Danny Granger, SF, Miami – Turn back the clocks! Danny Granger, a former All-Star who had become a forgotten man, has now set a season-high in points in each of the last three games. Granger had played more than 21 minutes in just one game before Dec. 23 and has played four consecutively since that time. Shawne Williams had been fading out of the rotation and finally fizzled out last night (Coach’s decision – DNP) while Granger went off. His previous season-high for three point attempts (3PA) was five (done twice), so it was great to see Granger attempt seven on Monday and sink six of them. Even in his prime, Granger was never an efficient scorer (career 43.5 percent FG), but launching from downtown added to his Fantasy appeal. He lacks the defensive statistical upside he once possessed that elevated him to borderline elite. He hasn’t averaged either one steal (STL) or one block (BLK) per-36 minutes since the 2011-12 season (not counting his shortened season the following year). Nagging lower body injuries including patellar tendinitis, which limited him to just five games in 2012-13, sucked out a majority of his athleticism. Still, aside from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat is hurting for some offense. Granger is not shy about launching from deep and he currently possesses his highest offensive rating since the 2011-12 season. When the Heat signed Granger it was a long shot he would ever produce again. However, they still gave him the opportunity and are allowing him to earn a spot at this point. He has only really shown it for two games so there is a lot left to be proven, but he’s worth a flier if you have an open spot. If all falls the right way, he has the upside to become the third or fourth option in the Heat offense but he’s likely to be inconsistent. If you’re looking for more than that, you’d be smart to look in another direction.
Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Utah – Hood was a player highlighted in RotoExperts’ Recommended Players Per 25 Picks article in the Draft Package. He was highlighted as a late round sleeper because there was uncertainty surrounding Alec Burks’ role; not whether he would play but whether he would start or come off the bench. Hood, if presented with a starting spot, seemed like he could present owners with plenty of value. Now Burks is sidelined with a lingering shoulder injury so Hood will start for as long as he is out. The injury is starting to become worrisome, as he will now miss his second consecutive game tonight. In just 18.1 minutes per game (MPG) this season, Hood is making just about one three per game while attempting 3.0. This means on a per-36 minute basis, Hood would be around 1.7 3PM which is more than enough to classify as a Fantasy contributor in the category. Even in college, he didn’t give much else, so only add him if your team needs three point shooting. Note: Dante Exum is probably the better option in the long run. Coach Quin Snyder will just have to commit to a two point guard scheme similar to Phoenix and not sure he is willing to do so just yet.
Elfrid Payton, PG, Orlando – Since preseason I have been using the Rajon Rondo comparison because both are point guards that lack in shooting but make their impact in other aspects of the game. Payton’s 18.8 percent usage is low for a point guard nowadays, but is within the range of Rondo’s career 19.4 percent mark. In the recent days, Payton has stepped up his passing and it appears he is progressing. Payton has at least six assists in five of his last six games including two eight assist games and one in which he dropped 11. During that span, Payton’s usage is up to 19.3 percent (or almost identical to that Rondo number mentioned earlier) and he’s averaging 7.17 assists per game (APG). With your average rookie point guard (not Damian Lillard or John Wall who’ve spoiled us lately) growth takes time. Payton has always been able to defend and came with rebounding, passing and steals category upside. There should be better days ahead, as he continues to work on meshing with Victor Oladipo and company. He’s never going to be exactly like Rondo but he can give some similar numbers in important categories. Just don’t expect him to eclipse double-digit scoring anytime soon. His development in that department has much further to go than his passing. Update: Elfrid scored eight points and added six assists in 24 minutes against the Pistons on Tuesday.
Stock Holding Steady
Brandon Knight, PG, Milwaukee – Jason Kidd recently leaned towards a starting lineup that included both Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall. Essentially what that did was slide Knight over to the shooting guard spot and put the ball in his hands slightly less often. All it took was a two game sample for Kidd to abandon ship, and Knight was back handling the ball last night against the Hornets. According to the numbers, Knight’s usage rate is identical to last season’s mark, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He has been involved in more plays lately and the number has risen to 28.3 percent since Dec. 14. Jabari Parker’s last game of the season was Dec. 15. Since he went down, Knight’s numbers have gone up and he should continue to sit around his December averages of nearly 19 PPG, 2.2 3PM (maybe a little inflated), 4.3 AST and 1.4 STL. Knight has turned into a Fantasy stud, and considering the team’s roster construction, his value is here to stay.
Josh Smith, SF/PF, Houston – Going from a bad situation for Fantasy to maybe a worse one (in the long run), Smith lands on a roster that includes Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Trevor Ariza. Furthermore, the team literally just acquired Corey Brewer, so the small forward minutes are well taken care of on the Rockets. The good news is that Jones could be sidelined for another six weeks, so the starting power forward spot is Smith’s until that time. The Rockets are not devoid of scoring and have a player that loves to absolutely dominate the ball (James Harden). Smith loves to get his touches and let the shots fly. With this roster, he will not have the opportunity to shoot as much, which may actually help his cause in some ways. However, his scoring and assists will just have to decrease due to fewer touches. Harden will bring the ball up, look for his and if it’s not there, look for either Howard down low or Ariza in the corner before he looks to Smith. Houston’s 101 PPG is below the league average but they are tied for seventh in terms of pace. Detroit’s pace ranked 22nd. With a little bit more up-tempo offense, maybe Smith can come close to his already disappointing numbers he was putting up this season in Detroit, but don’t expect him to all of a sudden breakout. At this point in his career, he’s a defensive category specialist who hurts you in percentages but may give you a decent number of boards.
Kyle O’Quinn, PF/C, Orlando – For a guy with double-double type per-minute numbers, O’Quinn has disappointed in a big way since his move to the starting lineup. He played 34 minutes in his first start against Boston and looked like he was about to bust out. His line that night: 18 PTS, 13 REB, two STL, one BLK and even two 3PM. In the three games since, O’Quinn hasn’t eclipsed 17 minutes, has three rebounds combined and eight total points. The minutes are frustrating but the lack of production in those minutes is the real problem. O’Quinn, according to his career numbers, should give around seven and seven or so in 15 minutes. He hasn’t taken more than three shots in those three games and hasn’t grabbed more than two boards! Two! Playing next to Nikola Vucevic just isn’t working for him right now, and he needs to adjust quickly or he’s going to head back to the bench. He’s not worth owning at this point in any format.
All statistics are accurate as of Dec. 30 before the start of games.