By Shane Skeary
CHARLOTTE, NC February 17, 2014
Coming off the All-Star break, fantasy owners have a lot to look forward to from Charlotte’s top two players, Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. The duo’s production so far has more than matched the hype coming into the season. However, the first half of the season saw some inconsistency in playing time due to injury.
When Jefferson missed time early in the season with a right ankle injury, it was Walker who led the team in offensive output, and when Walker went down for seven games with an ankle injury on Jan. 18, Jefferson had one of his best offensive stretches of the season. When they’ve shared the floor together, the pair has been impressive. From Nov. 23-Jan. 1, both players recorded double figures in 20-consecutive games, a streak that ranks second in franchise history.
The Cats are currently clinging to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and are facing a treacherous schedule ahead that features a road trip with stops in Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Miami. With those challenges in place, Charlotte can be somewhat relieved that both Walker and Jefferson are healthy, but together fantasy owners can expect them to put up some big offensive numbers in order to stay in the playoff hunt.
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That’s a lot to ask of Jefferson, who was already putting up career- and franchise-record-setting numbers heading into the All-Star break. Jefferson, who said the key to his recent success was the health of his ailing right ankle, averaged 26.9 points on .528 shooting (93-for-176) and 9.5 rebounds in his last eight games and recorded four games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Walker is also having one of his best years as a pro, averaging career-highs in points (18.1), rebounds (4.3) and three-point field goal percentage (34.5 percent).
Jefferson and Walker are fixtures in fantasy lineups, but a potential X-factor for owners is the Cats third option, Gerald Henderson. Unlike Jefferson and Walker, he has not missed a game all season and is one of eight NBA guards to do so. Heading into the All-Star Break, Henderson’s scoring has been inconsistent, but he has managed to average 15.5 points on .442 shooting (141-for-319), including .393 from beyond the three-point line (13ffor-33), over his last 24 games.
With defenses keyed into stopping Jefferson and Walker, the Cats will need Henderson to step up and extend himself offensively for the playoff push ahead. Hopefully that will lead to an increase in his offensive numbers for fantasy owners.