Being a huge fantasy buff, it’s always fun to look back at the draft recap and see who in your league made great picks and who is going to suffer all year for their mistakes.
Since the season is 25-to-29 games in, it is time to see who made the great picks and who is still left scratching their head.
Now, I’m going to give a disclaimer before you continue to read this—Brook Lopez appears on my “Losers” list. That does not mean I would not love to have Lopez on my team. Lopez can be a fantasy superstar, but with his recent play, it is a disappointment to say the least.
Once again, for the players on my “Winners” list, it does not mean I would be drafting these guys in the first round if I had to go back and do it all over. It means these guys have been great so far and surpassed their preseason draft position if you were to re-rank your players.
The players on this list are also ones you should consider in a buy low/sell high trade scenario in your league.
Early Round Winners
Raymond Felton: Like point guards commonly do, Felton is having a monster year under Mike D’Antoni in New York. Many preseason experts were skeptical that Felton would be able to handle the reigns of this run and gun offense.
The last two years in Charlotte, Felton averaged 13.1 points and 6.2 assists per game. Put that statistic next to Felton's numbers this year of 18.4 points and nine dimes a game and you have a rejuvenated player going on his sixth year in the NBA.
Not only has Felton enjoyed success under D’Antoni, he has helped Amare Stoudemire show the league what a tremendous force he really is.
Hold on to Felton in your league. These numbers seem to be staying put in D’Antoni’s system.
Kevin Love: After a frustrating sophomore season when Love showed promise in glimpses of playing time, Love has proved this year who he really is.
Love finished last year with a stat line that looks just fine on the outside, with 14 points and 11 boards a game.
The alarming stat is that Love did all of this in just 28.6 minutes per game! Love and Rambis had problems last year that made Love’s minutes so inconsistent and frustrating to fantasy owners (like me).
After an offseason of figuring out how they can co-exist, Love has received the minutes he deserves and easily makes the most of them. Love averages almost 21 points per game and leads the league with 15.5 boards a game.
I fully expect this trend to continue (and possibly grow), as Love just put up 43 points and 17 boards a few games ago.
Luis Scola: Scola has quietly been a force under the bucket for the Rockets this season.
Raising all of his season averages from last season and taking a more assertive role on the offensive end has cemented Scola in the rotation. Scola is averaging 20.2 points, 8.9 boards, 2.3 assists and .8 blocks a game.
All of those stats are career highs for Scola. With virtually no competition at the power forward position to steal minutes from him, I fully expect these numbers to continue all year.
Not to mention, probably the most injury prone player in this decade (outside of Greg Oden), Yao Ming, had another season-ending injury which means more touches and opportunities.
Elton Brand: Wow. The fantasy player that has frustrated many for years has finally shown glimpses of who he used to be.
Brands numbers had been on the decline for the past five years and owners had given up on him as a fantasy asset. He is now posting a solid 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game for the Doug Collins-led Sixers.
While Brand has looked like a refreshed guy this year, it’s hard for me to say I can see him putting up these numbers all year.
This is Brand's 12th year in the league and with the Sixers all but out of the playoffs, it will be tough for Brand to keep rebounding at the rate he is.
Late Round Winners
Dorrell Wright: Seven years later, Wright is the guy the Heat drafted him to be out of high school.
Benefiting tremendously from a change of scenery, Wright is experiencing career highs in virtually every category. Wright is averaging 15 points, three assists, six boards, 1.3 steals and .9 blocks a game this season.
On top of that, he has been a serious threat from three-point range, shooting a shade under 40 percent, all in 39 minutes per game.
He has started all 26 games this year for the Warriors and is in no danger to lose his spot scoring the way he has.
DJ Augustin: After sitting on the bench behind another “Winner” for two years, Augustin has taken over point guard duties for Michael Jordan's (oh yeah, and Larry Brown's) Bobcats.
Playing efficiently but not spectacularly, Augustin averages 12.8 points, 6.2 assists and 3.3 boards a game for the struggling Bobcats.
For a guy that went undrafted in the majority of fantasy leagues, this is more than enough to ask of from a “waiver wire” type of guy.
I expect Augustin to get more comfortable receiving 35 minutes a game and start to take on a bigger part of the offensive load, making him an intriguing fantasy player.
Early Round Losers
Brook Lopez: Now before everyone freaks out and thinks of Brook Lopez as a “loser,” just know that he is not. It’s just that after a stellar sophomore year in which he showed tremendous upside, averaging 18.8 points, 8.7 boards and 1.7 blocks a game, he has seemed to take a step back.
His points per game average has rose by .3, all while his field-goal percentage has suffered a drop from 49 percent to 44 percent.
His rebounds per game are down nearly 2.5 a game and Avery Johnson has already benched him this year for his lack of hustle.
Unless Lopez can pick up the rebounding, expect him to be in Johnson's dog house the rest of the year, which is not a good place to be—ask Troy Murphy.
Brandon Roy: Early in the season, Roy was experiencing knee problems and doctors figured out very quickly that Roy had zero meniscus left in his knee—that’s right, no meniscus in his knee.
For a sport that requires tons of running and jumping, there can’t be a bigger blow to a fantasy team or in Brandon’s case, his career.
When Roy does play, he does it pretty efficiently, scoring 16.6 points, three boards and three assists per game. Unfortunately, Brandon was averaging over 20 points a game for the last two years, making this a major letdown.
Roy is now sitting out games on a regular basis and this will most likely be the case the rest of the year.
Darren Collison: Collison could not be much more of a letdown at this point.
Last year in 37 starts for the Hornets, Collison put up 18.8 points, 9.1 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Those numbers justify amazing promise out of a rookie guard that got passed on by many teams in the draft.
This year all those teams look smart for letting him drop.
He can’t figure out how to run Jim O’Brien’s system and has struggled terribly. He averages 13.4 points and four assists a game this year. Collison has been taken out of games on a somewhat regular basis in favor of the veteran TJ Ford.
Unless Collison can figure it out soon, it will be a very frustrating year for the owners who took a chance on the point guard that looked spectacular last year in place of Chris Paul.
Trevor Ariza: Ugh. This year has been nothing but frustration for a player who has shown so much promise over the past two years.
Ariza was a huge piece of the 2008 Lakers that won it all. He drained open threes, played suffocating defense and facilitated the ball around at will when the Lakers needed him most.
He followed that up with a solid all-around year on the Rockets by posting 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, nearly four assists and just under two steals a game. Those numbers justify the type of player that Ariza is, an all-around stat stuffer.
This year he has been the model of inconsistency and, playing next to Chris Paul, fantasy owners can’t be much more confused. Ariza has been so on-and-off this year, I expect him to continue to be inconsistent and frustrate fantasy owners all year long.
OJ Mayo: As a regular “go-to" scorer, Mayo’s production has always been tied to how many minutes he gets to jack up as many shots as he can.
Since Mayo was reduced to a bench role a couple weeks ago, his fantasy value is at an all-time low. He is down nearly nine minutes and five points a game from last year.
For a guy that basically only scores, this is about rock bottom. Rookie Xavier Henry was inserted in his place to provide a Shane Battier-esque presence to the lineup, and he has done a decent job.
With Mayo stuck on the bench, his value is very low, but if the Grizzlies become a little more serious about contending for a playoff spot this year, expect to see Mayo back in the lineup seeing 35-plus minutes a game.
Mayo is a great buy-low option in my opinion.
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