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Monday, November 19, 2012
Faried, Walker off to hot starts

By Brian McKitish
Special to ESPN.com

In an effort to stay patient and avoid the mass panic that typically ensues early in the season, I am often reluctant to make any big changes to my preseason rankings during the first few of weeks of action. But now that we are getting a little deeper into the season and starting to pick up on some developing trends, it's time to start making some major changes based on what we've seen so far.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value from this point forward in the 2012-13 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. Kevin Durant, OKC (1)
2. LeBron James, MIA (2)
3. Chris Paul, LAC (3)
4. Russell Westbrook, OKC (4)
5. Deron Williams, BKN (5)
6. James Harden, HOU (7)
7. Kyrie Irving, CLE (8)
8. Dwyane Wade, MIA (6)
9. Serge Ibaka, OKC (10)
10. Kobe Bryant, LAL (11)
11. Nicolas Batum, POR (19)
12. Josh Smith, ATL (9)
13. Al Jefferson, UTAH (12)
14. Kevin Love, MIN (14)
15. LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (13)
16. Marc Gasol, MEM (17)
17. Carmelo Anthony, NY (18)
18. Jrue Holiday, PHI (27)
19. DeMarcus Cousins, SAC (15)
20. Dwight Howard, LAL (21)
21. Rajon Rondo, BOS (22)
22. Brandon Jennings, MIL (28)
23. Goran Dragic, PHO (23)
24. Anthony Davis, NO (25)
25. Stephen Curry, GS (35)
26. Ty Lawson, DEN (16)
27. Pau Gasol, LAL (20)
28. Rudy Gay, MEM (26)
29. Al Horford, ATL (24)
30. Greg Monroe, DET (31)
31. Damian Lillard, POR (42)
32. Monta Ellis, MIL (30)
33. Zach Randolph, MEM (48)
34. Paul Millsap, UTAH (32)
35. Marcin Gortat, PHO (29)
36. Paul Pierce, BOS (34)
37. Kenneth Faried, DEN (43)
38. Dirk Nowitzki, DAL (33)
39. Kyle Lowry, TOR (39)
40. Joakim Noah, CHI (38)
41. Andre Iguodala, DEN (37)
42. Paul George, IND (36)
43. Mike Conley, MEM (40)
44. Blake Griffin, LAC (41)
45. Steve Nash, LAL (52)
46. Kemba Walker, CHA (84)
47. Brook Lopez, BKN (51)
48. David Lee, GS (45)
49. Chris Bosh, MIA (47)
50. Wesley Matthews, POR (44)
51. Roy Hibbert, IND (46)
52. Joe Johnson, BKN (53)
53. Ryan Anderson, NO (57)
54. O.J. Mayo, DAL (59)
55. J.R. Smith, NY (79)
56. Andrei Kirilenko, MIN (82)
57. Luol Deng, CHI (62)
58. Kevin Garnett, BOS (58)
59. Jeremy Lin, HOU (55)
60. Anderson Varejao, CLE (68)
61. Raymond Felton, NY (63)
62. Tony Parker, SA (56)
63. John Wall, WSH (54)
64. Kevin Martin, OKC (71)
65. Klay Thompson, GS (61)
66. Tim Duncan, SA (81)
67. Omer Asik, HOU (89)
68. Andrea Bargnani, TOR (64)
69. Gerald Wallace, BKN (69)
70. Mo Williams, UTAH (77)
71. Danilo Gallinari, DEN (65)
72. Jeff Teague, ATL (70)
73. Marcus Thornton, SAC (60)
74. Nikola Pekovic, MIN (72)
75. Andrew Bynum, PHI (49)
76. Tyson Chandler, NY (66)
77. DeAndre Jordan, LAC (73)
78. JaVale McGee, DEN (74)
79. Dion Waiters, CLE (97)
80. Arron Afflalo, ORL (75)
81. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, CHA (83)
82. Ersan Ilyasova, MIL (50)
83. Brandon Knight, DET (88)
84. George Hill, IND (78)
85. Carlos Boozer, CHI (90)
86. Tyreke Evans, SAC (67)
87. Darren Collison, DAL (91)
88. Lou Williams, ATL (92)
89. Kris Humphries, BKN (86)
90. Derrick Favors, UTAH (110)
91. Jamal Crawford, LAC (108)
92. Glen Davis, ORL (92.5)
93. Manu Ginobili, SA (95)
94. Amare Stoudemire, NY (93)
95. DeMar DeRozan, TOR (105)
96. Thaddeus Young, PHI (94)
97. Gordon Hayward, UTAH (76)
98. Greivis Vasquez, NO (112)
99. Jameer Nelson, ORL (115)
100. J.J. Hickson, POR (109)
101. Luis Scola, PHO (102)
102. Daniel Green, SA (121)
103. Byron Mullens, CHA (104)
104. Jason Richardson, PHI (NR)
105. Ray Allen, MIA (96)
106. Chris Kaman, DAL (107)
107. Evan Turner, PHI (100)
108. Rodney Stuckey, DET (120)
109. Kawhi Leonard, SA (85)
110. Jason Terry, BOS (101)
111. David West, IND (103)
112. J.J. Redick, ORL (116)
113. Al-Farouq Aminu, NO (114)
114. Isaiah Thomas, SAC (87)
115. Luke Ridnour, MIN (124)
116. Nikola Vucevic, ORL (126)
117. Michael Beasley, PHO (113)
118. Jose Calderon, TOR (NR)
119. Kyle Korver, ATL (NR)
120. Ramon Sessions, CHA (119)
121. Carl Landry, GSW (122)
122. Harrison Barnes, GS (NR)
123. Ricky Rubio, MIN (123)
124. Tristan Thompson, CLE (125)
125. Shannon Brown, PHO (NR)
126. Mario Chalmers, MIA (118)
127. Derrick Rose, CHI (127)
128. Dorell Wright, PHI (111)
129. Jordan Crawford, WSH (NR)
130. Chandler Parsons, HOU (NR)

