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Monday, November 1, 2010
NBA opening-week storylines

By Brian McKitish
Special to ESPN.com

The first week of the NBA season is always a whirlwind for fantasy owners and I suppose that I am required by fantasy-writer law to remind you not to panic this early in the season. And for the most part that is true. I wouldn't advocate running out and dropping Danilo Gallinari or Terrence Williams just because they've had a couple of rough games. That would be silly. But at the same time, sometimes a little panic is necessary, especially if you had concerns about certain players heading into the season.

Bosh
Chris Bosh is one of the biggest decliners in the season rankings as he gives up some numbers to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

For instance, the Miami Heat are only four games into the season, but I can now say with even more confidence that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are going to give fantasy owners some headaches this year. I worried about this openly in my Love/Hate column a few weeks ago, and I'm even more convinced now, particularly when it comes to Bosh.

Since he's not going to score as much and doesn't block many shots (1.0 per game for the past three seasons), Bosh really needs to get it done on the glass and in the percentages to even have a fraction of the value he had in previous years.

The problem is that Wade and James are such great rebounders that they will steal boards from him often, and after grabbing only one rebound on Sunday, Bosh is averaging just 6.5 boards in four games with the Heat. How about his percentages? Well, Bosh has clearly been a third wheel on offense, averaging just 10.4 field goal attempts and 4.3 free throw attempts through four games. So even if he does shoot the ball well (which he will), it won't have nearly the same impact that it had back when he was taking 15-16 shots from the floor and 8-9 free throws per game. He should get better from here, but I'm afraid that we're looking at someone who's going to top out at 17-18 points with 8-9 rebounds per game.

