Welcome to Part Two of our ongoing series, “Trust in Fantasy Basketball: The Players You Can Safely Rely On, and Those Who May Ruin Your Life.” Last week, we discussed the Eastern Conference. This week, we dissect the West. Let’s begin, in alphabetical order as always, with…
Rajon Rondo – Broke out of a recent slump with 21 points on Tuesday. Overall with Dallas, he’s averaging 11.9 ppg, 0.8 3s (up from 8.3 ppg, 0.4 3s in Boston).
Tyson Chandler – 10.8 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg and a career-best 73.3 percent from the line.
Chandler Parsons – Easily the weakest of Dallas’ top five, and the drop in assists has been disappointing (4.0 last year, 2.3 this year), but at least he still provides 15.4 ppg, 2.0 3s.
With solid starters at all five positions, there’s no one in Dallas who clearly falls into this category. If only there was this much clarity everywhere.
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Ty Lawson – 17.0 ppg and a career-best 10.1 apg this season.
Kenneth Faried – Overall numbers are a disappointment (11.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 0.6 spg, 0.6 bpg), but he’s trending upward in a big way (14.9 ppg, 14.0 rpg, 0.7 spg, 0.9 bpg in his last 10 games).
Jusuf Nurkic – Since his playing time rose a couple weeks ago, he’s averaging 11.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.3 spg and 3.0 bpg in just 23 minutes per game. If he can creep closer to 30 minutes a game, Nurkic is primed to do some serious damage.
Wilson Chandler – Solid source of points (14.2), boards (6.0) and 3s (2.0), but his defensive stats stink: 0.6 spg, 0.4 bpg on the season; one steal total in his last eight games.
J.J. Hickson – Worth a close look while playing like this off the bench. Last four games: 14.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg in 27 minutes per game.
Arron Afflalo – He’s consistent in terms of points (15.4) and 3s (1.5), and has been hot lately (21.2 ppg in January), but overall I don’t like his stat line at all. When you look past the points and 3s, his 3.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg and 0.1 bpg is a whole lot of nothing.
Stephen Curry / Klay Thompson – I’ll admit, I thought Thompson’s blocks would have slowed down by now, but he has actually picked it up in that department (0.7 bpg through his first 19 games, 1.1 in his last 16).
On the Fence
Andrew Bogut – Rebounds (8.8), blocks (1.9) and even assists (2.8) are all helpful when he’s healthy, but when he’s healthy remains a major issue.
Harrison Barnes / David Lee – Barnes is wildly inconsistent, while Lee is doing decent things for deep league owners (10.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.7 spg, 0.9 bpg since returning from his injury), but he has no margin for error while averaging just 20 minutes a game during that stretch.
James Harden – I had Anthony Davis at the top of my draft boards heading into the season, but if re-drafting today, I would certainly consider Harden first overall. He’s averaging career-highs in points (a league-leading 27.0), boards (5.7), assists (6.8), steals (1.9), blocks (0.9) and 3s (2.6). And for the sake of full disclosure, turnovers: 4.0 per game.
Dwight Howard – For most players, 16.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 0.7 spg and 1.5 bpg looks pretty good. For Howard though, they’re his worst overall numbers since his second year in the league in 2005-06.
Trevor Ariza – 12.9 ppg, 2.0 spg and 2.4 3s are quite helpful if you can stomach 37.3 percent from the field.
Patrick Beverley – 11.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 spg and 2.4 3s is solid. Only problem is assists (just 3.2 apg).
On the Fence
Donatas Motiejunas – The points, steals, FG percentage and occasional trey are nice (13.7 ppg, 1.3 spg, 0.6 3s, 59.3 percent shooting in January), but with just 5.9 rpg and 0.2 bpg he’s not exactly a stout option in standard leagues.
Josh Smith – He is shooting slightly better in Houston (39.1 -> 42.1), but his points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks have all taken a notable hit with the move. Personally I’m not interested.
