After three full months of NBA basketball, we are past the half way point. All-star teams have been named. Trades have been made while rumors continue to circulate of more to come.
For those of us who wake up every day to check our fantasy teams, change our lineups over and over throughout the day, and waste countless hours going over potential trades, this is for you.
The fantasy NBA season has had its share of surprises from the emergence of 20-year- old Andrew Bynum, to the untimely injury of stud point guard Gilbert Arenas.
For each surprise, however, there were an equal number of the same players putting up their same solid numbers (see Shawn Marion).
In this article, we will break down the performance of players whose numbers have so far exceeded expectations this season. This means you will see no Shawn Marion, no Steve Nash, and no Kobe Bryant. This space will be reserved for the keys that have brought success to many fantasy teams thus far.
11. Caron Butler - SF - Washington Wizards
I initially planned on making a top ten list, but I could not bring myself to the point of leaving Butler off any list of breakout fantasy players. Although Butler was an All-Star in 2007, and was highly regarded coming into the '07-'08 season, no one could have expected the year Butler has produced. In the absence of Gilbert Arenas, Caron has improved on last season's average at every statistical category aside from rebounding. His 22 points on 48% shooting while going 92% from the line are enough to carry your small forward position offensively, while his 2.4 steals per contest are among the league's best.
10. Baron Davis - PG - Golden State Warriors
Like Butler, Baron Davis is a previous All-Star who has come into his own in Don
Nelson's wide open style of play. Despite being taken third or fourth round in most 10 man leagues, Davis has been able to raise his points per game to over 22 a night. All while maintaining his eight assist and position leading 4.8 rebounds. While his shooting percentages still remain slightly below average, Davis has shown improvement with the Warriors while allowing his other categories to overshadow his fantasy game shortcomings.
9. Danny Granger - SF,PF - Indiana Pacers
Early on in the season, I thought of Danny Granger's game strongly resembling that of Jazz star Andrei Kirlenko. As the season has progressed, Granger has proven he is developing his own game. Although he is playing nearly the same amount of minutes as last season, Jim O'Brien's fast paced offense has allowed Granger to flourish. Granger averages 18 points and six rebounds on solid shooting, while being one of the few players to boast more than a block, steal and three a game.
8. Brad Miller - C - Sacramento Kings
Miller's resurgence in the 07-08 campaign has proven at least one thing - White centers should never experiment with corn rows. - Once a star on Rick Adelman's shoot-em-up Kings team, Miller seemingly disappeared last year while missing 19 games all while his numbers regressed across the board. This season however, Miller has averaged a career high in rebounds and blocks all while adding 15 points and and impressive four assists and .5 threes per game from the center positions. While Miller doesn't receive the attention he used to, his numbers prove he is much more deserving than the late round pick he received in most fantasy drafts.
7. David West - PF - New Orleans Hornets
Despite being thought of as overrated coming out of Xavier, too small to play the power forward while to slow to be an effective three, David West has used his minutes to develop his own dominant style of play fitting of his first All-Star selection. West has been a monster in the post for a surprising Hornets team. Complimenting defensive stud Tyson Chandler, West's numbers flirt with the 20-10 level while boasting over a block a game. Numbers like those far exceed the sixth to eighth round draft position he earned pre-season.
6. Chris Kaman - C - Los Angeles Clippers
As if my theory on the White Center's haircut needed any more support, Kaman shed his Geico Caveman look this offseason, and his game subsequently emerged for its dormant state. Since shedding the locks, Kaman has averaged seven more points, six more rebounds, and nearly doubled his blocked shots. Considering the first or second round pick that most owners spent on studs like Stoudemire, Yao, Camby and Bosh, the late round pick spent on Chris Kaman provided much greater value for competing statistics.
5. Andrew Bynum - C - Los Angeles Lakers
Simply put, the 20-year-old Bynum has flat out silenced his critics in his breakout
season for the Lakers. Despite grumblings from Kobe Bryant early on, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak proved his worth, sticking to his guns and hanging on to Bynum. Before his recent injury, Bynum has averaged a double-double with over two blocks a night, all before reaching the legal drinking age. After Friday's trade to land Pau Gasol it will be interesting to see if Bynum can come back from injury to continue to lead the Lakers through the Western Conference Playoffs
4. Rudy Gay - SG,SF - Memphis Grizzlies
Coming out of Connecticut, Rudy Gay intensity and desire and character were in question as he transitioned into the NBA. In his second year, Rudy has shown flashes that suggest he is likely to be an All-Star for years to come. Aside from the publicity surrounding his upcoming dunk contest appearance, Gay has earned his accolades on the court, averaging 20 points and six rebounds with two threes, a steal and a block. These numbers out perform stars at the positions such as Paul Pierce, Michael Redd, and Rashard Lewis.
3. Mike Dunleavy Jr. - SG,SF - Indiana Pacers
Remember back to 2002...Third Overall Pick...The Golden State Warriors select a typical Duke Blue Devil shooter? Since then, Dunleavy was flirting with the edge of bust status. Since being shipped from the Warriors however, Dunleavy has thrived in the system, helped along by Jermaine O'Neal, Granger and Jamaal Tinsley. Despite launching over four three-pointers a contest, Dunleavy's FG% has held around 50% for the season while averaging career highs in points, rebounds and assists.
2. Hedo Turkoglu - SG,SF - Orlando Magic
Along with Brad Miller, a key member of the Sacramento teams that never quite made it over the hump. Turkoglu since has been Orlando's resident sharpshooter. The addition of Rashard Lewis in the offseason and Dwight Howard commanding a constant double team, has opened lanes for Turkoglu as he has assumed his strong offensive role for the Magic. His fall-away three to beat the Celtics proves he is comfortable taking big shots at any stage of the game, while career highs in rebounds assists and steals just sweeten the pot for fantasy owners
1. Jose Calderon - PG - Toronto Raptors
Preseason I saw Calderon as one of the most underrated players in the league. In November, I knew he was the best backup point guard in the league. By January, he is no longer hidden in obscurity to the north. Since TJ Ford's untimely injury, Calderon has come on as a point guard deserving of being listed in the same class as the top pure point guards in the league. Since obtaining the starting job, Calderon has averaged 15 on an unbelievable 55% from the floor and over 90% from the line. Couple that with 10 assists and two steals per contest, Calderon's name is propelled among the NBA's elite, and should be a hot commodity in free agency this offseason.
Honorable Mention goes out to young players coming into their own this season, such as the Warriors Andris Biedrins, Andrew Bogut of the Bucks, and Utah's Ronnie Brewer. Season veterans such as Grant Hill have returned to prominence. However, as with any top ten list number 11 will always miss out.
With any luck, and savvy drafting, you have at least one of these players on your fantasy roster, and by keeping your eyes on the latest emerging players, hopefully you can find your steals of the second half to key a championship.
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