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Fantasy basketball

Posted by Ed Ryan January 22, 2009 05:54 AM

Who knows how long it will last, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are becoming relevant again. That means you should start eyeing their box scores, because they now have more fantasy resources than just Al Jefferson.

After last week’s impressive — stunning? — two-point win at Phoenix, the Baby Wolves had won eight of 11 and averaged 106 points per game during that span. For a team that broke the 100-point barrier just three times during a 13-game losing skid that seemed to last throughout December, that’s an encouraging jump in scoring, and a fact that should not escape fantasy owners.

Other Wolves are now relevant fantasy contributors, but Jefferson (right) is their one true fantasy beast. Acquired from the Celtics in the Kevin Garnett deal, the fifth-year player has been lighting up the stat sheet since his arrival in the Twin Cities. Playing out of position at center, Jefferson still manages to average 22 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He’s cut way back on his personal fouls and averages 36 minutes per game. If Jefferson isn’t a first-round pick next season, there’s no way he lasts beyond the second round.

Meanwhile, some of their other young players have helped engineer the Wolves’ success. Guard Randy Foye, a third-year pro from Villanova who played only 39 games last year, has already played in 40 this season and is averaging 15.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and one steal per game. Foye is also averaging a career high in minutes (34.8); during the Wolves’ recent run he’s averaged 19 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. For the first time, Foye is a worthy fantasy starter.

The other Wolves to watch are rookie big man Kevin Love and another third-year player, Rodney Carney. Both come off the bench but have been producing at levels worthy of fantasy consideration. A defensive liability, Love has three point-rebound double doubles this month, and his production will increase when he gets more minutes (he’s averaging 23 this month). Foul trouble has been a problem.

Carney’s role is obvious: He comes into the game and guns. The small forward hit 11-of-22 threes over a four-game stretch last week and averaged 17 points per game during that span. If you’re in a category league, Carney’s three-point shooting and scoring touch could come in handy.

Ed Ryan writes about fantasy sports and betting for OT and can be reached at ed_ryan@globe.com

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