Through the first four weeks of the season, arguably the most entertaining player in the league has been the Timberwolves' dynamic rookie point guard, Ricky Rubio. He's turned the Wolves from perennial laughing stock to must watch, and he's made life easier for all of his teammates with his deft passing and impressive court vision.
But this column isn't about Ricky Rubio. You already know what a fine season he's having, and you're almost certain to be starting him at this point. What you may not know is that his fellow backcourt mate Luke Ridnour is having the best season of his career and has been getting better as the weeks have gone by. Ridnour has transitioned nicely to working off the ball and his recent work makes him our Start of the Week for Week 5 (Jan. 23-29).
Ridnour has transformed into one of the league's best overall shooters, as Rubio has found him for plenty of wide open looks as defenses focus on his playmaking abilities. After Ridnour's season-high 25-point performance last Monday, Rubio said "I never see him missing a jump shot. I don't know (what) his field goal percentage is, but it should be more than 70 percent or something like that all season." Rubio's a little bit off, but not by too much; Ridnour is currently topping 50 percent shooting on the year with a 38 percent mark from three-point range.
Over the last two weeks, Ridnour has been the 35th best guard in Fantasy scoring, but is currently started in just 29 percent of leagues. He's certainly not a Fantasy stud, or anything of the sort, but with four games on the schedule -- two against below average defensive teams, Houston and San Antonio -- Ridnour makes a good option for the week as he continues to thrive in the Wolves' offense.
Mario Chalmers, Heat (CLE, @DET, NY, CHI): The subject of much criticism as the Big 3's distributor, there seems to be a stigma surrounding Chalmers. He ranks 34th among all guards in Fantasy scoring this season, yet he is started in just 39 percent of leagues right now. What gives? The guy is shooting lights out, taking advantage of the attention drawn by Miami's stars. He is making more than half of the shots he's attempted from the field and his hitting 42.9 percent of his three pointers. To add on to those stellar numbers, he is one of the best thiefs in the league, getting 1.7 steals per game while adding 4.4 assists. He's got a few good matchups and one tough one, but Chalmers deserves to be starting at this point against most of the teams he faces.
Evan Turner, 76ers (WAS, NJ, CHA, DET): The No. 2 overall pick from the 2010 NBA Draft had a very disappointing rookie season, struggling to find a role in a suddenly crowded Sixers' backcourt. The backcourt is no less crowded this season, but Turner is forcing his way in with his recent strong play. And with a Week 5 schedule that includes three of the NBA's six worst defenses, he may have to force his way into your starting lineup. Turner has been the second best rebounding guard per game in the NBA this season at 6.4 per game, and he's starting to up his scoring to go with it, as he's put up 12.5 points per game on 45.2 percent shooting over his last five games. With such a week schedule, feel free to get him in as the Sixers continue to run past everyone they face.
Sleeper Alert: Anthony Morrow, Nets (@CHI, @PHI, @CLE, TOR): Morrow is as good of a shooter as there is in the NBA, especially from three-point range. He is mere percentage points behind Steve Kerr for the all-time lead in three-point field goal percentage, and if he hadn't started the year 3 of 13 from there in his first three games, he'd probably have that record. Since that start, he's found his stroke and made 46 percent of his attempts. He has more value in Rotisserie formats if you need help with three-pointers, but he's actually also averaging 14.3 points per game over the last two scoring periods, making him a useful option overall as well.
Devin Harris, Jazz (TOR, @DAL, SAC): There may not be a more disappointing guard in Fantasy this season, at least among those who have their health. Harris was selected as the 21st guard on average in CBSSports.com leagues, and 51st overall. So far this season he has been the 45th best guard in Fantasy scoring and has fallen all the way to 117th in overall scoring. Fantasy owners thought they were getting a No. 2 guard; they got a guy who is another week or two of terrible play from not being worth a roster spot. He's still a decent source of assists, but he's actually seen his minutes take a big hit because of his dreadful scoring, as he's putting up 8.1 points on a 35.0 shooting percent on the season. When you add that he's only playing three times this week, he's a guy you should definitely not rely on.
James Harden, Thunder (DET, NO, @GS): Harden has likely got the Sixth Man of the Year award wrapped up and it's only the fourth week of January. For a while there it seemed like his Fantasy value was starting to match his real-life value, as he started the season with a handful of huge games that seemed to represent his coming out party as a multi-category stud. However, over his past five games, the third-year guard has seen his averages fall to 13.2 points, 2.0 assists and 2.4 rebounds as he's shooting just 39.1 percent from the field as well. Without a favorable schedule, Harden can't be a recommended Fantasy option for Week 5.
Bust Alert: Marcus Thornton, Kings (@POR, DEN, @UTA): Thornton stands as one of the lone bright spots in Sacramento, leading the Kings in scoring with 17.6 points per game, and he's been a viable low-end No. 3 Fantasy guard as a result. However he's been unable to sustain the scoring efficiency he found in his final 27 games with the Kings last season, and he's shooting just 40.0 percent from the field. While that's actually above-average for the team (which shoots 39.4 overall), he's still hurting Fantasy owners with his shooting. With a three-game schedule set for Week 5, Fantasy owners should look to other options if they can as he may disappoint with his overall numbers.
