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Monday, January 7, 2013
Vasquez, Smith and Dirk surging

By Brian McKitish
Special to ESPN.com

You'll notice a bit of a shakeup in the top 130 rankings this week, so let's take a look at some of the big movers and fantasy storylines over the past week.

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. Kobe Bryant, LAL (6)
6. James Harden, HOU (7)
7. Kyrie Irving, CLE (8)
8. Serge Ibaka, OKC (9)
9. Nicolas Batum, POR (10)
10. Stephen Curry, GS (11)
11. Carmelo Anthony, NY (12)
12. Marc Gasol, MEM (13)
13. Rajon Rondo, BOS (14)
14. Joakim Noah, CHI (15)
15. Paul George, IND (16)
16. LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (17)
17. Jrue Holiday, PHI (18)
18. Damian Lillard, POR (19)
19. Brandon Jennings, MIL (20)
20. Josh Smith, ATL (21)
21. Al Jefferson, UTAH (22)
22. Dwyane Wade, MIA (23)
23. David Lee, GS (24)
24. Kevin Love, MIN (5)
25. Anthony Davis, NO (25)
26. Paul Pierce, BOS (26)
27. Deron Williams, BKN (27)
28. Dwight Howard, LAL (28)
29. Brook Lopez, BKN (35)
30. DeMarcus Cousins, SAC (60)
31. Zach Randolph, MEM (29)
32. Rudy Gay, MEM (30)
33. Mike Conley, MEM (31)
34. Kemba Walker, CHA (32)
35. Steve Nash, LAL (34)
36. Dirk Nowitzki, DAL (40)
37. Tim Duncan, SA (39)
38. Ryan Anderson, NO (36)
39. Anderson Varejao, CLE (37)
40. Chris Bosh, MIA (42)
41. Greg Monroe, DET (38)
42. Al Horford, ATL (41)
43. Monta Ellis, MIL (46)
44. Blake Griffin, LAC (43)
45. Tony Parker, SA (44)
46. J.R. Smith, NY (68)
47. Goran Dragic, PHO (48)
48. Ty Lawson, DEN (33)
49. Andrei Kirilenko, MIN (50)
50. Greivis Vasquez, NO (65)
51. George Hill, IND (57)
52. Wesley Matthews, POR (52)
53. Kenneth Faried, DEN (51)
54. Kyle Lowry, TOR (54)
55. Klay Thompson, GS (58)
56. O.J. Mayo, DAL (49)
57. Danilo Gallinari, DEN (59)
58. Lou Williams, ATL (69)
59. Pau Gasol, LAL (45)
60. Luol Deng, CHI (56)
61. Andre Iguodala, DEN (64)
62. Roy Hibbert, IND (53)
63. Joe Johnson, BKN (66)
64. Larry Sanders, MIL (71)
65. Paul Millsap, UTAH (55)
66. Eric Gordon, NO (72)
67. Omer Asik, HOU (63)
68. Tyson Chandler, NY (73)
69. Ricky Rubio, MIN (47)
70. Gerald Wallace, BKN (61)
71. Marcin Gortat, PHO (76)
72. David West, IND (75)
73. Evan Turner, PHI (62)
74. Kevin Martin, OKC (70)
75. Brandon Knight, DET (67)
76. Thaddeus Young, PHI (77)
77. Nikola Pekovic, MIN (82)
78. Jeff Teague, ATL (78)
79. Kevin Garnett, BOS (79)
80. Jeremy Lin, HOU (80)
81. J.J. Hickson, POR (81)
82. Carlos Boozer, CHI (83)
83. Jameer Nelson, ORL (86)
84. Manu Ginobili, SA (84)
85. Nene Hilario, WSH (98)
86. Kawhi Leonard, SA (74)
87. Jarrett Jack, GS (91)
88. Tyreke Evans, SAC (88)
89. Arron Afflalo, ORL (93)
90. John Wall, WSH (89)
91. Jamal Crawford, LAC (90)
92. Jason Kidd, NY (96)
93. Amare Stoudemire, NY (94)
94. Dion Waiters, CLE (85)
95. JaVale McGee, DEN (87)
96. DeMar DeRozan, TOR (95)
97. Nikola Vucevic, ORL (110)
98. Ersan Ilyasova, MIL (97)
99. Rodney Stuckey, DET (100)
100. Jared Dudley, PHO (99)
101. Marcus Thornton, SAC (92)
102. Raymond Felton, NY (101)
103. Jordan Crawford, WSH (105)
104. J.J. Redick, ORL (111)
105. Andre Drummond, DET (112)
106. Jose Calderon, TOR (103)
107. DeAndre Jordan, LAC (108)
108. Gerald Henderson, CHA (119)
109. Darren Collison, DAL (123)
110. Tristan Thompson, CLE (122)
111. Derrick Favors, UTAH (104)
112. Chandler Parsons, HOU (102)
113. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, CHA (106)
114. Metta World Peace, LAL (107)
115. Isaiah Thomas, SAC (116)
116. Luis Scola, PHO (NR)
117. Ramon Sessions, CHA (118)
118. Andrea Bargnani, TOR (114)
119. Andrew Bynum, PHI (117)
120. Patrick Patterson, HOU (NR)
121. Chris Kaman, DAL (125)
122. Derrick Rose, CHI (124)
123. Matt Barnes, LAC (127)
124. Alexey Shved, MIN (NR)
125. Bradley Beal, WSH (NR)
126. Kyle Korver, ATL (128)
127. Kosta Koufos, DEN (128.5)
128. Robin Lopez, NO (115)
129. Ed Davis, TOR (NR)
130. Ray Allen, MIA (120)

