Throughout this season I've given some love to a few players who have surpassed preseason expectations and helped carry their fantasy squad. This week I'll talk about Derrick Rose, whose stellar play has led his team to a commanding 10.5-game lead in the Central Division (albeit the worst division in basketball).
Quick, assessing their stats across the board, who's been a better fantasy player this year – Chris Paul, LeBron James or Derrick Rose? Let's look at their respective stats in the usual roto categories:
LeBron James – 25.4 ppg, 7.1 assists, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 threes made per game, 1.45 steals, .5 blocks, 48.2 FG percent and 76.7 FT percent
Derrick Rose – 24.5 ppg, 8.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.6 threes made per game, 1.1 steals, .65 blocks, 45.2 FG percent and 81 FT percent
Chris Paul – 16.2 points, 9.6 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.0 three made per game, 2.74 steals, 0.1 blocks, 48.4 FG percent and 90.1 FT percent
From a quick look, Rose beats LeBron in four of eight typical categories. James has a pretty big difference with 2.3 more rebounds per game, but other than that there isn't too big of a gap between them statistically.
Again, using some primitive analysis, Rose beats Paul in four of eight categories. Rose has a significant upper hand in points, while Paul has him soundly beat in steals and from the charity stripe.
I used both James and Paul as comparisons because they were consensus top-3 picks in almost any format this year. Rose, on the other hand, typically lasted until the second round (I couldn't find him taken in the first round in any of my leagues), so owners are definitely getting their money's worth. There's a strong argument for Deron Williams as a top-5 fantasy player, but we'll save that for another day.
So what's changed with Rose's game? The knock on him (from a fantasy standpoint) heading into this season was his lack of typical point guard stats. He made only 16 three-pointers in each of his first two seasons and averaged only 6.0 assists last year, good for 11th in the Association. After an offseason of hard work from beyond the arc, Rose has hit 64 threes at a 37.6 percent clip. He's also worked hard on getting his teammates involved (the acquisition of Carlos Boozer and development of Joakim Noah didn't hurt), which has led to an average of 8.1 assists per game. The addition of three-pointers and a jump in assists has pushed him into top-10 fantasy territory, and that's a modest projection. If you're drafting now for next year and Rose was available around pick seven or eight would you take him? Maybe higher?
Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but at the very least offers some players to put on the radar.
Kwame Brown, C, CHA – Remember 2001, when the Washington Wizards passed up Joe Johnson, Pau Gasol and Jason Richardson to snag Brown with the first overall pick? Of course it's easy to critique now (another great pick - Eddy Curry went fourth to the Bulls), but Brown has put together a nice run for the Bobcats. The injury to Nazr Mohammed opened up more playing time for Brown, who appears to have taken over the starting center role. Brown has responded with 27 points and 30 rebounds in his last two games. Mohammed may be brought back slowly, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Brown stick with 30-plus minutes a night. If he continues to get that kind of time, look for him to be a nightly double-double threat.
Ryan Anderson, F, ORL – Anderson has quietly played his way to more minutes than starter Brandon Bass for the Magic. He's up to 23.9 minutes per contest during January and averaged 2.75 made three-pointers. Over his last four games he's averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and over a block. The only problem is that's likely his ceiling unless he gets more playing time. Oddly, coach Stan Van Gundy compared his game to Kevin Love's this week. Does Stan remember what happened when Kurt Rambis took the training wheels off Love?
Paul George, F, IND – I'm not recommending George this week but thought I'd use this spot to call some attention to the rookie. He has seen an uptick in minutes since the Calendar hit 2011, playing in the last nine Pacers games after a month of "DNP – Coach's decision." Only 20, the Fresno State product has improved his play in practice to earn more minutes. At 6-foot-9, he's ridiculously athletic and has a sweet stroke for the outside. He's the type of player who has the upside to contribute in every category across the board within a few years. As I said, don't rush to the waiver-wire quite yet but keep tabs on the kid, especially in dynasty leagues.
Each week we'll look at certain players who can help your fantasy team in the nine categories most leagues use. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee they will contribute in other areas.
Sasha Vujacic, G, NJN – The move to Jersey from the west coast has agreed with Sasha, who has put himself on the fantasy radar. Since the trade, he's seen his minutes increase from 23.3 per game in December to 29.9 during January. He's scored in double-digits in seven of eight games this month, has shot 89.5 percent from the free throw line since his move to the Nets and is averaging 1.8 three per game. Take a flier on him if you're in the market for scoring.
Bill Walker, G, NYK – Walker has taken advantage of Danilo Gallinari's absence to string together three double-digit games last week. The bad news is Gallinari is back, but Walker has still shown a hot hand. He's shot 16-for-27 (59.3 percent) over his last six games from downtown, making at least two threes in each contest. If you're in a deep league and desperate for threes, he's your guy.
Taj Gibson, F, CHI – This isn't the first time Gibson's been mentioned here, and Carlos Boozer's ankle injury gives him another mention. Gibson recorded six blocks Monday and six more Tuesday with Boozer out and should see significant minutes until he returns. Unfortunately for Gibson owners, that return could happen by the end of the week. Keep an eye on Boozer's return and watch for a potential setback before you get too excited about Gibson.
Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies.
Brandon Bass, ORL – Now eligible at center
Grant Hill, PHO – Now eligible at power forward