Elton Brand turning back the clock
Elton Brand might just be back for the Philadelphia 76ers. After putting up 25 points and 12 boards against the Indiana Pacers, he's averaging 18.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 1.8 blocks through five games this season.
It's easy to forget this now, but Brand is a 31-year-old who was, just a few seasons ago, one of the best basketball players alive. Injuries, bad situations and bad teammates can make great players look bad, but when they are healthy, they tend to rise above all that. Brand's blocks are slowly approaching the 2.0 per game level of his prime years.
The bottom line is that Brand is one of the few late-round picks -- his average draft position was 105.5 -- with the game to truly be a top-25 fantasy player, and right now he's showing some signs that he might be heading that way again. It's certainly not a given, but right now you have to be pretty pleased if you were lucky enough to draft him.
Despite the Pistons' troubles, Ben Gordon continues to put up nice numbers. He's averaging 20.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game to go along with great shooting from the floor and the line. He'll lose some minutes when Richard Hamilton and Will Bynum return to the lineup, but Gordon, when healthy, always seems to carve out enough time to be effective. Rajon Rondo's assists are getting all the publicity in Boston, but Paul Pierce is putting up numbers that are better than the best seasons of his great career. He's not the volume scorer he used to be, but he's a phenomenal shooter from everywhere on the court and he's chipping in seven boards a game for good measure. It looks like his decline might be a ways off still. Yao Ming might not be playing on the second night of back-to-backs, but in limited minutes he's been pretty productive when he's out there. He's averaging right around 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game, even though he's playing fewer than 25 minutes. Nuggets starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo is available in almost 90 percent of fantasy leagues despite the fact that he's a productive player who plays huge minutes. He's a good source of 3s and will score and contribute in steals and assists enough to be a decent fantasy option all season. He should be owned in every league right now, and he's a great pickup if you need help in any of those categories. Eric Bledsoe has looked decent filling in for the Clippers while Baron Davis is out. After putting up 17 points and eight assists against the Thunder on Wednesday, he's a good short-term play.
The Thunder will look to gain some positive momentum after their miserable loss to the Clippers when they face the Trail Blazers on Thursday night. In particular, I like the matchup for Jeff Green, who has been consistently scoring in the neighborhood of 20 points per game but still hasn't gotten his 3-point stroke going. The Blazers have been doing a decent job of defending 3s so far this season, but they've given up a league-high 93 attempts, so this could be the night that Green gets going. [e] As for the Knicks and the Bulls in Chicago, it may seem obvious, but Derrick Rose is going to have a monster night for the home team. Point guards have shredded the Knicks' defense in their first three games this season and for pretty much all of last season, and I wouldn't expect that to stop now. Less obviously, that should mean more easy looks for guys like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and the rest of the Bulls crew.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.