NBA's Early Season Fantasy Surprises

Haddon Anderson@HaddonAndersonAnalyst IFebruary 7, 2012

NBA's Early Season Fantasy Surprises

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    The NBA fantasy studs are obvious: Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, and other top-notch superstars. 

    But every year there are players who sneak up on us or simply perform at a level that wasn't anticipated.

    Here are twelve players whose stock has drastically increased by their impressive play out of the gate.

Paul George: Indiana Pacers

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    Paul George is a youngster with loads of potential, but not many figured him to be a prominent fantasy option this season. This was namely because he's not one of Indiana's primary weapons.

    But George is showing production in a handful of different ways. Besides contributing in points (12.2) and rebounds (5.5), he's also notching steals (1.4), blocks (0.7, which is high for a two-guard), and threes (1.8 per game).  

    He also possesses a respectable field goal percentage and a lofty 85.5 percent free throw percentage.

    George's fantasy production is revealed in his ability to contribute in so many different categories. While the 21-year-old's best years are ahead of him, he's revealing he already holds major fantasy value. 

Ryan Anderson: Orlando Magic

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    In previous years, Ryan Anderson only possessed value for his ability to hit threes.  

    Now, Anderson's revealing a much broader value.

    Not only is he continuing to splash threes (2.9 per game), he's also upped his averages considerably, with 17.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.  He's even snagging close to a steal per game as well.

    Plus, Anderson's stock could increase all the more if Dwight Howard exits Orlando.  This would likely give Anderson the opportunity to become the Magic's premier offensive threat.

    Anderson's a quality option in all formats and has been a pleasant surprise to those who've landed him.

Andre Miller: Denver Nuggets

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    Andre Miller is one of those players who seems to linger in the NBA for years upon years.  

    Prior to this season, not many envisioned the 35-year-old to be a reliable fantasy option with the Denver Nuggets.  

    But he's proven us all wrong.

    The main concern with him going to Denver was the fact that point guard Ty Lawson was being handed the reins to the team.  It appeared Miller would likely receive limited minutes and thus not be very useful as a fantasy player.

    But Coach George Karl often plays Lawson and Miller alongside one another.  Thus, Miller's receiving around 30 minutes a game, surely enough for him to hold fantasy worth.

    His numbers certainly aren't disappointing, with 10.7 PPG, 7.0 APG, and 1.3 steals per game.  

    Consider him a worthwhile option if he still remains on your league's free agent list.

Ricky Rubio: Minnesota Timberwolves

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    There was surely much anticipation concerning Ricky Rubio's arrival in the NBA, but not many foresaw him making this big of a splash.

    In most leagues, Rubio was most likely not among the top ten point guards taken, but his fantasy value is now undoubtedly that of a top ten point guard, perhaps even top five.

    Rubio's racking up the dimes at 8.9 per game while also pouring in 11.4 PPG.  He's also one of the league's best thieves, stealing 2.3 an outing.

    He should be owned in all formats and has worthily vaulted himself into a top-notch fantasy option for years to come.

Greg Monroe: Detroit Pistons

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    Greg Monroe has maybe been the most pleasant fantasy surprise in this young season.

    Monroe impressed last season as a rookie, averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG.  Those numbers were expected to increase this year, especially since he plays for the lowly Pistons, but they've increased emphatically.

    He's pouring in 16.3 PPG (on 52 percent shooting) and 9.9 RPG, and his value goes way beyond these numbers.

    Last season, Monroe shot a subpar 62 percent from the charity stripe.  This year, he's at 82 percent.  That's a significant increase, especially for a big man.

    Add onto these numbers his 1.5 steals per outing and Monroe has suddenly become a top-tier fantasy threat.  

    His owners having nothing to gripe about, that's for sure.

Al Harrington: Denver Nuggets

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    Al Harrington's always been known as a free-firing big man.  He'll have his 30-point explosions, but he also has his dud evenings (i.e. 2-10 FG, 5 points, 3 rebounds). 

