Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Shane Battier

Memphis Grizzlies v Miami HeatThe 43-14 Miami Heat have won 14 straight games and sit atop the Eastern Conference by 6.5 games. LeBron James is having a historic season and is a lock to garner his fourth NBA MVP award. D-Wade and Chris Bosh are having their usual All-Star seasons.

However, oft-overlooked components to Miami’s success can be found in their role players. One of these important glue guys is 12th-year, 6’8” SF Shane Battier. The 34-year-old Duke alum, now in his second season with the Heat, has been playing his best, most productive hoops of late.

For the season Battier’s numbers are quite modest, but as of February 1st his production and efficiency have soared. After averaging only 2.2 ppg and shooting a woeful 18.8% from three-point land in January, Battier averaged 9.1 ppg and shot 53% from the 3 in twelve February contests.

In Miami’s two games in March, Battier has scored 14 and 12 points and knocked down 8 of 9 from long range. With these kinds of numbers coach Erik Spoelstra will surely continue to trust Battier to spread the floor and shoot daggers deep. Battier has season highs of 18 points, 7 boards (2X), 3 dimes, 3 blocks (2X) and 2 steals (3X).

With 70% of the regular season in the books, most fantasy GMs have their rosters pretty well set. But savvy GMs who like to find diamonds in the rough and play them when they’re hot should look to Battier, who is owned in less than 5% of fantasy leagues.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Tony Allen

Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis GrizzliesThe 37-18 Memphis Grizzlies have won seven games in a row and currently sit 4th overall in the Western Conference.

On January 30th GM Chris Wallace traded top scorer Rudy Gay to Toronto in a 3-way deal. Many Griz fans were upset and confused by the move. They wondered who would step up and help fill the void of Gay’s lost production. One player who has increased his scoring and rebounding in Gay’s absence is 9th-year SG Tony Allen.

Hoopsheads know that Allen is a lockdown defender with elite athleticism. Every night he is assigned to guard the opposing squad’s best offensive 1, 2 or 3. Last year Allen was named to the 2012 NBA All-Defensive First Team for his proven ability to secure the perimeter with his long arms, quick feet and active hands.

Allen has played in and started 52 of the Grizzlies’ 55 games thus far. In their 10 contests in February, the Oklahoma State product has averaged 11.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.4 apg and 1.7 spg in 29.7 mpg while shooting 58% from the field. Allen has season-highs of 19 points, 9 boards (2X), 6 dimes, 4 steals (2X) and 3 blocks.

With two-thirds of the regular season in the books, many Fantasy GMs are looking to add or trade for a solid bench player who can step up and start when called upon. Tony Allen rolls with a talented, tested, veteran group, so he has limited opportunities to get the big stats. However, Allen is a hustle player who consistently contributes to the box score on both ends of the court.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Jeff Green

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston CelticsThe 28-24 Boston Celtics have won eight of their last nine games. This record is especially impressive considering the Cs pulled it off without their All-Star PG Rajon Rondo. Rondo tore his ACL on January 25th in a loss at Atlanta, which was Boston’s sixth straight defeat.

Rookie forward Jared Sullinger and combo guard Leandro Barbosa also suffered season-ending injuries, so the rest of coach Doc Rivers’ roster must find ways to score more and board more in order for the team to make a run at a mid-seed playoff spot.

One Celtic baller who’s responded to the injury crisis in Beantown is 6’9”, 6th-year combo forward Jeff Green. The Georgetown product and 2007 Big East POY was the 5th overall pick of the ’97 draft. Boston acquired Green in a trade with Oklahoma City for the popular center Kendrick Perkins in February of 2011.

In reality this is only Green’s fifth pro season since he missed all of last year due to a scary aortic aneurysm. Green has participated in all 52 of the Celts’ games thus far this season and appears more comfortable in Boston now than ever before.

Green has upped his game in February, and he’s earned the confidence of Rivers. In the C’s seven games this month, Green has averaged 30.1 mpg, 14.4 ppg, 4 rpg and 1.7 bpg while shooting 51% from the field, 46% from the arc and 85% from the line. These stats are an improvement over his season averages of 24.6 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 0.7 bpg.

Green’s ultra-athletic moves have shown up with more frequency as his minutes have increased. And he is a popular teammate with a high IQ. Hoya coach John Thompson III stated in a Sports Illustrated interview, “You’ll stop and think when I say this, but it’s true: Jeff Green is the smartest player I’ve ever coached.”

Now is the time for fantasy GMs to grab Jeff Green before his price tag goes up along with his production.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Samuel Dalembert

The 25-24 Milwaukee Bucks have had an up-and-down season to date. Some nights their backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis combined with a mix-and-match frontcourt can look and play outstanding basketball. At other times the Bucks seem to lack talent, and their play borders on ineffectual.

On January 8th, in his fifth season at the helm of the team, veteran coach Scott Skiles and Milwaukee management made a mutual decision to part ways. Between December 1st and the time Skiles left, 11th-year, 6’11” C Samuel Dalembert had 16 games where he never touched the court. Under interim coach Jim Boylan, Dalembert has appeared in the last eight contests. And due to an injured Larry Sanders, Dalembert has even started the past two games.

Over this eight game stretch, the 2001 first round pick has averaged 21 minutes, 11.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while shooting 60% from the field and 87% from the line. Dalembert’s numbers have exploded over the last three games – 19.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg and 3.3 bpg in 28.7 mpg.

Dalembert has been around the league and is considered a good clubhouse guy. In fact, in 2010 he won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his work raising funds and awareness for his homeland of Haiti after the earthquake.

Over four seasons in Philly, from ’06 to ’10, Dalembert played in every single game and started all but two. In the ’07-’08 season he averaged 10.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 2.3 bpg in 33.2 mpg. When this veteran gets his run, he has proven that he can produce in all of the big man categories.

For Fantasy GMs looking to bolster their frontcourts, Dalembert’s production appears to be on the rise.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Jerryd Bayless

Copyright 2013 NBAE-Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Grizzlies surprised a lot of hoops heads when they traded their top scorer SF Rudy Gay to the Raptors on January 30th. To plug up the hole in his starting lineup Coach Lionel Hollins decided to move his usual 2-guard Tony Allen to the 3-spot and slide 5th-year, 6’3” combo guard Jerryd Bayless beside PG Mike Conley in the backcourt.

24-year-old Bayless was the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft after spending just one year at  the University of Arizona. Memphis is the streaky Bayless’ fourth team in five seasons. But Bayless will have a steady gig with the Griz if he continues to prove his worth.

After averaging approximately 17 minutes per game in November and December, Bayless’ minutes have increased to 24 per contest in January. While filling in for the injured Mike Conley and the departed Gaye, Bayless’ minutes jumped to 36.8 mpg over his last five games.

During this five-game stretch Bayless’ production soared to 16 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6 apg and 1.2 spg while shooting 49% from the field. Bayless has season highs of 23 points, 7 boards (2X), 11 dimes and 3 steals (2X).

Newly acquired veteran Tayshaun Prince is expected to move into the Grizzlies’ starting group after a period of acclimation with his new franchise, system and teammates. But even when that occurs Bayless’ play of late will earn him beaucoup minutes off the Memphis bench.

Bayless is a value pickup at this juncture of the season, especially since he is owned in only 20 percent of leagues, and fantasy GMs can scoop him up for a bargain.