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 Thanksgiving, 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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James Harden couldn’t have fallen into a more perfect fantasy situation. In Houston, he can command the rock and nobody’s going to tell him not to. With the respect of his teammates, Harden is setting the league on fire, currently averaging 24.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Even with Jeremy Lin on the floor, Harden is still the best passer the Rockets have (similar to his previous team in OKC.). For the future, I would put Harden’s value at right around Kobe‘s during his prime years, scoring anywhere from 25-30 points, and chipping in near five rebounds and five assists. Congratulations to those who drafted him around his late second-to-early third round pre-Houston value. You got the steal of the draft.
For a player with an average draft position of 77, Kenneth Faried is blowing away all expectations. He is just the type of player that I love to have on my fantasy squad. He doesn’t need any plays run for him and doesn’t do one thing extraordinarily better than anyone else, but he makes the most of his 29.9 minutes per game by hustling his tail off and pestering opponents. To date, he averages 14.0 points on 53 percent shooting from the field, to go along with 11.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks. How’s that for hustle stats?
KEMBA WALKER and MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST
Not that the Charlotte Bobcats will be pushing for a playoff birth anytime soon, but Mike Dunlap has his team playing as scrappy as ever. At the forefront of their new culture are their two young studs, Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. People wrote Walker off after a disappointing rookie season, quickly forgetting the lightning quick speed and lethal midrange game that earned him a national championship at UConn. Now he is making people pay, averaging 18.3 points, 5.3 assists and 2.6 steals. Expect the steals to come back down to earth a little bit, but lets try not to once again dismiss the amount of basketball talent Kemba has.
As for Kidd-Gilchrist, we all knew the defensive stats would be there. Right now he averages 1.1 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. To me, the surprise comes with his 11.7 points and 7.2 rebounds. Although he still needs to expand his range and we, of course, have to be weary about rookie slumps, overall his offensive game has translated to the pros much better than I thought it would.
Despite sitting out Tuesday night’s game against the Knicks, The Brow’s fantasy game was beginning to trend upwards. Over a four-game stretch prior to last night’s DNP, he averaged 16.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Like any other rookie, he will be prone to inconsistencies and the nicks and dings are somewhat concerning (he has missed three of his team’s eight games so far), but Davis has as high of a ceiling as anyone in the game if he puts it all together. As long as he stays on the floor, expect him to continue to rise in the rankings.
I thought last year would be the year that Jrue Holiday’s name would become a familiarity in fantasy circles, only to be let down. Now given the keys to the Philadelphia offense via Andre Iguodala‘s departure, his time has finally arrived. Holiday is taking full advantage of the opportunity that Doug Collins has entrusted him with by averaging 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists, with 1.6 steals and 1.5 treys sprinkled in. Running pick-n-rolls with Andrew Bynum instead of Spencer Hawes will only help him be more efficient, so don’t panic and sell high upon Bynum’s return.
Serge Ibaka was a fantasy juggernaut even while only producing greatly in one category over the past couple years. Now it looks like I-blocka has added the amount of offense needed to take his fantasy game to the next level. Right now, he is averaging 14.6 points compared to last year’s 9.1, and is still contributing his usual three-plus blocks per game. Ibaka’s value really couldn’t get too much higher going in to this year, but he’s managed to add another perk to his already fabulous fantasy game.
We already knew that Anderson Varejao was a great rebounder, but so far this season, he is absolutely BEASTING it. Lately, it seems like Varejao is pushing for 20 rebounds every game, and on the season he’s sitting at averages of 14.3 points, 13.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists. The former hustle player is now rounding out his game so expect him to keep up this level of play over the long haul. While Kyrie Irving mends his broken finger, Varejao may even see an uptick in his offensive role.
The former Sixth Man of the Year is looking like he’ll once be a frontrunner in reclaiming his former prize. Off the bench for the Clippers, he is averaging 19.7 points with 2.3 treys and 1.2 steals. Last year in Portland, he was expected to take on more of a facilitating role, but now being expected to do nothing but put the ball in the hole, he is excelling. It always helps when you are being set up by one of the league’s premier point guards in Chris Paul. There’s no need to worry about him wasting away time on the bench because he has been finishing games on the court and can play with either the first or second unit. After an abysmal year in Portland, we should get used to seeing the Jamal Crawford of old.
Of all the players on the Fallers list this week, I least expect Roy Hibbert to be on here again. We’ve seen these inconsistencies from him in the past and without Danny Granger for a few months, Indiana simply can’t afford for Hibbert to keep posting these underwhelming performances. Although his blocks are still there (2.5 per game to date), his offense has taken a step backwards (only 9.5 points per game). However, on Monday night he poured in 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds and four blocks. Was this the game Hibbert needed to break out of his slump? We’ll have to stay tuned to find out.
Heading into this season I was a little skeptical of drafting Ersan Ilyasova where he was ranked (ADP of 54 in ESPN leagues). He can shoot the heck out of the ball and managed to haul in almost nine rebounds per game last year, but for me to take someone in the sixth round, I want to see more than one good year of production. This year, Ilyasova has fallen back down to earth a bit. Although his stats are concerning – just 6.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 0.6 treys – what’s even worse is his 23.1 minutes played per game. It’s impossible to put up stats when you’re not on the court, and when you’re not producing defensively, Scott Skiles is never going to give you minutes. I’m not saying to cut Ilyasova just yet, but it might be better to sell low now than cut him for a project later.
Kyrie Irving is obviously a baller and by no means am I questioning his game, but even though this is his second season, we’re still trying to formulate what kind of fantasy value he can bring. Unfortunately right now, his value is zero. I’m a little concerned that he always seems to be banged up with issues such as broken fingers. The Cavs are in no hurry to rush him back and for the long term could probably benefit from getting another high draft pick. For these reasons I would be looking to sell Irving when he gets back on the court.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were supposed to formulate the best backcourt in the league. However, Williams has done a lot of the heavy lifting himself so far. Johnson is averaging just 15.1 points on an atrocious 36 percent shooting. With the rock consistently in Deron’s hands, Johnson is also averaging just 3.8 assists, his lowest total since averaging the same number when Steve Nash dominated the touches on the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns. Still, he’s dropping in 1.8 threes a game and shooters will always keep shooting so look for the six-time All-Star to snap out of his funk.
You know it’s bad when one of last year’s better scorers is struggling to head a putrid Kings’ offense. After dropping in 18-plus points and two-plus treys in his first two seasons in Sacramento, Thornton is struggling to find his shot this year, hitting on just 39 percent of his field goal attempts. It reached an all-time low last Sunday when he scored just two points in 22 minutes of play. Thornton’s defensive stats have taken a hit too, averaging just 0.8 steals per game compared to last year’s 1.4. Pretty much, if Marcus Thornton isn’t scoring, he’s not really doing anything for your squad, but fantasy owners have no choice but to roll with the punches so look to exercise a little patience with the volume shooter.
Who’s been the biggest disappointment this year?
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