|ESPN.com: 2012||[Print without images]|
As a fantasy owner, the All-Star break is one of my favorite times of year. The 4-day break gives us a chance to take stock of our lineups, evaluate strengths and weaknesses, brainstorm trade ideas and prepare for the stretch run.
In addition to taking some time to review my personal fantasy teams, I spent All-Star weekend (and last week's hiatus) digging deeper into the stats and watching game tape to overhaul the top-130 rankings for the remainder of the season. A lot can change in just two weeks, so you will notice more player movement than normal. Here are some of the notable players that have jumped off the page over the past two weeks:
Marcin Gortat, C, Phoenix Suns: Though I've been an ardent Gortat supporter since he joined the Suns, I noticed that he was still slightly underrated on my rankings board. His mobility, combined with his instincts on the pick-and-roll and solid midrange jumper, makes him one of the more dangerous scoring threats from the center position, and his length makes him a force on the defensive side. With 18.3 points, 11.0 boards, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks in his past 10 games, Gortat is undoubtedly a top-25 fantasy option the rest of the way.
John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: Wall may have started slow, but he's finally starting to have the breakout season that many predicted. Most impressive has been his improved shot selection in recent action. Not only has Wall shot 50.7 percent from the floor over his past 10 games, but he's also averaged 20.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks during that time. He's still not a 3-point threat, but I'm more than willing to look the other way if he can continue to improve on his shot selection and become less of a drain in the field goal percentage category.
Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks: We are going to find out a lot about Anthony in the weeks immediately following the All-Star break now that his groin injury is fully healed. Make no mistake about it, Melo's legacy is at stake here. Given his track record of being an elite competitor and clutch player, I'm confident that he can figure out how to play together with Jeremy Lin and win, but I'm not as confident that he can do that while continuing to be a top-25 fantasy player. This presents fantasy owners with an interesting dilemma, as his trade value will largely hinge on your league's perception of him. I see him rounding back into form with his scoring around 20 points per game and improved field goal percentage thanks to the Lin effect.
Jeremy Lin, PG, New York Knicks: I wrote about Lin at length a couple weeks ago, but I should add my projections for the remainder of the season now that Carmelo and Amare Stoudemire are back in the lineup. I think we can realistically expect to see Lin posting 16-17 points, 8 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.2 3-pointers with solid percentages the rest of the way. His turnover rate will remain ridiculously high, so be sure to drop him a bit in leagues that count TOs, as the top 130 is based on ESPN standard league formats that do not include turnovers.
Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs: A few weeks ago I dropped Parker in the rankings due to Manu Ginobili's return, but that was a bit premature with Ginobili now on the shelf with a strained oblique. Parker, who ranks 29th on the Player Rater and is averaging 25.4 points, 9.2 assists and 1.3 steals in his past 10 games, could be ranked higher, but I still believe that his scoring and assists will dip slightly once Manu is back on the court.
Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, New York Knicks: You'll notice that Amare and Chris Bosh are back-to-back in the rankings, since they are essentially fantasy clones at this stage in the season. STAT averaged 17.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks, while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 82.9 percent from the line in the month of February. Meanwhile, Bosh has season averages of 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks, while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor and 81.7 percent from the line.
Nicolas Batum, SF, Portland Trail Blazers: Speaking of clones, with averages of 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.8 3-pointers on the season, Batum is almost a mirror image of Indiana's Paul George, who averages 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.7 3-pointers. Both players are up-and-coming, but I give the slight edge to George as his playing time situation appears to be more stable.
Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves: Pekovic's rise may have been overshadowed by Linsanity, but fantasy owners should know that this guy is the real deal. Not only does he rank first in the league with 5.5 offensive rebounds per game in the month of February, but he also posted 17.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks with terrific percentages during that time. He may be playing over his head on the offensive side, but the rebounding and shot-blocking is for real, as he is a strong and physical presence in the paint.
Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, Portland Trail Blazers: Crawford, who was already a valuable fantasy asset for his scoring and 3-point shooting, replaced the struggling Raymond Felton in the Blazers' starting lineup just before the All-Star break. It remains to be seen if Crawford will stick as the starter, but he has a ton of potential as a fantasy player if he does. Remember, Crawford has averages of 18.5 points, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.2 3-pointers in 395 career starts.
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets: Lopez has averaged 12.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24.5 minutes in two games since his return, but fantasy owners should expect to see more of the 7-footer as the Nets will want to see how well he works with Deron Williams, or showcase him for a potential trade. For a guy who sat out the first half of the season, Lopez should provide sneaky value as a scorer and shot-blocker in the second half.
MarShon Brooks, SG, New Jersey Nets: I'm convinced that Brooks is going to have a huge second half for the Nets. Everything this kid has done this season has impressed me, but mostly it's been his aggression and ability to create his own shot on the offensive end. With averages of 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.8 3-pointers in his past five games, Brooks is primed for a breakout in the second half.
Arron Afflalo, SG, Denver Nuggets: Afflalo caught fire in the weeks leading up to the All-Star break with 18.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 3-pointers in his past five games. Despite this, Afflalo moves up only a few spots in the rankings due to the impending return of Danilo Gallinari. Afflalo will still be a dependable scorer and 3-point shooter for fantasy leaguers, but he won't be able to continue this pace once Gallinari returns.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com and was named the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2011. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @bmckitish.