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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Enjoy the ride with Tim Duncan


Last season, Tim Duncan finished No. 61 on the Player Rater. Heading into this season, Duncan's average draft position (ADP) in ESPN.com leagues was 57.6.

Needless to say, Duncan is coming in well ahead of those past and projected rankings. Coming off another spectacular showing on Tuesday -- 31 points, 18 boards and 5 blocks against the Denver Nuggets -- the 36-year-old continues to be a top-10 performer in fantasy.

There are a ton of ways to break down Duncan by the numbers. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News has been doing it all season. But simply looking at the fantasy categories, Duncan's resurgence comes down to two things: blocks and free throw percentage. For the 2011-12 season, Duncan averaged 1.5 blocks while shooting 69.5 percent from the line. This season, Duncan is averaging 2.6 rejections, a mark he last achieved over a full season in 2004-05. Then there's the foul shooting. Duncan is currently at 80.0 percent from the stripe. Only once in his Hall of Fame career has Duncan seriously threatened the 80 percent threshold. He had a 79.9 percent success rate all the way back in 2001-02.

Yes, Duncan also is seeing slight increases in minute and rebound averages, and he's up in points over last season (17.6 to 15.4). But the stats between 2011-12 and 2012-13 are much closer across the board than I would have thought. The difference really does come primarily in blocks and free throws.

So from this, can we expect Duncan to slip statistically? Probably. But with the fantasy world looking to March and April and anticipating that Gregg Popovich will again dole out the DNPs (rest), it's tough to categorize Duncan as a sell-high. For a player to be a sell-high, there must be legions of buyers willing to pay the price. So if you were savvy enough to select Duncan this fall, just live in the moment, and enjoy a special player doing special, unexpected things. Tim Duncan is the NBA's answer to Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning.

Looking Back

• After missing eight games with tendinitis in both knees, Pau Gasol (10 points, 9 rebounds) returned to action. Although he was just 3-of-10 from the field, Gasol contributed five assists and four blocks in 29 minutes against the Charlotte Bobcats. In an effort to get some production off the bench, the Los Angeles Lakers also started Devin Ebanks over Metta World Peace, but it's tough to imagine why they bothered. MWP (15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) still played 34 minutes, while Ebanks managed just five.

Anthony Davis (15 points, 16 rebounds, 4 steals) made his first start since his ankle injury, while Ryan Anderson (28 points, 4 3s) returned to the bench against the Golden State Warriors. Anderson still played 39 minutes, while Robin Lopez (6 points, 4 fouls) was limited to 15. Although he figures to see more time against bigger opponents, Lopez is no longer worth rostering in standard 10-team leagues as long as Davis is active.

• The return of Dion Waiters (8 points, 4 assists) also likely spells the end of C.J. Miles as a standard-league consideration. Miles (13 points, 2 3s), however, did play 30 minutes off the bench against the Toronto Raptors.

• Still without Jrue Holiday (foot), who missed a third straight game, the Philadelphia 76ers are scrambling. Against the Dallas Mavericks, Dorell Wright (25 points, 7 3s) had the hot hand, but this seems more like an accident than a trend. Wright hadn't scored in double digits since Nov. 12. The Sixers' fantasy free agent to get is Spencer Hawes (18 points, 7 rebounds). Hawes is averaging 15.4 points over his past five.

Ricky Rubio is back, but he's not yet a fantasy factor. After the franchise point guard scoreless on Monday against the Orlando Magic, the Minnesota Timberwolves rested him against the Miami Heat. Rubio (knee) will not be used in back-to-back games for the time being.

Looking Ahead

Carmelo Anthony (ankle) is a game-time decision for the New York Knicks, who host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. The Knicks' leading scorer has missed the past two games.

• Although Anderson Varejao shook off a knee injury, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott isn't counting on the NBA's top rebounder to play against the Boston Celtics. Varejao briefly left Tuesday's game with the Raptors after landing awkwardly on his right leg.

• After missing seven of the previous eight games, Mike Dunleavy (17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 3s) played 27 minutes against the Indiana Pacers. Dunleavy's Milwaukee Bucks visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.

• On Tuesday, Kris Humphries (8 points, 11 rebounds) made his first start since Dec. 7, playing 28 minutes against the Utah Jazz. Provided he gets the playing time, Humphries should fare well against the Knicks, who are 27th in rebound differential.