March 05, 2009

February was cold, but these four players were HOT! Matt and Brad discuss whether or not they can maintain their production.

Matt: It's hard to believe that the season is 75 percent complete. Each team only has about 20 games left, which, for fantasy owners, means that you don't have much time at all to make that final push. So it is critical that you maximize your roster spots, and dump any dead weight. However, you also need to be aware of who is hot, and who isn't. It's not always the "name" players who put up the best numbers. Don't start managing your team on 'auto-pilot' just because March Madness is almost upon us, be proactive and do what you need to do to win your league! This week Brad and I will profile four players who had outstanding Februaries, and what the chances are that they can continue that production through the 82nd game.

Brad: I hear you, Matt. Seems like just yesterday we were talking about Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and the rest of the incoming rookie class. You are right when you say that now is not the time to experiment. With so few games remaining, it's essential that you maximize your opportunities in the coming weeks to ensure a fantasy championship and an off-season's worth of trash talk to your buddies. For most of the season you have relied on a core group of players to help you to the top of your standings, but it's those peripheral players that you must analyze now. Whether your team is struggling to compete, or has a firm grip on first place, now is the time to cut bait with the fool's gold's and focus on finding a mother lode.

2008-09 stats: 5.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks (stats as of March 4)

Turiaf is only owned by 41 percent of fantasy owners in Yahoo! leagues despite a February which ranked him as the 26th most valuable player. A majority of fantasy owners are not impressed with Turiaf, so we ask whether or not they are missing the boat?

Matt: Turiaf isn't your guy if you're looking for a ton of scoring, but if you need any of those non-scoring categories, Turiaf is your man. In 10 games in February, Turiaf averaged 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. His numbers would have been even better, except he has been dealing with a sprained ankle over the past few games. Don't let that dissuade you; once he returns to the lineup, he'll put up numbers. In fact, if another owner has recently cut Turiaf, now is the time to pounce. Remember, he shined filling in for the injured Andris Biedrins and has particularly impressed head coach Don Nelson. You should expect to see a lot more of Turiaf on the floor, regardless of Biedrins' status. The Warriors like to run, and Turiaf is better suited for that pace than Biedrins. So if you need some help over these next 20 games, take a shot on Turiaf, you'll find the mother lode!

Brad: Biedrins is back, and that means Turiaf returns to his rightful place on the Warriors bench. The run was nice, but now is the time to sell high. Since Biedrins return, the 6-10 former 'Zag has seen his playing time drop from around 30 minutes a game, to below 22 in each of the last three games. He's an emotional player that uses his size and hustle to outmaneuver his opponents, but his lack of scoring ability is obvious. Turiaf does two things well: clank jumpers and block shots. My guess is that the blocks are what interest the 41 percent of owners. If you are in the midst of Operation Desperation, Turiaf can provide a quick fix to a big problem. Consider this a warning that the 9.8 points he averaged in February were a result of extended playing time that is now being revoked. If you think Turiaf is going to be ranked 26th in the month of March, heck -- ranked in the Top 50 -- you have another thing coming. Utilize this fool's gold if you need the blocks, otherwise leave him where he belongs: on your league's free agent list.

2008-09 stats: 10.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 3PTM (stats as of March 4)

Butler was the 32nd most valuable fantasy player according to Yahoo! for the month of February. So you'd expect him to be widely owned, correct? Wrong! He is only owned in 33 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Another oversight by the average fantasy owner, or are they prudent in not adding Butler?

Matt: Butler is averaging the most minutes per game of his career, clocking in at an even 29:00 per game. Those extra minutes paid off in February, when Butler averaged 14.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while also chipping in 2.0 3pg. The change in the calendar hasn't cooled Butler off, as he dropped 22 points on New Jersey on March 1. So why is Butler not owned in more leagues? Well, he certainly doesn't have that "Wow" factor you like to see in your fantasy players. But even more damning for Butler, is his real lack of quality numbers from any category. Seriously, a shooting guard who doesn't even average one assist per game? He also doesn't average one steal per game. Butler may be worth owning in especially deep leagues, but if you own him in a standard league, you may be stumbling right now. In these tough economic times, owning this Butler is a luxury, because he is Fool's Gold!

Brad: Butler is one of this season's best kept secrets, and fantasy owners refuse to accept the fact that this 29-year old, career bench warmer can sustain a random hot streak in his seventh NBA season. Let me tell you, Butler is blossoming. His points and minutes have progressively increased in all six months of the season, leaving him at 37 minutes and 19 points in two March games. Matt, Butler does more than just put the ball in the basket. He averaged 4.5 rebounds in February and knocked in 2.0 3pg. Chip in one block and ... drum roll, please ... ONE assist per game in the last month and you have more than a one category stud. Put it this way, he won't hurt you in any specific category as his shooting percentages are adequate and he does enough outside of shooting to warrant the 30-plus minutes he is receiving on a nightly basis. Run to the wire and nab this Mother Lode before the rest of your fellow owners catch on.

