Anthony, Ilgauskus among returning stars

January, 31, 2009
Charlie Villanueva, Bucks: 26 points, 13 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks and 2 3-pointers on 10-for-20 shooting from the floor and 4-for-4 shooting from the line.
Mike Dunleavy, Pacers: 30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 4 3-pointers on 10-for-18 shooting from the floor and 6-for-7 shooting from the line.
Al Jefferson, Timberwolves: 34 points, 13 rebounds, 1 steal and 4 blocks on 13-for-27 shooting from the floor and 8-for-11 shooting from the line.
Josh Smith, Hawks: 4 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks while shooting 2-for-6 from the floor in just 26 minutes.
Beno Udrih, Kings: 4 points, 2 assists and 4 turnovers on 2-for-6 shooting from the floor in a loss to the Bulls.
Brad Miller, Kings: 9 points, 5 rebounds and no blocks on 2-for-5 shooting from the floor in 22 minutes in a loss to the Bulls.

With all the injuries piling up lately, some fantasy owners have been scrambling to keep themselves afloat. It's been a rough season on the injury front, but Friday night offered a little relief for fantasy owners dealing with multiple injuries. Carmelo Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Andrew Bogut and David West successfully returned to the court, and all four should have considerable impact on the fantasy landscape in their respective cities.

Anthony scored 19 points with five assists and a block in 29 minutes in his return from a broken hand. He looked a little rusty, but it's nothing his owners should be concerned about. Expect a big second half from Melo as the Nuggets position themselves for a better playoff seeding. J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza take a big hit in value with Melo back, although both will have their moments. Chauncey Billups, who stepped up on the offensive end in Anthony's absence, will score less and dish more with Melo back. Billups averaged 20.7 points and 5.8 assists in January, but should go back to his normal 17-18 points and 6-7 assists for the rest of the season.

Ilgauskas showed no signs of rust, with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 10-for-16 shooting from the floor in Friday's victory over the Clippers. It looks safe to get him back in your lineups. Meanwhile, Anderson Varejao saw just 25 minutes and finished with four points and seven rebounds. Varejao had a nice little run with Big Z out, but has limited value when Z is healthy. Go ahead and drop him for someone like Jason Thompson or Kevin Love.

After missing eight games with back spasms, Bogut finally returned to the court Friday night. He saw only 16 minutes, but posted a highly efficient line with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Bogut came into the season with high expectations, but has disappointed those (including myself) who thought he would build on his spectacular second half in 2007-08. Perhaps Michael Redd's injury will give Bogut some momentum, as the Bucks might be forced to rely on him more down the stretch. Back injuries scare me, but Bogut has considerable upside and should be considered a high-risk/high-reward investment for the second half. His return shouldn't have much of an impact on the rest of the Bucks' roster, as neither Dan Gadzuric nor Francisco Elson did anything in his absence. Many thought Charlie Villanueva would struggle once Bogut returned, but with Redd out, Villanueva's value should remain stable.

West hit just 5 of 16 shots from the floor, but still managed to finish with 12 points, 15 rebounds and a steal in his return from a back injury. He was active and looked healthy in his 31 minutes, so it appears as though his owners are going to be thankful. The Hornets have one of the league's best second-half schedules, so West is a solid buy-low candidate going forward.

Under the boards

Eric Gordon owners have to be happy to see that his minutes have remained fairly constant despite the return of Baron Davis. Gordon saw 42 minutes Friday night and finished with 27 points, 2 steals and 5 3-pointers, and although the Clippers are getting healthy, Gordon appears to be safe going forward. … Jason Thompson was one of the lone bright spots for the Kings in a blowout loss to the Bulls. Thompson finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 1 steal and a block in 40 minutes and has seen 33.2 minutes per game over his past five. The Kings will continue to run the rookie out there for 30-plus minutes per night, which makes Thompson a fantastic pickup candidate. … Sacramento is one of the league's worst defensive units, so it was not surprising to see the Bulls' frontcourt dominate in this one. Joakim Noah went for 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks, while Tyrus Thomas had 14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Noah and Thomas will have moments like this, but will be inconsistent options until Drew Gooden returns. Neither will have stable value after Gooden is back on the court. … Monta Ellis played through some soreness to finish with 15 points and two steals in 38 minutes. He's still a little rusty, but at least he's getting enough playing time. Have some patience and you'll be rewarded. … Adam Morrison might be starting in Gerald Wallace's place, but it will be Raja Bell who benefits most from Wallace's injury. Bell drained three 3s en route to a 27-point effort against the Nuggets on Friday. He'll be a great addition for those in need of points and 3-pointers until "Crash" returns. Morrison, meanwhile, should be ignored in fantasy leagues. … With news that Andrei Kirilenko will likely miss a month or more with an ankle injury, C.J. Miles and Ronnie Brewer will have more opportunities in Utah. Brewer scored 15 points and notched four steals in 34 minutes Friday, while Miles finished with 15 points in 23 minutes. Brewer is the better option for his ability to rack up the steals, but Miles could also have some value in deeper formats until the Jazz are healthy. … Andrew Bynum continued his onslaught Friday with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks in a victory over the Timberwolves. Bynum's recent success has cut into Pau Gasol's production, but Gasol was able to score 21 points while adding nine rebounds and a block Friday. Expect Gasol's production to suffer if Bynum continues to dominate the paint like he has recently. … Mike Miller has had a rough season, but he's looking like he might get his rhythm back shortly. With 11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal in 31 minutes in the loss to the Lakers, Miller might be able to have fantasy value again this season. His minutes are starting to stabilize, and the production might follow. … Antonio McDyess scored only three points in a loss to the Celtics, but he finished with 14 rebounds and a block in 38 minutes for the Pistons. Head coach Michael Curry wants to see more of McDyess on the court, and he could be a solid pickup if you need some help on the glass.



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