Kevin Love continues to expand his game
It is tempting to try to classify what sort of player Kevin Love is for various reasons, mostly because he's just so good. Of course, it goes without saying that his best skill is his rebounding. The 15.7 rebounds per game he's currently averaging are the highest total since Dennis Rodman averaged 16.1 in 1996-97 (and the best by anyone not named Rodman since Moses Malone pulled down 17.6 in 1978-79). Clearly, he's a once-in-a-generation talent in that category.
Slowly, however, Love seems to be distinguishing himself in other areas that have to make you wonder how high, exactly, his ceiling might be. For starters, Love has become an elite free-throw shooter (17th in the league, and the only power forwards ahead of him are Dirk Nowitzki and Ersan Ilyasova) in just two seasons after shooting just 79 percent from the stripe as a rookie. He's 11th in 3-point field goal percentage after shooting just 33 percent last season.
More importantly, he's actually turned himself into an elite scorer overall. After putting up 35 against the Wizards on Thursday night, the 21.5 points he's averaging for the season have him firmly in the top 20, but the 23.5 he's averaged during his past 15 games would have him right on the fringe of the top 10.
All of this means (as if anyone needed this point driven home) that Love is one of the best players in the NBA. Forget the fact that his team is terrible; Love is putting up numbers that we haven't seen since, well, maybe ever. Finding a precedent for a guy who rebounds while also being able to step out and shoot the 3-pointer as well as Love is extremely difficult. If he ever can use those great hands to grab some steals, we could be looking at the best fantasy player in the NBA in the next few seasons.
Corey Brewer has been playing a lot of minutes of late (nearly 30 per game in his past five games), and while he's been pretty terrible in almost every category, he's also averaged 2.2 steals during that period, which is nothing new for him. If you need steals (and don't need anything else), he's not a bad option. It was not a good shooting night for Hedo Turkoglu, but he had another really great night dishing the ball out with eight assists. That brings his average to 7.6 in his past five games, and makes him a nice source of assists for a guy who is still averaging only 3.6 for the season. J.R. Smith wasn't shy for the Nuggets, finishing with 28 points (including eight 3s) and seven rebounds in 27 minutes against the LeBron-less Heat. It's a good reminder that what J.R. lacks in consistency he makes up for in volume when he's hot. If you try to predict which nights he's going to blow up, you're going to end up not playing him on a night when he knocks down eight treys. The talk during the Nuggets' win centered around Carmelo Anthony, of course, but there's no definitive trade news yet, and for now you just have to keep playing him and everyone else (except for Richard Hamilton) as though nothing is happening. Finally, Mike Miller played 33 minutes for the Heat, which would lead me to believe that he's finally getting healthy. He finished with eight rebounds and eight assists, but had just four points. That's actually not a totally out-of-left-field line for Miller; he's an enigma, but if he keeps playing 30-plus minutes, you're going to want him in your lineup.
With Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal still out for the Celtics, it's important to make sure you still have Glen Davis in your lineup. The Bobcats don't have great options for defending strong power forwards, and Davis should be in line for plenty minutes. In his past three games against the Lakers, Devin Harris is averaging 18 points, six assists and five rebounds; with his speed, he's a terrible matchup for the Lakers, and he should have another great game this time around. The Clippers face the Warriors and the Kings face the Knicks on Friday night, and both games are matchups between bottom-10 defensive teams. Make sure you play your fringe guys on all four squads this time around. The Hornets also face a bad defensive team in the Rockets, and with Marco Belinelli out of the lineup, it's a good night to pick up and start Marcus Thornton, who had 22 points in the Hornets' win over the Magic on Wednesday night.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.