As for LeBron and Wade, they are starting to figure out how to play with each other, which is a good thing for the Heat, but doesn't calm my fears for their fantasy outlook. It's still early, but it looks like LeBron is going to be the facilitator while Wade will take on the role as the primary scorer. Both are still going to have a ton of assists, but it also looks like both are going to take a bigger hit in the scoring department than everyone expected.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their expected fantasy value in the 2010-11 NBA season. The reason for ranking 130 is that is the number of active players in ESPN standard leagues. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC (1)
2. Chris Paul, PG, NO (2)
3. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (4)
4. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (5)
5. LeBron James, SF, MIA (3)
6. Deron Williams, PG, UTA (6)
7. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (8)
8. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (9)
9. Danny Granger, SF, IND (10)
10. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (7)
11. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (12)
12. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (13)
13. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (11)
14. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY (15)
15. Brandon Roy, SG/SF, POR (20)
16. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (17)
17. Carmelo Anthony, SF, DEN (14)
18. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, CHA (16)
19. Brook Lopez, C, NJ (19)
20. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (18)
21. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (22)
22. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (27)
23. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, PHI (24)
24. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (25)
25. David Lee, PF/C, GS (21)
26. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (26)
27. Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN (28)
28. Al Horford, C/PF, ATL (29)
29. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (38)
30. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (32)
31. Tim Duncan, C/PF, SA (34)
32. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTA (30)
33. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR (35)
34. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC (42)
35. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA (23)
36. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, CHA (31)
37. Aaron Brooks, PG, HOU (36)
38. John Wall, PG, WAS (39)
39. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (40)
40. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (46)
41. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (41)
42. Devin Harris, PG, NJ (44)
43. Jason Richardson, SG, PHO (47)
44. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (53)
45. David West, PF, NO (49)
46. Darren Collison, PG, IND (33)
47. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (43)
48. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (48)
49. Raymond Felton, PG, NY (45)
50. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (37)
51. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (51)
52. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET (64)
53. Paul Millsap, PF, UTA (60)
54. Nene Hilario, C/PF, DEN (54)
55. O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM (55)
56. Jeff Green, PF/SF, OKC (56)
57. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, NY (50)
58. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (57)
59. Mo Williams, PG, CLE (58)
60. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (79)
61. Andray Blatche, PF/C, WAS (52)
62. Luis Scola, PF/C, HOU (71)
63. Lamar Odom, PF/SF, LAL (81)
64. Troy Murphy, PF/C, NJ (59)
65. Baron Davis, PG, LAC (62)
66. Marcus Camby, C/PF, POR (63)
67. Chris Kaman, C, LAC (66)
68. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (68)
69. Andre Miller, PG, POR (67)
70. Eric Gordon, SG, LAC (70)
71. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI (61)
72. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI (72)
73. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA (110)
74. Rashard Lewis, PF/SF, ORL (73)
75. Gilbert Arenas, PG, WAS (74)
76. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, POR (75)
77. Tony Parker, PG, SA (76)
78. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, NO (69)
79. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, ATL (77)
80. Jason Terry, SG, DAL (78)
81. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, MIN (84)
82. Caron Butler, SF/SG, DAL (83)
83. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA (85)
84. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC (106)
85. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (92)
86. J.J. Hickson, PF, CLE (90)
87. John Salmons, SG/SF, MIL (86)
88. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (80)
89. Wilson Chandler, SF/SG, NY (105)
90. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (87)
91. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, PHO (82)
92. Anthony Randolph, PF/C, NY (88)
93. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (65)
94. Boris Diaw, PF/SF, CHA (89)
95. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (91)
96. Carl Landry, PF, SAC (93)
97. Ben Gordon, SG, DET (101)
98. Vince Carter, SG/SF, ORL (95)
99. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (96)
100. Beno Udrih, PG, SAC (97)
101. Yao Ming, C, HOU (98)
102. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (109)
103. Robin Lopez, C, PHO (102)
104. Al Harrington, PF, DEN (103)
105. JaVale McGee, C/PF, WAS (104)
106. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE (111)
107. Nicolas Batum, SF, POR (113)
108. Terrence Williams, SF/SG, NJ (99)
109. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (112)
110. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC (107)
111. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, UTA (117)
112. Corey Maggette, SF, MIL (108)
113. Marcus Thornton, SG, NO (114)
114. J.R. Smith, SG, DEN (100)
115. Andris Biedrins, C, GS (120)
116. Lou Williams, PG/SG, PHI (123)
117. Dorell Wright, SF, GS (NR)
118. Samuel Dalembert, C, SAC (125)
119. Carlos Delfino, SF/SG, MIL (NR)
120. Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, TOR (127)
121. Linas Kleiza, SF, TOR (128)
122. Taj Gibson, PF, CHI (NR)
123. Ramon Sessions, PG, CLE (124)
124. Derrick Favors, PF, NJ (NR)
125. Daniel Gibson, PG, CLE (NR)
126. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (115)
127. Luke Ridnour, PG, MIN (NR)
128. Anthony Tolliver, PF/C, MIN (NR)
129. George Hill, PG/SG, SA (NR)
130. Josh McRoberts, PF, IND (129)

Miami is going to have a lot (and I mean a lot) of blowout victories this year and that means reduced minutes for the big three. We've seen it already in the Heat's big wins over the Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets, and it will likely be a recurring theme throughout the season. That said, while I am dropping Bosh quite a bit in the rankings, I won't be dropping LeBron and Wade all that far simply because they are still ultra-productive on a per-minute basis.

10 thoughts on opening week

As my followers on Twitter (@bmckitish) can attest, I have watched an obscene amount of basketball this week. In fact, my DVR is overloaded with NBA League Pass games. Here are 10 things I noticed after Week 1 of the NBA season:

1. I only needed to see a few minutes of the Magic to notice that working with Hakeem Olajuwon has obviously helped Dwight Howard's post game. That little face-up, baby-hook runner in the lane is going to be very hard to stop now that he has a variety of spin moves, pump fakes and even a semi-decent midrange jumper in his repertoire. He's averaged 21 points per game through two contests despite sitting out the majority of the second half in both the Magic's blowout victory against the Washington Wizards and blowout loss to the Heat. Don't be surprised if he sets a new career high in scoring this season.