On the Fence
Jamal Crawford – Basically only gets points and 3s, but would get a notable boost if CP3 gets hurt.
J.J. Redick – Other than points (14.9) and 3s (2.5), his stat line is pretty appalling: 1.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.4 spg and 0.1 bpg. It’s not easy to combine for less than four rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Matt Barnes – Every year he puts together a handful of nice runs, and every year I ignore them. In almost 2.5 years as a Clipper, Barnes is averaging 10.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg and 1.5 3s. Don’t be fooled by his hot streaks – Barnes is deep league material only.
(Sort of) Trustworthy
Kobe Bryant – 22.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.6 3s looks great, but the shooting percentage (37.2) and missed games are a nightmare. Thursday’s career-high 17 assists presents a good chance to try to rid yourself of the headache.
Wes Johnson – He’s very limited, but at least he helps in three tough categories: 0.8 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.4 3s.
Jordan Hill – Starting to turn it around after a slump. Last six games: 15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.7 spg, 0.7 bpg.
Mike Conley / Marc Gasol – Gasol’s stat line isn’t spectacular in any one category, but across the board it’s pretty much flawless: 19.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.7 bpg (50.1 from the field, 80.4 from the line).
Zach Randolph – As always, he gets points (16.4), boards (11.7) and very little else (0.1 bpg on the season).
On the Fence
Courtney Lee – Given all the minutes he has gotten (32 per game), his stat line is really bland: 11.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.4 3s.
Jeff Green – I could see him approaching 13-15 ppg with Memphis, but there’s no longer much upside here at all.
Tony Allen – I won’t argue with trying to get a boost from his defensive stats right now (last 10 games: 2.7 spg, 0.8 bpg), but I wouldn’t consider him a long-term solution.
Andrew Wiggins – The No. 1 overall pick is starting to look more and more comfortable, and dynamic. Wiggins has scored 20 or more points nine times in his last 11 games, averaging 20.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.3 spg and 1.1 3s on 48.9 percent shooting during that stretch.
Gorgui Dieng – Nikola Pekovic’s return will complicate things, but Dieng is just playing way too well to take a major hit in playing time (last 11 games: 12.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.6 bpg). And even though Dieng will likely lose some of the 32 minutes he’s been averaging as a starter, at this rate he’d still be productive playing 25 minutes or so per game.
Ricky Rubio / Kevin Martin – I’m leaving these two in the trustworthy department because I think they’ll go right back to producing once they’re healthy / up to speed. I’d still buy low on either one if it’s an option.
On the Fence
Mo Williams – He’s been hit-or-miss all season even with Rubio out, but is obviously worth starting at the moment to see how long he can keep the current hot streak going (20-plus points in three of his last five, including a silly 52 points on Tuesday).
Thaddeus Young – It’s been a bad season so far, but it’s not like he’s producing nothing (last five games: 10.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.8 spg and 1.0 3s). Yes, he’s still shooting badly overall (36.7 percent in his last five), but we’re looking for signs of momentum here. And overall, I still wouldn’t rule out a bounce-back from Thaddeus in the second half of the season.
(Continue reading for a breakdown of the remaining seven teams in the West…)
Tyreke Evans – Only major blemish is the lack of 3s (last 10 games: 18.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.6 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg, 0.6 3s).
Ryan Anderson – Decisively lands in the points, 3s and very little else category.
On the Fence
Omer Asik – 9.9 rpg and 0.8 bpg are useful in deeper leagues, but overall his stat line is not exciting.
Eric Gordon – He’s posting fine numbers since he returned from his latest injury (13.2 ppg, 4.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.2 3s), but low upside and high injury risk is not a combo that interests me.
