Greg Monroe a quiet force
While all of the news anyone has heard in recent months about the Detroit Pistons has centered on which player is openly revolting against head coach John Kuester (it's Rodney Stuckey this week, in case you missed the memo), there has actually been some very good news for Pistons fans that's rarely been reported. Rookie Greg Monroe has quietly put together a very solid post-All-Star-break run, averaging 14.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game and shooting 58.0 percent in 20 games. Last night against the Washington Wizards, Monroe played 43 minutes and piled up 22 points (7-for-13 FG, 8-for-10 FT), 14 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals and a block.
He's arguably the most polished rookie from last year's draft class and is set to be a cornerstone for the Pistons for years to come. He should be a very nice fantasy option, too. As he becomes more comfortable on offense, his scoring will rise closer to 20 ppg and he should have healthy assist totals for a big man. It would be nice to see his free throws get on the right side of 70 percent (60.0 percent on the season, 68.1 percent since the break) and his blocks (0.5 on the season, 0.7 since the break) have been absent, but his healthy steal production (1.2 on the season, 1.9 since the break) reveals his athleticism and effort. It's nice for Pistons fans to hear some news about their team for a change that isn't revolting.
• Andrew Bynum allayed any concerns about the tweaked knee he sustained Sunday by playing 38 minutes, ripping down 23 boards and blocking four shots Tuesday evening. The big guy hit only five of his 13 field goal attempts and finished with 12 points, but it looks like he should be healthy enough to start the final five games of the season. Whether he actually will start them all may depend on when the Lakers finalize their playoff position. Currently, they're second in the Western Conference, 3½ games behind the San Antonio Spurs and two games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. That means next Tuesday's game between the Lakers and Spurs could be completely meaningless or thoroughly crucial. The same could be said for the Lakers' final regular-season run next Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings.
• Lou Williams announced Monday that his hamstring injury will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the regular season, though he hopes to be ready for the postseason. He ended up having a pretty mediocre fantasy season, as he averaged 13.7 points, 1.2 3-pointers, 3.4 assists, 0.6 steals and shot 40.6 percent. Still, Williams has done a lot more than last year's second overall draft pick, Evan Turner, who has had trouble even establishing a role in the rotation. In fact, the rookie was a DNP-CD in two of the three games leading into last night's battle with the Boston Celtics. However, with Williams out of the picture, Turner played 33 minutes, hit nine of 14 shots and finished with 21 points, five assists, a steal and a 3-pointer. Clearly he has an opportunity to carve out a role in the final few games of the season, and he has the talent to post numbers similar to Williams'. Grab Turner off your waiver wire if you just lost Williams.
• You really want your swingmen to average more than the 1.8 assists, 0.1 3s and 1.0 steals DeMar DeRozan has averaged this season. However, if you're in a tight race for scoring and percentages, you have to love the fact DeRozan has averaged 20.0 ppg and shot 48.3 percent from the field (on 16.3 attempts per game) and 88.7 percent from the line (on 4.6 attempts per game) in 21 games since the All-Star break. Tuesday night, he busted up the New York Knicks for 36 points (13-for-27 FG, 9-for-12 FT), 10 boards and 3 assists, though he had only one 3-pointer and one steal. So long as the Toronto Raptors don't change their lineup much during the offseason, DeRozan should continue to score well with great percentages next season, while leaving you short on 3s and steals. Think Richard Hamilton, who has had moderate fantasy value most of his career.
The Toronto Raptors face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, but they may be doing it without the help of Andrea Bargnani. He managed to get back on the hardwood Tuesday evening after missing three of the previous four games due to an ankle injury. However, he lasted only eight minutes before calling it a night. He'll be a risky play the final week, even if he starts a game, because any time a 7-footer is dealing with bone spurs in his ankle, it's going to be tough to count on him to complete those games. Ed Davis played 39 minutes Tuesday night, finished with 22 points (10-for-14 FG), 13 boards and a block, and should be a solid play again tonight if Bargnani is unable to play through the pain.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.