Jefferson's recent dominance continues

February, 2, 2009
Dwight Howard, Magic: 29 points (11-19 FG), 14 rebounds, 2 blocks at Toronto.
Paul Pierce, Celtics: 36 points (9-9 FT), 8 rebounds, 6 assists versus Minnesota.
John Salmons, Kings: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists against the Thunder.
Andrea Bargnani, Raptors: Just 4-of-16 from the field against the Magic.
Anthony Parker, Raptors: 4 points (2-7 FG), 2 rebounds, no assists versus Orlando .
Rodney Stuckey, Pistons: 6 points on 2-of-9 shooting against the Cavaliers.

Al Jefferson's recent dominance has been prolific, and it continued as he scored 34 points on 15-for-21 shooting, with 11 boards and four blocks Sunday afternoon. The big man who'll forever be known as the centerpiece of the Kevin Garnett trade is averaging 30.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in his past five contests, and is beginning to look like he'll be a second-round pick in next season's draft. His 50 percent shooting on 19.5 attempts per game is nice to have and justifies his reputation as a player who rarely passes once he gets the ball on the offensive end. It's hard to tell where his free throw percentage is going to end up, as he's shooting 74.6 percent for the season, but 69.6 percent during the past month and 69.7 percent for his career. This -- and whether he'll be able to block more than two shots per game -- will determine his ultimate value and decide whether he's a first- or second-rounder in fantasy drafts. Regardless, treat him as a top-20 player for the rest of this season.

Under the Boards

Before long, Kevin Durant (33 points, five rebounds, two 3-pointers and a block) and Jeff Green (28 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals) are going to be the best forward tandem in the league. Part of that is due to the fact that, at some point, Durant and I could be one of the best forward duos in the league, that's how unimaginable his upside is. But Green is looking more and more like a Scottie Pippen for Durant, with his No. 55 ranking on the Player Rater for the season. He's so unflashy and composed, it's easy to overlook his 16.6 points, 6.6 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.4 3s, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks with decent percentages from the floor and the stripe. Aside from his maturity and basketball IQ, the improvement in his long-range shot from last season to this season is an indication that Green is a hard worker who'll continue to improve in other aspects of the game. … Russell Westbrook went off for 34 points (including hitting 20 of 22 free throws!), six rebounds and eight assists, and it's starting to look like there's a chance he'll be better than Derrick Rose, and even -- gulp -- potentially the best player in the 2008 draft. It's rare that a point guard with virtually no ceiling comes along, and Westbrook fits that bill. … Kevin Martin bettered Westbrook by a few points, scoring 37 and leading the Kings to the win in overtime. Martin played 49 minutes in the contest, indicating he's at full strength and ready to be an offensive force for the rest of the season. His fantastic January brought his season numbers to 24.4 points, 2.2 3s, a steal and 87 percent shooting from the stripe, and he is still undervalued due to his lengthy early-season injury. … The Thunder are still adjusting to a lineup without Desmond Mason, who is out for the season. Sunday they started Kyle Weaver for the second consecutive game, although he played just 16 minutes, partly due to foul trouble. There is no chance he's a fantasy option, although the addition of his long arms and stingy perimeter defense coupled with his lack of any need to shoot could be a blessing for other Thunder players. … Earl Watson's 34 minutes played were encouraging, as it's safer to believe that he'll share the backcourt with Westbrook for large chunks of time, although he scored zero points Sunday, but did have six rebounds and three assists. Westbrook is the only one I'm touching in this situation, although Watson's value sees a boost with Mason gone. … Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 13 points and eight rebounds in his second game back, and also attempted 16 shots, indicating he's ready to resume his role as an integral part of the Cavs' offense. Get him back in your lineup immediately, and downgrade Anderson Varejao. The Brazilian has become an afterthought behind Z and Ben Wallace, and will have a difficult time establishing value while the Cavs' regular frontcourt is healthy. … Jameer Nelson nearly notched a triple-double, scoring 18 points with 10 assists, eight rebounds, three 3s and a steal with just one turnover, while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor and perfectly from the stripe. I've said it several times recently, but as much as I appreciate his high level of play, I think Nelson is a prime sell-high candidate, and if you own him it'd be shrewd to do your best to work a trade that flips him for a top-tier point guard such as Jose Calderon or Steve Nash. … Mickael Pietrus stepped up off the bench for the Magic, scoring 22 points and grabbing five rebounds in 30 minutes of play. He's averaging 17.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 3s, while shooting 52.9 from the floor and 86.7 from the stripe in the three games since his return, and is an immediate fantasy option, as it looks like he'll average close to 30 minutes per game.

Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for



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