Unsung performers shine

March, 6, 2008
I am going to dedicate this blog to the unsung and underappreciated. In other words, this is the fantasy equivalent of a shout-out to movies like "Deep Blue Sea," "Idiocracy" and "Problem Child." We are coming into the stretch run and those of you trying to creep into your head-to-head playoffs, or just get some padding in your rotisserie leagues, should be looking through the scat your league mates have left behind. Neil Tardy nailed it yesterday; every year a handful of players rises up for the final month or so of the season to provide real value. Here's to happy hunting, which brings to mind another oft-overlooked movie: "Surviving the Game."

There were a few waiver wags who showed up for the playoff hopeful Golden State Warriors last night in Charlotte. Jared Dudley hit the glass for, count 'em, 18 rebounds. Granted, the Warriors are not the strongest rebounding team, but 18 boards? Dudley will put up decent numbers so long as Gerald Wallace (concussion) remains sidelined, which should be the next few games at least. Matt Carroll (9 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals), who is just 7.8 percent owned, is the Bobcat I like to continue to provide solid 3-pointers and scoring the rest of the season.

How is DeShawn Stevenson still owned by just 7.8 percent of you? Really? Come on! Are 92.8 percent of you doing that well in your leagues? He scored 17 points last night and is averaging 14.6 points and 1.8 3-pointers in his past five games. Some of you overweening owners could use that, right?

Yes, Kevin Garnett (31 points) had his best game since returning from his abdominal strain, but the bargain hunters were more interested in Kendrick Perkins's line: 10 points, 20 rebounds and 2 blocks. Perkins is just 6.9 percent owned, but has scored in double digits three games in a row and has averaged 10.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in his past five games.

Someone has to step up with Chris Bosh out and last night it was Rasho Nesterovic (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Jamario Moon (14 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks). Moon is down to just 38.4 percent owned, yet is putting up strong defensive numbers. In his past five games, he has averaged 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals.

Owners in deeper leagues should give Earl Barron a gander. His numbers (10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block) weren't great last night, but Mark Blount has turned in three consecutive weak efforts and Pat Riley may be on the verge of burying him on the bench. If he does, Barron will see more minutes and production.

It's pretty amazing what happens to Eddy Curry when you take Zach Randolph out of the Knicks' lineup. Last night, Curry went for 20 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. This makes for Curry's first back-to-back double-digit scoring games in more than a month. Curry is worthy of adding only so long as Randolph is out. Randolph is day-to-day with a bruised right foot.

I know I said I was going to focus on the lesser lights but I cannot overlook LeBron James' game last night. James went for 50 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists and even filled it up from deep, hitting 7 of 13 3-pointers. I think he has justified our ranking him above Shawn Marion in the ESPN Draft Kit.

Here are some numbers from the past five games from a player who is 0.0 percent owned in ESPN leagues: 25.2 minutes, 14.0 points, 2.0 3-pointers, 2.2 assists and 0.6 steals. Seems ownable in deeper leagues, no? So who is this mystery player who went for 22 points and a trio of 3-pointers last night? Jannero Pargo. He is getting run and, with Bobby Jackson out of town, is going to get regular minutes as the first guard off the bench. He deserves more love than he is getting.

Charlie Villanueva has disappointed despite fairly low expectations for him this season. Nights like last night, when he went off for 32 points (the second-most prolific scoring night of his career), 3 3-pointers, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks, make you realize he could be worth a flyer. The starting gig is his and he has the talent. If you are within a few games of making the playoffs in your league, Villanueva is exactly the kind of player I would target: talented and likely to get looks as his team starts to evaluate what it has for next season.

We have all been waiting for a while, but it looks as though Nenad Krstic is starting to wake up. Last night, he played the most minutes of the season (34) and put up solid numbers: 16 points and 9 rebounds with 2 steals. He grabbed 10 rebounds in 26 minutes the night before. The fact that he played so well on the back end of a back-to-back set is a great sign about his conditioning. He is just 4.9 percent owned, so chances are you can grab him in your league.

Did anyone call this? The Rockets have won 16 in a row and are 4-0 since Yao Ming went down for the season. Role players have stepped up and owners may look to guys like Carl Landry (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Luther Head (14 points, 4 3-pointers) to help their fantasy squads out. Head has averaged 13.4 points, 2.6 3-pointers and 3.0 assists in his past five games.

Travis Diener should be owned in most leagues, yet sits at 17.3 percent owned in ESPN leagues. Look, he is the starting point guard in Indiana and that isn't likely to change even if Jamaal Tinsley comes back. Diener has proved himself. As a starter, he has averaged 10.8 points, 1.4 3-pointers and 6.0 assists and his numbers are rising.

We told you Boris Diaw's value would climb with Shaquille O'Neal joining the Suns and it has. Diaw (45.2 percent owned) had another good one with 17 points, 1 3-pointer and 6 assists. This makes three double-digit scoring efforts in a row. He is getting minutes (28.8 per game in his past five) and you should add him as insurance if he is sitting on your league's wire. The Suns may continue to struggle (3-5 since Shaq joined the lineup), but Diaw is going to play.

Ronnie Brewer is down to 32.2 percent owned in ESPN leagues and it's time owners re-evaluated this early-season darling. Brewer had 16 points, 2 3-pointers and 8 rebounds last night and has averaged 15.0 points, 0.8 3-pointers and 0.6 steals on 65.3 percent shooting from the field in his past five. As I said, re-evaluate.

Remember the 2004-05 season when Dan Dickau put up very solid numbers when Baron Davis went down with injury? We could be looking at a repeat. Sam Cassell is out of town and with only Brevin Knight to compete with for point guard minutes, I can foresee a lot of playing time for the former Zag. Last night, Dickau played 35 minutes (to Knight's 23) with 20 points, 4 3-pointers and 4 assists. Deep leaguers looking for help at the point should look at Dickau if Travis Diener has been grabbed already.

Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can email him at guylake@talentedmrroto.com.



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