Luol Deng embracing playmaker role

February, 17, 2012

Luol Deng seems to have taken it upon himself to be more of a playmaker with Derrick Rose out of the lineup for the Chicago Bulls. He had 10 assists against the Celtics on Thursday night, following up an 11-assist performance against the Kings on Tuesday. He's now averaging better than three assists per game on the season, which is a career high for him, and -- along with his 3-point shooting -- it's another reason why he managed to make the All-Star team.

As for his fantasy status, he was a top-50 player last season, but needed to play all 82 games, and play the third-most minutes of any player in the league to do so. This season, his minutes are down, but only slightly, and while he missed some time due to injury, in spite of that he's still been a top-50 player this year on a per-game basis even while shooting an uncharacteristically low percentage from the floor. That ranking could rise if Deng can boost his shooting percentage the rest of the way. He's definitely someone you want to hold on to if you have him in a fantasy league.

Looking Back

Kevin Garnett got back into the lineup for the Celtics after missing Wednesday night's game with a strained hip flexor. He was productive, leading the Celtics with 18 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to the Bulls, and he should be fine going forward, but with Garnett seeming to need as much rest as possible, it makes sense to be cautious any time he misses a game.

Kenyon Martin really isn't doing much with his minutes off the bench for the Clippers. Most disappointing is that he's averaging only 1.2 blocks and 0.4 steals in his past five games (he had one block and zero steals on Thursday night against the Trail Blazers), and most of that comes from one four-block performance against the Mavericks. Until he can start to show an ability to produce meaningful fantasy numbers on a somewhat consistent basis, he's not worth owning even if you're desperate for help in the defensive categories.

Looking Ahead

Corey Maggette is, as usual, worth picking up if you need scoring. He's getting plenty of playing time recently for the Bobcats, and is averaging better than 17 points per game in his past three games. He'll also help you in free throw percentage, even if his numbers in the rest of the categories might leave a lot to be desired.

Semih Erden is another big game away from looking like a pretty good fantasy pickup for the Cavs. He started in place of the injured Anderson Varejao in the Cavs' win over the Pacers on Wednesday night and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes. Given that he had to go 7-for-8 from the floor to get those points, it's probably not worth using a roster spot on him quite yet, but if he plays well against the Heat, he'll be worth picking up, especially in deeper leagues, since Varejao is expected to be out for at least a month.

Jason Terry will miss Friday night's Mavericks game against the 76ers, and with Delonte West and Rodrigue Beaubois out as well, the Mavs will be pretty thin in the backcourt. That should make it a good night to get Jason Kidd back into your lineup if you've been waiting. He hasn't been great, but averages of 7.3 points, 6.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 3s, and 1.8 steals in his past four games are certainly not too shabby.



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