I sat down and watched the Warriors-Lakers game on Monday night, and anytime you have a game with an over/under of 230, you know it's going to be entertaining. When you root for the underdog, it's even better to watch a couple of ex-D-Leaguers (Anthony Tolliver and Chris Hunter) hang with Kobe and the reigning champions.
Monta Ellis shot absolutely horrible (5-for-23, 21 percent), and, conversely, the play of rookie Stephen Curry was impressive to say the least. I'll give Ellis a pass on the shooting (though fantasy owners won't) since he did a great job on defending Kobe. Bryant put up 29 (9-for-18 from the floor) on him but committed a game-high nine turnovers (the Warriors had five as a team). Curry also scored 29 despite missing time in the first half due to foul trouble. The Lakers prevailed when both Curry and Ellis missed potential game-tying three-pointers in the final 10 seconds. Both players are valuable fantasy options next year, which leads me to this question: who are you drafting first, Curry or Ellis?
The knee-jerk reaction is to probably say Ellis on this one. So let's start off by looking at Monta Ellis' per game averages for the season:
Ellis has dealt with various injuries throughout the season that have cost him 11 games at three different times. He's second in the league in minutes played per game (41.4), which has probably played a role in the missed games. If he's still with the Warriors next year (notice I said "if"), there's no reason to think he won't log similar stats with 40 minutes a game.
Now let's look at Curry, who didn't play Wednesday because of ankle injury, and, like last week's column with Andrew Bogut, I'll look at his per game averages since 1/1/10:
Blocks are meaningless; that's not a category your guard is going to win or lose for you. Looking at the remaining seven categories, Curry wins five, losing only steals and points. Not only that, he's significantly better at threes (116 more made over the course of an entire season) and free-throw percentage (16 percent higher). There's a good argument that Ellis' field-goal percentage is a negative since he averages 22 shots a contest. Now I realize that Curry did this over a 35-game span and was brought along slowly, adjusting to the NBA game at the beginning of the season. But figure in growth after playing 82 games, there's a decent chance he posts these numbers over an entire season.
I sneakily put an "if" in a couple of paragraphs ago, inferring that Ellis might not be with the team next season. Don't forget that his initial reaction to Curry was that he felt they couldn't coexist on the same team, saying that it wasn't going to work. Early in the season Ellis fell out of favor with coach Don Nelson and was rumored to be heading out of town in a Stephen Jackson-type fashion. This offseason will be a wild one for the NBA, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Ellis traded. The only three places where his fantasy value would be similar are New York, Indiana and Denver. Landing on any other team would knock his fantasy value down a couple notches. I'm not saying this is definitely going to happen, but Curry will be in a Warrior's uniform next year; I'd say it's about 60/40 that Ellis is also. In case you haven't gotten the message, I'd easily take Curry over Ellis right now if I was drafting for next season. I wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger on him over another point guard like Chauncey Billups.
Now onto our weekly look at player minutes, roto categories that waiver-wire players can help with and new position eligibility.
Toney Douglas, G, NY - I hate when I read about players who just aren't available. Don't recommend grabbing Brandon Jennings five days after he scores 55 -- it's obviously too late. The same could be said here about Douglas, who had a nice line on Monday night with 20 points, seven assists and three steals in 37 minutes. Maybe I'm in leagues with lesser opponents, but the likely scenario is that so many teams have given up with such little time left in the season that he's still available. Grab him if you need points, assists or steals.
Josh Boone, C, NJ - Once again a player from the woeful Nets makes his way onto my list. Boone has played more recently with Yi Jianlian injured and responded with a 20-rebound performance on Tuesday night. He's played 31 and 32 minutes in his last two games, respectively, and has totals of 18 points, 26 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Remember, he's a terrible free-throw shooter and should only be used as a No. 2 center while Yi is out.
Ronald Murray, G, CHI - Flip has been the beneficiary of extra playing time left from Derek Rose's injury and Kirk Hinrich's suspension. He scored 25 points with five steals and three rebounds Tuesday night with both of the starting guards out. Hinrich returned Wednesday night, and Rose will be brought back slowly with the Bulls having nothing to play for. As long as Flip sees 24-plus minutes a contest, he's worth starting in deeper leagues.
Here are some players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Rasual Butler, G, LAC - Butler is inconsistent but he continues to produce. Over his last four games he's averaging 17.5 points, including 12 three-pointers. You can only really count on him for scoring, and don't be surprised to see him follow up a 30-point outing with a game in the low single digits. Nevertheless, he has the ability to put up a lot of points, especially if the long ball is hitting for him.
Wesley Matthews, G, UTA - Like Murray, Matthews has seen an uptick in minutes the last couple weeks with his teammates sidelined with various ailments. Matthews has been shooting extremely well lately, making 61.8 percent of his shots from the field and 11-of-12 (91.7 percent) from the charity stripe in his last four games. The field-goal percentage is especially impressive since he's made eight three-pointers during that span. Look his way as long as his teammates are still watching from the bench.
Udonis Haslem, F, MIA - Here's your double-double recommendation for the week. Haslem is likely sitting on your waiver-wire despite averaging 9.3 points and 10.8 rebounds over the last week. Haslem is up to eight games in a row with at least eight rebounds and should be snagged if you need help on the boards for the stretch run.
Every league has different rules regarding eligibility. Always check your rules to make sure your league recognizes the new position a player may be eligible to play.
Ime Udoka, SAC - Now eligible at shooting guard and small forward
Joel Anthony, MIA - Now eligible at center and power forward
Jawad Williams, CLE - Now eligible at shooting guard, small forward, power forward