Blake Griffin's game maturing quickly
At this point, there's not much that needs to be said about Blake Griffin as a basketball player, but because he had his struggles accumulating fantasy value during the first couple months of the season, now might be a good time to take stock of where he's at (after he went up against Kevin Love and fared favorably Wednesday night).
If you'll remember, Blake spent much of the first couple months of the season well out of the top 100 on the Player Rater, mostly because he was missing a ton of free throws, not blocking shots and not getting steals. But that was when he was averaging the pedestrian numbers of 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. Griffin has upped the ante in the big categories of late; he's putting up 27.8 points and 13.6 rebounds in January and it isn't looking like he's going to fall off anytime soon.
So, there's some value in getting better at what he was already good at, but does it explain how he's jumped all the way up to the edge of the top 50? No. For one thing, the Clippers are running the offense through Griffin more and more. He hasn't had a game with fewer than three assists since the end of December and is averaging around four assists per game the past two months. That is a big number for a power forward who rebounds and scores the way he does.
In addition, he's also finally starting to improve at the line. He's at 69 percent in January, a big leap from the sub-60 percent he was averaging on the season. If you want to get really excited, look at the fact that he's 4-for-8 on 3-pointers this season! Seriously, though, Griffin is improving his game and he's doing it at a rapid speed. I'm not sure we've ever seen anything like this from a rookie, and because of that, it's time we stopped worrying about the fact that he doesn't get blocks and steals and started focusing on the fact that he could end up being one of the best fantasy players in the league as soon as the end of this season. I criticized him before, but I am firmly on the bandwagon now.
Roy Hibbert missed Wednesday night's Pacers loss to the Warriors because of illness, and Jeff Foster had 15 rebounds filling in off the bench but didn't do anything else, and I'd expect Hibbert not to miss enough time to make Foster worth looking at in fantasy. J.J. Hickson had his fourth really nice game in five tries, finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds against the Suns; he should be a good play most nights with Anderson Varejao out for the season. Greg Monroe continues to look great for the Pistons now that he's getting some minutes. He had a respectable 13 points and nine rebounds against the Celtics and has averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.4 steals in his past five games. Sasha Pavlovic got the start ahead of Shawn Marion for the Mavericks in their win against the Lakers, but I wouldn't read too much into it. Marion finished with 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting in 30 minutes off the bench. Joel Przybilla is never going to be an offensive force, but he's going to grab a ton of rebounds during the next few months for the Trail Blazers (he had 11 on Wednesday night in Sacramento) and he'll block enough shots to help you out a little there, too. He's a good pickup now that Marcus Camby is out of the lineup for a while. Kevin Love's double-double streak looked like it was in jeopardy after he had zero rebounds and some foul trouble in the first half against the Clippers, but he managed 11 rebounds in the second half. I guess that's what happens when you're the best rebounder since Dennis Rodman.
Outside of Love, the Timberwolves had some trouble rebounding against the Clippers, but I'm guessing that won't be a problem for Przybilla and the Trail Blazers on Thursday night. As I said above, you probably want to get Przybilla into your lineup for the foreseeable future if you need some help on the glass. Taj Gibson has been playing a ton of minutes with Carlos Boozer out for the Bulls, and while he hasn't been great offensively, he's had six blocks in each of his past two games; he should definitely be in your lineup for the matchup with the Mavericks, considering Boozer is still listed as questionable. Going up against the Bobcats, Evan Turner might be a good play for the Sixers. He's been getting more minutes with Andres Nocioni out and is a great rebounder for his position. The Bobcats are a tough matchup, but as long as Turner is playing 30-plus minutes per game, he should be in fantasy lineups.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.