When we have access to a cool tool, it's our natural inclination to toy with it. The Player rater is that kind of tool, and now that we have a decent sample size with which to work, it's time to analyze player performance in the past 15 days.
This sorting feature is one of the most valuable attributes of ESPN's rater of players. As a matter of fact, if you're in an ESPN league, it shows up as a stat when you look at your roster under the column "PR15." Here are some of the most notable players, based on their ranking on the Player Rater over the past 15 days:
Caron Butler, SF, Wizards (PR15 rank: 3): His game isn't hurt by the loss of Gilbert Arenas. Rather, it has elevated. Butler still has a solid playmaker in Antonio Daniels, who demands fewer shots than Arenas and will look to Butler at each opportune chance. Butler, one of the best thieves in the league from the forward position, is eighth in steals over the past 15 days. He's suddenly dangerous behind the 3-point line, averaging a trey per game on 46.7 percent shooting. From the floor and stripe, respectively, he's averaging 52.9 and 88.6 percent. I could keep going, but it's obvious that Butler is having a career year and will continue to dominate.
Baron Davis, PG, Warriors (PR 15 rank: 5) : I once heard Davis' secondary nickname is "Boom Dizzle," although I've never had that confirmed. Since it's superior to B. Diddy, I'm going to roll with it for the rest of the season. Davis is a boom-or-bust type of fantasy player from category to category. What I mean by that is he'll be huge in some categories and really hurt you in others. He goes to the line seven times a game and shoots a less-than-average 70 percent. He shoots 20 times from the floor at 42.8 percent. If turnovers are your thing, he has been right around three of them per game for his career. There's his downside. But 2.2 3-pointers, 8.9 assists, 2 steals and 24.4 points per game is juicy. If you can get top-20 value for him, I'd sell high, not because of his output, but because he hasn't played a full season since 2001-2002. As long as he's healthy, though, I don't think he's playing over his head, and ever since last season's emergence in the playoffs, Dizzle has been in rare form.
Jamaal Tinsley, PG, Pacers (PR15 rank: 29) : Tinsley is currently averaging the best numbers of his career, and it won't be long until he surpasses his average amount of games played per season. So far this season, he has started all 15 games and is averaging 34 minutes, 8.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 3s. And his double-digit assists in six of his past seven games makes his 39.0 field goal percentage a bit easier to manage. Those numbers aren't an aberration if he can stay on the court, but that's his biggest obstacle and always has been. Even though I'm a fan of his game, I'm not a fan of his injury track record and would sell high if you can net a more reliable option.
Jordan Farmar, PG, Lakers (PR15 rank: 91) : He's playing like Smush Parker 2.0 in L.A. right now, primarily providing 3s and steals. His impressive 48.5 percent from the floor for a guard somewhat counterbalances his 60.9 free-throw percentage, especially since he doesn't shoot many of either. His four assists per game over his past six is decent, but not what you want out of your starting fantasy point guard. It's enough to help, though, and if you specifically need 3s and steals, Farmar is a worthy pickup.
Antoine Walker, SF, Timberwolves (PR15 rank: 76): I'm including him on this list only to let you know I hate him as a fantasy player. Although he contributes in the sexy categories (points being the primary one), he kills your percentages. Gotta love 41.5 percent and 63.5 percent from the field and free-throw stripe, respectively, for his career, right? Next ...
Sean Williams, PF/C, Nets (PR15 rank: 117): It might take awhile, and smart offensive players will likely start pump-faking on him more, but I recently saw Williams play live, and he's freakish. If you've seen him jump, you understand the type of liftoff and potential I'm talking about in a 6-10 player. I mean, he had 75 blocks in 15 college games last season. Williams is entertaining, changes the game on the defensive end and will average a couple of blocks per game this season. That is, as long as he stays out of trouble (he was dismissed from his Boston College squad last season for repeated rules violations).
Marko Jaric, PG, Timberwolves (PR15 rank: 61): Forget his hoops game. Let's talk about what's important. I recently found out he's dating model Adriana Lima. She's pretty. What a lucky guy, or maybe he's just "opportunistic," like the culprit who broke into my truck last night and stole my CDs, stereo and iPod and is now listening to awesome music, much to my chagrin. Kudos, Marko. Oh yeah, you've also been playing well lately, although I want to see you sustain it for a month or two before you shed your reputation as a perennial fantasy tease. Feel free to add him if you have an extra bench spot, especially if you need steals. But realize that he has had plenty of fantasy-relevant months throughout a career marred by inconsistency. Then again, Tony Parker didn't fully blossom until Eva Longoria rolled around ...
Jason Terry, PG/SG, Mavericks (PR15 rank: 85): Jet was brilliant the first few weeks of the season, but his stock has settled lately. His 3s are off the charts at 2.5 per game, and he scores at a high rate, and not at the expense of both percentage categories. His assists have taken a dip as a result of his new role as sixth man; the facilitator reins have been handed off to Devin Harris. However, Terry was inserted in the starting lineup Thursday night after the Mavs' three-game losing streak, and if he stays there, his numbers should improve. I'd still take him and start him on any team, but he's not a top-10 player like he was at the start of the season.
Eddie House, SG, Celtics (PR15 rank: 228): He began the season with four double-digit scoring efforts in his first five games, but James Posey has outshined him since. Doc Rivers gives his starters tons of playing time, so House will have to produce in his limited minutes in order to earn more. House will be streaky all season, and he'll be added and dropped several times accordingly.
Andrea Bargnani, SF/PF, Raptors (PR15 rank: 198): Bargnani's biggest problem this season? He provides no blocks or steals, a flaw that's hard to stomach. Throw in a bad field goal percentage (41.1 percent) and mediocre 77.8 free-throw shooting, and there go half of our categories. Since he's not an explosive scorer yet, doesn't command of the boards and averages only one assist per game, suddenly we're talking about one category in which he helps -- 3s. He makes 1.8 treys per game and will one day be a fantasy star, but it'll take some time for the rest of those categories to catch up.
Zach Randolph, PF, Knicks (PR15 rank: 132): I'm satisfied when players I denounce struggle. With unimpressive percentages and no defensive stats to speak of, Randolph's gaudy point and rebound totals can be misleading, and I've never liked him as a fantasy player. That's especially true now.
Bobby Simmons, SF, Bucks (PR15 rank: 186): Simmons scored 18 points on opening night but has hit double figures just twice since. It takes players awhile to hit their stride and get their legs back after missing an entire season, and even though Simmons has little fantasy value now, he does have an efficient skill set and could have fringe fantasy value later this season.
Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, Kings (PR15 rank: 182): Now that Ron Artest is back, John Salmons is angry, and Beno Udrih is displaying proficiency in running the point, Garcia has been relegated to seventh-man status, a role in which it's difficult to see him establishing fantasy value.
Jason Kapono, SF, Raptors (PR15 rank: 164): Kapono is deadly from beyond the arc and provides 1.5 3s per game, but nothing else of note. Even his efficient shooting from the free-throw line is moot because he doesn't get many attempts. However, now that Jorge Garbajosa is out indefinitely after leg surgery, Kapono's minutes off the bench should be fairly substantial. Don't expect him to be much more than a 3-point specialist, though.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.