It feels good to be able to say that I no longer am the owner of a last-place fantasy basketball team. A strong 7-2 win in this week's head-to-head matchup has propelled me to … eleventh place, with a spacious two-game gap over the new last-place team. It's easy to want to bail on a fantasy team that is floundering despite what you feel are your best efforts, but small victories can help you stay motivated, and you really never can tell what might happen if you can string a few of those together. Next stop – tenth place.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Larry Hughes visited four doctors this past week, and the consensus is that his broken right middle finger is not healing as quickly as hoped. What is next for Hughes is still the subject of debate, however. He may simply need longer than the six weeks that were originally anticipated for a recovery from his January 6 surgery, or he potentially could require another surgical procedure that would effectively end his season. Cavs GM Danny Ferry said on Saturday, "We haven't determined anything. We're still gathering information with the doctors and looking at all of the options." He added that a decision would have to come "sooner or later," and Hughes himself said that he'll know "in the next couple of days" what his next steps will be. Fantasy owners should be on the lookout for updates, as Hughes may become expendable in non-keeper leagues by mid-week. Hughes' disappointing season – his numbers relative to last year have declined in every standard scoring category except blocks – may be heading towards a worst-case scenario.
- Darius Miles is set to return next week, with February 21 being the likely date, according to The Oregonian. He is currently owned in 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and if you are in the other 35 percent, adding him to your roster on speculation in favor of your most expendable player is an interesting dilemma. He averaged 18.2 points, 5.6 boards, 1.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks before going down with a knee injury, but those positives come at a price – he also averaged 3.5 turnovers and made only 55 percent of 6.9 free throws per game. Miles, despite being in his seventh season, is still only 24 years old, and his early-season numbers overall were easily the best of his career. He is the subject of trade rumors, and his return is ironically set to be two days before the trade deadline. Whether he is dealt or not, Miles will likely be given every opportunity to be a main piece of his team's rotation. If he can get back to 100 percent health, he will once again make for an interesting fantasy play for his owners for the rest of the season.
- Tim Duncan has had a rough stretch in recent weeks. He's still recovering from a severe case of the flu, which forced him to sit out the Spurs' February 8 game, and he's quietly been battling a foot injury the entire season that may be making its presence more and more felt in recent games. In the four games he has played in February, he's made only 35 percent of his field goals and averaged just 13.0 points per contest. The team is concerned with his foot injury, particularly in the second of back-to-back games, like Monday's contest, but Duncan will play as long as he feels that he is able.
If you used a high draft pick on him, you more than likely noticed that he is currently averaging career lows in points, blocks, and field goal percentage. While he was selected as a starter for the All-Star game, the upcoming break may be just what Duncan needs to rest his weary body. Duncan's fantasy owners should keep tabs on his level of activity during the break, and also be on the lookout for updates on his foot, however minor, as the season progresses. Also of note for fantasy owners who are starting to think about challenging for their league's championship – the Spurs, winners of nine straight games, have a comfortable lead atop the Western Conference. If Duncan is still ailing down the stretch, it's a safe bet that the Spurs will use every opportunity to rest him for the playoffs.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Al Jefferson (PF, Boston)
It's true that Jefferson is currently on the shelf with an ankle sprain, but he should only miss one more game and be ready after the All-Star break. In nine games before the injury, Jefferson averaged 11.2 points, 7.8 boards, and 1.1 blocks. The Celtics will give him and fellow youngster Kendrick Perkins as much run as they can handle down the stretch – if he can stay out of foul trouble, Jefferson should be a good fantasy play going forward.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Morris Peterson (GF, Toronto) – Peterson has had a phenomenal line over his past seven games, posting averages of 19.7 points, 2.4 threes, 5.6 boards, 2.6 assists, and 2.9 steals.
Raymond Felton (G, Charlotte) – Felton has put up Chris Paul-type numbers so far during the month of February, averaging 17.8 points on 53 percent shooting, 1.8 threes, 7.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.4 steals in 37 minutes of playing time.
Yao Ming (C, Houston) – Yao has not missed a beat since his return from toe surgery, posting four double-doubles and averaging 20.9 points, 9.9 boards, and 2.9 blocks in eight games since his return.
Mickael Pietrus (GF, Golden State) – Pietrus has been playing particularly well as a starter – he's averaged 32 minutes in nine games since being moved into the starting lineup, along with 15.4 points on 49 percent shooting, 1.9 threes, 5.1 boards, and 1.0 steals.
Raja Bell (SG, Phoenix) – Bell has followed up a strong January with even better numbers so far in February – in five games, he's averaged 15.0 points, 3.2 threes, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.2 steals.
Charlie Villanueva (F, Toronto) – Villanueva has started the Raptors' past five games at small forward, and is responding well to the new assignment – he's averaged 16.0 points, 1.2 treys, and 6.8 rebounds in those contests.
Kevin Martin (SG, Sacramento) – Martin has continued to post great numbers as Bonzi Wells is again sidelined with a groin injury – Martin has scored at least 20 points in five of seven games, and has averaged 19.7 points on 62 percent shooting, 2.3 threes, and 4.9 rebounds over that stretch.
Ben Wallace (FC, Detroit) – Wallace's offensive contributions have been truly pathetic during the month of February – he's made 9 of 25 field goals (36 percent), 4 of 18 free throws (22 percent), and averaged just 3.7 points in six games.
Jason Williams (PG, Miami) – Williams has struggled with his shot since returning from a finger injury – over the past five games, he's averaged 4.4 points on 24 percent shooting and 0.4 threes in 25 minutes of action.
Bobby Jackson (PG, Memphis) – Jackson's fantasy value is back down to around nil thanks to the arrival of Chucky Atkins – over the past five games, Jackson has shot just 29 percent from the field and averaged 12.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists.
Number of the Week
4 – The number of days during which games will be played this week due to the All-Star game (Monday-Thursday). Those of you in head-to-head leagues should be sure to choose your player matchups carefully if you don't have room for all your active players in your lineup on a given day – no NBA team has more than two games scheduled this week.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
Y! – Buser continues to hold the top spot in the standings, with TMR and Y! – Funston engaged in a close battle for second. This week's transactions included Juwan Howard, Kurt Thomas, Mark Blount, Eddie Griffin, and Eddie Jones among others.