Ginobili, Ellis ultra-efficient
As solid as Hughes was, he couldn't hold a candle to Manu Ginobili, who gave us the fantasy line of the night: 46 points on 15-of-20 shooting with eight 3-pointers, plus 8-of-9 shooting from the line, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, a block and just one turnover. That, my friends, is dominant. Even LeBron James' 39-point effort couldn't touch Ginobili's.
You could see this one coming a mile away. Stan Van Mustache calls out his star center, Dwight Howard, for being soft on defense and Howard goes ape the very next night. Howard turned in his sixth 20-20 effort of the season with 23 points and 24 rebounds. It's not often you see Marcus Camby (eight rebounds) dominated on the glass like this. Howard added two blocks just to keep coach happy. Yes, he hurt you from the foul line, shooting 7-of-14, but at this point in the season you have to expect nights like this. Howard's owners should be glad to see him motivated and dominating the glass as he should most every night. I almost regret trading the guy until I see the free throws and turnovers (5).
It is more than safe to drop Linas Kleiza (two points in 22 minutes) from your rosters. The kid has the talent to be sure, but talent without minutes isn't much better than no talent at all.
This makes it two in row for Hakim Warrick. Last night, he put up 23 points and eight rebounds one night after going for 24 and 13. Nice numbers, but the thing that troubles me about Warrick is the absence of defensive stats. Take a flyer on Warrick, but I wouldn't expect much better production from him than what we have seen from Joe Smith of the Bulls. For that matter, Smith's free throw percentage and occasional blocks actually rate him higher in my book.
The Nets looked lost last night without Jason Kidd. Everyone's numbers were off. Look for Vince Carter's assists to rise while the Nets wait for point guard Devin Harris. It will be interesting to see how things play out now that Devean George has effectively blocked the trade; Carter had seven dimes last night and the offense is going to run through him a lot if, in fact, Kidd is moved. Marcus Williams is a decent short-term add in deeper leagues, but he will not hold the starting gig if and when Harris is back. Of all the players on the Nets, I think Vince Carter has the best chance of improving his value with the trade of Kidd. This is because he is the one Net who is capable of creating for himself and others on the team.
Emeka Okafor had a huge night (20 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks) and even hit his free throws (8-for-10), a nice gift for head-to-head owners in a short week.
If you woke up this morning wondering why Josh Smith only played 16 minutes, don't panic. He fouled out in those short minutes and his lackluster stats are a direct result. Smith is a fantasy anomaly who puts up great defensive stats, but who doesn't always play great defense. Clearly, he was overeager for the blocks last night.
Rumors are flying in New York that the Knicks are looking to move Eddy Curry and/or Zach Randolph. If so, they didn't do a good job of showcasing Curry's talents last night. The incredible vanishing center played just nine minutes. If either of these guys are traded, I like Curry to get his scoring back. It is clear there isn't room enough in the post for both of these big men in the Garden.
I am a believer in Rajon Rondo (18 points, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks), but just like last week I am urging owners to explore trading him. He has put up fantastic numbers in his past five games: 14.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks. He will not maintain these numbers when Kevin Garnett is back. Try to maximize his value while you can.
Scanning through the Pistons-Pacers box score, it appeared that, like cruising the food court at your local mall, there was little that was appetizing. The game-high was 14 points, shared by four players? Then I saw Amir Johnson's line: 8 points, 9 boards and 7 blocks in 31 minutes! This kid hasn't been getting much run, but one of these years he is going to emerge. He is one to watch the rest of the way and to keep in mind for next season when you are looking for late-round blocks with offensive upside.
You couldn't tell by his line, but Chris Paul was feeling the effects of the pandemic flu that has felled half the league in the past few weeks. The MVP candidate put up 21 points, two 3-pointers, 10 assists and three steals in the win. Tyson Chandler looked fully recovered from the flu en route to 15 points and 16 rebounds.
While there have been a lot of accolades thrown at Pau Gasol since his trade to the Lakers, have any of you noticed the improved play of Lamar Odom? Last night, he notched a triple-double (10 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists), and in the six games since Gasol joined the Lakers, he has averaged 13.0 points, 0.8 3-pointers, 12.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 63.0 percent from the field. The low points may depress his value to fantasy newbies. Silly newbies. See if you can't take advantage and reap the reward of a stud rebounder who also gives you five-plus assists a game.
Has any player's ownership yo-yoed like John Salmons'? This week, he's up 32.4 percent in ESPN leagues (largely due to his 19-point game against Golden State last Saturday), yet in his past two games he has done nothing. Last night, he provided nothing but quail eggs in 17 minutes. Look for the percentage-owned numbers to change from green to red during the next few days. Salmons will only have value once Ron Artest is shipped out, which may not happen this season if the team thinks they have a shot at that eighth playoff spot in the West.
It's one thing to hold up a blockbuster trade (Kidd to the Mavericks), but to throw in an 0-for11 shooting night in a rare start to top it off? That is going to make last night one to remember for Devean George and all the fans who booed him last night in Dallas.
I know I am not the first to say this, but I never saw any of this coming watching him when he played for the Duke Blue Devils. Carlos Boozer recorded his first career triple-double last night with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He threw in five steals for the fun of it and gave his owners a huge boost in a short week. Looking at his numbers, as well of those of Grant Hill, Corey Maggette and Mike Dunleavy this season, we may need to rethink the "Duke curse." Clearly all of these guys are having excellent seasons.
Monta Ellis is a machine. He is an object lesson in what young players should do in the NBA. Early on, he figured out that his best shots came from inside the arc. Shunning the allure of the 3-pointer, Ellis has become near unguardable. He can drive past any single coverage and is able to stop on a dime and hit from midrange when defensive help closes the lane. Old-timers who claim the midrange jumper is a lost art need look no further than Ellis to see how well it can be used in today's NBA. Last night, he went off for 37 points on 18-of-27 shooting with nine rebounds and five assists, while playing all 48 minutes in the Warriors' win against the Suns.
Maybe it's a case of East Coast bias but it is inexcusable that Al Thornton is merely 20 percent owned in ESPN leagues as I write this. The kid has arrived. He is getting minutes and started over Tim Thomas last night, who came back early from a sore back. I don't see Thornton losing the starting gig. Last night, he went for 24 points, one 3-pointer and nine rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting. In his past five starts, Thornton is averaging 18.0 points and 6.6 rebounds on 54.9 percent shooting from the field and 62.5 from the line. Outside of scoring, rebounding and the occasional deep ball, Thornton isn't providing much, but this doesn't mean you shouldn't add him. Remember, scoring is sexy. No, it won't help you at the club to mention that you just acquired Thornton, but it will help you facilitate trades should you seek someone who provides more statistical breadth.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.