Biedrins taking advantage of uptick in minutes
These are both great things for fantasy owners. Biedrins is a major contributor in rebounds (14.8 per game), and gives a boost in blocks (1.7) and steals (1.0) as well. His rebound rate has gone up a bit since last season, but I don't see any reason he can't sustain it. He's clearly the best big man on the Warriors' roster, and as long as Nellie Ball is in effect, the Warriors' fast pace is going to mean tons of rebounds. Even better, a lot of his fantasy value in the past two seasons has been based on his field goal percentage (a ridiculous 62.6 percent last season). He's down to 52.7 percent right now, but that drop-off coincides with a huge jump in his usage rate; that is, Biedrins is becoming a bigger part of the offense -- this was really apparent in the first few minutes of the game against Detroit -- and is getting adjusted to that role. It may be that he simply can't be a 63 percent shooter when he's taking more than 12 shots per game, but it's just as possible that once he is acclimated his percentage will wind up closer to where it was.
In the larger picture, a small bump in field goal shooting could move Biedrins into the top 15 on the Player Rater. This is no fluke; Biedrins has been this good for a while, and if you had told me before the season that he was going to play 36 minutes per game, I would have told you to take him in the third round of your draft instead of the fifth or sixth. He has been great so far, but there's a pretty good chance he's going to actually get better as the season wears on.
Under the Boards
Corey Maggette returned to action for the Warriors, but was unimpressive with just 13 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. He did, however, get to the line 12 times, which is a good sign, as it shows he's still willing to drive to the hoop in the wake of this latest bout of hamstring problems. Kwame Brown got the start at power forward for the Pistons but was largely ineffective in just nine minutes of action. Head coach Michael Curry ended up giving most of the minutes off the bench to Arron Afflalo to combat Nellie's small lineups, but on normal nights, it still seems to be either Jason Maxiell's or Amir Johnson's job to win. Keep an eye on the situation; Brown's start proves that it's still totally unresolved. Huge night for Ben Gordon, who had 35 points in the Bulls' win over the Mavericks. He's shooting 53 percent in his past five games, and when he's this hot I think you need to start him no matter what the matchup is. Erick Dampier had 16 points, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks in the loss for the Mavs, proving yet again that there is absolutely no way of knowing when he's going to have a great game. It just happens sometimes, and then you pick him up on your fantasy team and he has a week of games like last week's contest against the Spurs, in which he put up two points and four rebounds in 28 sad, depressing minutes (even though Dallas somehow won). Let's just say I'll be avoiding Dampier until he proves that he deserves more than 25 minutes a game on a consistent basis. Nice game for Mo Williams, who led the Cavs in scoring against the Nuggets with 24, including one wide-open trey in the fourth quarter in which Chauncey Billups lazily went under a screen and there was not a soul around within five feet of Mo. Williams seems to be settling into the sidekick role quite nicely, and if he can boost his assists just a little bit, he'll be right back to last season's level of production. He is shooting a very low percentage right now, but that seems like a fluke to me. I'm buying him right now for sure. Finally, I really have no idea why J.R. Smith, who had one of the most spectacular drive-and-layin plays I have ever seen last night in the fourth, is coming off the bench behind Dahntay Jones. As he's capable of doing, Smith scored like crazy: 18 points in 28 minutes. It's true that he plays no defense, but I watched a lot of Thursday night's game; when the game was still in doubt early in the fourth quarter, no one was playing any defense for the Nuggets. Smith's getting beat off the dribble by Boobie Gibson was no more egregious than Chauncey's failing to fight through the pick that I mentioned earlier. Preaching defense is one thing; singling out one of your most talented players when he is not even the worst offender is another. I still say J.R. ends up starting soon, but we'll have to wait and see.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.