The NBA community spent Saturday collectively mourning the end of Ricky Rubio's rookie season, as he was diagnosed with a torn ACL that will require season-ending surgery and likely keep him out until early next season.
Fantasy owners, however, don't have the time to mourn, as the playoffs are fast approaching and they'll need another answer at the guard position to replace Rubio. They shouldn't look too far for that replacement, as there's a natural one waiting in the wings; the Wolves plan on turning control of the offense over to veteran Luke Ridnour once again.
Ridnour has been a part of an undersized yet effective Timberwolves back court all season, playing off the ball when Rubio has been on the floor, but now he will return to a familiar role running the offense, something he spent eight pre-Rubio years doing. Because of this, Ridnour makes an excellent starting candidate for Week 12 (March 12-18).
In the past, Ridnour has reached as high at 7.0 assists per game, back in 2005-06, and now that he is in control of Rick Adelman's fast-paced offense, Ridnour shouldn't have much trouble getting back to those sorts of highs. For Week 12, the Wolves take to the road for four games against the Suns, Jazz, Lakers and Kings, and only the Lakers rank outside of the NBA's bottom-10 defenses amongst that group.
Week 12 should provide a soft landing for Ridnour as he emerges in a new role, and with his pinpoint shooting accuracy and the freedom of a new role, expect him to be a worthy starter for the rest of the season, not just for this week. If he is still available in your leagues, make sure you go grab him as well.
Mo Williams, Clippers (BOS, ATL, PHO, HOU, DET): The Clippers had a relatively light schedule in the first half of the season however things are starting to pick up, as they play five times in Week 12. Fortunately those five games all come within the friendly confines of the Staples Center, where the Clippers score an average of two and a half points more per game than on the road. Williams hasn't seen much of a bump from playing at home this season, so Fantasy owners will just have to accept that he's red hot right now heading into the homestand as my reasoning, as Williams scoring 17.6 points per game over his last five. Week 12 offers a convergence of positive signs for Williams, making him worthy of a starting spot, especially with three defensive lightweights lingering in the back half of the week.
|1.||Goran Dragic, G, Rockets||3|
|2.||Chandler Parsons, F, Rockets||9|
|3.||Randy Foye, F, Clippers||17|
|4.||Tony Allen, G, Grizzlies||31|
|5.||Earl Watson, G, Jazz||1|
|6.||Kenneth Faried, F, Nuggets||19|
|7.||Baron Davis, G, Knicks||9|
|8.||Jerryd Bayless, G, Raptors||6|
|9.||Jason Maxiell, F, Pistons||5|
|10.||Martell Webster, G, Timberwolves||2|
Jared Dudley, Suns (MIN, UTA, @LAC, DET, HOU): Dudley has been on an extended tear, shooting better than 50 percent from the field since the beginning of February. For a perimeter player who doesn't get to the basket very often, that's extremely impressive. Dudley makes his living sinking open jumpers from mid-range and three-point range, and with Steve Nash remaining in charge of the Suns offense, Dudley is going to continue to get those looks. He is averaging 16.6 points per game in the month of March, and the Suns don't face a single team in the Top 10 of NBA defenses in Week 12. Dudley should find open looks and points easy to come by against those defenses.
Sleeper Alert: Mike Dunleavy, Bucks (@NJ, CLE, @GS): Unlike the two players listed before him, Dunleavy's Bucks only play three times in Week 12. He is listed here because, while the Bucks play just three times, they're all cupcake matchups. Dunleavy has been hot and has seen his minutes level off at a solid point for the Bucks, as he is now averaging 32.5 minutes and 12.8 points per game in the month of March. With his opponents unlikely to put up much resistance, Dunleavy should continue his quietly solid performance.
Jrue Holiday, 76ers (@IND, MIA, @CHI): The Sixers probably have the toughest schedule in the league in Week 12, and this brutal stretch comes at a bad time for Holiday, who continues his season-long downward trend. He is scoring only 11.8 points per game in the month of March, continuing a trend where his points per game has gone down in each subsequent month of the season. With only three games against three of the NBA's most tenacious defenses, don't expect Holiday to begin to bounce back in Week 12.
Jamal Crawford, Trail Blazers (@IND, @NY, @CHI, @OKC): The Blazers have been a mess for quite some time, and Crawford hasn't been much help recently, as he has alternated strong scoring nights with complete disappearances. As a result, his minutes have been cut to 26.6 per game in the month of March. The Blazers take to the road for a four-game set in Week 12, and Crawford has really struggled away from the Rose Garden, shooting just 36.4 percent from the field. Don't expect things to get much better for him either, as they face a couple of the NBA's toughest defenses as well.
Bust Alert: Deron Williams, Nets (MIL, TOR, @ORL, NO): You wouldn't necessarily know it if you just looked at his scoring average, as Williams is averaging 20.8 points overall, however he has been going through his share of struggles since the All-Star break. Williams was forced to leave Friday's game with a calf injury, an injury that has been bothering him for much longer than that. If you remove his 57-point outburst from his numbers, Williams is averaging just 13.6 points per game since the All-Star break. While he's certainly better than that, the lingering calf injury makes him a questionable option for Week 12.