Tayshaun Prince, Pistons (@OKC, MIA, ATL, @PHI): Detroit faces a whole bunch of tough defenses this week, but Prince is starting to get his groove back here in his age-31 season. He started the season with dreadful production, but over his last five games he is scoring 18.6 points per game with five straight double-figure performances. He's no longer the example of all-around Fantasy excellence he once was, but at least he's starting to score again, a good sign for him moving forward. Despite the tough matchups, you can ride with him while he's hot.
Ed Davis, Raptors (@PHO, @UTA, @DEN, @NJ): I was a big fan of Davis coming into the season as a sleeper pick because he put together a very nice rookie season and looked like he could take a step towards averaging a double-double. He has definitely disappointed this season but is starting to play better with the absence of Andrea Bargnani. While Bargnani may be back by the start of Week 5, Davis brings another skill set that the Raptors can still rely on now that he seems to have found his way. He has three double-digit rebounding efforts in his last five games and is averaging 9.0 rebounds in that span. He should be able to maintain his useful rebounding numbers and he won't keep shooting below 50 percent from the field for long, especially not when he faces three of the nine worst defenses in the NBA this week.
Sleeper Alert: Jason Smith, Hornets (SA, @OKC, ORL, ATL): The Hornets have recently moved Smith into the starting lineup after coach Monty Williams expressed disappointment with the effort of Chris Kaman and Carl Landry. The seven-footer has responded with two double-digit scoring games in a row, and is averaging 12 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game over his last four, including a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double that earned him the starting spot. Smith has never averaged more than 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in his career but he's gotten on Williams' good side in the early going this season and could be a useful low-end option this week.
J.J. Hickson, Kings (@POR, DEN, @UTA): Hickson has shown he can be a useful Fantasy player. Last year, the Cavaliers put much of their offensive load on his shoulders and he responded with a wholly respectable season; he's not a go-to scorer, but he has enough skill to reach those same numbers he had as a Cavalier. However, the dysfunctional Kings offense has hit him hard, as he's making just 37.0 percent of his shots en route to a 6.9 per game scoring average. With matchups on the way against the tough Portland and Utah front courts, Week 5 does not look like a good time for Hickson to turn his season around.
Caron Butler, Clippers (@LAL, MEM, @DEN): Butler has managed to keep his scoring respectable despite being the fourth option at best in the Clippers' offense. He's that kind of guy; he doesn't need to be the center of attention to score and he's willing to wait for his chances. Still, while his scoring has been solid at 14.8 points per game, he's struggled with his shot and now he's struggling with a knee issue. While it isn't likely to keep him out for many games, it should cost him some of his minutes, which coupled with his shooting struggles might mean his production could bottom out this week.
Bust Alert: Danilo Gallinari, Nuggets (@SAC, TOR, LAC): Gallinari hasn't shot the ball well from three-point range this season, but other than that he's been better than he was last year. He's shooting better overall, rebounding more, and has become a playmaker for the Nuggets, stepping up to a career-high 2.7 assists per game. However, Gallinari has also been very streaky this year, shooting below 50 percent from the field in nine of his 16 games this season. He only plays three times this week, so if he puts up a poor shooting night in one of them, it could hurt you more than normal. While he's having his best season, this might not be the worst week to sit him if you have to.
Ian Mahinmi, Mavericks (PHO, MIN, UTA, SA): Mahimni has stepped up his play in his fourth season in the league, giving the Mavericks a solid backup center. He's actually outperforming Brendan Haywood at this point, though he is unlikely to earn a starting spot with Haywood's massive contract. Despite that, he's putting up pretty solid numbers right now, including five double-digit scoring games and 8.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game on the season. He'd be a better option if he was getting more than 20 minutes per game, but with a four-game schedule and an expanding role in the offense that has seen him vault into the top-30 in scoring for Fantasy centers over the last two weeks, you could do worse. With some key injuries to centers around the league, Mahinmi could be a solid choice as a No. 2.
Sleeper Alert: Josh Harrellson, Knicks (@CHA, @CLE, @MIA, @HOU): Three of the Knicks' four opponents in Week 5 are in the bottom eight in the league in points allowed, while two also rank in the bottom 10 in three point field goal percentage allowed. That bodes well for the rookie they call "Jorts", who has caught fire from three-point range in recent games, making 11 in his last six contests. He's an unconventional center and he's limited to a backup role, but with the Knicks' offensive struggles recently, Harrellson has been getting more and more playing time. Over the last two weeks, he's been a borderline low-end No. 2 Fantasy center.
Chris Kaman, Hornets (SA, @OKC, ORL, ATL): Chris Kaman is down here as a sit because Jason Smith is up there as a start. It's pretty simple; Kaman has been almost totally ineffective for most of the year, and his effort has been trending down as well. He's totally bottomed out over the last five games, as he has made just 13 of 41 shots in that time span and has been benched. The former All Star is looking less and less like he'll ever return to that form after a myriad of injuries. He was just a borderline option before getting benched, but his season has totally snowballed in the wrong direction.
Bust Alert: DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (@LAL, MEM, @DEN): Jordan just put up 19 points last Wednesday; he followed it up with a two-point performance on Friday. Therein is the problem with relying on Jordan. He's a terribly inconsistent scorer who relies almost exclusively on being set up for easy baskets inside or put backs. When he's getting scoring at least moderately well, he's wholly useful. However, against two strong front courts this week, Jordan may find points tough to come by. He's a No. 2 Fantasy center most of the time, but this week he might find it difficult to give his normal production.