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Hoops Lab: Re-thinking the Preseason Rankings at the Quarter Pole

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Quarter Pole: Changes in the rankings

This weekend I got a criticism e-mail from a reader about my basketball rankings list on RotoWire. That happens sometimes, and I always listen if someone has a valid criticism for me. Anyway, one of the things the guy pointed out was I still had Jason Kidd ranked as a top-20 player. I looked up Kidd's Y! ranking at the time, and sure enough he was ranked No. 51 by average according to Yahoo. So, does that mean that it was time to drop Kidd's ranking, or is it still early enough that you give the veteran players the benefit of the doubt?

I think the answer is: both.

We are 20 games in, which is still relatively early, considering there are 60 left and the most important ones for fantasy owners are still months away. On the other hand, a quarter of the season is a significant portion of the year, and there are some players about which we have enough information to re-evaluate. So, to that end, let's look at at the Y! rankings and my most updated cheat sheet, as well as the Rotowire 150 article I wrote just before the season began to talk about some of the big movers in either direction, as well as some I haven't moved much despite lesser early season production.

Trending up:

Russell Westbrook: Before the season I had him at No. 27 on my rankings, which is good, but now he's in the top 10 with a bullet. Westbrook has taken co-ownership of the Thunder, adding bigger scoring numbers and a dominant free-throw effect to his already strong all-around game. The only thing keeping him from the top five is the lack of a 3-point shot.

Monta Ellis: When I put Ellis at 47th in the Rotowire 150, one of my readers commented that I had ranked him too low. I had actually moved Ellis up to 47th, as my projections had him even lower, but in hindsight it's obvious I underestimated his ability to continue putting up big scoring numbers next to Stephen Curry with Nellie gone. Still an iron-man capable of playing all 48 minutes, Ellis has now moved up into my top 20.

My sleeper big men: Before the season I had Kevin Love, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Luis Scola, Paul Millsap and Michael Beasley ranked higher than many as potential sleepers (all in the 30 65 range). They have all gotten off to such great starts, though, that even my predictions were a bit short, and now all except Beasley are in my top 30, with Beasley at 50 and rising.

The healthy injury risks: The only reason I didn't have Danny Granger (22nd) and Manu Ginobili (52nd) higher in my initial rankings was due to their histories of injury trouble. Each has been fairly healthy so far this season, though, which is how both have moved up several slots in the current rankings. Keep in mind, though, their health history still hasn't gone away, which makes them prime trade pieces while they're still putting up numbers.

The platoon winners: Tyson Chandler (from unranked to 75) and Jose Calderon (from 111 to 74) have both moved way up by dint of winning a platoon battle. Chandler was supposed to be behind Brendan Haywood, and Calderon was battling with Jarrett Jack, but Chandler has regained his health and explosiveness to blow by Haywood, while Jack has been traded off the roster entirely.

Trending down:

Brandon Roy: My 17th rated player in the preseason is in major trouble with the reports that he no longer has any cartilage in his knees, and that isn't something surgery can correct. His play hasn't been bad since he returned from his layoff, but that injury specter will hang over him and hurt his trade value from now on.

David Lee: Lee was 19th in my preseason rankings because I thought his combination of rebounding and pace-induced efficient scoring would translate well from New York to Golden State. Instead, his shooting percentage has fallen almost 10 percent, and Andris Biedrins has eaten enough into his rebound totals that he ranks outside the top-100 in Y! rankings. Injuries have slowed Lee as well, and his game was never all-around enough to remain elite without maximizing scoring, rebounding and percentages.

Andray Blatche: Blatche was 29th in my preseason rankings off of his huge finish last season, with the rationale that as a big man he wouldn't be caught up in the potential battle between John Wall and Gilbert Arenas over control of the Wizards. Instead, the backcourt tandem is pulling in the major numbers while Blatche, no longer the focal point, has seen his scoring and percentages drop way down this season.

O.J. Mayo: Mayo lost his starting job, and his numbers have been on a steady decline ever since. I still think he could re-earn his job at some point and is worth holding onto if you have the roster space, but his 4.0 ppg average in the last week is a big reason why he has dropped from 50th to the 100-range in my rankings.

Troy Murphy: I had Murphy ranked 68th coming into the season instead of the top-20 that he had been in recent years because I thought his injury and a new team could slow his start to the year. But even though he's now healthy, Murphy remains chained to the bench as he and Coach Avery Johnson just don't seem to see eye-to-eye. I still have him at 111th because at some point I think he has to play for someone, but the zeros are adding up, and it's getting harder to justify using a roster spot on him.

Anthony Randolph: Randolph is one of the most talented players in the NBA. I watched him live in the Vegas Summer League last year and was wowed by his game. But, for the second year in a row his coach has planted him on the bench, citing maturity issues. If he can't get on the court, he can't possibly justify his No. 83 preseason ranking and even his current 138 could be a stretch.

Still holding:

Miami Thrice: LeBron James (No. 30 Y! rated) and Dwyane Wade (No. 69 Y! rated) remain among my top-7 players. Chris Bosh (No. 51 Y! rated) has slid down to 46th in my rankings, but I think I'll eventually be moving him back up as well. We've all heard more than we care to about the Heat's early season struggles, but I still think they eventually find their levels. We've been starting to see just that in the last week or so.

Brook Lopez: I just can't believe his rebounding is gone forever. His boards are down by about a third to a paltry 6.1 per game, which has accounted for a large part of his drop in value. His shooting percentage is also down six percent. Lopez is still young, and though I've dropped him about nine slots in my rankings I expect eventually he'll correct these issues.

Chauncey Billups: Billups was my 26th rated player entering the year, but is 74th by Y! rater currently due in large part to his current 10-year low 36.6% shooting from the field. Billups is no spring chicken anymore, but he's not quite at the stage where I'd expect him to fall off the cliff physically, so I think the shooting and his value will eventually return to closer to his norms.

