Honestly, I wasnâ€™t sure weâ€™d ever see a stretch of production like this from the Brazilian big man. It had been almost three years since he had shown anything on the court. His 03-04 season was a promising second year, as he put up 11.8/6.5/2.2 with 1.5 steals on 53% shooting in 32.5 mpg, but he regressed the year after that as he struggled with injuries and playing time, suffered a lost season the next year after tearing his ACL three minutes in, and never got going this year after dealing with lingering effects of his knee injury. With his ridiculous $60 million contract in hand, it was reasonable to question his motivation to fight through the adversity, but Nene has finally turned the corner. After giving some solid minutes off the bench at the end of January he entered the starting lineup at the beginning of the month and has been fairly remarkable. In his last 8 games the line looks like this: 18.9/7.1/1.8 with 1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks on 60/59 shooting. Were it not for that last number, that would be a perfect line. Unfortunately that 59% from the line has come on 7 attempts per game, which means heâ€™s doing some serious damage for teams that are starting him. But the fact that heâ€™s getting to the line so much shows how well heâ€™s playing. Thereâ€™s an explosiveness in his game that most of us forgot was there. His 60% shooting is possible because of all the dunks and gimmes he gets by attacking the basket. His most unique fantasy trait has always been his ability to help out with steals from the center position, and though 1 steal in 33.5 mpg isnâ€™t too much to get excited about, itâ€™s still nice to have. Last night he snagged 4, in addition to 2 blocks, while shooting 7-of-11 from the field. Besides his lingering injury and lack of production, it was hard to get excited about Nene because of all of his frontcourt competition. That concern seems to have subsided for the time being, though. Yes, Reggie Evans and Eduardo Najera are still around, but Nene is the man making all the money, and as long as he his healthy and playing at his current level, thereâ€™s no reason George Karl will ease up on his minutes. They have been cautious with him all year and just now seem to be loosening the reigns, but the 33.5 mpg heâ€™s averaging so far this month seems to be a good number to expect. Heâ€™s just 24 years old, and thatâ€™s a time when big men tend to really kick it into high gear. Itâ€™s possible that this is his highest gear, but thatâ€™s still quite valuable for a free addition to your team.
This one is so exciting that Iâ€™ll talk about him again even though BV mentioned him the other day. And I get to talk about him in tomorrowâ€™s TR, as well. Perhaps you remember Blatcheâ€™s story â€“ drafted in the second round out of high school, carjacked and shot in the chest during the preseason last year, understandably never really got it going. But that didnâ€™t stop him from being one of our favorites, since he was one of the few players on the Wizards that we could actually project great things upon. Not that there was really any basis, but the Wizards usually donâ€™t get high schoolers (well, except for that one â€¦ shudder) or foreigners, the upside guys. So we locked onto Blatche, who always hustled in those rare instances he got on the court. Perhaps he hustled a bit too much, picking up fouls, generally playing out of control, but it was fun to watch. And you could tell he loved to fill up the stat sheet. Thankfully, Eddie Jordan decided to ditch the Jarvis Hayes as starter experiment (next itâ€™s time to ditch the Jarvis Hayes as Wizards experiment) and has inserted the 20-year-old second year player into the starting lineup. Heâ€™s done exactly what the Wizards have needed, and that is bring tons of energy to the floor. He crashes the offensive glass, flies around on defense, and generally plays like an overexcited 20 year old should. In just 107 minutes in the last 5 games heâ€™s grabbed 20 offensive rebounds (40 total). In last nightâ€™s win against the 76ers he blocked 4 shots to go along with his 11 and 10 on 5-of-7 shooting. Heâ€™s actually shot the ball surprisingly well over the past five, with just one 2-for-11 outing dragging down his average. But while we have every reason to be excited about Blatche, fantasy players should temper their expectations. He still hasnâ€™t topped 27 minutes in a game this year, and itâ€™s hard to see that happening regularly. Eddie Jordan is using a deep rotation now, and once Etan Thomas comes back from suspension, heâ€™ll have him, Brendan Haywood, Calvin Booth, Darius Songailia and Michael Ruffin at his disposal for the two big man spots up front. And heâ€™ll mostly likely use all of them. And then Antawn Jamison will be back (please, soon). Blatche is probably most effective in 20-25 minutes per game right now as it is. But remember his skill set for the future. Ernie Grunfeld thinks long-term, and Blatche is almost certainly a big part of that plan.
OK, heâ€™s not exactly setting the world on fire in Indiana, but Dunleavy is doing something to impress Rick Carlisle, because his minutes are through the roof. He entered the starting lineup immediately for the Pacers, but saw more than 32 minutes in just one of his first 6 games. Since then, itâ€™s been hard to get him off the floor. Heâ€™s averaging 38 mpg in his last 7, and that includes four games in which heâ€™s seen 40+ minutes. You know by now that just about anyone in a situation like that is bound to have some fantasy value, and Mike Dunleavy qualifies as â€œjust about anyone.â€ Heâ€™s been a surprisingly good fit at as big SG in the Indiana lineup, connecting on at least 2 3s in each of his past five games, while getting to the boards and dishing some assists. Even his shooting is slightly improved, up to 45% this month. Itâ€™s made him the #76 player on the rater in the past 15 days, which is about as good as it gets for Dunleavy. Heâ€™s a sure-thing fantasy starter, which you havenâ€™t really been able to say before. Being able to slot him at SG is an advantage because he really helps you out in boards but doesnâ€™t hurt you in 3s or steals. Basically, Dunleavy has become one of those guys who doesnâ€™t really hurt you and can even contribute to a winning fantasy team. It is important that he continues to see so much PT; if that 38 number drops to 32, he becomes much more borderline. But his well-rounded game seems to be going over well with the coaching staff. He may have only seen 32 minutes last night, but that still tied him for the team lead with Jermaine Oâ€™Neal and Danny Granger on an evening in which the Pacers bench was especially effective.