Marvin Williams (currently ranked 70th overall and 83rd by averages) has been playing extremely well lately for the Hawks. By scoring 28 at the Knicks and 29 at the Bobcats, he has set his season high in scoring twice in the past two weeks, and seems to be putting the entirety of his game together. He has let the 3-point shooting slide some in recent weeks, but is getting to the line of late with a new ferocity.
Frankly, it makes sense that he'd be improving now. With Al Horford missing time recently and Josh Smith in the midst of a season in which he is posting his worst PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in three years, there's been added pressure on Williams, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, to start producing. After posting a below-average PER in each of his first three seasons in the league, he is up at 16.44 this season, within shouting distance of Smith's 17.27. Amazingly, Williams has improved even as his usage rate has dipped.
He seems to be looking to score less frequently this season, which makes some sense when you consider that Mike Bibby is in the midst of an offensive rejuvenation and that Flip Murray is using quite a few of the possessions when he gets into the game. What Williams has given up in usage rate, however, he has made up for by shooting 3-pointers and by almost never turning the ball over. On the one hand, the improvement in long-range shooting bodes well for his future prospects. On the other hand, the fact that he's never turning the ball over is more than likely a sign that he just isn't aggressive enough.
If you own Williams in any league, never mind a keeper league, this is already a lot to think about. Clearly, there's no lack of talent in Marvin Williams. He's a fantastic midrange shooter with ever-expanding range, he's a good foul shooter who manages to get himself to the line enough to make it worthwhile, and he's a good rebounder and defender at his position. Also, he's only 22 years old, so there's time and room for improvement.
And that's where his performance of late comes in. With Joe Johnson out with a viral infection, Williams was the go-to guy for the Hawks in wins against Charlotte and Minnesota. Not exactly the cream of the NBA crop, but wins are wins, and the Hawks got a lot of offense out of Williams on both occasions. The fact is, Williams tends to give you a little more than you think. His ADP (average draft position) was 113, and yet there he is, firmly entrenched in the top 75 players based on total stats for the season. He is a valuable fantasy commodity, even as the player he is today, simply by virtue of the fact that he doesn't really hurt your team at all. He contributes a little bit in every category besides assists, and so his upside, which is considerable, is something you can afford to wait for. Seeing how well he played in Joe Johnson's absence, I might make him a trade target for the remainder of the season, and hope that he turns the 3-point shooting into more of a regular attraction.
Going up (ranking based on total stats, ranking based on average stats)
Rasheed Wallace, PF/C, Pistons (59, 56): Rasheed has been seeing some serious minutes of late, and since the Pistons' other options at the big-man spots have been spotty at best this season, he's likely to continue getting big minutes the rest of the way. In his past five games, he's putting up 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.0 3-pointers, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks. Sure, he never gets to the line and his field goal percentage is nothing to write home about, but as long as he's blocking shots and hitting 3s, he's going to be a major fantasy force. When you consider that his season averages are based on 33.7 minutes per game, it's clear that the 39.2 minutes he's been playing during the past five games are going to give his numbers a bump.
Allen Iverson, PG/SG, Pistons (80, 94): Chances are, his owner in fantasy hates him, which makes him, perhaps, an easier trade target than he would normally be. With A.I., there have been some good signs of late, like the fact that, for his past two games, he has averaged 26 points and eight assists, has been getting to the line like crazy and has been playing the 40-plus minutes per game that have made him so valuable in the past. Personally, I think the fact that he's now even more firmly entrenched in the starting lineup is going to help him for the balance of the season. More than that, though, at some point soon he's going to start remembering that this is a contract year, that his $22 million dollar salary won't be around next season, and that he needs to show folks around the league that he still has some gas left in the tank. I wouldn't bet against him. At the very least, he should work his way up into the top 70 or so by the end of the season, assuming he stays healthy.
Andris Biedrins, C, Warriors (41, 53): It seems absurd to list a guy who just got hurt in this category, but now might be the last chance you have to trade for an elite rebounder for the stretch run. I can't recommend this for those of you in roto formats, because the missed games over the next week or so (if his injury keeps him out at all past the All-Star break) could kill your team, but in head-to-head formats, if you have a playoff spot locked up, use this chance to swing a trade for Biedrins while his value is low. He has major, major value in blocks, rebounds and field goal percentage, so if those are areas in which you need help, he's certainly the best option out there.
Raymond Felton, PG, Bobcats (64, 80): He and D.J. Augustin were both right around 40 minutes against the Heat on Sunday night, but the truth is that Augustin seems to be the better player right now. I don't know if Felton will get traded before the deadline, but I do know there's a chance that could happen. Wherever else he goes, chances are he won't be playing 40 minutes a night. I fear that with Felton, the 9 points on 4-for-17 shooting -- but hey, 11 assists! -- is likely the statistical norm. This is his worst season, efficiency-wise, as a pro, which is not something you want to say about a guy in his fourth season who will be turning 25 in June. You got the best out of Felton while Augustin was out, and now he's worth owning for the assists and not much else. If you can pawn him off on someone desperate for dimes, do it before it's too late.
Mario Chalmers, PG, Heat (68, 91): Looking at Mario's splits, you start to notice a pattern. He had a rough November, but a very good December. He had a rough January, but February is off to a good start. It's not good for a starting point guard to be so erratic, but then again, Chalmers is a rookie. What is interesting is that he actually came into the season with a bit of hype. A lot of us thought that he was a good sleeper pick based on how good he was in college (John Hollinger had him as one of the better incoming rookies in the class) and the fact that Miami had a giant hole at point guard. Watching him lately, it would appear that Chalmers is really coming into his own. If there is a rookie wall, it's likely he already hit it, twice. The rest of the season should be smooth sailing, and seeing as he's available in most leagues, there are plenty of people left who should be able to appreciate it.
Amare Stoudemire, PF/C, Suns (12, 10): In the wide view, there are two possible scenarios. In one, he stays; in the other, he goes. Either way, I don't really like the balance of the season for Amare. On the Suns, his field goal percentage and scoring -- his two best categories -- have fallen off each month this season. That's a trend I would expect to continue, the way things are going in Phoenix. But if he gets traded, he'll have to learn a new offense. He's been running the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash for practically his whole career, which is a pretty good way of getting your offense. I really like Amare and think he's a terrific player, I just think that it won't be until next season that we see him dominate again, trade or not.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.