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Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Average Draft Positions reveal trends

By Neil Tardy
Special to ESPN.com

Paul George is growing on fantasy owners.

I know. I couldn't help myself.

The 21-year-old really did spring two inches (to 6-foot-10) during the offseason, but it's his potential to start for a revamped Indiana Pacers team that has George rocketing up draft boards.

George muscled into the Pacers rotation in January of his rookie season, intriguing fantasy owners with his across-the-board production. Though he averaged only 21 minutes per game in 2010-11, post-break, his per-36 minute averages were in the range of 12.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers. This season, George is looking to be more affirmative on the offensive end. Even if he doesn't start, George's defensive abilities should assure him of significantly greater minutes this season. In the first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose shot only 31.6 percent (18-of-57) with George on him.

George's current average draft position (ADP) on ESPN.com is 113.4. Only Jarrett Jack (up 44.3 spots), Chris Paul's replacement in New Orleans, has made a bigger move up draft boards over the past seven days than George's 26.6-spot leap. For what it's worth, George's ADP jibes with my experience. In two recent drafts, I selected George with picks 109 and 123. Really though, I feel fortunate that he was still available to me. I wouldn't hesitate to take him around pick 100. Give me another week and I could probably justify him as a top 90 player.

The ESPN.com Live Draft Results is a valuable resource. True to its name, the tool provides composite results of all fantasy basketball drafts -- and auctions -- that have taken place on ESPN.com so far. This information is designed to help you make decisions about the players you're targeting this season. For instance, Jrue Holiday's average draft position (ADP) is 39.1. So, if you're in a 10-team league and you want Holiday, figure you'll need to get him in the fourth round.

It's no surprise that draft boards are being transformed by the Chris Paul blockbuster, along with the lockout-delayed free agency blitz. A lot of the big movers in ADP are either beneficiaries of the Paul deal, like Jack and DeAndre Jordan, or recent free agent signees like Richard Hamilton, Caron Butler and Nene.

Here's a quick look at some other players whose fantasy fortunes are changing, for better or worse.

Bandwagon Watch: Piling On...

Toney Douglas
Toney Douglas has little to no competition for the Knicks starting point guard job.

Toney Douglas, PG/SG, New York Knicks (107.1 ADP, up 7.1 spots): With the jettisoning of Chauncey Billups, Douglas appears to be the starting point guard for the moment. Baron Davis just signed with the team, but he could miss 8-10 weeks with a herniated disk in his back. Given the Knicks' offensive potential, Douglas is certainly worth a late-round pick, though he hasn't acquitted himself all that well in previous brief stints at the point. Douglas's value could far exceed his draft position, but he could just as easily disappoint. Just don't skimp on assists early just because you know Douglas will be around toward the end.

Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers (57.0 ADP, up 6.8 spots): Whether or not he's an opening-day starter, the No. 1 overall pick will play immediately. I worry about the lack of scorers the Cavs have around Irving -- there's the 35-year-old Antawn Jamison, and, what exactly? -- but his place in the draft makes sense. Irving's ADP is 16th among point guards, and while I might feel more comfortable with lower-rated players like Brandon Jennings, Devin Harris, Tony Parker or Mike Conley, I get that many owners would instead choose Irving's upside.

Jose Juan Barea, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves (117.5 ADP, up 3.6 spots): Barea had a decent line (14 points, six assists and a pair of 3s) in his first preseason game, and new Wolves coach Rick Adelman has said Barea will share time in the back court with Ricky Rubio. Still, it's tough to see how that tandem will work on the defensive end, and it's hard to imagine Barea playing much more than 24 minutes a night. Honestly, I'm not sure what the attraction is here.

Marcus Thornton, SG, Sacramento Kings (91.4 ADP, up 2.4 spots): After joining the Tyreke Evans-less Kings last season, Thornton averaged a stellar 21.0 points, 2.0 3s and 1.7 steals in 27 games. While Evans is healthy and touted rookie Jimmer Fredette is now in the mix, Thornton seems set as a starter. He's a good value here, or even a few picks higher.

Jared Dudley, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (119.9 ADP, up 1.2 spots): While these numbers don't indicate much interest in Dudley, he is the fourth-biggest mover in ESPN.com auctions over the past seven days. Yes, the Suns brought in the athletic ex-Laker Shannon Brown, but Dudley is still expected to start at shooting guard, and why not? In 15 starts toward the end of last season, Dudley averaged 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.7 3s. That he's being drafted behind the likes of Vince Carter, O.J. Mayo and Rashard Lewis -- not to mention J.J. Redick, J.J. Hickson and, yes, J.J. Barea -- is j-j-just crazy.

... and Filing Off

Chauncey Billups, PG, Los Angeles Clippers (74.4 ADP, down 23.8 spots): Billups' fantasy stock is understandably plummeting since he's no longer a starting point guard, but it appears that the Clippers are ready to use him at the 2. Billups could actually have decent fantasy value in that role -- say, 12-14 points, 3-4 assists and a couple of 3s? I'd take that in the eighth round.

David West, PF, Indiana Pacers (56.5 ADP, down 3 spots): It's unsurprising to see West slipping a bit. While he's free of a brace for his surgically-repaired left knee, West admits he needs to get into game shape and learn his new team's offenses and defenses. West didn't play in the Pacers' first preseason game, and he might not see the court in Tuesday's exhibition finale versus the Chicago Bulls, either. Frankly, I'm avoiding West this year.

Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.