Conley, Chalmers, Sessions '09 draft steals
• Dwight Howard, Magic: 22 points, 18 rebounds at Miami.|
• Dwyane Wade, Heat: 42 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals versus the Magic.
• Deron Williams, Jazz: 24 points, 13 assists against the Knicks.
• Charlie Bell, Bucks: 5 points (2-9 FG) at New Jersey.|
• Vince Carter, Nets: 9 points (3-11 FG), 3 rebounds, 1 assist against the Bucks.
• Al Harrington, Knicks: 24 points, but 8 turnovers and just 3 rebounds versus the Jazz.
But beyond that, there was also a nice showing from some less-heralded backcourt players who could be steals in your next draft.
Going into this season, the top 150 revealed a few big names, then an encouraging amount of depth in the fifth-to-ninth-round range (I know I snagged Mike Bibby and Jameer Nelson in Rounds 8 and 9.) Beyond the draft, there were plenty of contributors to be found on the waiver wire: Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley, to name a couple.
I don't see the dynamic changing much going into next season, where you'll find a surprising amount of production after the marquee names are gone from the board. Take a look at some of the lesser names from Monday's games that could be in for solid 2010s: Mike Conley, Mario Chalmers and Ramon Sessions. The three are a statistically diverse group of players with different types of box scores.
The two keys to Conley's development this season were the Kyle Lowry trade and the hiring of Lionel Hollins. Barring a Ricky Rubio-style windfall in the draft, Conley should enter next season entrenched as the starter on a team with two rapidly maturing NBA scorers (Rudy Gay and Mayo) and a legitimate center (Marc Gasol). He rebounds unexpectedly well for a point guard and is hitting his 3-pointers with more consistency.
It took a couple of injuries for Sessions to boost his minutes to the level he was accustomed to late last season. However, once Sessions became the lead player in the Bucks' backcourt (and Milwaukee's last point guard standing), he quickly became a top-15 player at his position. He also rebounds well, and scraped a triple-double on several occasions.
Forget the fact that Chalmers fell into the NBA draft's second round: he came out of the box already producing at an elite level in steals. Last night, he purloined five, raising his average to 2.0 per game on the season, good for fourth-best in the NBA. Like Conley, Chalmers' 3-point shot has come on as the season has progressed. It's the key to his offensive game, as he gets plenty of opportunities at open looks courtesy of the attention affixed to Dwyane Wade.
What all of this means is that, come Halloween, you should think twice before reaching on an aging star such as Steve Nash or Jason Kidd. There's going to be plenty of quality guard play to be had in the middle-to-late rounds once again.
Under the Boards
If Richard Jefferson had shot like last night (8-of-12) during the past month, the Bucks and his fantasy owners would probably still be in playoff contention. He's had one of the more atrocious stretches in recent memory from the field (54-of-144 since March 10), especially for a player once associated with solid percentages. Aside from Brook Lopez' double-double, the only Net to post fantasy-worthy numbers was Chris Douglas-Roberts (14 points, 4 assists). Definitely a one-game aberration. If you're wondering why Larry Hughes played only 16 minutes, he rolled his ankle. Consider him day-to-day. Other than that, the wide-open Knicks-Jazz matchup offered several good-to-great contributions to fantasy squads, as the Knicks rallied from a big deficit and made things interesting down the stretch. Best of all was the fact that both teams combined for 25 steals (and, unfortunately for some owners, 37 turnovers). Kyle Korver continued his on-off pattern, hitting a 3-pointer on his way to 16 points. Carlos Boozer had a monster night (21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals), while Paul Millsap still got 32 minutes and was serviceable (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals). Al Harrington had a nice game in some respects (24 points, 3 steals, 8-of-8 free throws), but also missed eight 3-pointers and committed eight turnovers. I mentioned in the Daily Notes that I had a funny feeling Joe Alexander could have some late-blooming value. For one game, at least, he pushed himself onto the fantasy radar with 16 points, two 3-pointers and four assists. You have to take the numbers with a large grain of salt, as Alexander logged heavy minutes in a mind-numbingly depressing blowout of the Nets. But with Milwaukee fading from playoff contention, Alexander is probably in line for at least 20 minutes a night from here on out. That's probably good enough to make him a one-game pickup for people looking for 3s, with some upside in other categories.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.