- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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One week. That's all it takes this late in the season to determine whether you're destined for (relative) glory or agonizing defeat. This is especially the case in head-to-head formats, but even in rotisserie play, the final standings often come down to a handful of 3-pointers or a single block.
Lately, I've been sorting the player rater based on 15-day averages in order to grant perspective about who's been hot recently. But this week I'm going to make it even more recent, and utilize an aspect of the player rater I haven't much this season: the ability to sort by seven-day totals. You want "What have you done for me lately?" Well, here you go. Some of these players will give you that final boost down the stretch, some need to be dropped or benched due to their recent level of play and some are informally auditioning for minutes next season.
Shaquille O'Neal, C, Suns : It was understood when the Shaq-Shawn Marion deal was made that the Suns had the playoffs in mind. After a rocky start, Diesel has six double-digit rebounding games in his past nine and has scored in double digits in seven straight. He's shooting better than 60 percent from the floor as a member of the Suns, and the days of him having more negative value than positive have vanished if you're in need of boards, field goals and blocks. It actually physically hurts opponents to play against him, and in a seven-game series, he'll determine the Suns' postseason destiny.
Chris Quinn, PG, Heat : He and Jason Williams have been trading the starting point guard role for the Heat all season, and with Williams currently sidelined, Quinn reclaimed the job March 24. Since then, he's averaging 16.8 points with 2.2 3s, 7.2 assists and 2.8 steals per game. On Wednesday, he nearly notched a triple-double, with 18 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and four 3s. Those are numbers worth starting in any format and it's rare they become available this late in the season. Even when Williams returns, it's hard to believe he'll cut into Quinn's minutes much because Quinn is playing at a high level and fits in with the youth movement in Miami.
Anthony Carter, PG, Nuggets : Carter is a forgotten fantasy player who deserves props. He's started every game since Nov. 29 for the Nuggets and is having the best season of his career by a mile. His 10-assist, six-steal game Tuesday night was another impressive effort, and he's been a thief lately, registering three or more steals in four of his past 11 games. Carter is the type of player unowned in many 10-team leagues who can have significant impact in two categories with just a handful of games remaining.
David Lee, SF/PF, Knicks : The circumstances he wallowed in this year were unfortunate, and he was still able to etch out fantasy value while being horribly mismanaged for most of the season by Isiah Thomas. But one of the few shrewd moves Thomas made recently was inserting Lee into the starting lineup March 5, and since then Lee's had eight double-digit rebounding games. With minutes, Lee is guaranteed serious boards, percentages and about 1.5 combined steals and blocks. Focus on his per-minute stats come draft day next season, working under the assumption that he'll be more properly utilized.
Joel Anthony, C, Heat : With Shaq gone, Udonis Haslem out for the season, Shawn Marion's injury shrouded in mystery (apathy?), and an otherwise pathetic roster, the rookie from UNLV averaged 1.6 blocks in March. He and Daequan Cook are currently the firepower off the bench as the Heat compete for the most lottery balls.
Thabo Sefolosha, SG/SF, Bulls : Sefolosha is doing what he can with limited minutes, contributing steals, blocks, assists and 3s in a manner that makes it crazy to think about what he would do in a starting role. He's not a consistent scorer yet, but in deep formats he's averaging 1.8 3s, one steal and one block in his past four contests. He'll be one of the most lauded sleepers next preseason as we have months to gawk at his averages of 0.5 3s, 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks in 20 minutes per game in just his second year. However, the players in front of him on the depth chart are the primary determinant of his short-term value.
Gilbert Arenas, PG, Wizards, Elton Brand, PF, Clippers, Pau Gasol, PF/C, Lakers, Jermaine O'Neal, PF/C, Pacers: Some of the best players in the league have come back to action in the past few days, and each one of these former All-Stars should be starting in all formats immediately. Brand and O'Neal are unrestricted free agents playing for contracts, Arenas perennially has a chip on his shoulder and Gasol is trying to get the Lakers the best possible playoff seed in the West. Expect each to play hard in these final days of the regular season.
Louis Williams, PG, Sixers : Everybody hearts Williams, who is averaging 11.4 points, 1.0 steals, 0.7 3s and 3.2 assists in just 23 minutes per game. He's had a difficult time all season establishing consistent value due to Willie Green starting in front of him and averaging more minutes per game. Well, Green has struggled mightily as of late, with Tuesday's 16-point effort being his first double-digit scoring night since March 19. Williams has capitalized, averaging 14 points per game in his past eight contests and he's won over the hearts of Philly fans to the point that unpleasant things will happen to people if his role doesn't consistently increase. Williams will be another popular choice to break out next season.
Paul Millsap, PF, Jazz : Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur both missed some time recently, and Millsap once again showed us what he would do if he played on a crappy team for which he wasn't the fourth-most relied upon big man. He's averaging 28 minutes per game in his past four contests. Even though both Okur and Kirilenko are back in the lineup, Millsap should get at least 20 minutes per game as the Jazz's first player off the bench and score in his typically efficient fashion. A stat I love? His 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks this season in fewer than 21 minutes per game.
Linas Kleiza, SF/PF, Nuggets: He was fantastic in January, averaging 14.3 points, 1.5 3s, 1.0 steals and 5.4 rebounds per game, but his numbers have decreased each month since. He's scored in single digits in five straight contests, doesn't have a steal since March 19 and hasn't played 20 minutes in a game since March 21. J.R. Smith robbed him of his role of scorer off the bench, rendering his fantasy value negligible.
Jason Kapono, SG/SF, Raptors: At least he's really good at 3-point contests.
Bobby Jackson, PG, Rockets: He can still be a deadly long-range shooter, but he's played more than 20 minutes in just two of his past eight contests and isn't a crucial enough part of the Rockets' rotation to have fantasy value down the stretch.
Craig Smith, PF, Timberwolves: Back in December, Smith averaged 13.2 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 54.1 from the floor and 76.9 from the stripe, and many thought he would break out for the undermanned Timberwolves. But Ryan Gomes emerged as the second-best player on the team and Corey Brewer deserves minutes at forward so he can be assessed for the long-term, which leaves Smith fighting for minutes off the bench. He's been consistently playing in the high teens in terms of minutes, which doesn't provide the opportunity for Smith to contribute in any specific category.
Jarrett Jack, PG, Blazers: Jack came off the bench and scored just two points in 19 minutes Wednesday night, and has seven assists compared to nine turnovers while shooting 40 percent from the floor in his past three games. Those who assumed Jack would see a spike in value with Brandon Roy sidelined were mistaken, and the All-Star's absence has actually hurt the value of most Blazers.
Smush Parker, PG, Clippers: I'm sure Mike Dunleavy Sr. wishes he had a young point guard of the future to load minutes upon late in the season, but Shaun Livingston isn't yet ready to return. Instead Parker, Brevin Knight and Dan Dickau are sharing minutes fairly evenly, effectively killing the value any one of them could potentially have and forcing fantasy owners to look somewhere other than the Clippers' point guard position for fantasy assistance.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Josh Whitling looks at players making seven-day surges up and down the Player Rater.