The first half of arguably the best NBA season in the last 15 years is behind us and tonight begins the 30 game push to the playoffs. On Saturday, we took a look back at the First Half Fantasy Basketball All-Stars and highlighted the best players at each position through 52 games.
In this edition of Market Watch, we focus on the guys who are entering the second half hot or have experienced increases in fantasy value due to the myriad of trades featuring superstar-caliber players.
Simply Red Hot
Monta Ellis, PG/SG Golden State Warriors - Monta Ellis' thus far in February have made him as this week's Market Watch poster boy. In his last 5 games dating back to February 1st, Ellis is averaging 27.8 points, 6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals a game while shooting a ridiculous 69% from the field; all well above his season averages. In addition, Ellis has two 30+ point scoring games during this span. He had only three games over 30 points entering the month. Ellis appears to be fully established as the starting shooting guard alongside Baron Davis and with Mickael Pietrus toiling away in the dog house and demanding trades, it appears Ellis should continue to see big minutes with little competition.
Larry Hughes, PG/SG Cleveland Cavaliers - The man who was so bad it caused a group of Cavs fan to create a website called HeyLarryHughesPleaseStopTakingSoManyBadShots.com (It's a real site, check it out!) has enjoyed sweet redemption in the month of February. In his last 6 games dating back to February 5th, Hughes is averaging over 21 points, 5 rebounds and 2 three pointers a game while shooting a much-improved 47% from the field. Hughes has been especially hot in his past two games putting up 40 and 26 points in consecutive games. The Cavs need Hughes to continue his strong play and serve as a legitimate second option to Lebron. The recent trade of Mike Bibby to Atlanta exasperates that point as the trade market is now a bit devoid of good offensive options.
Peja Stojakovic, SG/SF New Orleans Hornets - Peja is like your classic fantasy three point gunner on crack. Peja ranks third in the NBA in three pointers made with 139; however, his output has come in on 46 games compared to Rashard Lewis and Jason Richardson who needed 53 games to accumulate 143 and 150 3s respectively. In fact, 56% of Peja's point production has come solely from three pointers. He is enjoying his finest month in February, putting up season highs across the board averaging over 22 points, 5 rebounds and a stellar 4 three pointers in his last 6 games. Peja's fantasy strengths are clearly scoring and three pointers; however, he can also contribute in rebounds, steals and FT % (shooting 93% on the season). The young Hornets will continue to lean on Peja for scoring from beyond the arc to stretch defenses and if he stays healthy 20 points and 3+ three pointers a game are good bets.
It Was Great Playing With You... Need Help With Your Bags?
Beno Udrih, PG Sacramento Kings - The departure of Mike Bibby allows Udrih to regain the starting point guard spot in Sacramento. Beno flourished early in the season, averaging around 14 points and 5 assists along with around 1 steal and three pointer. Bibby's return in January derailed Beno's season, sending him back to the bench and killing his fantasy value. Expect numbers similar to what he was averaging when getting 30+ minutes on a consistent basis the rest of the way. For more analysis on the Bibby trade, click here.
Raja Bell, SG Phoenix Suns - With Shawn Marion attempting to establish himself as "the man" in Miami rather than trying to win a championship in Phoenix, Raja Bell should become a bigger part of the Suns' offense in the second half, especially from behind the three point stripe. Bell has seen more minutes since Marion left, averaging nearly 40 minutes a night and with the added playing time has come a marginal increase in production. The upgrade of Bell is based more on my personal opinion rather than statistical analysis but I feel Raja has a chance to see a rise in his production to 15+ points and 3 three pointers a game making him a strong option down the stretch. Bell can also contribute in rebounds, steals and FT% (shooting 93% on the season).
Boris Diaw, PF/C Phoenix Suns - In contrast to Mr. Bell, the arrival of Shaq will take away playing time from Diaw, dropping his minutes to under 30 minutes a game. Diaw has already had a subpar season, failing to average double digits in points and putting up mediocre rebounding and assist numbers. Diaw's production won't improve with the Diesel manning the middle and taking away offensive touches.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C Cleveland Cavaliers - The Z-train is having a good season averaging a career high in rebounds while putting up good numbers in scoring and blocks. Unfortunately, back spasms have slowed down the big guy in February. He has seen his minutes drop over the past 5 games in which he is averaging only 8.5 points and 7 rebounds, well below his season averages. As long as Z is hobbled by his back, his production will suffer and the possibility will persist he could miss some time.