Around the League

Johnson injury, Smith stepping up: Joe Johnson had elbow surgery and is expected to miss the next four-to-six weeks. Mo Evans is starting in his place, Jamal Crawford figures to see a boost in scoring opportunities, but so far it's been Josh Smith that has stepped to the forefront for the Hawks. Smith has averaged 26.5 points and 5.0 assists in the last two games and may well be the focal point for the Hawks' offense for the next month.

Flu everywhere: The Orlando Magic lost half of their line-up over the weekend to a rampant stomach bug that seems to be popping up all around the NBA. Tyson Chandler, Kevin Martin, Glen Davis and Shane Battier are just a handful of the other names who have missed game and/or practice action this week with "illness" listed as the cause. Those in daily roster leagues should pay attention to make sure one of their players isn't a last minute scratch with the flu bug, and if so swap him out accordingly.

Parker-Longoria watch needed? Tony Parker has been chugging along with one of the best seasons of his career, then suddenly last week he tossed in a two-point stinker a few days after combining for 15 points over two games. On the day of his two-point effort, it was reported that Parker was seen eating with estranged wife Eva Longoria on game day. I have no insight into his marital relationship, but it seems to me that his personal life could be affecting his play and is something that Parker owners might want to keep an eye on.

Bynum eying return next week: Andrew Bynum has begun practicing more strenuously to strengthen his knee and hopes to return to game action on December 14 against the Wizards. There's no guarantee there, but that's a specific enough date that at the least I'd expect to see Bynum on the court sooner rather than later. The most interesting question is what his role will be, and what his presence will mean for the numbers of Pau Gasol and especially Lamar Odom.

New York = Phoenix East? Amar'e Stoudemire has long been thought to be at least in-part a product of Steve Nash's passing in Phoenix. This even cost him a few spots in many fantasy drafts this year, as he was going to have to go it alone in New York. Well, the early returns are that Amar'e is just fine without his old floor general. Stoudemire has scored 30-plus points in five straight games and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, new floor general Raymond Felton seems to be coming along for the ride as well and is forming a new potent battery-mate for him in the Mike D'Antoni system.

Rondo, Shaq and the limping Celtics: Rajon Rondo missed his fourth game of the season on Sunday due to a combination of hamstring, foot and possibly knee injuries. The Celtics are considering giving him more time off to recover, or else perhaps having him miss starts on occasion. In the meantime, Shaquille O'Neal also sat out the second half of Sunday's blowout win over the Nets with a sore calf. And a whopping seven Celtics missed practice on Tuesday due to injury, illness or personal issues.

Boozer ramping up quickly: Carlos Boozer struggled a bit in his first two games back from injury combining for 17 points on 40% shooting against the Magic and Celtics. Now, it looks like that may have been as much due to facing the two best teams in the league as it was to rust. Boozer has exploded to average 27 and 10.5 on 61% shooting in his last two games. Looks like he's back.

Martell Webster and Jonny Flynn almost back: Webster (back) and Flynn (hip) are both practicing and could see some game action within the week. Webster was initially supposed to start for the Wolves, and he could still challenge rookie Wesley Johnson for the shooting guard slot. Eventually Flynn is likely to take over as the starting point guard.

Aaron Brooks return, and Kyle Lowry: Brooks is planning to return perhaps as soon as Friday, but it's uncertain how his role might be affected by the excellent play of Kyle Lowry, who is averaging 18.5 points on 51% shooting from the field, 9.5 assists, 3.3 steals, 2.8 treys and 3.8 boards over the last week. Remember, Brooks didn't truly break out last season until Lowry went down with his own injury. If both are healthy and playing well, they could cut into each other's minutes and production.

Mike Miller "week or two away"? Mike Miller was expected to miss until at least late January recovering from thumb surgery, but teammate LeBron James said on Saturday that Miller was "a week or two away" from returning. The Heat haven't officially changed the timetable for Miller, but if he can get healthy he should have good value as a long-range threat.

Clipper re-injuries: Chris Kaman and Baron Davis both recently returned, only to re-injure themselves immediately. Kaman has a deep bone bruise in his ankle and could be down for at least a few weeks, while Davis strained a hamstring and is day-to-day. This is good news for DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe owners, as both could continue to see bigger minutes.

Amir Johnson on a roll: I pointed out last week that the Reggie Evans injury could open up the opportunity for a Raptors frontcourt player to step forward, and so far it's been Johnson. Johnson has averaged 17 points and 11.3 rebounds on 69% shooting from the field over his last three games.

New Additions

Mike Miller(26% owned): If LeBron is correct about Miller's impending return, Miller could be worth a speculative add.

Jordan Farmar (26% owned): Farmar caught my attention when someone in one of my leagues dropped Vince Carter for him. While I wouldn't recommend that (at all), Farmar has been playing well of late and has even dropped twin 16-point performances off the bench in his last two games.

Nick Young(16% owned): Young has scored 50 points with eight 3-pointers in his last two games, and a few weeks ago went on a spell when he scored at least 18 points in six out of seven games. Young is instant offense, and though the Wizards lineup seems to change by the day, he has a good opportunity to carve out a scoring niche when the dust settles.

Terrence Williams (27% owned): Williams has been re-called to the Nets after shredding the D-League for three games to the tune of 28 points, 11.3 boards, 10.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Of course, in his first game back he got another DNP-cd from Avery Johnson, so this is more speculative than anything else. Williams has too much talent to stay on the bench, especially for a talent-starved team like the Nets.

Keeping up with the Professor

If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio every Friday afternoon at 12:30 PM EST on Rotowire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 147, Sirius 211.

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