Russell Westbrook / Kevin Durant / Serge Ibaka – Encouraging sign: With 40 minutes on Thursday, Durant has now topped 40 minutes twice in his last six games – his first two times reaching the 40-minute mark this season. And during that stretch, he’s posting numbers that look a lot more like vintage Durant: 28.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.2 bpg and 3.3 3s. I won’t be surprised at all if he’s the most valuable fantasy player the rest of the way.
Goran Dragic / Eric Bledsoe / Markieff Morris – Morris is having a good season overall, but he’s done so without being a big-time difference-maker in any one category: 15.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.8 3s (49.1 FG / 80.8 FT).
Isaiah Thomas / Alex Len – In January (seven games), Len is averaging 8.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 0.6 spg and 3.0 bpg, with three games of five or more blocks so far this month.
Gerald Green – The nine-fingered man is certainly capable of going off on any given night, but at the moment he’s only a consideration in deeper leagues. Last 10 games: 12.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.5 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.7 3s in 20 minutes per game.
Damian Lillard / LaMarcus Aldridge – Lillard is averaging new career-highs in points (22.0), rebounds (4.7), assists (6.2), steals (1.4), 3s (2.8) and FG percentage (45.5). And he still hasn’t missed a single game in his career. Meanwhile, Aldridge has basically duplicated last year’s strong numbers, and added the intriguing wrinkle of the occasional trey (0.5 per game).
Wesley Matthews – All that needs to be said: 3.0 3s per game.
Nicolas Batum – He’s not explosive these days, but still providing solid value. Last nine games: 10.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.6 3s.
As is the case with the Mavs, all five starters on the Blazers are viable starters in fantasy leagues, so we can take a quick break from headaches before turning to…
Tim Duncan / Danny Green / Kawhi Leonard – Green’s full-scale breakout is showing no signs of slowing down, while Duncan, at age 38, is on pace to play in 70-plus games again this year after playing 74 last year. It’s always scary to think about him sitting out games during the stretch run, but with 15.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.0 spg and 2.0 bpg, overall I think he’s worth the risk.
Tony Parker / Manu Ginobili – Both are capable of going on productive runs, but injury and missed games have become tough to tolerate. If I had to pick one of them, I’d take Ginobili, who has at least been quite good when on the court (13.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.9 3s in his last 18 games). Meanwhile, I’m especially down on Parker, whose lack of steals and 3s makes it tough to justify the injury risk (14.8 ppg, 4.7 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.7 3s).
DeMarcus Cousins – Last nine games: 24.9 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 2.1 bpg and an amusing / atrocious 5.1 turnovers.
Rudy Gay – He’s still playing well, but in addition to being sidelined with a knee injury, it’s worth noting that his assists have tapered off now that Cousins is back. While Cousins was out: 5.7 apg. Since Cousins returned: 3.3 apg.
Darren Collison – This is where I admit that I underestimated him. I didn’t think he’d play this many minutes (35 per game), or offer this strong of a stat line: 16.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.7 spg and 1.3 3s – all career-highs.
On the Fence
Ben McLemore – I wouldn’t want to rely on him in standard leagues, but he’s beginning to shake off the notion that he’s a bust while also providing decent deep league value in points (11.7) and 3s (1.6).
Gordon Hayward – Career-highs in points (18.9) and 3s (1.6); FG percentage way up from last year too (41.3 -> 45.0).
Derrick Favors – Shaky free throws (67.5 percent) are the only blemish on a strong stat line: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 0.7 spg, 1.5 bpg.
Rudy Gobert – A beast in the making. Last 12 games: 8.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.1 spg, 3.3 bpg.
On the Fence
Trey Burke – He’s actually playing quite well lately (17.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.0 spg and 1.8 3s in his last nine games), but his FG percentage still terrifies me. It was only six games ago that he unleashed a 2-of-19 performance (including 0-of-11 on 3s).
Enes Kanter – Defensive limitations and the emergence of Gobert make him a deep league consideration only. Kanter is averaging 12.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.4 spg and 0.1 bpg in his last 10 games.