Fantasy Focus: Small Forwards
In this week’s NBA Fantasy Focus we examine the small forward position in fantasy basketball with over one-third of NBA games now in the books. We’ll break it down in three distinct categories: notable standouts, small forwards who have lived up to their Draft Day hype, and SF’s that have proven to be clear disappointments to those general managers that secured them on their roster.
Here is HOOPSWORLD’s preseason ranking for all forwards, which we will use as a starting point. As always, we assume a nine-category league (points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, FG%, and FT%) when talking fantasy basketball. Please note that we considered players with eligibility in the small forward position in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues. Keep in mind that sometimes eligibility in other positions is lumped together with small forwards.
(Note – stats represent games played through 2/9/11)
Exceeding (Even Extreme) Expectations:
Paul George – Indiana Pacers:
George has answered the call as his playing time spiked from 20.7 minutes per game last season to 30.9 mpg this season. As a result, his numbers have increased literally across the board. He’s averaging 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.8 three-pointers and shooting 83.9% at the foul line. Talk about nice contributions in multiple categories for those who took a chance on draft day. We suspect many grabbed the 21-year-old player off waiver wires a couple weeks into the season. He’s been a critical part of the Pacers’ attaining a 17-8 record, which places them fourth in the Eastern Conference. George, the 10th pick in the 2010 draft, didn’t appear in our preseason ranking.
LeBron James – Miami HEAT:
LeBron contributes the most significant numbers down the line in fantasy play. The fact that he leads his team in points (28.5 ppg/ranked 2nd in the league), assists (6.9), rebounds (8.2) and field goals per game (10.3) says it all. He’s helped push Miami to a 19-7 record, which is good for second-place ranking in the Eastern Conference. Turnovers could be better (4.1), but he has the highest PER in the league (31.8). Be mindful that James’ numbers are even better when teammate Dwyane Wade isn’t playing, and Wade has missed nine games so far.
Living Up to the Hype / Par for the Course Thus Far:
Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder:
Durant continues to live up to his billing as one of the top two fantasy players – with LeBron James – in the league. With real competition from both James and Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, he may not win a third straight scoring title this year. That hardly matters with his impressive 27.3 ppg at this point. Thunder coach Scott Brooks challenged Durant to increase his rebounding, and he’s done just that. Last season, he posted 6.8 boards; this year he’s got a career-high 8.3 rebounds. Add career highs in assists (3.4), field goals made (9.9) and blocks (1.4), as well as 1.5 threes and 1.2 steals – with 11 double-doubles – and you’ve got a fantasy dream come true. Even his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is at a career high at 26.4. All is not ideal however, as Durant is also posting career-high turnovers of 3.7 and a career-low 81.0% free-throw shooting.
Danilo Gallinari – Denver Nuggets:
A recent chip fracture in Gallinari’s left ankle will keep him sidelined for perhaps the next month. Obviously, fantasy players who own him will suffer, but he has to make our list with the surprising numbers he’s logged this season. In 25 games as a starter, he’s posted a team-high 17.0 points with 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4 three-pointers and 5.2 free throws (ninth in the league) at 89.0% shooting in 33.0 minutes.
Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks:
Anthony doesn’t really fit any of these established categories. While his shooting percentages are lower than we’ve seen in a long while, you can hardly call a player who averages 22.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 4.2 apg a dud, but he’s not exactly living up to the hype either. Anthony has missed four games – and has played through other lingering issues – and will be sidelined up to two weeks with a strained right groin.
Rudy Gay – Memphis Grizzlies:
Gay is back with a healthy shoulder after missing 28 games last season. His numbers are fairly consistent with his last few years’ production, save for free throw shooting; at 69.0%, it’s a career low. He’s averaging 18.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals this season. Gay has been playing particularly well this month, logging 20.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 2.4 steals.
Luol Deng – Chicago Bulls:
Deng recently returned from a seven-game absence proclaiming his injured wrist now feels great. We’ll take him at his word, but shall remain a bit leery since it was just over two weeks ago that the word “surgery” was being thrown around. Fortunately, the injury affects his non-shooting wrist, and he’s played an average 36.5 minutes in the three games since he returned. In 21 games, Deng is averaging 16.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 turnovers and 1.2 steals. His free throw shooting average isn’t great at 75.8%.
Paul Pierce – Boston Celtics:
He missed the first three games of the season, and after a relatively slow start, Pierce is officially back. One nice thing for fantasy owners is his assists, courtesy of Rondo’s wrist injury suffered in mid-January. Assists have fallen some since Rondo returned to action, but the number is still higher than usual. Overall, Pierce is averaging a career-high 5.7 apg. He also contributes in reliable fashion in points (18.4), rebounds (5.8), free throw shooting (4.8 per game at 83.3%) and three-pointers (1.8).
Lamar Odom – Dallas Mavericks:
The learning curve for Odom in Dallas has proven to be excruciatingly extended. The former “X factor” for the Lakers has failed to average double-digit scoring for the first time in his career (7.8 ppg this season). Rebounding is also the lowest ever at 4.8 per game vs. an 8.7 career average over twelve years. In fact, a quick look at his stats reveals significantly decreased numbers in all categories, including sharp ones in shooting percentages.
Dorell Wright – Golden State Warriors:
After his breakout 2010-11 season (16.4 ppg, 3.0 apg, 5.3 rpg, 2.4 threes), we expected more than this line so far: 11.4 ppg, 1.9 apg, 4.6 rpg, 1.9 three-pointers. Of course, he is playing nearly nine minutes less per game this year. Perhaps something or someone has gotten through to him in the past four games as he’s averaged 15.3 points and 2.5 in threes. Unfortunately, his free throw shooting (69.2%) and rebounding (3.8) has taken a nose-dive in February compared to his start in January and February.
Mike Miller – Miami HEAT:
True, Miller has never played minutes this low (19.1 mpg), but those fantasy players expecting Miller numbers of old have surely dropped him from their rosters by now. Averages of 6.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 1.3 three-pointers can be found from plenty of non-fantasy-worthy players all over the league.
Rashard Lewis – Washington Wizards:
Lewis hasn’t failed to record double-digit scoring in 11 seasons, but this year in Washington, he averages 8.5 points. His rebounding (4.0), field goal shooting (39.1%) and three-point shooting (0.6 FT per game at 25.9%) is the lowest since his rookie year.
Which small forwards have surprised you this season thus far?