Vote for Chris Bosh
There were several impressive performances on this Friday night, and as fantasy basketball diehards you must resist the temptation to focus only upon football playoffs and continue checking your team and adjusting your roster. Here's a rundown of the games:
Michael Redd returned on national TV, and came off the bench to score 24 points in 23 minutes. I don't know about you, but I'm targeting him in several leagues to see if this mini-injury diminished his value in his owners' eyes, especially since he's having his best all-around season. The Bucks started Royal Ivey and Mo Williams in the backcourt, and Williams shifted to shooting guard for much of Redd's absence, along with playing nearly every minute. I haven't had many chances to watch Williams play, so seeing him on TV was enjoyable. He's light on his feet, and has that second-round draft pick chip on his shoulder that has him constantly working on his game. He had 28 points and six assists, and is averaging 23 points, six assists and 2.5 steals in January. Kobe Bryant claimed he felt terrible before the game and said he has bronchitis, then scored 16 points in the first quarter en-route to 37 points, seven assists and five 3-pointers. Andrew Bynum scored 25 points with 17 rebounds and three blocks, and after going 10-for-13 from the floor is shooting a ridiculous 64 percent from the field.
Seattle was without Chris Wilcox, and Luke Ridnour was available but didn't come off the bench. Ridnour isn't being rushed back from his quadriceps injury since he's been ineffective anyway. So have all of the Seattle point guards, as Earl Watson and Delonte West combined for seven points and four assists in 48 minutes of play. Nick Collison has done well in Wilcox's absence, with 15 points and seven rebounds tonight, breaking his streak of five straight double-digit rebounding efforts. He's averaging 12.7 boards over his past six games, and could retain value when Wilcox returns since he was struggling before his injury. Damien Wilkins had four impacted wisdom teeth and it was his birthday. Man, Brandon Bass got big. Was he always that big? He would get more playing time with another team, but his value is nil with Dirk Nowitzki in his way, but Bass does well in the limited minutes he's given. Jason Terry played just 17 minutes, and he hasn't come close to playing 30 minutes in a game in January. If his playing time stays low, his value takes a huge hit.
DOUBLE OVERTIME ALERT (warning: all stats are inflated): Yeah, so I'm that guy in one league who added Nazr Mohammed, then dropped him, then added him again after tonight's 21 point, 15 rebound, one block and one steal night, his fourth straight solid performance getting significant minutes off the bench. Gerald Wallace has been unconscious, and tonight was no different with 27 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and four 3s. Who does that? Speaking of the unthinkable, Lebron's 31 point, 19 rebound, eight assist, eight turnover, two 3s, four steal, three block performance is one of the craziest lines in recent memory. I don't know what else to say. Maybe Anderson Varejao's holdout was warranted, because 16 points, 18 rebounds, two steals and two blocks is impressive. He's played well off the bench, much better than Drew Gooden, whose game I've never been a fan of, and should be in line for more and more minutes. Daniel Gibson is averaging 2.3 3s per-game in January and is better than both Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic even if he's the sixth man.
As mentioned, there were several big performances, as Chris Bosh went off for 40 points and 11 rebounds, leading the Raptors over the lowly Knicks. For the Knicks, Nate Robinson had yet another nice effort, pouring in 24 points in 41 minutes. And Zach Randolph sat the final 31 minute of the game on the bench after a verbal altercation with Isiah Thomas. This probably won't affect his playing time long-term, but he could see more bench action in coming games if Thomas tries to teach him a lesson.
Want another big night? Pau Gasol scored 43 points on 17-for-25 shooting with 11 rebounds. Juan Carlos Navarro had the second-best night of any member of the Grizzlies, with 20 points and four 3s. Both Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry were futile, although I think Conley will eventually be a decent point guard this season. His prospects beyond then are promising, and he'll get better and better while starting, but don't expect too much immediately. Ideally, Lowry would become the combo guard off the bench and both could have value, since I like both of their games, although Conley is the one to go with right now, mostly because he was drafted to be their point guard of the future and he's currently starting.
Maurice Evans started at shooting guard and scored 15 points for the Magic. Keith Bogans came off the bench with 14 points and three 3s, and these two could be duking it out over minutes in the next month. Jameer Nelson outperformed both Keyon Dooling and Carlos Arroyo, which is a promising sign for fantasy owners. There's no reason he shouldn't be starting and continually improving in just his fourth year in the league, but for some reason it hasn't happened yet. It's not too late this season, although I'd wait until you get a few good weeks from Nelson before reinserting him in your starting lineup. Linas Kleiza had 18 points, five rebounds and three 3s and is a deep-league option to really keep your eye on.
Andres Nocioni's 26 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two 3s were excellent, but it's the story of his career. He and Luol Deng play the same position, and his value will always be stifled playing alongside him. Friday night's game was with Deng sidelined, so expect Nocioni to come back down to earth when Deng returns. Joe Smith had 19 points, six rebounds and two blocks, and has been awesome since Jim Boylan took over. I own him, and start him, in several leagues.
The most notable part of the Celtics/Nets matchup is that Ray Allen was back and played 38 minutes, scoring 16 points with two 3s. New Jersey had a balanced attack, with five players scoring in double figures, including Bostjan Nachbar, who has been surprisingly solid over the past month and is worth a look in deep leagues. Josh Boone had 14 points and 16 rebounds, and has also been playing consistently and warrants a pickup if you need a center.
Mark Blount went off, with 27 points on 13-for-16 shooting. The Heat frontcourt is utterly depleted. Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning are obviously out, and Blount has displayed offensive skills in the past. Don't expect a difference-maker for your team or anything, but Blount should score efficiently and get decent minutes until Shaq returns. He's at least a better option than Earl Barron, whose name sounds like a villain from an old western movie. Bobby Jackson went a perfect 9-for-9 from the field with seven 3s. Yep, that just happened. Jason Williams is back, and in his second-straight game since returning he played well with 12 points, six assists and four 3s. This effectively kills Chris Quinn's short-term value, as he had just eight points in 19 minutes. Williams' health is far from dependable, though, so keep Quinn on your radar, but if you have Williams on your roster it's safe to get him back in your lineup.
Ryan Gomes was the leading scorer for the Wolves, and has been in the starting lineup since December 21. He's played quite well, averaging 14 points and seven boards over his past 10 games. His high free-throw percentage somewhat offsets his inefficiency from the field, although he'll have to get better than one steal per-game to have value in standard leagues. Somebody's gotta step up and in Minnesota besides Al Jefferson. The fact the Wolves have 10 players averaging more than 20 minutes per-game make them a frustrating team fantasy-wise, because several players other than Jefferson get enough minutes to be relevant but not enough to be consistently productive. If Randy Foye returns and his knee can handle big minutes, I think he'll be the guy, but that's a gamble. For now it's become impossible to predict if it's going to be Gomes, Rashad McCants, Marko Jaric, Sebastian Telfair or any other of the Wolves' inconsistent players who will come through on any given night.
DeShawn Stevenson had 19 points, five rebounds, three 3s, and three steals, and now that Gilbert Arenas might be gone for much longer than originally thought, it's time to evaluate Stevenson's long-term value. Al Horford is a grown man even though he's a rookie, and he notched 19 rebounds. Marvin Williams had 16 points and nine rebounds, and Anthony Johnson had another nine assists, giving him 25 in his past three games.
I must do it, and represent my beautiful little corner of the country -- Go Seahawks!
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.