Perkins rounding into fantasy force

January, 15, 2010
01/15/10
10:40
AM ET

The league's leader in field goal percentage is neither The Diesel (Shaquille O'Neal) nor Superman (Dwight Howard); instead, it's enforcer-turned-contributor Kendrick Perkins.

Does it surprise you to hear that Perkins (63.7 percent) is not only pacing the field but also lapping his closest competitor, Marc Gasol, by more than 2½ percent? Kevin Garnett's knee injury has set the stage for Perkins to become a fantasy star, and by golly, he's delivering. Logging 37 minutes on Thursday, Perkins shot a typically efficient 5-of-9 from the floor, posting 14 points and 10 boards, his fourth double-double of the month. More importantly, he swatted five shots, the fourth time he's rejected three or more shots in January. He has rounded into a near double-double machine who's also averaging more than two blocks per game, and while it is surprising, it didn't necessarily come out of nowhere: Perkins is on pace to improve his scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking for a third consecutive season.

The only negative comes in the form of an ugly 60.5 percent from the free throw line, and indeed, Perkins went 4-for-7 versus the Chicago Bulls on Thursday. But for a player who was undrafted in most leagues, he has quickly asserted himself as a valuable fantasy contributor, and he is now one of the most-added players in ESPN fantasy leagues, too, up 5.3 percent in the past week. That still leaves him available in more than 30 percent of leagues, though, astonishing when you consider that only five active players average more blocks per game. Even when Garnett returns, Perkins should remain valuable -- he was leading the league in field goal percentage and averaging close to two blocks before Garnett was injured -- so be sure not to overlook the value of the Celtics' most underrated player.

Looking Back

THURSDAY, JAN. 14
HIGHLIGHTS
Luol Deng, Bulls: 25 points (8-13 FG, 9-10 FT), 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks against the Celtics.
LeBron James, Cavaliers: 36 points (12-20 FG), 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, 4 3-pointers versus the Jazz.
Joakim Noah, Bulls: 15 points (7-8 FT), 11 rebounds, 4 blocks against the Celtics.
LOWLIGHTS
Ray Allen, Celtics: 8 points (4-10 FG), one rebound, no 3s, assists or steals against the Bulls.
John Salmons, Bulls: 5 points (2-9 FG), 5 rebounds, no assists or steals in 32 minutes versus the Celtics.
Mo Williams, Cavaliers: 10 points (4-12 FG), 4 assists, one 3-pointer against the Jazz.
After scoring 17 points in just 30 minutes against the Celtics -- and the best defensive point guard in the NBA, Rajon Rondo -- it looks safe to say that Derrick Rose has stepped his game up and is fully over his early-season ankle injury. However, his game still isn't fantasy-friendly, as he got to the line just twice and failed to pick up a steal or a 3-pointer. It's a Tony Parker skill set without quite the efficiency, as Rose needed 16 shots to net his 17 points. For now, the team's absence of offensive firepower means that Rose is free to hoist as many shots as he would like, but that lack of efficiency may become a problem if the Bulls import another offensive asset via trade, as they are rumored to do. … Meanwhile, the Bulls' attempts to showcase Kirk Hinrich for a trade have given the point guard a fair bit of value, as he chipped in with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, six rebounds and six assists Thursday. He has played at least 30 minutes in 12 of his past 15 games and is a good source of assists, 3-pointers and steals in the short term. … Both Deron Williams (wrist) and Andrei Kirilenko (knee) left the game early with injuries, which explains their lackluster lines. Fortunately for the Jazz, recent D-League signee Sundiata Gaines came up big in Williams' stead, playing solid ball and nailing the game-winning 3-pointer (and ruining LeBron James' heroics in the process). Consider Williams and Kirilenko day-to-day for now, and with the Jazz scheduled for only two games next week, keep a close eye on their health. Since the Jazz play on Saturday and Sunday, we'll know how serious their injuries are soon enough.

Looking Ahead

The Spurs have been gradually climbing the ranks in defensive efficiency and now rank eighth, but the Bobcats are still holding strong as one of the league's elite defenses, ranking second in the NBA. Both teams excel in taking away extra points, be it beyond the arc or at the charity stripe, so you may want to bench any borderline plays. … The Pacers will need Roy Hibbert's size against Brook Lopez and the Nets on Friday, and while the matchup could lead to foul trouble, in their previous two meetings Hibbert rose to the challenge, averaging 19.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks, despite averaging three fouls in 29 minutes. … Kevin Martin is expected to return from a wrist injury Friday, and who better for the sharpshooter to make his return against than a 76ers team that ranks dead last in opponents' 3-point percentage (41.0 percent)? And on Saturday, the Kings head to Washington in what could be a track meet between two teams that rank in the top 10 in possessions per game, so it looks like a good idea to activate Martin immediately in daily leagues. … Boris Diaw has been on a roll recently, and will face his former team, the Suns, on Saturday. Think there's not a little extra motivation to be had? Diaw averaged a whopping 26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in two contests against the Suns last season.

Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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