2. Kevin Love, you've been Rambis'd, again. Rambis'd? Yeah, it's something we say around the office all the time, like when you screw something up in a really irreversible way. There is no reason I can think of to explain why Love is averaging just 25 minutes per game after three contests, even though he's averaging 14 points and 13 rebounds in limited action, showing that he's one of the NBA's most productive players in the NBA on a per-minute basis. I know we're all dreaming of what those numbers would look like in 35 minutes per game, but for now we'll have to just enjoy the production until Kurt Rambis decides that his team is better off with Love on the court. It's a decision that is likely to come sooner rather than later if Rambis has any intention of winning games this year. This situation just screams "buy low" to me.

3. Tyreke Evans isn't the fastest player in the league, nor is he the most explosive, but man, he can get wherever he wants to go on the court. The more I watch him, the more impressed I am with his game, and I'm not sure if you noticed, but he's shooting the 3-ball quite nicely this season. If we include his preseason games, Tyreke is now 9-for-22 (40.9 percent), in nine games. As active as he is on the court, I would not be surprised one bit if he averaged 20 points, 6 boards, 6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 3-pointers per game this season.

4. I may have to eat crow after the hate I dished on Derrick Rose if he's going to continue to play like he did on Saturday night (39 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 3 3-pointers). Now, before we get too hyped on Rose, we should realize that he put up a goose egg in steals and 3's in his first contest and is shooting 8-for-32 from downtown after 10 games (including the preseason). That's just 25 percent, folks. Still, Rose looks utterly unstoppable on the offensive end, so I'll need to move him up a bit in the rankings (because he will probably score 25 points per game this year) even if I still don't fully believe in his early season steals and 3's.

5. Color me skeptical, but I'm not buying into all of this Arron Afflalo hype. Do I like him as a pickup and 3-point specialist in deeper formats? Absolutely. Do I think he will be a great option for anything other than 3-pointers? Not unless injuries strike or Carmelo Anthony leaves town. Afflalo is a talented defender and shooter, but we got to see a lot of him last year and he averaged just 8.8 points, 0.6 steals and 1.3 3-pointers in 27.2 minutes. What I'm trying to say is that Afflalo's opening-night line of 22 points, 2 steals and 3 3-pointers will be the exception, not the rule.

6. Can someone please tell me how D.J. Augustin is owned in just 19.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues with averages of 17.0 points, 5.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 2.7 3-pointers after three games? Stop reading now and go pick him up. I don't even care if you come back and finish reading or not, just pick him up now and thank me later. And if you're counting, yes, this is the third straight column in which I have hyped Augustin.

7. Serge Ibaka isn't starting, but he might as well be, as he's averaging 27.7 minutes compared to Nenad Krstic's 17.0. Of course, if you've read anything I've written over the past season you'll know that I am absolutely giddy about Ibaka's play thus far: 10.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. Barring an injury, Ibaka is a lock for a breakout season as a rebounder and a shot-blocker.

8. John Wall and Blake Griffin are going to be awfully fun to watch (and own) this year. Griffin looks like he's playing "Slamball" on trampolines when everyone else is playing on hardwood, and could average 18-19 and 10-11 when all is said and done. Wall, on the other hand, struggled in his debut before absolutely taking over in his second game for 28 points and 9 assists. We still need to see how he'll co-exist with Gilbert Arenas, but I'm positive that Wall will finish the year among the league leaders in steals and assists.

9. Figures that the one year I finally give up on Wilson Chandler as a sleeper, he's putting it all together. Chandler has embraced his sixth-man role for Mike D'Antoni and ranks second on our Player Rater after the first week of action. He won't be this good all season, but he very well could make a run at sixth man of the year.

10. DeMarcus Cousins is going to be a monster one day, but not until he figures out how to limit his fouls and stay on the court. He's not quite Timofey Mozgov bad (10.8 fouls per 48 minutes), but he's close at 8.8 fouls per 48 minutes. As with many young big men, it might take him a while to learn how to defend without fouling, so it's best to temper our expectations early in the season for the ultra-talented rookie.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at bmckitish@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @bmckitish.