Chris Paul's struggles continue
The New Orleans Hornets have fallen on hard times of late, losing three straight games to the likes of the Rockets, Raptors and, on Wednesday night, the new New York Knicks (who were playing without Chauncey Billups). Even worse, the Hornets' struggles seem to have much to do with their best player, Chris Paul.
Paul, it's well-known, is still struggling to recover from last year's knee injury, and he hasn't had the same quickness that has made him so dominant in past seasons. He's currently mired in the first stretch in which he's failed to score in double figures in three straight games since his rookie season, and it's not just that he's having trouble scoring. He's making just 24 percent of his shots during that stretch, and while his assists and steals still look good, he isn't getting to the free throw line and isn't making any 3-pointers, either.
Perhaps it's just a rough stretch for a player who has been overcoming injuries and not complaining about it all season, but it's also possible that he's more hurt than he's letting on. Fortunately for Paul's fantasy owners, the Hornets need him to play, even if he is hurt; the Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz and Rockets are all within three games of the Hornets at the moment, so their playoff spot is anything but locked up.
Whatever the reason, Paul is struggling, and if things get worse, it could spell disaster for his fantasy owners during the final weeks of the season. Keep in mind, however, that Jarrett Jack has been pretty great off the bench recently and has proven he can be a useful fantasy guy when his team needs him. He had 21 points and five rebounds off the bench Wednesday night, and will be roster-worthy if Paul ends up missing any time.
Chauncey Billups was out for the Knicks, and his status for Friday night's game against the Cavaliers is still uncertain. Trevor Ariza left the game for the Hornets with a thigh strain, but the Hornets aren't scheduled until Friday night, either. Gerald Wallace is averaging more than 30 minutes per game in his first three games as a Blazer, but he put up only 12 points and five rebounds on Wednesday night against the Kings and hasn't shown that he'll be nearly the fantasy commodity he was on the Bobcats. After Marcus Thornton followed up his 29 points against the Clippers with 26 against the Blazers, it's clear that he is figuring in the Kings' current plans in a big way, and he should be a safe fantasy play until Tyreke Evans returns to the lineup. Josh Smith didn't play for the Hawks and is questionable for Friday with his strained knee. He was supposed to get the knee checked out Wednesday night, so stay tuned for his status going forward. Rookie Samardo Samuels finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds in 34 minutes for the Cavaliers in their loss to the Spurs. It's was his best game as a pro and his second straight game in double figures, which means he's probably worth paying attention to. In deep leagues, he might be worth picking up right away. Ekpe Udoh has finally been getting some run for the Warriors; he started in their win against the Wizards, and while he isn't providing much by way of well-rounded statistics, he has been a shot-blocking prodigy, averaging 2.2 per game in just under 22 minutes in his past five games. Anthony Randolph had a double-double for the Timberwolves off the bench, which means we all have to start paying attention to him again. There was no sign of this coming, but he has so much talent that it's worth picking him up in deep leagues or if you're desperate for someone who, if everything breaks right, could turn your season around (but probably won't). Jonny Flynn had a career-high 14 assists for the Wolves and is starting to show some signs that he might be ready to pry away the starting point guard job from Luke Ridnour. Finally, Eric Gordon returned to the lineup for the Clippers and had 24 points in 35 minutes; he should be good to go moving forward.
The Nuggets will face the Jazz on Thursday night, and considering the way Denver has been playing lately (a 40-point win against the Bobcats on Wednesday night), there are at least seven players you should be using on your fantasy teams from the Nuggets lineup: Arron Afflalo, Nene Hilario, Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler, Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith. That's pretty amazing when you consider the fact that they're missing another fantasy guy, Danilo Gallinari, for another week or so with his broken toe. As for the Magic and the Heat, Jameer Nelson has been playing well of late, and that shouldn't change against Miami; he's averaging 16 points, seven assists and four rebounds against them so far this season. Also, for those of you planning ahead, remember that the Raptors and Nets have an early 3 p.m. ET start on Friday because they'll be playing in London.