Under the Radar
By Kevin Payne
RotoWire Staff Writer
Last week I looked at some of the fantasy disappointments from the first half of the NBA season. This week I'll go the opposite direction and look at some of the surprise players from the first half of the schedule. In no particular order, I give you "First Half Surprises."
Devin Harris, G, NJN - A change of scenery and a more prominent role in the offense has produced excellent numbers for Harris. He's posted career-high averages in rebound, assists, steals and three-pointers made. The most impressive stat is his scoring, as he's averaging seven more points a game. The difference in scoring can be attributed to the free-throw line, where he's made 100 more free throws in the first half of this season than all of last year. With trade rumors surrounding Vince Carter, Harris could be in line for an even bigger role in the offense.
Kevin Durant, F, OKC - The NBA's reigning Rookie of the Year has avoided any type of a "sophomore slump," building on a successful first season. He's bumped up last year's averages by 5.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and .5 three-pointers made. An improvement in three-point shooting (14.1 percent higher) has helped Durant improve his overall FG percentage by 4.9 percent. He's played himself into a top-five pick for fantasy drafts next season. The kid is just 20 years old; look for his numbers to improve, especially as he adds more bulk to his frame.
Nene Hilario, F, DEN - The big man from Brazil has put cancer and a slew of injuries behind him and is in line for a career year in Denver. He's on pace to post career-high averages in points (14.7), rebounds (8.1), blocks (1.4) and steals (1.3). Nene is leading the Association in FG percentage, shooting a lofty 61 percent from the field. While it seems like he's been around forever, he's still just 26 years old and should continue to thrive as the Nuggets' main man in the paint.
David Lee, F, NYK - Lee ended the first half with a strong push, recording his 16th straight double-double on Feb. 11. He's paid huge dividends for fantasy owners playing in Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo offense, averaging career highs in scoring (16.4), rebounds (11.8) and assists (two). There's no reason to think this production will stop, as long as he remains in a Knicks uniform.
Feel free to give props in the comments section to any players who have surpassed your expectations. Now onto our weekly look at minutes, categories and player eligibility.
Here is the list of players who have seen an increase in playing time the last few games or expect to see an increase in the upcoming schedule.
Chris Wilcox, F, NOR - One of the many "expiring contracts" that will change teams this week, Wilcox gets an immediate fantasy upgrade. He was getting less than 20 minutes a night for Okahoma City, averaging a three-year low 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a contest. Wilcox should move into the starting lineup and benefit from playing with one of the best playmakers in Chris Paul. With free agency in his immediate future, you can expect a strong effort every night. It isn't unreasonable to expect him to get at least his two previous season averages of 13 points and seven rebounds.
Kyle Weaver, G, OKC - Weaver's been given the starting shooting guard role for the Thunder, resulting in a huge increase in playing time. He's averaging 33.6 minutes per game over his last five, a far cry from his 17.3 season average. Weaver doesn't warrant a pickup at this point, but as a player who does a little bit of everything (22 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and six steals in his last three games), he could in the future.
Matt Barnes, F, PHO - The Suns are returning to the run-and-gun offense they've played in the past. Barnes, very familiar with the system from his Golden State days, should see more court time. In Alvin Gentry's first game as head coach on Tuesday night, Barnes scored only six points, but recorded nine rebounds, six assists and two steals. He should continue to post strong numbers for the rest of the season playing this style of basketball.
This is a list of players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Rebounds and Blocks
Roy Hibbert, C, IND - The darkhorse this week, Hibbert could be a decent fantasy option if he could stay on the court. The problem? The NBA allows only six fouls a game, not 20. Since this is the case, Hibbert doesn't manage to stay in games too long (six fouls in 16 minutes on Feb. 6). When he does manage to follow the rules, he can be a productive player, as seen on Tuesday night against the Sixers. The 7-foot-2 giant scored 14 points and pulled down five rebounds in only 20 minutes. He could be asked to play a bigger role down the stretch, especially if Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger decide to shut it down.
Jason Kapono, F, TOR - Despite failing to retain his three-point title at the All-Star weekend, Kapono remains one of the most accurate long-range shooters in the league. He responded well to coach Jay Triano's encouragement to shoot the ball more, going 10-of-22 from beyond the arc in his last four games. Opposing teams will be now focused on stopping Shawn Marion as well as Chris Bosh, so expect Kapono to get open looks on a nightly basis.
The following players have received eligibility at a new position in the NBA.