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: Courtney Lee

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesOn Sunday the Celtics ended their 6-game losing streak with a 100-98 win over the Heat in double overtime.

But Boston’s victory celebration was cut short when the team learned that All-Star PG Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season and beyond due to a torn ACL he sustained during Friday’s double OT loss to the Hawks.

Rondo has averaged a league-leading 11.1 apg this year to go along with 13.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 1.8 spg in 37.4 mpg. This loss is devastating for the 21-23 C’s as they fight to regain the form that had them leading in the fourth quarter in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals before succumbing to the Heat.

Though Coach Doc Rivers has a few options on his bench, he’ll probably slide fifth-year combo guard Courtney Lee into the Celts’ starting lineup.

In his first season with the storied Celtics, Lee is averaging 7.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.4 apg and 1.1 spg in 22.7 mpg. Including Sunday’s W, Lee has started in 11 contests so far, covering for the injured Avery Bradley as well as for Rondo when he’s been out.

Lee has season highs of 18 points, 5 dimes, 9 boards and 3 steals (8X). Whether at the PG or SG position, 27-year-old Lee has the experience and athleticism to help fill the huge void left by Rondo’s injury.

With 14th-year, 6’2” SG Jason Terry suffering through one of his worst years statistically and shooting 38% since December 1st, Rivers will lean heavily on Lee to pick up some of Rondo’s minutes and production.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Jared Sullinger

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesAs the NBA fantasy season reaches its regular season midpoint, team GMs looking to shore up the depth and breadth of their rosters focus more heavily on developing their rookies.

Coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics has been frustrated with his underperforming, veteran roster. They are just 20-20 and have had difficulty putting away lesser opponents. In addition, the C’s are 29th in the Association in rebounding.

In order to inject some toughness and glass-cleaning ability into the Celt’s rotation, Rivers has been giving more burn to 20-year-old rookie Jared Sullinger. The 2X consensus First Team All-American at Ohio State was selected by GM Danny Ainge with the 21st overall pick in last year’s draft after declaring at the end of his sophomore season.

The 6’9”, 270-pound power forward was initially expected to be a high lottery pick, but dropped after teams discovered some back issues. In a few seasons Sullinger could wind up being regarded as the steal of the 2012 draft.

Sullinger has competed in all 40 of Boston’s games so far. While his season averages of 6.1 ppg and 6 rpg in 20 mpg are modest, he is coming on strong of late. In January, Sullinger is averaging 7.9 ppg and 8.5 rpg in 25.6 mpg over ten games. In this same stretch, he is shooting 51.5% from the field and has 3 games in double figure points and 4 games in double figure rebounds. Sullinger has season highs of 16 points (2X) and 16 boards.

Sullinger’s glaring downside is that he leads the NBA in fouls per 48 minutes, so staying on the floor can be a challenge. However, Coach Rivers has expressed confidence in his mature, rookie and that has translated into minutes when it matters. Look for this young PF’s production to increase as he becomes more accustomed to Boston’s complex defensive sets and the speed of the pro game.

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