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In the middle of January, Gordon Hayward began to look like he was settling in as a reliable fantasy option despite coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz. During one five-game span, he scored 27 points and 22 points and had games where he hit four, four and three 3-pointers. But then a seemingly innocuous shoulder injury sent his stats into a tailspin and eventually sent him to the bench for a 10-game stretch.
Well, he returned to action last Tuesday, announced that his shoulder is 100 percent healthy and has been pumping out quality stats ever since. During the three games since his return, Hayward has scored 17, 23 and 26 points and totaled six 3s and 10 assists.
His shooting hasn't been terrific, but his 43.6 field goal percentage during that period has been better than his season mark of 42.9 percent, which isn't much better than the 39.6 percent he is shooting from beyond the arc. If he can continue to improve his 2-point shooting, he may get that field goal percentage closer to last season's respectable 45.6 percent.
The real bonus in Hayward's production the past week has been at the charity stripe, where he has hit 26 of 29 free throws in those three games. If he continues to get starter's minutes (averaging 31.6 minutes the past three games), remains this active at the free throw line and is allowed to take 5-6 3s per game, Hayward could have a big impact on fantasy teams during the stretch run.
• It was the best of Rudy, it was the worst of Rudy. That's how you can describe Rudy Gay over his past two games. He abused the New York Knicks on Friday for 32 points (11-for-23 FG) and laid an egg against the Washington Wizards on Monday night with seven points on 1-of-11 shooting. He has also had games of 5-for-15 and 4-for-21 shooting during his 11-game tenure with the Toronto Raptors, which has left him with an embarrassing 37.5 percent mark with the Raps. I do think that number will come up significantly during the final weeks; he's a career 45 percent shooter, despite shooting a career-low 40.8 percent this season before the Memphis Grizzlies traded him. Regardless of his shooting woes, Gay's overall fantasy game remains tremendous: 20.1 ppg, 1.1 3s, 6.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.6 spg and 83.9 FT% on 5.1 FTA per game since joining the Raptors.
• There was a Rodney Stuckey sighting Monday evening, as he racked up 22 points (10-for-17 FG), 5 boards and 2 assists. That was the first time that he broke the 20-point barrier since early December. He benefited from Brandon Knight being sidelined with a swollen knee and Will Bynum serving a one-game suspension for hitting Tyler Hansbrough on Sunday. Bynum will be back Wednesday against the Wiz, but it sounds as if Knight may be out a while longer, in which case Stuckey should remain a viable fantasy play.
• Before the trade deadline, I recommended acquiring Al Horford, because I thought he would have a strong finish to the season once the Atlanta Hawks traded Josh Smith. Apparently the Hawks didn't need to deal J-Smoove away in order for Horford to go off. Despite running alongside Smith, Horford has hit -- not just taken, hit -- double-digit shots in each of his past six games while shooting at least 50 percent in each of those contests. Last night, Horford torched the Pistons for 23 points (10-for-13 FG), 22 boards, 3 dimes, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He even knocked down a 3-pointer! In 10 games this month, Horford is averaging 20.2 points, 10.9 boards, 3.0 dimes, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks and is shooting 61.9 from the field. So long as he can stay healthy, he should continue to dominate.
• Danilo Gallinari missed Monday's game due to a bruised thigh. That opened the door for Wilson Chandler to start and tally 23 points (10-for-18 FG), 3 3-pointers and 4 boards. Chandler has proved to be a capable fantasy contributor in the past, but he simply doesn't have a big enough role with the Denver Nuggets to make an impact this season. You can ride him while he's hot, but it doesn't sound as if Gallo should be out for long, so that may be a brief ride.
• Carmelo Anthony avoided a suspension for whacking Spencer Hawes in the back of the head Sunday. That means he's good to go for the Knicks' three-game week.
• Deron Williams said the bruised calf he sustained Sunday won't keep him from playing Tuesday night. The most recent treatments on his bum ankles have resulted in some hot play since the All-Star break: 20.3 ppg, 3.3 3s, 8.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 44.3 FG% and 87.5 FT%. This is the perfect time to ship him off in a trade before his ankles take him back down. I don't think for a second that those joints are going to hold up for the stretch run.
• Andre Drummond remains on target to return to action at some point next week. He is owned in just 7 percent of ESPN leagues, and it is time to add him to your roster in leagues where you need big-man stats. Keep in mind that before being felled by his back injury, he was about to join the starting lineup and averaged 8.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg and 1.2 spg and shot 63.8 percent in January off the bench.
• Taj Gibson will miss up to two weeks due to a sprained MCL in his left knee. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer will pick up most of Gibson's stats, so there isn't much sense in adding Nazr Mohammed or Vladimir Radmanovic to your fantasy roster.
• The San Antonio Spurs expect Tony Parker to return to action Wednesday after skipping Sunday's game with a bruised triceps. You'll want to check for updates as game time nears, but it appears safe to use him in fantasy lineups.
Assuming that Parker is available Wednesday evening, I'll have him in my Fastbreak lineup at guard. He is a threat for at least 30 Fastbreak points every time he steps on the court, and to make him even more enticing, he gets to face the porous Phoenix Suns defense.