Player Rater: Finding strong finishers
A key asset of the Player Rater this late in the season is the ability to sort according to the immediate past. Here are some players who have moved up or down the player rater during the past 30 days and 15 days. Now that the trade deadline has passed, owners near the bottom of the standings will become absentees, so it's time for you to step up your fantasy game for the final push.
Carmelo Anthony, SF, Nuggets: Melo's February statistics were ridiculous: 27.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 3-pointers, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks while shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and 89.5 percent from the line. That, my friends, is what you call contributing in eight categories, and his meaty percentages come on a combined 25.1 attempts from the field and stripe, so he heavily impacts all scoring statistics.
Deron Williams, PG, Jazz: It's not long before Williams enters the "best point guard in the league" debate. Are we already there? It's clear he has intangibles that often don't translate to the fantasy game, and he's looking to go crazy when it matters late in the season, averaging 16.7 assists per game in three March contests. Allow the debate to commence.
Earl Watson, PG, Sonics: Watson is playing like a Rafer Alston-lite, after averaging 12.7 points 7.9 assists, 1.4 3s and one steal last month. He has no competition for his job, and even though he's far from spectacular, Watson provides a perfect example of how opportunity is the primary factor in many players' fantasy success. Luke Ridnour is too much of a defensive liability for a coach trying to instill a long-term defensive mentality in a young team, and even though his offensive contributions make him worth starting in fantasy, Watson's defense keeps him on the court.
Jared Dudley, SF, Bobcats: Want potential? How about 10 points, 18 rebounds, one 3-pointer, two blocks and a steal Wednesday night? We knew this guy had hustle, but we're starting to see that he has the potential to provide in multiple categories and has plenty of opportunity at the moment with Gerald Wallace sidelined. Is Dudley this year's Walter Herrmann? If you've got the roster flexibility, it's worth adding him to find out, as he's the 70th-ranked player on the player rater in the past 30 days.
Tyson Chandler, C, Hornets: His lack of blocks is crippling, and his rebounds have decreased in each full month since December. Chandler is solid fantasy option at center, although if you're starting him, you'll have to compensate for the blocks elsewhere if you expect to be competitive in the category.
Samuel Dalembert, C, 76ers: Dalembert's points have declined recently, as he averaged just 8.5 per game in February. Since the All-Star break, he's averaging 7.3 points and just 1.3 blocks, compared to 11.2 and 2.5 beforehand. Though he's reliable for boards, if his other stats continue to drop, Dalembert becomes one-dimensional.
Jordan Farmar, PG/SG, Lakers: He went from filling a need to filling in, and after an impressive month of January in which he averaged 1.8 3s, 1.4 steals and 3.1 assists with a 50.4 mark from the floor, he has sputtered. In February, every one of those stats dipped, and even though he's still a deep-league option for 3s, the Lakers are too deep for Farmar to have fantasy impact.
Marvin Williams, SF/PF, Hawks: He shot just 35.5 percent from the field in February, and he doesn't really have a specific strength to his fantasy game. He still needs to develop, and he'll be in fantasy-related discussions for years, although he wasn't worth the second overall pick in the 2005 draft.
Vince Carter, SG/SF, Nets: In my opinion, his was the best dunk contest performance ever. Wait, that doesn't matter? Well, what about his 22.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 3s and 1.6 steals while shooting 50.4 percent from the floor and 80.7 percent from the stripe since the All-Star break? That could matter more than anything else to your fantasy team, and if you spent an early pick on Carter, he's providing what you were looking for at the opportune time.
Shane Battier, SF, Rockets: A winning streak can do wonders for a player's value. Battier's consistency and contributions in multiple categories has made him a fantasy star for years, and this season is no different. He has registered at least one 3-pointer in 21 of the past 22 contests, and is averaging 2.2 3s and 2.2 blocks per game in his past five. He shot 78.6 percent from the stripe in March, which is by far his best month of the season, and the same way Battier is a "glue" player for the Rockets, he adds stability to any fantasy roster.
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Pacers: The 1.2 3s per game Murphy provides from the center position is helpful, and with Jermaine O'Neal out, he's become a reliable option, averaging 16 points and six boards since the break. In late February, it was reported that O'Neal would miss 3-4 more weeks, so it'll be awhile until Murphy's minutes are jeopardized, and that late in the season O'Neal will likely be handled with kid gloves. If you need 3s, starting Murphy at center is a nice way to make up ground, as Al Harrington, Rasheed Wallace and Mehmet Okur are the only center-eligible players averaging more 3s per game.
Mike Bibby, PG, Hawks: He's contributing assists (7.1) and 3s (1.8) for the Hawks, although his percentages are low and he isn't helping elsewhere statistically. He used to be a cornerstone point guard; now he's a solid option in your utility slot. Take it for what it's worth.
Al Harrington, PF/C, Warriors: Harrington was on fire in January (15.3 points, 2.9 3s per game), but has cooled off since, and primarily provides points and 3s with little else. He can't seem to break the 30 minutes-per-game plateau, and he's averaging 21.2 minutes played in his past four contests. Vacillating between coming off the bench and starting gives him inconsistent value, and 3s are the only category in which you can assume Harrington will provide nightly.
T.J. Ford, PG, Raptors: Ford plays well in his limited minutes, although he has taken a back seat to Jose Calderon, and the amount the Bucks rely upon him varies from night to night. Because of Calderon and the rest of the Raptors' unselfish mentality, Ford will have sporadic big games, although he won't be able to contribute consistently due to Calderon's breakout campaign.
Shaquille O'Neal, C, Suns: If the Big Cactus was still mobile enough to be a shot-blocking force, his combination of that, points, rebounds and field goal percentage would potentially offset his wretched free-throw percentage (42.6 percent with Phoenix). But he isn't, and unless you've got a healthy lead in that category, starting Shaq will have more negative than positive impact upon your standings.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.