination of three-point shooting and rebounding that proved useful in category-based Fantasy formats. He is back from a 19-game absence, and was inserted right back into the rotation Monday, playing 28 minutes in a loss to the Heat. Mullens can be an incredibly frustrating Fantasy option, as there are plenty of nights where he struggles to get his shots to fall. Still, this was a center who scored in double figures in 17 of 27 games prior to the injury, and is worth picking up in most Fantasy formats. (75 percent owned; +5 percent)