Brandon Bass Hornets - Bass is starting for the Celtics at power forward now that his back injury is behind him and is averaging 14 points, seven boards, a steal and a block in his two starts. Jermaine O’Neal’s season is in the balance as he contemplates wrist surgery, meaning Kevin Garnett should start at center, and Bass at power forward, until further notice. I like the idea of grabbing him right now.
Gustavo Ayon Hornets - Ayon is averaging nearly eight points, seven rebounds, two assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks over his last five games as the starting power forward for the Hornets. The problem is that Carl Landry is eventually going to return, but Jason Smith is now iffy to return this season from a concussion. Either way, in my opinion, Ayon needs to keep his starting job and continue to develop for the future. But whether the Stern-led Hornets agree or not is another matter. He's not a must-own player just yet, but is edging his way into that territory.
Amir Johnson Raptors – Johnson is owned in less than 40 percent of leagues and is starting (for now) for the Raptors. He’s averaging nearly nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, 0.6 steals and two blocks over his last five games, but will likely take a hit when Andrea Bargnani returns, which should happen next week.
Andray Blatche Wizards – Blatche is available in about 70 percent of fantasy leagues and is due back from a calf injury on Saturday. He’s averaging 10 points, seven boards, a steal and 0.7 blocks in 17 games this season, but it remains to be seen what his role will be for Randy Wittman when he returns. You can expect him be worked back into the mix slowly, as well as come off the bench, but the talent level is too good to sleep on. I’m not rushing out to pick Blatche up, but do have him on my radar.
Kenneth Faried Nuggets - Faried is still not owned in most leagues despite averaging nearly eight points, eight rebounds, a steal and a block over his last five games. Nene will be back in the near future, but there’s still an outside chance the Nuggets could play him at center and allow Faried to keep his starting job. However, that scenario is probably unlikely. But until you see Nene play again, Faried is a decent add.
Jason Thompson Kings - Thompson is averaging eight points, eight boards and nearly a block per game over his last five, but has been very inconsistent. His up and down play is frustrating in fantasy, but a recent injury to J.J. Hickson could give him a few more minutes per game.
Drew Gooden Bucks - In two games since returning from a wrist injury, Gooden is at 19 points, nine rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and a block per game. He’s available in roughly 20 percent of fantasy leagues and has been a beast nearly every time Andrew Bogut has been out. Consider him a must-own player when healthy.
Bismack Biyombo Bobcats - Biyombo is averaging five points, seven rebounds, 0.6 steals and 3.6 blocks per game over his last five, but will miss Friday’s game with a strained left shoulder. He left Wednesday’s game after just nine minutes with the injury, or his recent numbers would look better. He’s entering must-own territory, although the injury is a buzzkill. Once he’s fully healthy, the Bobcats should give him all the minutes he can handle.
Ekpe Udoh Warriors – With Biyombo hurting, Udoh now takes the lead as the hot, unknown pickup. He’s averaging nine points, five rebounds, a steal and 1.6 blocks over his last five games, despite some inconsistent run. He saw more than 30 minutes in two of those, but was limited in the other three. The Warriors have no reason to hold him back any longer, and even though he might not start, they simply have to give him 30 minutes per game going forward.
Zaza Pachulia Hawks - Pachulia has been filling in admirably for Al Horford and is surprisingly averaging seven points, 10 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and a block per game over his last five. Horford’s not coming back anytime soon and Erick Dampier is not the answer. If you need a reliable, serviceable center, Zaza should fit the bill.
Tristan Thompson Cavaliers - Thompson is another young guy available in nearly every league and is averaging 9.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 1.2 blocks over his last five games. He’s scored double figures in four of those, but the biggest concern is what happens to his minutes when Anderson Varejao is back. Like some of the other players I’ve mentioned, the Cavs aren’t going anywhere this season and holding Thompson back would be a disservice to him and the organization. My guess is he’ll see between 25-30 minutes the rest of the way, one way or another.
Tiago Splitter/DeJuan Blair Spurs – Blair has been a hot pick-and-play over the last 10 days with Splitter out with a calf injury, but Splitter was back in action on Wednesday, when he had five points, four boards and a block in 18 minutes. Blair is at 14 points, 6.6 rebounds, a steal and 0.4 blocks over his last five, but in the end, these two are likely to cancel out each other’s potential. If I had to pick one of them to play going forward, Splitter would be the one – simply because he was the guy Gregg Popovich was rolling with prior to the injury.