Matt Stroup

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

New year, brief introductory paragraph. Let's waste no time and get this thing rolling:


Three on the Rise:

Marcin Gortat: In his last five games, Gortat has averaged 11.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.4 bpg, and whether starting (as he did against the Lakers' big front line on Wednesday), or coming off the bench (as he did in his first five games with Phoenix), he's getting enough run right now (33 minutes per game in his last five) to warrant a roster spot in most leagues.

Baron Davis: Last five games: 13.2 ppg, 8.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 threes. I've been shopping him around in one of my main leagues and haven't found much in the way of trade interest, but the good news is that he's playing well, providing solid value (No. 56 in Basketball Monster's eight-category rankings the past two weeks) and looks healthy – at least for now. So if you're stuck with him on your roster and can't get fair value in return, it's very far from the end of the world (which is a lot better than we can say about Baron's outlook earlier in the season).

Ramon Sessions: Sessions dropped a 16-5-6 line on Wednesday with Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson in the lineup, and now gets the benefit of guaranteed run with Gibson (ankle) reportedly set to miss five games. Sessions has averaged 16.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 6.2 rpg in his last five games and should be added where available right now.

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Three on the Plummet:

Kenyon Martin: He has shown flashes of his old productive self (including an 11-6-3 line with a steal and a block on Monday), but the Nuggets' careful monitoring of Kenyon's minutes (and refusal to play him on the second of back-to-backs) makes him too maddening to stick with in standard leagues. I do think there will come a time that K-Mart is worth a roster spot, but there should be more productive players on the wire in average-sized formats right now.

Darko Milicic: He's been struggling through some injuries and foul trouble of late, but has it really been that bad? In his last five games, the scuffling Darko has posted 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.8 spg and 1.6 bpg. That's not dynamic, but for slumping it's really not that awful, and I'm still convinced that Milicic is going to heat up and be worthy of a roster spot in most leagues going forward.

Martell Webster: After a six-game hot streak that saw him average 15.5 ppg for a stretch in December, Webster has dropped to 10.7 ppg on 37.9 percent shooting in his last six, including a five-point, 1-for-8 stink grenade on Wednesday night. And therein lies the problem with the exceedingly streaky Webster. He could very easily be in the "on the rise" section of this column a couple weeks from now, but the swings in value make him maddening to own over the long run in average leagues.

Three Random but Hopefully Useful Observations

1. DeMarcus Cousins: Not always aesthetically pleasing, but wildly productive of late. Cousins' 24-point Tuesday was not overall a thing of beauty thanks to a number of hideously ugly shot attempts, but he's getting enough volume of opportunity at the moment to make aesthetics somewhat irrelevant. In his last four games prior to a Thursday matchup with Denver, Cousins was averaging 22.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.5 spg and 0.5 bpg, including a season-high 22 FG attempts Tuesday night. We haven't seen the last of inconsistency, foul trouble or grotesque shot selection, but the 20-year-old is showing why he needs to be on a roster in virtually all leagues.

2. DeAndre Jordan is officially a must-own fantasy option. In his last six games, the man who could seemingly catch an alley-oop if it were thrown into the third deck has averaged 10.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg and 3.5 bpg, including a downright obscene run of 6.3 bpg in his last three. His time in the starting lineup won't last forever with Chris Kaman eventually (repeat: eventually) returning, but Jordan is a must-start option right now and has a statistical feast looming against the Warriors Sunday afternoon.

3. Derrick Favors' foul trouble is a legitimate concern. I added Favors in a couple of leagues after his move to the starting five on Wednesday, but can't say I'm feeling terrific about the move. It's nice that he produced seven points, five rebounds and a block in just nine minutes on Wednesday, but the fact that he has accumulated either four or five fouls in nine of his last 11 games is a serious issue in the near future, and Kris Humphries (20 points, 11 boards Wednesday) clearly isn't ready to disappear.

10 Quick-Hitting Statements of Fact and/or Opinion

1) Over the last month, Chauncey Billups (20.3 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.7 threes) is No. 9 in Basketball Monster's eight-category rankings. I remain a tiny bit worried about the wrist injury acting up, but he's playing too well to trade for anything less than top-20 value in return.

2) Tony Allen is making noise lately (and not just in a punching teammates kind of way), averaging 10.4 ppg and 3.4 spg in his last five games. I'm on board with the notion of adding him, but not certain he'll keep getting 25-30 minutes of run once Xavier Henry (knee) is back.

3) With all the coaching Westphals of the world driving us crazy this year, it's nice to see Doug Collins recently telling Jrue Holiday to be more aggressive offensively. The result: Holiday has posted 21.2 ppg and 7.8 apg in his last six.

4) In addition to his other berserk stats (24.8 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.9 bpg in 22 games since Nov. 20), Blake Griffin has shot a notably more respectable 65.6 percent from the line in his last six games. And if you've seen his approach at the line, you should be aware that there's still more room to improve in his weakest category.

5) I'm very appreciative of what Francisco Garcia has done in his last five games (12.6 ppg, 1.2 spg, 1.4 bpg, 2.0 threes), but I'm not convinced that the aforementioned agitator known as Westphal is committed to keeping Garcia in his starting five.

6) Tyrus Thomas was great in 36 minutes on Wednesday (21 points, 11 boards, three assists, a steal and two blocks), but we need to see him get that kind of playing time when Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson are healthy before there's true cause for rejoicing.

7) Tracy McGrady's last seven games: 12.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.1 apg, 0.9 threes. I don't see him staying healthy enough (or playing enough PG) to sustain that production, but he's still roster-worthy in many leagues.

8) Leandro Barbosa since Dec. 1 (18 games): 14.7 ppg, 1.7 threes.

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9) Joe Johnson in January (three games): 28.7 ppg on 52.7 percent from the field. Dare I say he may be feeling recovered after elbow surgery?

10) Speaking of the Hawks and players recovering from injuries, Jamal Crawford is playing not only like a man who no longer has back trouble, but very much like one who wants a lucrative new contract (26.8 ppg, 3.0 threes in his last four). Not shockingly, since Crawford's return on Dec. 26th (seven games ago), Mike Bibby has hit double figures in scoring just one time – against the Warriors.

Matt Stroup covers basketball, baseball and football for You can find him on Twitter here .
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