It took Dirk Nowitzki only about five games to prove that his conditioning is rounding into form after sitting out the first month and a half of the season with a knee injury. Dirk scored 19 points in a loss to the Heat on Wednesday before joining the starting lineup to post 20 points on Saturday against the Hornets. We already know what to expect from Dirk now that he's getting close to full strength: 20-21 points, 7 rebounds, 1-plus 3-pointers and a handful of steals and blocks per game to go along with terrific shooting percentages. Kudos to those of you who were patient enough to stick with Nowitzki at the start of the season.

Can someone please tell me why in the world Pau Gasol is attempting 2.0 3-pointers per game since returning from knee tendinitis on Dec. 18? Maybe Pau or head coach Mike D'Antoni can fill us in? Gasol has a nice midrange jumper, but he's a player who had attempted just 112 total 3-pointers in 12 seasons prior to this campaign. It's not surprising, therefore, that Pau is shooting just 38.9 percent from the floor during this stretch. I know everyone wants to jump all over Pau these days, but he's actually performing better in fantasy than most people think; while he's putting up only 12.0 points per game over his past five contests, he's adding a versatile 7.2 boards, 4.4 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 3-pointers per game during that span. And while I don't think Pau will be able to get back to providing top-30 value with this roster, I do think that he's better than he has played thus far. Those owners looking to send out buy-low offers might want to target Pau and hope that he and D'Antoni figure out a way to get him some shots closer to the basket.

Has J.R. Smith finally turned the corner in terms of consistency? He has scored at least 15 points in each of his past 15 games and although he still has some off nights with his 3-point shooting and steals, he'll offset that by putting up huge numbers the next night. Smith is averaging an impressive 22.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.8 3-pointers per game over his past 10 contests. He has had these kind of runs before only to sink back into his inconsistent ways, but he appears to be much more consistent in now his ninth NBA season.

We've spoken about Greivis Vasquez multiple times in this space before, but I have to mention that he's averaging 17.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 9.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 3-pointers over his past 10 games. He's absolutely filling up the stat sheet right now and has been a top-20 fantasy player over the past 15 games on our Player Rater. Vasquez has turned himself into a very good point guard, but he's likely to cool down a little at some point. That said, I've moved him up to 50th overall in the ranks, as I think he'll continue to be an extremely strong point guard option the rest of the season.

Eric Gordon has shown some rust with his shot in three games since his return from a knee injury, posting a solid 16.3 points, 4.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 3-pointers per game -- but shooting just 32.6 percent from the floor. Gordon's field goal percentage should round back into shape as he works off the rust, and he'll be a big fantasy asset for as long as he's healthy. However, I just can't shake the feeling that we haven't seen the last of his injury concerns this season.

I'm finally starting to see why I originally ranked DeMarcus Cousins in the low teens at the start of the season. Cousins has been a man possessed since returning from a two-game suspension, averaging 22.0 points, 14.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line. This is exactly the kind of upside Cousins has shown in the past, but his owners know that he can just as easily slip back into his pre-suspension ways. About as high-risk, high-reward as they come, Cousin's play of late has to make his owners happy. Now let's hope he continues to play with this sort of intensity the rest of the way.

Tristan Thompson has been terrific of late, posting four double-doubles while averaging 13.4 points, 13.0 rebounds and 0.8 blocks over his past five games. It's nice to see the 21-year-old progressing, but how will he fare with Anderson Varejao expected to rejoin the lineup next week? Thompson's value is sure to decrease with Varejao back, but I still think he'll offer some moderate value in standard leagues for his double-double potential. I would love to see him get more blocks and hit more free throws, but I like his potential down the road.

As we expected at the start of the season, Toronto's two-headed point guard monster of Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon is negating each guard's value. Calderon is averaging 8.0 points, 8.6 assists and 1.2 3-pointers in 27.0 minutes over his past five games while Lowry has posted 13.4 points, 7.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.8 3-pointers in 24.8 minutes during that same stretch. Both guards are obviously quality plays in standard fantasy formats despite the time-share. Lowry is the more valuable fantasy commodity when both are healthy, but I have a feeling that these two will continue to limit each other's values as we progress deeper into the season.

I'm sure Russell Westbrook's owners have noticed that he is taking 4.0 3-point attempts per game on the season -- and that he's actually not shooting it too poorly at 36.7 percent from downtown. Westbrook is having a truly brilliant fantasy season, particularly now that he has added the 3-point shot to his repertoire. He's averaging 21.8 points, 5.1 boards, 8.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.5 3-pointers per game; the only negative in Westbrook's game this season is his 41.5 percent shooting from the floor (thanks mostly to the aforementioned 3-point attempts). But I'm sure his owners will gladly sacrifice the field goal percentage for the added 3-point field goals.