Fantasy NBA: Stock Up – Early Season Studs
The abrupt end to the lockout and the free-agent frenzy that followed left fantasy leaguers dazed and confused. However, fantasy GM’s can’t afford to sit back and relax now that the regular season has commenced – especially considering the truncated, 66-game slate increases the importance of each game…
Thus, I have put together a list of unheralded players that have seen their stock spike over the first few days of the 2011-2012 NBA regular season.
Obviously we don’t want to read too much into such a small sample size. Yet, on the other hand, shrewd GM’s will be forced to act (and react) quickly during this shortened season…
Boris Diaw – Charlotte Bobcats:
Pop quiz hotshot: Which player currently ranks second in the NBA in rebounds AND fourth in the league in assists. Yup, you guessed it – Boris Diaw. Boris is averaging an unsustainable 12.5 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 8.5 apg, and 1.5 three-pointers per contest. Can Diaw keep this up? Of course not. But that’s not to say he won’t be a valuable fantasy starter on winning teams for the rest of this season. Diaw has offered well-rounded fantasy production in the past, dating back to his breakout season in Phoenix. During his first season in Charlotte, he averaged 15/6/5 – so the skill set is there (it might be buried under a few French baguette rolls but…). And coming into this season, the Bobcats coaching staff was hyping Diaw as the team’s starting center. Another reason to encouraged about Diaw’s prospects is the fact he hasn’t missed a game since the 2008-2009 season. You might be tempted to sell high on Diaw if you own him – while it’s not a terrible idea, just make sure you get something decent back if you trade him away.
Spencer Hawes – Philadelphia 76ers:
Hawes was viewed as nothing more than late-round roster filler in most drafts two weeks ago, but exploded for a near triple-double in the 76ers opening night loss to the Trailblazers – Spencer finished with 10 points, 14 boards, and 9 assists in 39 minutes of action. Hawes backed that up with 9 and 11 on Wednesday. He also has 4 steals on the season. We don’t want to get too excited because Hawes track record suggests he won’t be able to keep this up, but if you have room on your roster, center-eligible players are often worth scooping up. Hawes continued success will likely be dependent upon him holding off rookie Nikola Vucevic. In addition, Elton Brand has gotten out of the gates extremely slow, which has boosted Hawes role in the offense.
Kris Humphries – New Jersey Nets:
Before reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian made him famous (infamous?) on her TV show, fantasy leaguers got to know Humphries real well last season, when he was a rebounding machine for the Nets over the second half of the 2010-2011 NBA season. Although Kim may now hate him and fans may boo (I have no idea why fans at an NBA game would feel an allegiance to Kim K, but that’s a story for another day), Humphries still has many supporters in fantasy circles. The Hump is once again averaging a double-double this season, to the tune of 13.7 ppg and 10.7 rpg, while shooting a rock-solid 59% from the field. We definitely shouldn’t be all that surprised; remember, Humphries averaged 14.1 points & 14.1 boards over the 2nd half of last season. With Brook Lopez sidelined up to two months, the minutes will be there. The Hump will continue to produce.
Kyle Lowry – Houston Rockets:
I’ve been enamored with Lowry ever since going under the hood and examining Lowry’s numbers from last season. From my Top-100 season preview: “It flew under the radar a bit, but over the last 18 games Lowry played during the 2010-2011 regular season, he averaged 18.4 points, 7.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 three-pointers, 1.2 steals, and shot over 87% from the FT line. Read that again, that is not a misprint. During that 45-day stretch, Lowry was the 5th ranked player in all of fantasy – the top 4 were (in order): Kevin Durant, LeBron James, D Wade, Chris Paul, and… Kyle Lowry. Lowry is soaring up draft boards this month, for good reason.” I ended up drafting Lowry in nearly every single league I going this season, and sure enough, Lyle has repaid that trust by busting out of the blocks this season. He has just missed impressive triple-doubles in each of the Rockets first two games, and is now averaging 18 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, 1.5 three’s, and 2 steals – and he is only playing 32 minutes a night. What more could you ask for? Sky is the limit for Lowry this season.
Ryan Anderson – Orlando Magic:
Anderson is another guy I was bullish on this season, and drafted in many leagues. Fortunately, Anderson has looked stellar early on as well. A rare center-eligible sharpshooter, he averaged 2.2 three-pointers per game last season, despite playing just 22 minutes a night. And how about this for a random stat: Ryan Anderson was the only player in the NBA last season to average over two three-pointers and less than one turnover per game. Through 3 games this season, Anderson is seeing over 31 minutes of court action per night, and has responded with a major bump-up in production – 18.3 points and 6 boards per game. He’s also buried 11 three-pointers already, second only to Ray Allen this season.
Jarrett Jack – New Orleans Hornets:
Jack won’t ever make anybody forget CP3, but the fact of the matter is somebody is going to need to man the PG spot in N’awlins. Jack, who was suspended for the first game of the season, played 39 minutes in his debut on Wednesday and poured in 21 points while dishing out 9 assists. Don’t expect that type of production consistently, but Jack will get all the PT he can handle, and has proven he can produce on the NBA level. Jack started 15 games last season for New Orleans, and averaged over 12 points and nearly 5 dimes, despite averaging less than 29 minutes in those contests. Extrapolate those numbers out to 36 minutes a night, and you see the kind of upside Jack offers.
Norris Cole – Miami HEAT:
Cole was flying off waiver wires late Tuesday night after he put the Big 3 on his back and carried them to a victory over Boston – finishing with 20 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists. However, Cole’s buzz was cooled a bit when Mario Chalmers scored 15 points the following night – while Cole scored just 5 points in 16 minutes. If Cole ever wins the starting PG spot and is guaranteed 25 minutes a night, he’ll definitely be an everyday fantasy starter. Until then, he’ll be a hit-and-miss gamble. Still, if you play in a relatively deep league and have room on your roster, he is worth a lottery ticket. Opposing defenses are going to double the Big 3 all over the floor, and going to dare Miami’s PG to beat them all season long. That said, if Chalmers and Cole split minutes, difficult to start either one with much confidence.
Jose Calderon – Toronto Raptors:
Calderon’s numbers aren’t off the charts, but I thought he was undervalued in drafts this month. Through two games, Jose is playing 30 minutes a night and averaging 11 points, 8.5 assists, and 1.5 three’s. Those are solid numbers and I think he can keep it up. The other thing you get with Calderon is terrific FT shooting. Jerryd Bayless is a concern stealing minutes at some point, but if Calderon gets 30 minutes a night, he’ll help your squad.
A few other unheralded players that have seen their value rise this first week:
* Brandon Knight – Detroit Pistons: 23 points and 6 dimes last night (And averaging 3 three-pointers per game)
* Brandon Rush – Indiana Pacers: Carving out minutes as a valuable 6th man in Golden State
* Gerald Henderson – Charlotte Bobcats: Not much besides points, but dude can score
* Marcus Camby – Portland Trailblazers: Healthy (for now) which means blocks and boards
* James Johnson – Toronto Raptors: Leads the NBA in steals (4.0 spg)
* Brandon Bass – Boston Celtics: Impressive in his first week in Beantown
* Darren Collision – Indiana Pacers: Post-hype sleeper is averaging 37 mpg
* Amir Johnson – Toronto Raptors: Is this finally the season he puts it together?