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Monday, March 30, 2009
Rush emerging late in fantasy playoffs


SUNDAY, MARCH 29
HIGHLIGHTS
Chris Bosh, Raptors: 31 points (11-11 FT), 15 rebounds against the Bulls.
Caron Butler, Wizards: 31 points (13-15 FT), 13 rebounds, 2 3s, 2 steals versus Indiana.
Jose Calderon, Raptors: 22 points (8-11 FG), 19 assists, 2 steals, 3 3s against Chicago.
LOWLIGHTS
Matt Barnes, Suns: 4 points (1-6 FG), 4 rebounds versus Sacramento.
Al Horford, Hawks: 4 points (1-6 FG), 5 rebounds in 33 minutes against the Lakers.
Roger Mason, Spurs: 0 points (0-4 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist at New Orleans.

Two big stories came out of the Pacers-Wizards contest (that sentence isn't written very often), as Caron Butler produced his first big game since March 11, scoring 31 points with 13 rebounds, two 3s and two steals while going 13-for-15 from the free throw line. Butler has been frustrating at times this season, with a dip in steals and field goal percentage and a significant jump in turnovers (up to 3.2 per game, sixth-most in the league). He doesn't have much help on the Wizards, so it's not completely his fault, but his skill set translates to the fantasy game beautifully, and I'm not concerned about his long-term progression. He has been nearly forgotten after sitting much of March with an injury, but he's primed to give teams a late-season push and should have no problem being a top-50 player from here on out.

The other big story: Mr. Brandon Rush, who went off for 29 points and 10 boards, giving him 58 points in his past two contests and five straight in double digits. Is this for real? His athleticism, length and shooting touch are undoubtedly legit, and there's a reason the Pacers made the draft-day move to acquire Rush. I'd look for about 15-17 points per game with 1.5 3s and decent peripherals from Rush from this point forward, and this late-season surge will make him a popular sleeper candidate come draft day next season. Remember, he is a rookie, so some clunkers will be strewn amid his good days, but the long-term prospects are looking very nice for the rookie out of Kansas.

Under the Boards

Allen Iverson returned for the Pistons and played 21 minutes off the bench, scoring eight points. He'll be eased back into a more significant role, regardless of whether it's off the bench or in the starting lineup. And as nicely as both Arron Afflalo and Will Bynum played during stints of his absence, there won't be enough minutes for either of them to be especially effective once AI is up and running with Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton. … Ryan Hollins snared 12 rebounds and blocked two shots in 25 minutes of play off the Mavericks' bench. That's 20 rebounds and six blocks in the past two games for Hollins, who has been the primary big man off the Mavericks' bench instead of the disappointing Brandon Bass. He's worth a look in deep formats if you need boards and blocks, just don't expect him to average 10 and three the rest of the way. … Gilbert Arenas didn't play for the Wizards following his season debut Saturday (15 points, 10 assists, two 3s), but Javaris Crittenton did, and scored 19 points in 43 minutes as the Wizards' starting point guard. In his past four contests, Crittenton has started two of them and is averaging 12.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 0.8 steals. His length should translate into nice defensive stats if he ever gets consistent minutes, which will be completely based upon Arenas' availability this season. Upgrade Crittenton, but temper your expectations knowing his minutes will be inconsistent. … Brad Miller is proving he still has value coming off the Bulls' bench: He had 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block in the overtime loss to the Raptors. Miller's March stats are his best of any month; he's averaging 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 50.8 percent on field goals, 80.7 percent on free throws, 0.6 steals, 0.6 blocks in 29 minutes per game. His move to the Bulls was ideal for fantasy owners, as Miller's stats have increased and Spencer Hawes has begun to flourish in Sacramento. … Hawes matched his career high with 20 points, to go with 10 rebounds, a steal and two blocks against the Suns on Sunday, and he's a valid option in every league. … Vince Carter's March rampage continued, as he dropped 36 points and eight rebounds. He is averaging 24.8 points, 2.7 3s, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.5 blocks this month. He's ranked ninth on the Player Rater for the past 30 days, and VC's play is harkening us back to the early 2000s, when life was easier and he was winning dunk contests. … Mo Williams had 22 points, five assists, two 3s and two steals, but left late in Sunday's game after injuring his finger. X-rays were negative, so I wouldn't be worried too much, although his shooting touch could be hampered in the near future until he adjusts and/or heals.

Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.