2008-09 stats: 10.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals (stats as of March 4)

Hill must have taken a trip to the Fountain of Youth prior to the season, as the veteran is on pace to play a full 82-game season for the first time in his 15-year career. A rash of injuries has Hill playing nearly 30 minutes per game as the Suns fight for the final playoff spot. Can the oft-injured former superstar provide fantasy owners with a consistent presence during the stretch run?

Brad: Hill has been fantastic for the past month, averaging 10.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in 13 games. With Amar'e Stoudemire out for the year and Steve Nash recovering from a sprained ankle, Hill is playing extra minutes and thriving in the process. He's ranked 63rd in Yahoo! leagues for the past 30 days, but that doesn't vary much from his season ranking of 67. In his final February game, Hill played a bit of the point with Nash out and responded with 14 points, 12 assists, two steals and two blocks. You can't expect that on a nightly basis, but Hill is far from a forgotten star in the fantasy realm. The Suns are in a heated battle for the eighth playoff spot in the West, and Hill is expected to be a major part in the team's late-season run. He's shooting a career-best 51.8 percent from the floor while netting 80.6 percent of his free-throw attempts. Hill won't score in bunches like he used to, but this Mother's Lode has been solid this season and will only get better as the season gets down to the final month.

Matt: Hill has been fantastic the past month? Really? Those 10.9 points per game is exactly his season average for points scored, while that number represents a career low for this 15-year veteran. Also, those 4.2 rebounds are 0.5 boards less than his season average. The steals were up in February, but by a mere 0.2 per game. Do you really want to pin your championship hopes on a 36-year old with bad ankles? I know I don't. The new pace instituted by head coach Alvin Gentry will hurt Hill more than help him. Hill just doesn't have the legs (pun intended) to run up and down the court for 35 minutes per game. I would expect to see Hill's minutes decrease, and to see guys like Matt Barnes and Louis Amundson get more minutes as the season winds down. Right now the Suns are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff race, and their best chances of securing that last playoff spot rest in part on having Hill on the bench so he can be productive when he is on the floor. Let him be someone else's problem, because Grant isn't just over the hill, he is Fool's Gold!

2008-09 stats: 12.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 53.3 FG% (stats as of March 4)

Although drafted in 2002, Scola is only playing in his second season,and the product seems to have been worth the wait. Ranked 78th in Yahoo! leagues, Scola has upped the ante the past month, finishing as February's 51st-best fantasy player. Can you count on Scola to help your fantasy team take home the gold?

Brad: The season-ending injury to Tracy McGrady has opened up some additional playing time for Scola, and the Argentinean is not disappointing. In 11 February games, Scola has averaged 13.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and an 89.1 percent from the free-throw line. So, what's the problem? Well, many fantasy owners need all-around production from their "bigs" as the most important stretch of the season begins. Scola's 10-plus points and rebounds are nice, but can you really afford to start a power forward/center that is averaging 0.2 blocks over the past month? For those of you in rotisserie leagues, you may begin to see a sharp decline in your block numbers. Scola is a nice story, but now's not the time to hope he can step up his defense and give you some blocks. This fool's gold can give you solid rebounds and adequate points, but now's not the time for adequate, it's a time for domination.

Matt: I'd love to have dominant as well. But you only get dominant from a few players every year. What I'm looking for are guys who can help me win, and Scola is exactly that kind of player. Yes, he doesn't block shots, I get that. If I need blocks, I'm not clicking the add button next to his name on the free agent wire. But if I need other things, like, say, points, rebounds, good field-goal percentage, a decent free-throw percentage and even some assists from a big guy, then I'm clicking add. Scola has had 10 straight games scoring double digits, and in eight of those he's hauled in 10 or more rebounds while dishing out at least two assists in those 10 games. All the while he shot 58.7 percent from the field and 88.3 from the line during that stretch. I'll take those numbers on my fantasy team every day. Like Brad said, with McGrady out, this is Scola's time to shine. However unlike Brad, I'm going to recommend that you grab Scola. He is only owned in 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues, what are the rest of you waiting for -- go grab this Mother Lode!

When Matt and Brad aren't haggling over fantasy basketball trades, they are busy scouting the next wave of NBA talent by taking in some college hoops.

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