Enjoy Jimmy Butler's run while it lasts
Jimmy Butler continues to play great basketball for the Chicago Bulls, as he managed 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists in 46 minutes in a win over the Detroit Pistons. Butler's been impressive with Luol Deng out of the lineup nursing a strained right hamstring. The problem is that Deng plays heavy minutes when he's healthy, which will severely cut into Butler's role. It's possible that Butler's recent strong play has earned him some run even when Deng's good to go, but keep in mind that Butler has averaged well over 40 minutes per game to put up the numbers he has over his past three games. If his minutes are somewhere in the 20s, he'll be a lot less valuable.
• With Lou Williams out for the rest of the season and Devin Harris missing time with an ankle sprain, Kyle Korver played 41 minutes for the Hawks on Wednesday night against the Bobcats, and he finished with an efficient 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the floor (including five 3-pointers). Korver has been worth owning in fantasy leagues for most of the season, but he's going to be even more valuable down the stretch with Williams out.
• Now that Marreese Speights and his 14.5 minutes per game are gone from the Grizzlies' roster, there should be more playing time for Darrell Arthur, who has generally been impressive in his career when he's been able to suit up. Arthur had 20 points and nine rebounds on Wednesday night, but I'll note that it came in a game against a putrid Lakers defense that ended up being without Dwight Howard for most of the night after Howard aggravated his shoulder injury. Certainly, Arthur's worth a look in most leagues, as his minutes should bump up into the high 20s moving forward.
• Chris Johnson, on a 10-day contract with the Timberwolves, had another pretty good game, this time against the Nets, finishing with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in 24 minutes. The blocks, in particular, are promising; Johnson is 6-foot-11 and is a good leaper, so there's some potential for him as a shot-blocker in the weeks ahead if he can stick with the team. He's definitely someone to look at if you need blocks in the short term in deep leagues.
• I hate to sound alarmist where we've certainly been alarmed before, but Michael Beasley is showing some signs of finding his game in Phoenix of late, and it's probably worth paying attention in fantasy leagues even if it might not last. Beasley had 19 points in 22 minutes in a win over the Kings on Wednesday night, and he is now averaging 14.5 points in just 21.0 minutes over his past four games. That's impressive, and he's throwing in 6.5 boards in those minutes just for good measure. Lindsey Hunter is coaching the Suns for now, and it's possible the shakeup has been good for Beasley.
• The Raptors face the Magic on Thursday night, and while Nikola Vucevic has been a pleasant surprise, he's not stopping opposing big men from putting up big numbers. That should be a positive for Ed Davis and Amir Johnson, both of whom have been playing really well for the Raptors lately. Davis and Johnson both are still available in some leagues, and if you already have them, make sure they're in your lineup Thursday night.
• Iman Shumpert hasn't done much for the Knicks since returning from injury, but he's starting. With Pablo Prigioni questionable for Thursday night's game against the Celtics, it could mean a little extra playing time for Shumpert. He was a really good source of steals when he was healthy last season, and while the Celtics are pretty average in terms of giving up steals and committing turnovers, the fact that the Knicks are probably going to need to rely on Shumpert a bit might make him worth playing in most leagues.
• Eric Bledsoe struggled a bit filling in for Chris Paul against the Thunder on Tuesday night, but the Phoenix Suns are not the Thunder, and I'm expecting Bledsoe to have a big game this time around. Paul is still out, so the only limit on Bledsoe's playing time is his quality of play -- it's a big chance for him to show how good he can be.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
I'm expecting an even bigger night out of Blake Griffin. He's flown a little under the radar (for him) this season, and the Suns are no match for a power forward of his caliber. He's coming off 31 points and 11 rebounds in the loss to the Thunder, but I've been even more impressed by his passing lately; he's averaging 5.2 assists over his past five games. Blake had two triple-doubles toward the end of his rookie season, but the third of his career could be on the way Thursday night.