Please let those ankles hold up (USAT)
Stephen Curry entered the year as one of the biggest boom-or-bust players in the league, as he had been the 11th, ninth and 14th most valuable player on a per-game basis over his first three years in the league — a feat matched by few. However, while injuries only cost him eight games during his sophomore campaign, they hobbled him in many more (which in turn also made his per game value all that much more impressive since he played just 33:36 mpg, which ranked 65th in the league), and they then cost him 40 games last year (which could have been many more if it wasn't an abbreviated season). The ankle problem specifically even lingered into this preseason, so he was (and remains) a pretty big gamble, but fantasy owners have been huge winners so far this year. Curry actually didn't get off to an overly impressive start, which was especially concerning with Monta Ellis out of town, and his current 42.1 shooting percentage is by far a career low (he's shot 46.2, 48.0 and 49.0 over his first three years, respectively), but he's scored at least 20 points and handed out 10 assists or more in each of his past four games, averaging 3.0 steals and 3.5 3pt over that span as well. Curry's 37:06 mpg and 15.4 FGA are both career highs, and he's actually shooting better from downtown (42.7 percent) than from inside the arc (42.1), so it's probably safe to expect his FG% to improve from here on out. The currently ranked 11th most valuable player according to Basketball Monster, only health can prevent Curry from finishing as a top-15 player this year.
Larry Sanders averaged 1.5 bpg and 0.6 spg over just 12:24 mpg during his second year in the league last year, so he was on plenty of people's fantasy radars, although it's worth pointing out he committed a whopping 2.6 fouls per game during that limited playing time. The latter seemingly was a bigger hurdle to overcome than his inability to score (he got just 3.6 ppg last year), as a big increase in minutes may not have been plausible even regardless of Scott Skiles. It's been more of the same so far this season, only even more to the extreme. Sanders averaged a ridiculous 7.3 blocks and 11.7 rebounds over three games before earning his first start of the year Wednesday, when he lasted just 17:13 minutes thanks to more foul trouble (he committed five of them during that limited span). Sanders has actually expressed his desire to remain coming off the bench, and it doesn't appear to make much of a difference to fantasy owners whether he starts or not with this unmatched type of aggressiveness. To put him in some perspective, Sanders currently ranks third in the NBA with 2.9 bpg, and no one else in the top-12 has averaged fewer mpg. Per 36 minutes, he's remarkably averaged 4.6 blocks and 6.4 fouls. The safe bet is both those numbers decline moving forward, but he's obviously a must own while waiting to see what happens.
Ben Gordon has recently been the most added player in Yahoo! Leagues, which makes sense after hitting 21 three-pointers over his past four games, including a combined 15 in two of them. He's actually playing his fewest mpg since his rookie year, but it's not by a significant amount and is fairly irrelevant when you realize he has a 25.95 Usage Rate. Gordon is a very good free throw shooter, but he barely hands out more assists than turnovers and doesn't contribute many steals, but that's not to say he can't still be helpful. However, his value right now is almost certainly at its peak, as he's making an incredible 49.4 percent of his three-point shots this year (while shooting 42.0 percent from inside the arc). Gordon has always been a good shooter from downtown, but it's safe to expect some regression there, although that doesn't mean he can't remain a valuable fantasy option for those in deeper leagues.
Here's Charles Barkley attempting to interview Gregg Popovich. It's funny because this is actually the nicest you'll ever see Pop during an in-game interview.
