Carmelo Anthony improving '11 draft stock
Sometimes it seems we forget how good Carmelo Anthony is in the fantasy game, which is forgivable when you consider that he has underperformed his average draft spot in every possible format this season. But during the past couple of weeks, few fantasy players have put up more productive overall numbers than Anthony, and we need to start considering how we should go about valuing him heading into next season. In his past five games, he's averaging 31.4 points and 9.0 rebounds. Those are the big numbers that stand out first, and they're not as wild as you might think. We've always known Anthony was among the most talented players around, and it may be that we're only beginning to find out what can happen when he's truly motivated.
Sure, Anthony isn't going to shoot better than 50 percent for a long stretch the way he has lately, and he's not always going to knock down 3s the way he has been of late. But the newfound commitment to rebounding is something I will certainly be keeping my eye on. Anthony is so strong and has such good hands that he could easily average nine boards a game for a whole season if he set his mind to it, and that, along with the rest of his game, would put him firmly in the top 10 in terms of fantasy production. If you've been holding on to him as a keeper candidate, this most recent stretch has to have you feeling more optimistic than you did a couple of weeks ago.
Toney Douglas got a little bump in playing time after Chauncey Billups left the game with a bruised thigh. Coach Mike D'Antoni later said Billups could have played if it was necessary, but Douglas remains a decent fantasy option even when Billups is at full strength. Gilbert Arenas was great for the Magic in the absence of Jason Richardson (sore knee), finishing with 25 points, including six 3-pointers. It was his first decent performance in a while, though, and he has shown no consistency this season; I wouldn't risk putting him in your lineup, especially since the Magic play their final three games against the Bulls, 76ers and Pacers, all of whom are decent defensive teams. Jordan Farmar filled in admirably for the Nets, who lost to the Pistons anyway. Still, Farmar finished with 18 points and 11 assists in the absence of Deron Williams, and should be a great source of assists for the final few games of the season. The Heat struggled mightily without Dwyane Wade against the Bucks. Wade was out with a bruised thigh, and what's worse, there's no one really fantasy-worthy to replace him with. Mike Miller had a nice night with 12 rebounds, but his eight points were a big disappointment. Kendrick Perkins has rebounded the ball extremely well in his past two games (he had 17 boards against the Clippers on Wednesday night), but I'm concerned that he's still not blocking shots at his usual rate and has been shooting a very low percentage from the floor. Until he fixes those problems, he's not really worth playing unless you really need the rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, considering how cautious the Mavs are being with Tyson Chandler's sore back heading into the playoffs, you might want to get Brendan Haywood into your lineup if Chandler misses any more time. Haywood's grabbed 30 rebounds in his past two games, and has blocked six shots, too.
The Celtics will play the Bulls on Thursday night in Chicago. After losing to the Celtics twice in the first half of the season, the Bulls handled the Celtics pretty easily last time they faced off, behind 36 points from Derrick Rose. If you've been leaning on Glen Davis for the C's, you might be better off sitting him in this one, as he's been terrible against the Bulls all season. In the other game on the schedule, the Jazz will face the Trail Blazers. The Jazz are out of contention, of course, but they've been getting some decent production out of rookies Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors of late. Hayward had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists against the Lakers on Tuesday night, and Favors chipped in 14 points and 11 rebounds. Both of those guys should be in your lineup Thursday night.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.