Paul Pierce closing out strong season
The Heat bested the Celtics, 100-77 in Miami, as the two teams continue to duel it out for the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and the fantasy lines of Celtics players were uninspiring overall. Kevin Garnett did have 21 points, but grabbed just four boards with no blocked shots. Ray Allen scored 13, Rajon Rondo had seven points and five assists, and starting center Jermaine O'Neal had no points or rebounds in 14 minutes of play.
But once again, Paul Pierce put up an excellent fantasy line of 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the floor and 3-for-3 from the stripe, with 7 rebounds, 3 3-pointers and 2 steals. It's been those types of performances on a night-in, night-out basis that have Pierce ranked 11th overall on the Player Rater for the season, and sixth on the Rater if you count turnovers. He's finishing off one of the best statistical seasons of his career despite it being his 13th season, largely because he's posting career bests in both percentage categories by shooting 49.7 percent from the floor and 86.0 percent from the stripe. Those numbers, along with 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 3s, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks, make him one of the most efficient players in the game and one of the rare ones who doesn't have a negative category on the Player Rater.
Despite his age, he's shown no signs of slowing down, and this is something I'm going to remember for fantasy drafts next season. There's no better type of second- or third-round pick to solidify your team and complement your first-round selection than a guy like Pierce, who does everything well. He deserves kudos for his spectacular statistical effort this season and his ability to improve his game as the years pass. Something tells me he's on a lot of teams who are ranked first in their league, because he was drafted far past 11th in most leagues and has put up numbers that make him the MVP of most fantasy teams he resides upon.
Deron Williams had surgery on his troubled wrist, and is obviously done for the season. This makes Jordan Farmar, despite his uninspired 6-point effort Sunday, worth owning in all formats for the final days of the season, as he's put up fantastic numbers when in the starting lineup this season. He's averaged 12.9 points, 8.9 assists, 1.6 3s and 1.1 steals in 16 starts this season, and even though he disappointed in the scoring column Sunday night, he still dropped seven dimes. Monta Ellis sustained a head injury after a scary fall in the Warriors' matchup against the Kings. He was knocked out cold for a while, then was helped off the court and taken to the hospital. He'll miss Monday's game and I wouldn't be surprised if he was shut down for the rest of the season for precautionary measures. Monday will be the first game he's missed all season, and despite the unfortunate finish to his season, Ellis has confirmed the fact that he's worth a late first-round or early second-round pick in next season's draft, as he's ranked ninth on the Player Rater for the season. Reggie Williams should step up and shoulder the bulk of Ellis' scoring load, making him a good spot-start for the final two games of the season. Chris Paul scored no points and is averaging just 11.6 points and 1.6 steals per game this month. It's hard to criticize his game, as he's ranked second on the Player Rater, although he's ending on a sour note and potentially showing the effects of a long season in which he carried his team. I'd still take him second overall in next season's draft behind Kevin Durant, though, as that combination of assists and steals is unmatchable. Don't be dismayed by Dwight Howard's DNP, as he sat for the second time this season due to league-imposed suspension for picking up his 18th technical foul. He should be fine for the final two games of the season, so Ryan Anderson's owners shouldn't get too excited after seeing his first double-double since Jan. 30 and first double-digit rebounding effort since March 16, as he got the start and saw inflated minutes due to Howard's absence. He should be back to getting minutes in the low-20s and being featured primarily as a 3-point specialist for Monday's game against the Sixers, though this performance once again confirms what Anderson is able to do from a fantasy perspective when getting starter's minutes.
There's a full slate of games on Monday, with 11 contests total. There are just three games Tuesday and 15 games on Wednesday, so make sure to maximize your roster and squeeze every last start out of your fantasy team as the final standings are determined. As mentioned, Monta Ellis will definitely be out for Monday's matchup against the Sixers, so be sure to sit him and get one of your bench players into the rotation. Josh Smith is day-to-day for the Hawks' matchup with the Heat, as he's missed the past three contests with a sore knee. Be sure to check his status before game time, as he's the type of player you want in your lineup whenever possible. Devin Harris has been money in his two games since returning from a seven-game absence with an ankle injury. Be sure that he's back in your lineup. There's a good chance the Raptors will be without Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa and Amir Johnson, so look for Jerryd Bayless (22.6 points, 5.6 assists, 2.0 3s per game in his past five games) and DeMar DeRozan (24.3 points per game in his past seven contests) to carry the load and continue to put up huge numbers. With Andrew Bogut shut down and set for elbow surgery Tuesday, Drew Gooden is an ideal play. Gooden is coming off a 15-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist triple-double Saturday, when he started in Bogut's place, and has emerged as an unlikely source of late-season value.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.