Monta Ellis stays hot
Monta Ellis continued his spectacular March, notching a near triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals, three blocks and two 3-pointers against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. This comes on the heels of a 39-point game on Sunday, and the most impressive aspect of his play this month is his efficiency, as he's shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 82.7 from the stripe.
He and Brandon Jennings, who has settled into more of the point guard role as of late and is averaging 10.8 assists per game this month, are finally gelling just before an offseason in which both will find themselves mired in uncertainty as both are restricted free agents. Ellis is one of the more criticized players among hoops heads, as his downward-trending field goal percentage since 2007-2008 and questionable decision-making leaves many feeling unsatisfied as he never seems to achieve his potential. He's playing to prove any critics wrong, however, as he's ranked fourth on the 15-day player rater and tenth on the 30-day player rater. Despite his flaws, his PER has improved since last season, and is primed to continue his fantastic finish that should carry into next season, since the stakes surrounding his contract are high over the course of the next year. His average draft position of 29.2 was accurate, as he's ranked No. 27 on the season player rater, although this past month demonstrates that he has the talent to be a top-20 player and could be worth an early third-round pick next season in what will likely be his final year until unrestricted free agency hits.
• Tyler Hansbrough notched his second-straight double-double Tuesday with David West sidelined to rest his strained lower back, scoring 14 points with 14 rebounds, a block and a steal in 27 minutes from the starting lineup. Psycho T should have increased value until at least Friday, when Frank Vogel hopes West will be able to return, and perhaps beyond that. Hansbrough doesn't provide much aside from points and rebounds when he does get run, although he hits his free throws and has the capability to notch double-digit boards anytime he starts. The Pacers will want West to be as ready as possible for the playoffs, so don't be surprised if Hansbrough's value remains augmented for the remainder of the regular season.
• Samuel Dalembert started at power forward with Ersan Ilyasova sidelined, scoring 16 points with seven rebounds in 20 minutes. It looks like Ilyasova might miss another few games, and anytime Dalembert is getting minutes he has value, as his 16.8 points, 14.0 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per-40 minutes indicate. If you're looking for excellent short-term value, Dalembert is a valid starting center while in the starting lineup, so monitor Ilyasova's status closely.
• Marcus Thornton exploded for 25 points with six 3's and four assists off the bench, continuing his strong post-All Star performance, as he's averaging 18.2 points and 3.1 3s per game over his past 14 contests. He's surfaced as a near must-start, with the ability to provide points and 3s in bunches, but he still isn't consistent, with three single-digit performance in his past five. This makes him riskier in weekly head-to-head formats, and a safer in roto leagues where the disappointing performances will be balanced out by nights like Tuesday. He's been dropped in 22.7 percent of leagues over the past seven days, which is a bit of an overreaction after a few rough outings, although if you're expecting the model of consistency from Thornton, his productivity will come in spurts.
• Kevin Garnett almost played Monday against the Miami Heat, so he will likely return against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. This means Jeff Green, who has averaged 28.0 points in games without Garnett including a career-high 43 against the Heat on Monday, will come back to earth but is still an option in most formats. The best part about Green in a fantasy sense is the fact he's averaging 0.8 3-pointers, 0.8 blocks and 0.7 steals per game in just 26.2 minutes, so even if his scoring shrinks with Garnett in the lineup, he's providing enough peripherals to warrant a starting gig on most fantasy teams.
• Gordon Hayward is in the Utah Jazz starting lineup once again, and should have a huge night against the Rockets, who allow 103.3 points per game, second highest total in the league. This marks the second straight season in which Hayward has been significantly better after the All-Star break. as he's averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 3s, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks per game, similar numbers to his strong late-season showing last year. I've been all-in on Hayward for a while, and think he'll be undervalued going into next season's draft due to the fact his season was plagued by uncertainty with his role on the team, and he missed a sizable chunk of time in the middle of the season, hurting his overall numbers. He has the tools to be a top-50 fantasy player, will be on my "to draft" list next season and is a mandatory start in all formats based on his play as of late.
• Dion Waiters might need surgery on his knee after an MRI revealed a piece of loose cartilage. There's no reason for the Cavs to push him this year, as his solid performance in the second half of the season helped to at least begin to validate their selection of him with the fourth overall pick, and Waiters is seemingly entrenched in the team's long term plans. With Kyrie Irving already sidelined, look for Daniel Gibson and Wayne Ellington to see increased value and join Shaun Livingston as unlikely but legitimate fantasy options for deep leagues down the stretch.