    This year, we've actually witnessed some consistency.  Harrington is averaging an efficient 15 PPG (on 50 percent shooting), close to six RPG, 1.6 threes a game, and over a steal per outing.

    What's uncharacteristic about Harrington's performance thus far is his field goal percentage.  He's a career 45 percent shooter from the field, including 42 percent last season, but this year's been different.

    Harrington's been a pleasant surprise in the first one-third of the season, but is it only a matter of time before his lofty percentage crumbles and dud-nights become more of a commonality?

    I'll let you be the judge on that.

Kyle Lowry: Houston Rockets

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    Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry isn't a major surprise because he raised eyebrows last year, but he's nonetheless upped his numbers again this year.

    He's produces across the board: 14.6 PPG, 8.1 APG, 6.1 RPG, 2.0 SPG, and 1.5 threes per outing.  That's a dandy dose of production.

    The downsides are his dismal shooting percentage (39 percent) and excessive turnovers (3.1 per game).

    Still, Lowry has raised his numbers to an elite level, and his positives most definitely outweigh his negatives.

Marc Gasol: Memphis Grizzlies

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    In the past couple seasons, Marc Gasol has proven to be a solid fantasy weapon.  This year, he's proving to be a top-flight big man.

    Now, it must be said that Gasol's numbers (14.8 PPG, 10.3 RPG, and 2.2 BPG) are a bit inflated because of the injury to Zach Randolph.  Randolph's injury has given Gasol complete ownership of the Grizzlies low post.

    But no matter what, Gasol's numbers are admirable and his game always appears to be developing.

    Don't expect his numbers to suffer too heavily once Randolph returns in the next few weeks.

Jeff Teague: Atlanta Hawks

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    Many anticipated Atlanta guard Jeff Teague to become a fantasy option this season, but not many expected him to become more than a reliable source of production.

    Teague's averaging close to 13 PPG (on 49 percent shooting), over five assists an outing, and close to two steals a game.  

    He's efficient and contributes in numerous categories.

    While not being in the likes of elite point guards (Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook), he's a worthy fantasy option if one desires a stellar all-around floor general.

Luol Deng: Chicago Bulls

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    While Luol Deng has missed some games due to a wrist injury, he's still revealed how valuable he is both to the Bulls and to his fantasy owners.

    Deng averages around 38 minutes a game, which is plenty of time for him to rack up numbers.  He's currently notching over 16 PPG and 7 RPG, while also contributing 1.2 SPG and nearly a block per outing.  

    Add onto that his long range ball, which he's knocking in once per game.

    Deng has never really been considered a premier fantasy player, but his respective contributions across the board warrant his name in the top category of small forwards.

    While Deng may not be flashy, he continues to surprise us with his ability to impact games in so many ways. 

Tony Parker: San Antonio Spurs

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    It feels like Tony Parker is 37 years old and his fantasy value should be on a sharp decline.  But he's still just 29 and is actually piecing together one of his best statistical years.

    Parker's averaging a career high in assists (7.7) while also notching over 18 points an outing.  

    Parker is an easy player to overlook.  He, like Deng, is not super flashy and isn't nearly as desirable as other point guards.  But his effectiveness is undeniable.  

    Truthfully, his production shouldn't catch us greatly off guard and we should continue to witness steady production from him in the coming years.

Kyrie Irving: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Kyrie Irving was the number one pick, so production is inevitably expected.    

    What has been surprising about Irving's production is his remarkable field goal percentage (50 percent).  This is distinctly rare for a rookie.  

    Usually, stud rookies find a way to contribute, but they come with downsides.  With Irving, there are no alarming downsides.

    Irving's numbers are potent, over 18 PPG and 5 APG.  He's also cashing in consistently from long range (1.1 threes per outing). 

    Irving holds the future in Cleveland, but he's already giving his fantasy owners reasons to be thrilled.

    There are surely other legitimate fantasy surprises, but these contributors have displayed their value in impressively consistent ways.  

    Let's see if they can keep up their hot starts for the remainder of the season.