Under the Radar
By Kevin Payne
RotoWire Staff Writer
As the regular season winds down, I thought now would be a good time to think about next season. Drafts are only six months away and quickly many fantasy owners are shifting their focus to baseball. My top five now are drastically different from the top five from this preseason. Last week, I speculated that Kevin Durant would be a top-three pick. I thought I'd expand that slightly and look at who would be my top five overall if I was to draft for next season today. Here they are:
1. LeBron James - No surprise here, it's easy to forget that King James will be just 24 when the NBA season starts next season. It's not hard to project what you're going to get from him - 28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three blocks/steals. The one part of his game that he's improved this season is free throws. He's shooting a career-high 76.9 percent, up from 71.2 percent in 2007. It's scary to think we still have not seen the best from him.
2. Dwyane Wade - Right now he's the hottest player in the NBA, scoring more than 40 points in four of his six last games. He's actually closer to LBJ that you might think; the only significant advantage James has on him is rebounding and three-pointers made. Wade is en route to setting career highs in field goal percentage (49.5 percent), assists (7.7), steals (2.2), points per game (29.7) and three-pointers made. Most important, he has shown he is past the shoulder and knee injuries that have plagued him the last two years.
3. Kevin Durant - This should really be 3a and 3b with Chris Paul. Durant will set career highs across the board in his sophomore year in the NBA. As pointed out last week, he has gotten better statistically as the season has gone on. He's playing on an improving team, which will help reduce double-teams and give him more assist opportunities in the future. He's still just 20 and will have Texas fans thinking "what if" over the next few weeks.
4. Chris Paul - Owners can't be disappointed in Paul's performance this season, though his assists are narrowly down and he will end up with significantly less three-pointers this season. However, he is going to lead the league in assists and steals while setting a career high in field goal percentage (49.5). Considered the best point guard in the league, Paul better keep an eye over his shoulder as Deron Williams has improved his stats across the board for the fourth straight year.
5. Amare Stoudemire - This pick is based on a couple of assumptions. First, that Stoudemire is completely healthy to start the season, which should be the case. Second, that Alvin Gentry is given the full time gig, or the new coach allows the Suns to continue playing up-tempo basketball. Stoudemire would then see a return to his 2007 numbers when he averaged 25 points and nine boards a game while shooting a lofty 59 percent from the field.
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.
Jamario Moon, F, MIA - Moon has seen an uptick in playing since his trade to the Heat. He's averaged 34 minutes over his last four, a hike from his 26-minute season average. Moon's another one of those "hustle guys" who mainly contributes to blocks and steals (four of each in his last three games). He was inserted into the starting five six games ago, so don't be surprised if his stats improve once he gets used to running with the first team.
Julian Wright, F, NOR - Wright has benefitted from Peja Stojakovic balky back. He's averaged 27 minutes his last three games with Peja sidelined. During the last two games, the former Jayhawk has scored 32 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and handed out six assists. Stojakovic is expected back this week, but back issues are nothing new to him. Wright will continue to see the court as long as Stojakovic is hurting.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F, MIL - Mbah a Moute is up more than 30 minutes a night his last four games. He's averaged 12.7 points, 7.5 rebound and 1.5 steals during that span. He won't keep shooting 76 percent from the field as he has during March, but he's a good option in deeper leagues.
Danny Granger, F, IND - Granger is expected to make his return some time this week from a foot injury. There's really only one reason I mention him this week in the minutes section, since you're more likely to find Jimmy Hoffa than Granger on your waiver wire. He's still not completely over the foot injury and won't come close to the numbers he was putting up earlier this season. In keeper leagues, this will be the only time he's a "buy-low" candidate and would be a good trade target if his owner is still making a run for this year.
This is a list of players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Andres Nocioni, F, SAC - Nocioni was inserted into the starting lineup Sunday and promptly responded with 23 points (including three three-pointers made) in 38 minutes. Nocioni is now one of the better players on Sacramento's squad and will be relied on to score, now that he is out of Chicago.
Eddie House, G-BOS - House will assume point-guard duties for the reigning world champions while Rajon Rondo deals with an ankle injury. Rondo missed Sunday's game, and Stephon Marbury did little to impress in his audition at the point. House is not known as a great distributor, but he is one of the best three-point shooters in the league (109 made this season). He got 30 minutes on the court on Sunday, so expect him to play a similar amount with Rondo out.
Rebounds and Blocks
DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC - Jordan once again finds himself back in the rotation for the Clippers with Marcus Camby (migraines) and Zach Randolph (personal matters) addressing their respective issues. Jordan has 19 points, 20 rebounds, eight blocks and four assists over his last two games. Chris Kaman is expected back soon, but the situation bears monitoring as Jordan contributes when given the playing time.
The following players have received eligibility at a new position in the NBA.
No player received new eligibility in the last week.
Article first appeared on 3/12/09