Examining early-season trends

A look at notable stats and buy-low, sell-high candidates heading into Week 4

Updated: November 18, 2013, 4:41 PM ET
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 usually reluctant to make any big changes to my preseason rankings during the first couple of weeks. 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 changes based on what we've seen so far.

Early-season trends

The Top 130


Note: Brian McKitish's top 100 players are ranked for their fantasy value for the 2013-14 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. Kevin Durant, OKC (1)
2. LeBron James, MIA (2)
3. Chris Paul, LAC (3)
4. Anthony Davis, NO (4)
5. James Harden, HOU (5)
6. Stephen Curry, GS (6)
7. Kevin Love, MIN (7)
8. Paul George, IND (8)
9. Russell Westbrook, OKC (9)
10. Kyrie Irving, CLE (10)
11. Carmelo Anthony, NY (12)
12. John Wall, WSH (11)
13. Marc Gasol, MEM (13)
14. Derrick Rose, CHI (14)
15. Ty Lawson, DEN (18)
16. Mike Conley, MEM (19)
17. Nicolas Batum, POR (17)
18. Al Horford, ATL (20)
19. Serge Ibaka, OKC (21)
20. DeMarcus Cousins, SAC (23)
21. Damian Lillard, POR (16)
22. Ricky Rubio, MIN (22)
23. Dwyane Wade, MIA (15)
24. LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (24)
25. Josh Smith, DET (25)
26. Al Jefferson, CHA (26)
27. Dirk Nowitzki, DAL (28)
28. Brook Lopez, BKN (35)
29. Blake Griffin, LAC (33)
30. Jeff Teague, ATL (30)
31. Brandon Jennings, DET (31)
32. Klay Thompson, GS (32)
33. Deron Williams, BKN (27)
34. Tony Parker, SA (29)
35. Eric Bledsoe, PHO (42)
36. Monta Ellis, DAL (44)
37. Rudy Gay, TOR (39)
38. Jrue Holiday, NO (36)
39. David Lee, GS (34)
40. Dwight Howard, HOU (38)
41. Roy Hibbert, IND (45)
42. Bradley Beal, WSH (50)
43. Nikola Vucevic, ORL (41)
44. Greg Monroe, DET (43)
45. Paul Millsap, ATL (37)
46. Kemba Walker, CHA (40)
47. Spencer Hawes, PHI (58)
48. Derrick Favors, UTAH (48)
49. Michael Carter-Williams, PHI (52)
50. Kevin Martin, MIN (62)
51. Evan Turner, PHI (54)
52. Kobe Bryant, LAL (53)
53. Gordon Hayward, UTAH (60)
54. Chris Bosh, MIA (47)
55. Ryan Anderson, NO (79)
56. Pau Gasol, LAL (49)
57. Jeff Green, BOS (51)
58. Joakim Noah, CHI (46)
59. Wesley Matthews, POR (59)
60. Kawhi Leonard, SA (57)
61. Goran Dragic, PHO (66)
62. Thaddeus Young, PHI (56)
63. Tim Duncan, SA (55)
64. Andre Iguodala, GS (87)
65. Andre Drummond, DET (64)
66. Paul Pierce, BKN (61)
67. Kyle Lowry, TOR (65)
68. Jose Calderon, DAL (67)
69. J.R. Smith, NY (68)
70. Isaiah Thomas, SAC (85)
71. Kenneth Faried, DEN (78)
72. O.J. Mayo, MIL (75)
73. Zach Randolph, MEM (69)
74. Nikola Pekovic, MIN (72)
75. Chandler Parsons, HOU (81)
76. J.J. Redick, LAC (88)
77. Jonas Valanciunas, TOR (76)
78. Eric Gordon, NO (83)
79. Luol Deng, CHI (86)
80. George Hill, IND (70)
81. Marcin Gortat, WSH (89)
82. Enes Kanter, UTAH (71)
83. Jimmy Butler, CHI (82)
84. DeAndre Jordan, LAC (97)
85. Carlos Boozer, CHI (77)
86. DeMar DeRozan, TOR (93)
87. Jameer Nelson, ORL (84)
88. Victor Oladipo, ORL (73)
89. Tristan Thompson, CLE (102)
90. David West, IND (74)
91. Wilson Chandler, DEN (99)
92. Tobias Harris, ORL (91)
93. Ersan Ilyasova, MIL (80)
94. Rajon Rondo, BOS (92)
95. Daniel Green, SA (90)
96. Nene Hilario, WSH (95)
97. Arron Afflalo, ORL (100)
98. Kyle Korver, ATL (96)
99. Jamal Crawford, LAC (101)
100. Mario Chalmers, MIA (104)
101. Lance Stephenson, IND (115)
102. J.J. Hickson, DEN (110)
103. Raymond Felton, NY (94)
104. Jeremy Lin, HOU (117)
105. Miles Plumlee, PHO (112)
106. Andrew Bogut, GS (98)
107. Patrick Beverley, HOU (107)
108. Shawn Marion, DAL (108)
109. Dion Waiters, CLE (111)
110. Tyreke Evans, NO (120)
111. Anderson Varejao, CLE (103)
112. Markieff Morris, PHO (105)
113. Amir Johnson, TOR (106)
114. Jordan Hill, LAL (NR)
115. Trevor Ariza, WSH (109)
116. Trey Burke, UTAH (116)
117. Corey Brewer, MIN (128)
118. Joe Johnson, BKN (113)
119. Steve Blake, LAL (NR)
120. Jarrett Jack, CLE (121)
121. Josh McRoberts, CHA (NR)
122. Tyson Chandler, NY (123)
123. Larry Sanders, MIL (63)
124. Greivis Vasquez, SAC (125)
125. Harrison Barnes, GS (119)
126. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, CHA (126)
127. Terrence Jones, HOU (NR)
128. Andrea Bargnani, NY (130)
129. Iman Shumpert, NY (127)
130. Lou Williams, ATL (NR)