Here to stay

Aside from his dismal 52.3 percent shooting from the free throw line, Kenneth Faried has been nothing short of spectacular 10 games into his sophomore campaign. Averaging 14.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks while shooting 54.7 percent from the floor in 30.0 minutes a game, the "Manimal" has been even better than advertised to start the season. Most impressive has been his league-high 5.6 offensive rebounds per game, which is a testament to his incredible motor. I've said it before, but it's worth mentioning again: Opposing players simply can't match Faried's quickness, energy and effort on both ends of the court.

I'm absolutely a believer in Kemba Walker's early season onslaught of 18.8 points, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Sure, he likely will have some inconsistent moments from time to time, but the diminutive guard has been all over the court for the much-improved Bobcats. Super quick and more aggressive this season, Walker has been getting into the lane at will, where he's averaging 6.6 shot attempts at the rim. This stat is incredibly encouraging given that Walker's struggles from the floor as a rookie were largely the result of his propensity to settle for jump shots.

I moved Anthony Davis up from 40th to 25th in my top-130 rankings last week without much explanation, but the jump was based on a few factors. First, he's been as good as advertised on the defensive end, posting 8.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. Though we knew he would be a defensive asset, we didn't know that Davis would be so effective (and efficient) on the offensive end. Scoring 16.0 points per game while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor and 83.9 percent from the line, Davis is already a fine-tuned fantasy machine.

We spoke about Nicolas Batum, Jrue Holiday, Zach Randolph and Omer Asik last week, but it's worth repeating that all four continue to move up the ranks as they further cement their status as breakout players.

Cause for optimism

Andrei Kirilenko has benefited from myriad injuries on the roster in Minnesota, but that doesn't change the fact that he looks absolutely terrific. Kirilenko has picked up right where he left off after a strong showing during the London Olympics, posting 14.1 points, 8.3 boards, 3.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.2 blocks and 0.9 3-pointers per game. Sort of reminds you when AK47 first burst on the fantasy scene, doesn't it? Will Kirilenko be able to keep this pace once the Wolves are back to full strength? Probably not, but he's still going to be ultra-productive for as long as he can stay healthy.

I really like what I've seen out of Cleveland rookie Dion Waiters, even after he finished Sunday night's game with just five points on 2-of-13 shooting. After watching almost every game of his short career at Syracuse University, I can't say that I'm surprised that his skills are translating to the professional level. He's got a complete arsenal of moves at his disposal on the offensive end, and he's an opportunistic player with good instincts on the defensive side. Although he'll be inconsistent at times, Waiters should continue to be a solid option for points (13.7), steals (1.1) and 3-pointers (2.0).

He's not quite playing 30 minutes per game, but Derrick Favors has found his way onto the court for 24.5 minutes per contest where he's posted 9.5 points, 7.7 boards, 1.1 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. Of course, Favors still has Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson blocking his path to stardom, but his owners have to be optimistic about his play thus far. I'm not sure if the one-game experiment with him as a starter is going to stick, but one of these days he's going to be getting a consistent 30 minutes per game -- and trust me, you'll want him on your fantasy team when that happens.

Continued struggles

We've been through these stretches with Roy Hibbert in the past, so I'm not terribly worried about his poor play, especially when we consider that he's been decent on the defensive side with 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. His struggles on the offensive end (8.5 points per game) can be blamed on poor shooting: 37.2 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from the line. Because these numbers are well below his career averages, Hibbert looks to be a strong buy-low candidate at this point in the season.

I don't quite know what to make of Ersan Ilyasova's poor start just yet, except to say that there's no way I'd drop him after just eight games. Remember, this is the same guy who averaged 16.1 points, 9.1 boards, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.1 3-pointers per game in the second half of last season. So while he's clearly struggling, I'm just not ready to give up on a player who was so productive last season. Ilyasova's struggles can largely be blamed on poor shooting: 31.0 percent from the floor, 42.9 percent from the line and 27.8 percent from 3-point range. Of course, it doesn't help that he's been losing minutes as a result. Once he gains back some of his confidence -- and his shots start falling -- his minutes and production should round back into shape.

Isaiah Thomas has been almost as disappointing as Ilyasova, averaging just 9.7 points, 2.1 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.4 3-pointers in 22.3 minutes per game. Aside from the lack of minutes, the most alarming stat here is the lack of assists after he posted 4.1 per game a season ago. The Kings seem to be standing around a lot on the offensive side, playing one-on-one basketball, as evidenced by their 17.8 assists per game as a team. Given his talent and potential, I'm holding onto Thomas for a few more weeks, but I certainly understand if frustrated owners are giving up on him at this point.

Jonas Valanciunas has shown flashes of brilliance, but like many young big men, he's been plagued by foul trouble early and often. Averaging 3.3 fouls in just 19.8 minutes per game, Valanciunas will need to learn how to stay out of foul trouble if he's going to have fantasy value this season. The good news is that he's looked promising when on the court, averaging 7.8 points, 4.9 boards and 0.6 blocks per game despite the limited minutes.