Tony Allen, Jared Dudley rising
We're nearing the end of the fantasy season, folks, but that doesn't mean it is time to start handing out awards and congratulating one another quite yet. There are still a couple of weeks left for you to make a last-minute push and try to pick up points here and there in most leagues. In order to find players who can help you, you'll need to be diligent.
So, with that in mind, let's cut right to the chase. What follows is a list of players who are flying under the radar but can help you out in the final couple of weeks of the season.
Toney Douglas, PG/SG, New York Knicks: Douglas was dropped in a ton of leagues in the midst of the Knicks' recent losing streak, and after he played 37 minutes to Chauncey Billups' 33 minutes in their overtime win against the Magic on Monday night, that seems like a mistake. Douglas won't be great every night, but he's capable of big nights and will certainly be good enough to play most nights.
Strangely, his worst game in the past week came on a night when he made it into the starting lineup ahead of Landry Fields. Moved back into a reserve role against the Magic, he saw more playing time and was effective, finishing with 16 points (including three 3-pointers) despite having an off-night in terms of his shooting percentage. It seems that coming off the bench suits him best, as he can fire away at will against lesser talent. For the month of March, he's averaging 14.0 points, 4.9 assists, 2.6 3s and 3.3 rebounds, and I'd be surprised if he didn't at least approach those numbers in April as well (perhaps even with a few steals thrown in for good measure).
George Hill, PG/SG, San Antonio Spurs: For a guy who has been a top-100 fantasy player all season, it seems extremely strange that Hill is widely available in most leagues, despite averaging 28.5 points in his past two games (one of which Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were actually active for). Hill is a good player, and the Spurs are going to lean on him a bit down the stretch -- even when Parker and Ginobili return to the lineup -- in order to keep their stars fresh for the postseason.
Since he's going well right now, it's a good time to get him back onto your roster if you dropped him. Though the Spurs face the Celtics on Thursday, their April schedule features quite a few defensive creampuffs, and the only truly tough defense they'll face is the Lakers. I'd be surprised if Hill doesn't continue to see right around 30 productive minutes per game, and I think he'll be a great fantasy asset, especially if you need a last-minute boost from the charity stripe.
Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies: Allen is one of the rare players who is available in most fantasy leagues and can actually help you make a move in a category during the next couple of weeks. If you need steals and can fit him in your lineup, it might not matter whether he has good games or not, because he's always going to rack up steals. Allen, in case you didn't know, is fifth in the league in steals per game despite playing fewer minutes than anyone else in the top 70 in that category. Basically, on a steals-per-minute basis, there's no one even close.
Add to that the fact that he's been a key member of the Grizzlies rotation of late, and you can start to make a case for his all-around game as well. He's averaging, for example, 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.2 steals, 3.0 assists, 62 percent shooting from the floor and 81 percent shooting from the line in his past five games, and with Rudy Gay and Xavier Henry both out the rest of the way, he's going to keep getting playing time even if O.J. Mayo somehow turns into a good player again during the next couple of weeks. You can find things to quibble with -- for instance, he's inconsistent and doesn't make 3s -- but if what you need is steals and he's available in your league, you'd be crazy not to get him into your lineup ASAP.
Ekpe Udoh, PF/C, Golden State Warriors: Udoh, the Warriors' most recent first-round draft pick, has found his way pretty solidly into the Warriors rotation of late, in large part due to the high left ankle sprain suffered by Andris Biedrins a couple of weeks ago. On the other hand, Biedrins wasn't playing much before he got hurt in the first place, and Udoh's been remarkably productive of late, especially in terms of his fantasy numbers.
Specifically, after putting up 12 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals in the Warriors' overtime loss to the Thunder on Tuesday night, Udoh is averaging 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.0 steals in 33.8 minutes over his past five games. Obviously, his offensive game is not quite up to the level of his defensive prowess, but of late, he's one of the top shot-blockers in the league, and there's no one else you could claim off the waiver wire who could help you in that particular category the way Udoh could during the final games of the season.
Jared Dudley, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns: With Vince Carter (averaging just 15.3 minutes per game in his past four) relegated to spot duty off the bench in Phoenix, it is time, finally, to start paying serious attention to Dudley as a fantasy commodity. Dudley, in lieu of Carter, is averaging 37 minutes in his past five games, and is putting up 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.0 3s and 52 percent shooting from the floor during that stretch as well. Besides a slight bump in steals and a slight decrease in 3s, those numbers are what you'd largely expect out of Dudley given the increase in minutes.
Dudley has been on the verge of fantasy usefulness for a while now, as a player who has the ability to rack up steals and 3s while playing good enough defense to warrant increased playing time. It would seem that his chance at playing time has arrived, and if you need some decent production across the board, especially in deeper leagues, he's certainly worth picking up. In addition to his raw numbers, playing with the starting unit (and therefore playing more of his minutes alongside Steve Nash) should allow him to keep his field goal percentage up around .500, which is particularly valuable when you consider the fact that he carries quite a bit of value as a 3-point shooter.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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