Kirk Hinrich's cut and infected elbow forced him out again on Friday, give Nate Robinson a reprieve in fantasy leagues -- he started at PG vs. the Bobcats and had 12 points, four assists and one steal in 25 minutes before the lead surged past 20 points and Tom Thibodeau pulled most of his starters. Derrick Rose recently began taking part in limited 5-on-5 workouts but his return date remains a mystery, so Nate may be worth holding even after Captain Kirk returns and retakes the starting PG job.
Friday's blowout included Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's latest quiet game -- he had 10 points, seven rebounds, one steal and three turnovers in the Bobcats' 30-point drubbing. MKG's upside for steals and blocks is considerable, and presumably the Bobcats want to develop him as quickly as possible at the end of a lost season. The problem is that he doesn't seem ready for 35 minutes per game and his current role actually seems best suited for him...keep in mind that the No. 2 pick is still only 19 years old. His struggles shouldn't dissuade anyone in keeper leagues, but owners fighting for this year's fantasy playoffs can do better. In other Bobcats news…Ben Gordon, who recently clashed with coach Mike Dunlap and told him to "humble himself," never left the bench despite copious amounts of garbage time. He's unlikely to see the light of day in Dunlap's rotations, so don't think twice about dumping him onto the waiver wire.
During my live chat last Monday, Feb. 18, I approved of an owner trading Goran Dragic for Luol Deng. "Dragic is helming a terrible Suns offense that nearly set a new franchise-low for scoring a few weeks ago," I wrote. "His shot has been off lately and he's committing 3.0 turnovers vs. 6.0 assists in the past few weeks ... I'm fine unloading him for a solid mid-round player at this point, assuming you tried to pry away somebody better first and were talked down to Deng." Though it felt good leaving my hand, that one was an airball. Dragic went out that night and scored 16 points with five rebounds, 18 assists, two steals and one block. He followed that up with 20 points, three 3-pointers, 10 assists, five steals and only one turnover a night later, marking the first time all season that he's had consecutive games with double-digit assists.
Those back-to-back gems were a reminder of Dragic's bat-out-of-hell finale with Houston last season, when he racked up combined March/April averages of 16.3 points, 1.6 threes, 3.3 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 3.0 turnovers, with 47.4 percent FGs and 85.2 percent FTs. Those numbers were good for top-25 value during that stretch (No. 9 overall in eight-cat). He kept the party going with another double-double vs. the Celtics (minus Rondo and KG) on Friday, finishing with 19 points, five rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and two blocks.
It's even more impressive that he posted Friday's numbers in a lopsided defeat, while being harassed by Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee most of the night, and while passing to teammates who shot a combined 40.6 percent from the field. Dragic's offensive usage rate ties him for 76th in the NBA, so there's room for growth if Alvin Gentry (edit: oops, Lindsey Hunter!) starts to give him more freedom offensively. His usage rate (21.7) is similar to guys like DeMar DeRozan, Mo Williams, Tyreke Evans and Dirk Nowitzki. Among his Suns teammates, only Luis Scola (21.9) and Michael Beasley (25.6) use a higher percentage of offensive plays.
Speaking of whom, both Scola (six points in 17 minutes) and Beasley (six points in 15 minutes) were awful vs. the Celtics. Marcin Gortat didn't fare too much better with 10 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes, and until things turn around fantasy owners should make like Lindsey Hunter and bench him. His value has absolutely tanked in the past five games (including 28.6 percent FT shooting), and in the past month he hasn't cracked the top-150 in nine-cat leagues. I traded him for Kevin Martin just prior to the deadline in one league, and I'm fine with the move even if I ultimately drop Martin.
Jeff Green made his first start of the season on Friday, playing PF with Brandon Bass at C and Kevin Garnett getting a night of rest, as prescribed by Doc Rivers. Green took full advantage of the opportunity to score 32 points on 11-of-14 FGs and 6-of-7 FTs, with three 3-pointers, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, five blocks and only one turnover. Having watched Brandon Bass muddle along at PF all season, Celtics fans are surely wondering why it took so long to experiment with Green as a starter.
It must be reiterated that Green posted this monster line without KG and against a defensively inept Suns team, but don't be lulled into the assumption that this is purely a fluke. If he's on the waiver wire, grab him. Through 10 games in February, he's averaging 16.7 points, 1.2 threes, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.0 blocks in a 32-minute bench role. The arrival of backup SG Jordan Crawford shouldn't be a disruption for Green, who is rapidly becoming indispensable for the post-Rondo Celtics this year.