Gordon Hayward, Jazz (DET, @PHO, MIN, GS, LAL) Hayward has taken a step forward in his second season in the NBA, and he is recently starting to resemble the sharp-shooter the Jazz figured they were picking up when they selected him with the ninth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Hayward is shooting 54.1 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three-point range over the last five, and he was inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday as Raja Bell stayed home dealing with undisclosed personal issues. The Jazz are another team playing five times in Week 12, and with the first four of them coming against bottom-third NBA defenses, Hayward is a good bet to keep his hot shooting up.
Derrick Williams, Timberwolves (@PHO, @UTA, @LAL, @SAC): Williams is starting to show the potential that so enticed teams in last year's draft, as he has now scored in double figures in six of the last eight games. Part of that is the result of Kevin Love dealing with some injuries and freeing up playing time for Williams, but Williams has also simply earned a larger role in the offense. With the injury to Rubio, the Wolves' offense is going to have to change, and it could lead to some more opportunities for Williams to create on his own. With an easy schedule in Week 12, see if Williams can keep his recent strong play up.
Sleeper Alert: Ekpe Udoh, Warriors (@SAC, BOS, MIL, @UTA): Udoh's appearance makes it three-for-three on recent lottery picks for the forwards, and like the other two, Udoh has picked up his play and earned a larger role recently. Udoh was moved into the starting lineup last Sunday and has responded by averaging 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.0 blocks per game as a starter. The Warriors have even run the offense through him at times, and the No. 6 overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft has responded well. With how poorly most of the other Warriors' big men have played, Udoh should have a fairly solid grip on that starting job at this point, so expect him to play well against a couple of weaker front lines this week.
Dorell Wright, Warriors (@SAC, BOS, MIL, @UTA): This season, Wright has been a case study in why it's not necessarily safe to rely on players who enjoy a single breakout system in a quirky offensive system. Wright has come crashing back down to earth this season, and things have only gotten worse as the season has gone on. Over the last 10 games, Wright is shooting just 28 percent from the field while reaching double figures in scoring just twice. At this point, he's starting to lose his place in the Warriors' rotation, so even with a relatively easy schedule in Week 12, Fantasy owners simply shouldn't rely on him until he can snap out of it.
Amir Johnson, Raptors (@CLE, @NJ, @MEM, @CHA): The Raptors got their best player, Andrea Bargnani, back from injury on Saturday night, and while he only played 19 minutes, his return predictably impacted the rotation, with the biggest loser being Johnson. The Raptors have actually grown to rely on Johnson in Bargnani's absence, as he has averaged 27 minutes per game over the months of February and March. That all changes in Bargnani's first game back, as Johnson was moved to the bench, where he saw just 17 minutes of playing time. Bargnani's role is only going to grow as he rounds back into shape, so if Johnson is going to lose more minutes, it's hard to see him being a valuable contributor in Week 12.
Bust Alert: Luol Deng, Bulls (NY, MIA, POR, PHI): Deng's shooting has taken a hit this season, however he has provided his usual across-the-board excellence otherwise, so his lingering wrist injury is a big issue for the Bulls' and Fantasy owners moving forward. Deng had rested the wrist earlier in the season and was declared fine, however he recently re-aggravated the injury, and it was serious enough to force him to miss some time in Week 11. Deng's status for Week 12 is unknown; however his numbers have been down recently while he tried to play through the pain, indicating that even if he does suit up all four times in Week 12, he almost certainly won't be himself. While Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau will almost assuredly still use Deng for heavy minutes if he's able to play, you have to worry about his short-term production given the injury.
Samuel Dalembert, Rockets (@OKC, CHA, @LAC, @PHO): Dalembert has not exactly been a model of consistency in his first season with the Rockets, however he has begun trending back upwards recently once more. Dalembert is averaging 13.0 points per game over his last five with grabbing 8.8 rebounds, giving the Rockets the type of production they were looking for when they signed him. History tells us he won't keep this up, but with a pretty weak schedule coming up, Dalembert should be useful for Week 12.
Sleeper Alert: Ian Mahinmi, Mavericks (WAS, CHA, SA): Mahinmi continues to be solid when given the opportunity to play extended minutes, as he was last week when Brendan Haywood went down with a back injury. Haywood is expected back for Week 12, however even though he was cleared to play on Saturday against the Warriors, Mahinmi received the start instead. Mahinmi never puts up eye-popping numbers when he starts, but he is usually solid enough, as he has 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game over his last five games. He'll never dominate, even against weak opponents, however he's got a chance to remain in a bigger role for this week, making him a useful low-end option.
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (BOS, ATL, PHO, HOU DET): Jordan has been such a major disappointment in his first season after signing a $43 million contract extension that he is beginning to lose significant playing time to mid-season acquisition Kenyon Martin. On a recent road trip that lasted throughout the first nine days of March, Jordan scored just 20 points over a span of six games while racking up 21 personal fouls. That's not the type of play the Clippers were expecting from their investment, and at this point Jordan doesn't remotely resemble a useful Fantasy player. Even with five games on the slate in Week 12, Jordan isn't worth starting at his current level of play.
Bust Alert: Spencer Hawes, 76ers (@IND, MIA, @CHI): Hawes is one of a number of centers who have dealt with major injuries this year, and like Nene and Brook Lopez before him, his Fantasy owners have no choice but to wait patiently for his return. It has been reported that Hawes could return as soon as Wednesday from his lingering Achilles' injury, however he told reporters this week that he wouldn't commit fully to that date. Even if Hawes returns this week, he faces a number of tough matchups and will likely be limited in his minutes and opportunities, so wait until he is fully healed before turning to him for help.