By Shannon McKeown
RotoWire Staff Writer
Granger Joins Fantasy Elite
The 2008-09 NBA season has seen a passing of the torch among the fantasy elite. While players like Allen Iverson, Steve Nash and Elton Brand are still well worth their weight in fantasy gold, their respective numbers have dropped this season. And with that drop in production, Iverson, Nash, Brand and others have left a void that needs to be filled. We've mentioned the rise of Brandon Roy and Kevin Durant in past editions of the Barometer, but those two may have to take a back seat to a newcomer.
Enter Danny Granger.
Granger was a borderline first-round pick this preseason. He came highly touted after a 2007-08 season in which he averaged a career-best mark of 19.6 points per game. Fantasy experts were smitten with his rare ability to average over two treys, one steal and one block per game. Still, it seemed like Granger would be a risky pick to build a fantasy squad around.
Owners who didn't balk at Granger's risk are now being paid off by their clairvoyance. His value is approaching the rarified air of such fantasy superstars as LeBron James and Chris Paul. He currently ranks fourth in the Association with a 26.3 ppg scoring average and is only getting better as the season wears on. In six January contests, Granger is averaging 33.3 points, five boards, 4.2 assists, 2.8 three-pointers, 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks.
Make no bones about it, Granger's a fantasy monster. And if he continues his rapid ascension, Granger may challenge King James and CP3 for fantasy MVP.
Around the League
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again - unless they're extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level.
Eric Gordon (LAC) – The rookie shooting guard's game continues to mature as the season wears on. He's started 24 straight games and should be fixture with the first unit for the remainder of the season. His January averages of 22.5 points, 3.8 assists and 1.2 treys are slightly inflated due to the absence of Baron Davis (bruised tailbone), but he should be universally owned at this point.
Mardy Collins (LAC) – Speaking of Baron Davis, no player has seen a bigger bump from Davis' absence than Collins. Coach Mike Dunleavy handed the reins over to Collins, and he hasn't disappointed, averaging 15.8 points, 4.5 boards, 4.8 assists, 1.5 threes and two steals. His success will be short lived, but feel free to give him a look while Davis is sidelined.
David Lee (NYK) – The constant trade rumors that hover around Lee are baffling. Why would the Knicks trade the best player on their roster? He's only 25 and carries a cheap salary. Of course, fantasy owners don't have to worry about such matters; all we worry about are the stats that Lee racks up in coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense. In five games this month, Lee is averaging 16.3 points, 12.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals. It would be nice to see him improve on his shot blocking, but it's hard to complain about a player who has strung together eight straight double-doubles.
Von Wafer (HOU) – After being used sparingly the first two months of the season, Wafer has joined the Rockets starting lineup due to Tracy McGrady's nagging injuries. Wafer has been a solid source of points (14.5) and threes (two) when in the starting lineup and should warrant fantasy attention for as long as he sticks with the No. 1 unit.
Andrew Bynum (LAL) – An injury to Lamar Odom (more below) has flipped a switch inside Bynum, spurring him to production more in line with what owners were expecting when they used a high draft pick on the big man. In three Odom-less games, Bynum is averaging 20.7 points, 7.3 boards and 1.3 blocks. Bynum was riding the pine during crunch-time while Odom was healthy, but that has changed with the Lakers being shorthanded. Hopefully this recent surge convinces coach Phil Jackson to continue giving Bynum a heavier workload even after Odom returns.
Sebastian Telfair (MIN) – After Kevin Ollie suffered a dislocated left elbow, coach Kevin McHale gave Telfair another shot at starting. Telfair has made good on his coach's decision and is averaging 12 points and 8.3 assists in three starts. Most promotions at this point of the season are short-term fixes to fill a void left from an injured player, but Telfair has a chance to lock himself into the Timberwolves' first unit. At 23, he's still young enough to fulfill some of the promise that made him the first point guard drafted straight out of high school. Grab him if you need help at point guard.
Travis Outlaw (POR) – The surprise success of Outlaw last season as the Blazers' top reserve came after coach Nate McMillan slid him over to the power forward position. So it should have come as no surprise when Outlaw struggled out of the gate while playing small forward this year. McMillan has finally rectified the situation and moved Outlaw back to the four. He's responded with 33 points over two games.
Michael Beasley (MIA) – The disappointing second-overall selection may be starting to figure things out. Beasley is averaging 18 points and 6.8 boards in the past five games. It may be time to steal him from an unsatisfied owner.
Kirk Hinrich (CHI) – Reports have Hinrich targeting a return from a thumb injury later this week against the Cavs on Thursday or Spurs on Saturday. The Bulls' backcourt is crowded, but Hinrich could be a solid midseason addition for fantasy squads.
Richard Hamilton (DET) – Rip has missed eight consecutive games with a groin injury, but is expected to return Tuesday against the Bobcats. There have been whispers that he may come off the bench due to the Pistons recent success with a bigger lineup. Keep an eye on the situation, but Hamilton should still hold steady value as a scorer regardless of his role as a starter or sixth-man.
Elton Brand (PHI) – Brand (shoulder) is expected to resume practicing this week. He will likely need a full week of practice before rejoining the lineup. Now may be the last time you can buy-low on him before his owner wises up. Move fast.
Lamar Odom (LAL) – If being one of the biggest fantasy busts of the year wasn't enough to irk owners, Odom is now on the shelf with a bone bruise in his right knee. He's missed four games due to the injury and is considered day-to-day.
D.J. Augustine (CHA) – The Bobcats rookie guard suffered a strained abdominal muscle Saturday and is expected to miss the next 10 days. Whispers out of Charlotte are that the injury may actually be a sports hernia, so you may want to start looking at replacements.
Baron Davis (LAC) – There's nothing worse in fantasy than an injury-prone player. Davis went a long way to shedding that label last season when he played in all 82 games for the Warriors. It was the first season Davis played every game since his 2001-02 campaign in Charlotte. He's back to his old tricks, sitting six straight games with a bruised tailbone. Reports have him missing up to two more weeks, so the frustration doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon for Davis owners.
Josh Howard (DAL) - I feel for Dallas sports fans. Howard has essentially turned into the basketball equivalent of Terrell Owens, consistently shrouded with some sort of controversy. Now, Howard is sidelined with a sprained left wrist. He's up to 15 games missed due to injury this season. With an average of 16 missed games per season in his six-year career, Howard may warrant the same injury-prone label that players like McGrady, Davis, Marcus Camby or Jermaine O'Neal have carried most of their careers.
Luol Deng (CHI) – Deng has missed eight straight games with a sprained left ankle. Bulls fans have been disappointed with his play after signing a big contract this past offseason, and now his work ethic is being questioned after the injury wasn't originally considered serious. He's aiming at a return this week, but Deng clearly isn't the player Bulls fans or fantasy owners thought they had entering the season.
Mike Miller (MEM) – I've written about the struggles of Miller in the past, so I'll just let his stats do the talking: 5.8 points, 5.2 boards and two assists per in the past five games.
Article first appeared on 1/12/08