Charlie Villanueva: AP
Quite often you can glance at a player's annual statistics and get at least a ballpark idea of what sort of fantasy player he is -- that's not the case with Charlie Villanueva. He averaged 13 points as a rookie with the Raptors, 11.9 points during an injury-shortened debut season with the Bucks the next year and 11.7 points last year. Even the 16.5 ppg he's tallied this season doesn't exactly pop out at you. But when you consider that he's averaged nearly 21 ppg since the start of the New Year, while shooting close to 50 percent from the field, you better believe his fantasy game is making you pay attention.
Sometimes, all it takes to get a player's fantasy game rolling is opportunity, and that's exactly what he's found this season under coach Scott Skiles. Surely, Villanueva's been able to maintain this pace primarily because Michael Redd has been out due to a serious knee injury. However, we shouldn't be too surprised that Villanueva is flourishing under Skiles, because the coach loves guys like Villanueva who are willing to do the dirty work and play hard every minute.
The only genuine surprise is that a guy who's three-point shooting percentage was in the low 30s the first three seasons of his NBA career has averaged about 43 percent from beyond the arc and two treys per contest the past two months. Keep on riding Villanueva, because there's no reason why he should slow down the rest of this season.
OK, I'll admit that Troy Murphy has been a personal thorn in my side this season. That's because I finally gave up on him after last season -- well, that, coupled with the insane stats he's posted most of this season
I was among the first to jump on his bandwagon when he averaged a double-double for the Warriors during his second campaign during the 2002-03 season. He missed most of the next year due to injury, so I got him cheap the following season when he had his career-best performance of 15.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg and began hitting nearly one three per game. His percentages were poor (41.4 that season, and 43.3 the next), though, and his fantasy appeal fell off the map once Don Nelson was brought in to coach the team. Luckily he was traded to the Pacers after 26 games, and I offered him to everyone who would listen as a guy who could easily score in the mid teens with double-digit boards and a triple each game. Of course, he proceeded to make me look like a fool for the next season-and-a-half by barely averaging double-digit points and struggling to get near seven rebounds a night.
Well, in 58 games this season, Murphy is averaging 13.9 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.1 threes, while hitting 47 percent from the field. Last month, he averaged 18.5 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 2.3 threes per game and 51.3 percent shooting. I can only assume that if I jump back on his bandwagon at this point, it'll come right off the tracks. But I do believe he's going to continue at this steady pace the remainder of the season, despite how it hurts me to say that he's not on any of my teams.
Speaking of Don Nelson and his never-ending desire to mess with the heads of all fantasy hoopsters ? Nellie recently decided it would be a brilliant idea to sit one or two of his veterans on a regular basis to give some play to his younger options. I understand the thinking to some extent: the Warriors have far too many players capable of starting and/or seeing plenty of run each night, and as a result the young guns don't even get on the court half the time. Nonetheless, only Nellie could come up with this arbitrary solution. He's been a pain in the collective rear end of all fantasy ballers for years, usually by benching or under-using good fantasy options because of his infamous doghouse or because they can't run enough in his anything-goes offense or just "because."
He was giving some notice as to which players would sit for a particular game, which, even though it limits their overall value, at least allows you to maximize your daily lineups. But just as you should expect from Nellie, he's made last-minute changes to those plans recently -- like playing Corey Maggette, who was supposed to sit, last night. Not much help I can give to any of you who have Warriors players, except to remind you to check last-minute reports on who might be in the lineup each night and to NEVER TRUST NELLIE!
Larry Hughes: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Like Troy Murphy, I gave up on Larry Hughes a long time ago. He's as brittle as any player in recent memory, has shot below 41 percent on his career, about 75 percent from the charity stripe and really only had one and a half quality seasons (32 games after being dealt to the Warriors during the '99-00 season and his huge '04-05 campaign with the Wiz) during his decade-long career.
But since being dealt from the Bulls to the Knicks, who love to run and gun, he's worth a look. He's getting a chance to start and heave shots, which is when he's at his best. In his first start, Hughes tossed up 15 shots, hit seven of them and scored 19 points; the game before that, he came off the bench to hit nine of 16 for 25 points. He also hit seven treys and swiped six balls during those two games. Odds are that Hughes will average less than 40 percent from the field the rest of the way and that he will get injured. But if you need steals, threes and points, go grab him off waivers to see how long he can last.