Serge Ibaka's game continues to grow
Serge Ibaka's spike in scoring this season has elevated him into the first tier of fantasy players, as he currently ranks 10th on the Player Rater thanks to a jump from 9.1 to 13.6 points per game with 56.5 percent shooting from the floor this season. He's been even hotter as of late, averaging 15.5 points per game over his past six contests, even after a 12-point effort against the Knicks on Thursday night. He made up for his below-average scoring with nine boards and five blocks, however, and was efficient as usual, going 5-for-7 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the stripe. His offensive game is still developing, and I wouldn't be surprised if he improves more and more over the next several seasons, further increasing his fantasy value and vaulting him into late-first-round territory in the future. His average draft position was 24.4 this season, and based upon his improvement on the offensive end and still sterling (albeit slightly lower) block totals, he'll be a justified second-rounder next season as he continues his ascent into fantasy superstardom.
• Carmelo Anthony was a late scratch against the Thunder with a sore knee Thursday, which provided J.R. Smith with even more of a green light to gun. He scored 36 points on 14-for-29 shooting from the floor with six 3-pointers but contributed just three rebounds and three assists. Melo isn't expected to be sidelined long, although if he's handled gingerly in preparation for the playoffs, Smith could see an increased scoring load in the final weeks of the season. If you don't mind inefficient scoring and simply want some volume points and 3s, Smith is a viable fantasy option, although he's the most harmful player in the league on the Player Rater in field goal percentage with a minus-2.05 rating. If you are trying to make up ground in that category, I'd bench him despite his sporadic monstrous scoring nights, because that much of a liability in one category makes improvement nearly impossible.
• Kenyon Martin played his first game of the season for the Knicks, scoring just four points with one steal while fouling out in 16 minutes. He provided one steal and one block per game in 42 games for the Clippers last season, so in super-deep leagues he could be an option for the defensive categories down the stretch if he can regularly earn close to 20 minutes per game.
• Danilo Gallinari dropped 20 points with 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, two 3s and a block Thursday night, his second consecutive game of at least 20 points. It appears he's snapping out of his recent slump and is no longer bothered by the thigh injury that hampered his production in February. If you've been benching him in shallow leagues thanks to missed time and mediocre production, he's safe to get back in your lineup based upon his recent scoring spree and because he's averaged 21.5 points in 35.5 minutes per game over his past two contests.
• Bradley Beal is day-to-day with a bum ankle that had him on crutches briefly, so don't be surprised if he sits for Friday's game. Martell Webster played a team-high 42 minutes in his absence Wednesday and is averaging 12.0 points with 2.1 3s per game over his past eight contests, and Trevor Ariza played 38 minutes on Wednesday, scoring 16 points with 7 rebounds, 6 assists and three 3s. Expect better-than-average nights from both of them against the Nets on Friday if Beal is on the shelf, especially from downtown, as Brooklyn allows opponents to shoot 37.4 percent from behind the arc, sixth-worst in the league.
• Wayne Ellington scored 16 points with six rebounds and two 3s on Wednesday starting in place of Dion Waiters, who has missed the past two games with sickness and is questionable for Friday's contest. If Waiters is ruled out, Ellington is a nice spot start, but if Waiters returns he's been playing well enough over the past month (17.1 points on 54.7 percent shooting over the past 30 days) to warrant an immediate reinstatement into fantasy lineups.
• News is that Kyrie Irving won't be shut down unless his knee continues to bother him, although I wouldn't be surprised if it does. So I'm worried about how he'll finish the season with the Cavs focused on the future. He's obviously a must-start even if his minutes are limited, but Shaun Livingston will be worth a look if they put Irving on the shelf. Livingston is coming off a February in which he averaged 4.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.6 blocks in 21.3 minutes per game, and although his scoring won't help fantasy teams, he should contribute in those three categories if they're cautious with Irving down the stretch.
• Mo Williams is back for the Jazz, although he showed signs of rust Wednesday night, going just 3-for-12 from the floor. He is a willing gunner, however, and worth starting immediately if you need 3s. If you're looking for overall production from him, though, and don't need his presence in your starting lineup just yet, I'd hold off until he proves he's ready to contribute consistently.
• Nate Robinson has been ice cold, averaging just 7.8 points on 31.1 percent shooting over his past five games, perhaps because he's favoring sore ribs. He was benched in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game in favor of rookie Marquis Teague, who scored 11 points with three 3s, both career highs. Robinson is historically streaky, so it's not worth dropping him based on this cold spell if you've been depending on him, but Teague is worth a deep-league look if he's in line to get point guard minutes in Chicago and eventually back up Derrick Rose upon his impending return. Pay attention to how the guard rotation plays out for the Bulls, as it's up in the air how the minutes will be distributed when Rose returns.