Bradley Beal is leading the league with 40.1 minutes per game, and he's beginning to put up some big numbers after a rough start. The high minute total is a strong indication that Beal should continue to produce, as is the fact that he's getting 18.6 shot attempts per game, including 6.2 3-point attempts per game. Averaging 20.2 points, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.8 3-pointers per game, Beal is well on his way to the breakout season many predicted at the start of the year.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Serge Ibaka is a much better player with a healthy Russell Westbrook around. After starting slowly, Serge has turned it over the past five games, posting per-game averages of 18.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks over that stretch. It's not a coincidence that his solid play began when Westbrook returned to the lineup. Ibaka appears to be much more comfortable as the third option behind Kevin Durant and Westbrook, and it's looking as though he's put his slow start behind him.

Let's give Kemba Walker a little more time before we start crucifying him for his poor shooting (34.0 percent from the floor) and relative lack of assists (4.4 per game). Kemba is a streaky shooter to begin with, but he's also been dealing with some nagging injuries (ribs, shoulder) that are clearly affecting his play. There's a solid buy-low opportunity here, as Kemba is still contributing 15.3 points, 1.9 steals and 1.2 3-pointers per game despite all of his troubles. A healthy Al Jefferson should also help open things up for Walker. Just remember, he'll always be a drain on your field goal percentage.

Speaking of shooting slumps, there's no way Kyrie Irving is going to continue shooting just 39.5 percent from the floor; he's simply too good to be held down for much longer. His 41-point outburst on 14-of-28 shooting Saturday might have ruined your buy-low chances, but it's still worth dropping a line to Irving's owner to see if you can get him at a discount price.

It's great to see Monta Ellis connecting on 47.1 percent of his shots in Dallas after shooting a dismal 41.6 percent in Milwaukee last season. Much has been made of Monta's poor shot selection in recent seasons, but many forget that he's a career 45.6 shooter from the floor. Playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Calderon has resulted in plenty of open looks, and he's been less reliant on the 3-point shot in his offensive repertoire in Dallas. After attempting 4.0 3-point shots per game last season, Ellis is attempting just 2.6 this season. That's a trade-off his fantasy owners should gladly accept.

Lance Stephenson may have cooled down a bit from his torrid pace to start the year, but this kid is not going away any time soon -- not even when Danny Granger returns from injury. We saw Stephenson start to come into his own during the playoffs last season, and the 23-year-old has the talent to remain a valuable fantasy commodity after averaging 13.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 3-pointers in his first 10 contests this season.

Those who were expecting a breakout season from Amir Johnson have been severely disappointed to date as the big man has managed just 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 29.6 minutes per game in the Raptors' frontcourt. Johnson's career has been plagued by inconsistency, and his slow start doesn't inspire confidence in his breakout ability. He's definitely worth owning, and will have streaks of brilliance, but he will continue to struggle with consistency on a night-to-night basis.

J.R. Smith might be shooting just 22.6 percent from the floor since returning from his five-game suspension, but he is playing 32.3 minutes and attempting 6.5 3-point shots per game. A notoriously streaky shooter, Smith should be able to get back on track sooner rather than later if he continues to be this involved in the Knicks' offense. His value won't be any lower than it is right now, making this a perfect buying opportunity. And no, I'm not worried about Mike Woodson's recent comments about re-evaluating Smith's role as a starter. Smith will remain a major part of the Knicks' offense whether he's starting or coming off the bench as a sixth man.

Kyle Korver has been one of the league's most pleasant surprises in the early going, averaging 13.3 points, 1.2 steals and 2.7 3-pointers per game, but one has to wonder if the return of Lou Williams will begin to cut into Korver's production. Williams will be eased back into the lineup as he recovers from ACL surgery, but he's a dynamic scorer who will need minutes and touches in the Atlanta offense once he's fully healthy. Korver definitely has staying power in fantasy leagues, but his value is at an all-time high at the moment, making him a solid sell-high candidate.

Ditto for Arron Afflalo, who is off to a blistering start with 21.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.6 3-pointers per game. Afflalo will certainly continue to have value in fantasy leagues, but he'll have a hard time being any more valuable than he is right now. Victor Oladipo will slowly but surely work his way up to 30 minutes per game for the Magic, and I'm not sure Afflalo will continue to get off 15.0 shots per game once Tobias Harris returns to action.

After attempting 5.2 3-point shots per game last season, Chandler Parsons is only getting 3.9 attempts in the Rockets' offense in the early going this campaign. Normally I would be worried about this, but Parsons has remained productive, averaging 17.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 3-pointers per game. I should also note that he continues to play a major role in this offense as his overall shot attempts are up from 12.4 to 12.9 per game.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com and is a two-time Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year, as named by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

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