At the start of the NBA season, fantasy owners were wondering, among other things, how big a stats hit Miami's Big Three would take, how many rebounds Kevin Love could grab if he just played 30-plus minutes every night, and how good Blake Griffin could be as a pro.
Now that we're in the season's second month, we have some fairly definitive answers to those questions. The short answers, in short order: a significant hit, a heckuva lot and wow, just wow.
This season has already been memorable. I'm struck by the number of young players who've suddenly found themselves or, in the case of Raymond Felton, found the perfect situation. I mean, going in, we knew that Rudy Gay, Al Horford and Joakim Noah were good, but they're now among fantasy's top performers. A lot of us pegged Roy Hibbert as a breakout candidate, but he's been even better than our wildest projections.
A month in, many questions have been answered. However, more questions have been raised. For instance, how good is Griffin, seriously, for fantasy? Can Manu Ginobili keep it going? Is Mike Conley actually a top-40 player? Is Darko Milicic for real?
I'll be the first to admit that I don't have all the answers. But I'll tackle a couple of these topics, starting with Griffin.
There's an excitement with Griffin. A bit of it is him being a fresh face in the league, but most of it is he's just a demon around the basket. In his first month-plus in the NBA, Griffin is sixth in rebounding and he's about to crack the top 20 in scoring. He's had six straight games of at least 20 points and 13 boards.
For all these reasons, it's easy for fantasy owners to overvalue Griffin. Josh Whitling very succinctly lays out the reasons owners should be wary of Griffin.
I understand the excitement, though. Even after reading Josh's logical and persuasive post, knowing he can't maintain his current pace, I look at those past six games, in which Griffin has averaged a mind-boggling 29.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 60.6 percent shooting and, yes, 0.8 steals and 1.0 blocks, and it's tough for me to tell you all to hold your enthusiasm. I guess it's the potential. What if Griffin really can be adequate in the hustle cats for the long haul? What if he merely hurts you instead of kills you at the line? If he can manage 65.0 percent (he's at 63.5 percent in this six-game stretch), wouldn't you take that with everything else?
I still feel, at least in roto leagues, that Griffin owners are almost obligated to see what they could get for him in a trade. Griffin isn't fantasy elite, but someone in your league might pay that price to get him. So ask for the moon, and if you don't get it, you don't get it. But just ask. Because Griffin's biggest attribute for fantasy isn't the rebounds, or the points. It's his potential trade value.
On the subject of trade value, there's Ginobili. Now in his ninth NBA season, Ginobili has been, on a season-to-season basis, one of the most consistently productive players in fantasy. He's a career 45.3 percent shooter, and only once since 2004-05 has he connected at less than 45.4 percent. Ginobili has averaged at least 3.5 assists in every season since his rookie year, and he's only once finished at less than 80.0 percent from the line during that span. Ginobili has had four straight seasons of at least 1.6 3-pointers per game, and he's never averaged fewer than 1.4 steals.
As I said, from season to season, you can count on Ginobili. But of course with every player, within any season, there are ups and downs. As well as he's played to start this season, I'd forgotten that Ginobili struggled through most of 2009-10. Up until mid-February, he averaged just 13.4 points on 40.3 percent shooting. Though Ginobili began to come around after the All-Star break, the real turning point of his season came March 8. That's when San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put him into the starting lineup to stay. Ginobili torched the Cleveland Cavaliers for 38 points and seven 3-pointers that night, and he went on to score at least 20 points in 10 of his next 14 starts.
Flash forward now: Ginobili has started the Spurs' first 18 games of this season and his numbers are remarkable. But look how closely they compare to his numbers in his 2009-10 starts:
2009-10 (21 starts): 21.9 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.1 spg, 2.1 3s, 49.4 FG%
2010-11 (18 starts): 21.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 2.7 3s, 47.3 FG%
I've been wanting to write about Ginobili. Of the many compelling storylines that are going in fantasy hoops, his interests me the most. I'll admit, when I started working on this piece, I was expecting I'd end up telling you why you should sell high on Ginobili. But now I'm not so sure.
Of course, there are important caveats with Ginobili. He's 33 years old, and after topping 30 minutes per game in only one of his first eight seasons in San Antonio, Ginobili is logging 33 minutes a night this season. Given his attacking, contact-drawing style of play, Ginobili is always susceptible to wearing down and nagging injuries. And no team plays with an eye toward April and May like the Spurs. He's bound to rest more later in the season.
On top of all that, Ginobili is a great trade piece. Read Tom Carpenter's Grand Theft Roto to get an idea of what Ginobili could help you obtain.
Unquestionably, Ginobili is playing as well as he ever has at the moment. And there's a very good chance that these numbers won't hold up through the entire 2010-11 season. But don't write this off solely as a hot streak. Ginobili isn't just playing great right now; he's playing more. You might want to ride him awhile longer.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Send him your questions at email@example.com.