I've had Joakim Noah on numerous fantasy teams over the past couple of years, so it only makes sense the year I don't own any shares he's having his best season yet. The handsome devil is seeing 39:17 mpg (his previous career high was 32:47) and while his FG% is a career-low 46.4, his FT% is actually a career-best 77.9, as is his 13.0 ppg, 4.2 apg, 1.4 spg and 2.2 bpg. While not matching the aforementioned career highs, Noah's 10.1 rpg has been more than respectable as well. Put it all together, and he's been a top-20 fantasy player in 9-cat leagues this year. Among those center eligible (I didn't include him in this stat in an earlier article because I mistakenly used C-only as opposed to F-C eligible), Noah has also averaged the second-most assists in the league. To say he's the only player in the NBA to average 10+ rebounds, 4+ assists and 2+ blocks would be an understatement. Noah remains a health risk, but he's taken full advantage of Derrick Rose's absence, and the only possible reason fantasy owners should think of selling high is the injury history, as his performance looks legit.
Rookie Rundown: Damian Lillard is an immediate star, looking like not only a fantasy steal (he's already a top-30 player) but also the current NBA ROY favorite thanks to Anthony Davis' health…Speaking of Davis, he looked like a once in a decade type player who was better through his first five games (admittedly a tiny sample) than Tim Duncan was as a rookie and a potential top-five type fantasy player but injuries have quickly become a (major?) concern…Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hasn't jumped off the page, getting just 10.8 ppg while playing for a Bobcats team that's lost five in a row and is 7-10 on the season, but he's quietly averaged 1.1 spg and 1.4 bpg while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 77.4 percent from the line, making him as valuable as Greg Monroe so far this year…Andre Drummond, who was viewed as raw as can be at the time of the draft, is already producing, averaging 6.5 rpg, 0.8 spg and 1.3 bpg in just 17:36 mpg (including 12.0 rpg and 2.5 bpg over his last two contests).
However, it hasn't been all good with the rookies, as Harrison Barnes, who's been given a real opportunity right out of the gate, has been a disappointment (203rd in value). That doesn't mean he can't take a step forward in year two like others who weren't great as rookies such as Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight have this season, but then again, I fully expected Derrick Williams to be a much better NBA player, and if you look back just one year, there are a bunch of duds from the 2011 draft, at least so far (Enes Kanter, Jan Vesely, Jimmer Fredette, etc.). Having said that, last year's top rookie, Kyrie Irving, I fully believe will be a future star despite his early health problems. It should be interesting to see how these classes rank moving forward.
Watching this guy hit the world's longest driver is somehow mesmerizing.
Seriously, what's the deal with the Lakers? They were the second most favored team to win the title before the season started, and I must say I thought rightfully so. Yet nearly a quarter into the season, the team somehow has a losing record. While I acknowledge sports are obviously totally unpredictable, I made jokes that a Lakers/Heat final was inevitable. "All Star" compilations that look great on paper often don't work out as planned, but Dwight Howard and Steve Nash looked like a perfect fit, as both have posted dominant pick-and-roll numbers in the past, and that was before you added in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol (and later Mike D'Antoni). What's even crazier is that LA has been so disappointing with Bryant also shooting a career high 49.0 percent. Still, there's reason for optimism, as Howard should only get better the further he's removed from back surgery and getting Nash back from injury will obviously help. Moreover, the Lakers currently rank 8th in Defensive Efficiency and 5th in Offensive Efficiency, so they have clearly underperformed compared to their underlying stats.
Here's a good read about the NBA owners essentially having to decide between the Maloofs and the city of Sacramento. What a fiasco.
Quick Hits: The Knicks lead the Eastern Conference despite playing four more games on the road than at home, where they have yet to lose this season. They gave the Heat their worst loss ever in Miami when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were all paying, as the big three combined for a -31 +/- despite Carmelo Anthony (who leads the NBA in Usage Rate) not playing…O.J. Mayo leads the NBA both in 3-point shooting percentage and fast break points this season…Dwight Howard has missed 42 free throws in the fourth quarter this year. The next highest is Tyler Hansbrough with 10 (h/t @tomhaberstroh)...Howard is also averaging just two shot attempts in the fourth quarter...Over his past 10 games, Anderson Varejao has averaged 15.5 points, 17.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals. He has to be the best draft pick so far in the 2012/13 fantasy season.