As the first month of the NBA season comes to a close, player values are starting to fall in place. Of course there are some exceptions, like if some of these players just happened to start off ice cold or riding a hot streak. However, by this time statistics begin to even out. The early hot streaks dissolve, and the underachievers slowly work their way back into the fantasy hierarchy. Here are this week’s top risers and fallers in fantasy basketball.
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KEVIN LOVE and RICKY RUBIO
It blows my mind that people let Kevin Love’s draft stock drop so much after learning of his broken hand before the season. We have to remember that fantasy basketball is a marathon, not a sprint, and 4-6 weeks worth of zeros at the beginning of the season doesn’t make up for the onslaught of stats that Love can put up in a short period of time. Well, after making an early return, Love is picking up right where he left off the last couple of years. Through five games back, he is averaging a beastly 23.0 points, 15.6 rebounds and 1.2 threes, and will be a model of consistency for the rest of the fantasy season.
And while we’re on the topic of early returns, Ricky Rubio was cleared for full-contact practices without limitations Wednesday, about a whole month before most expected him back. Although he’s not across the finish line yet, we speculate Rubio to be back sometime in the next week or two. When healthy, he can provide a great source of assists, steals and rebounds from the point guard position. Last year, he averaged 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.2 steals in 41 games. Expect this year’s stats to approach those, but be cautious of missed games on back-to-backs or reduced lateral quickness, which is often shown by ACL tear returnees.
After a slow start, Tyreke The Freak is finally turning it on of late. Over his last five games, he’s averaging 21.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals. He still can’t be relied on for treys, which hurts if you’re using him as a shooting guard, but if you surround him with the right players (much like the Kings have tried doing for the last three seasons), Tyreke can be a huge fantasy asset. Remember it was just three years ago when he joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only rookies to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, so the upside is there.
Coming into this season, we all knew how special an offensive player Damian Lillard could be, but I thought typical rookie stats, such as inconsistency on a night-to-night basis and a high turnover rate, could hinder his fantasy upside. However, every night Lillard continues to prove me wrong, using his lightning quick speed and lethal jumper to boast averages of 19.1 points, 6.1 assists, 2.5 threes and 1.4 steals. His slashes are what really surprise me, shooting an efficient 43/40/83. At this point, the sky is the limit for the sixth overall pick, and his numbers can only improve with time.
I’m kind of leery on breakout players like Chandler Parsons because without a proven track record, you never know when the wheels can fall off. However, Parsons’ recent play certainly warrants a mention in this piece. Watching Parsons play, there’s nothing on the court he can’t do. While he may not be the most athletic or the best shooter, defender or rebounder, he does do everything well enough to merit a ton of minutes and brings energy every second he is on the floor. It’s also easy for him to get open looks while being set up by Jeremy Lin and James Harden, two solid distributors who attract way more attention from defenses than Parsons ever will. Last fantasy week, Parsons put up 22.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists to go along with 2.7 treys, 1.7 steals and 0.7 blocks per game. Those, my friends, are the numbers of a true rotisserie king.
Every bad team has that one player who is able to put up solid stat lines night after night due to a volume of touches while playing from behind, and for the Orlando Magic this year, Jameer Nelson looks to be that guy. While getting healthier by the day, Nelson is averaging 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists over his last three games, and doing it while shooting 49 percent from the field with 2.3 treys. As the games get less and less meaningful for the Magic (unless you count playing for the No. 1 pick of the draft a competition), look for Jameer to get back to his old self in the fantasy world.