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Courtside Seat: Time to look ahead

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The regular season is near an end for Fantasy Basketball owners, but it's never too early to look ahead. With that in mind, here is a glimpse at some early rankings for the 2012-13 season.

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One significant difference for Fantasy owners next year, barring some lineup changes down the stretch, will be several prominent players losing center eligibility. Forwards Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee and Amar'e Stoudemire, all centers this season, have not played enough games to qualify for the position next year.

To put that in perspective, in CBSSports.com leagues we are losing three of the top seven centers in total points, head to head leagues with Gasol (No. 2), Aldridge (No. 3) and Lee (No. 7). Stoudemire is No. 15, but part of his low ranking is that he's only played in 33 games.

The rankings below are geared toward head-to-head leagues, but you can also use them as a guide for category-based formats as well.

Top 5 guards

No. 1 Derrick Rose, Bulls
No. 2 Chris Paul, Clippers
No. 3 Dwyane Wade, Heat
No. 4 Deron Williams, Nets
No. 5 Russell Westbrook, Thunder

The guard spot will probably be the most debated position on Draft Day because any of these guards could be considered No. 1, but Rose's all-around game gives him the nod. It was difficult keeping Kobe Bryant out of the Top 5, but he is No. 6 and should still be considered a first-round selection next season even though he'll be older and likely more banged up. Williams' Fantasy value could change slightly depending on if he leaves New Jersey next season as a free agent or gets Dwight Howard to join him. But we don't expect Williams to suffer enough to fall out of the Top 5.

Top 5 forwards

No. 1 LeBron James, Heat
No. 2 Kevin Durant, Thunder
No. 3 Kevin Love, Timberwolves
No. 4 Blake Griffin, Clippers
No. 5 LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers

The Top 3 forwards will be the Top 3 overall selections in any format, and Love has turned into an elite Fantasy option this season with his scoring, rebounding and 3-point shooting. He's just a slight notch below James and Durant. Griffin is a lock at the No. 4 spot, and his value would rise if his shooting percentages were better. But after the Top 4 there will likely be plenty of argument about the No. 5 forward. I like Aldridge based on his all-around game and I expect him to keep developing. But you could easily take Gasol, Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki or even Josh Smith in this spot depending on your league.

Top 5 centers

No. 1 Dwight Howard, Magic
No. 2 Greg Monroe, Pistons
No. 3 Al Jefferson, Jazz
No. 4 Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
No. 5 Andrew Bynum, Lakers

Fantasy owners could find it tough next year in leagues where you start two centers because the loss of Pau Gasol, Aldridge, Lee and Stoudemire will hurt. We have plenty of promising young centers in DeMarcus Cousins, Joakim Noah, Marcin Gortat, Roy Hibbert and JaVale McGee, but the center spot is now watered down with a lack of talent. As for the Top 5 centers, there will be debate about the list after Howard. I love Monroe's upside and Jefferson is solid. Bynum has been great but injury concerns will always follow him. And Marc Gasol is a stud this season, but the healthy return of Zach Randolph (knee) will lower his stock.

Top 12 overall

No. 1 LeBron James, Heat
No. 2 Kevin Durant, Thunder
No. 3 Kevin Love, Timberwolves
No. 4 Dwight Howard, Magic
No. 5 Derrick Rose, Bulls
No. 6 Chris Paul, Clippers
No. 7 Dwyane Wade, Heat
No. 8 Blake Griffin, Clippers
No. 9 Deron Williams, Nets
No. 10 Russell Westbrook, Thunder
No. 11 Kobe Bryant, Lakers
No. 12 LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers

Howard's value shouldn't change if he leaves the Magic as expected. He will remain the No. 1 center in all leagues and a Top 5 overall selection in head-to-head formats. Griffin could fall past Williams and Westbrook, but the Top 5 guards will all be drafted in the Top 10. After that, Bryant deserves consideration as a first-round pick because his scoring is difficult to match. If his shot selection would improve then his value would be even higher in category-based leagues. Aldridge gets the nod at the No. 12 spot but this position will likely feature plenty of other options with Pau Gasol, Nowitzki or maybe even another guard like Kyle Lowry.

Each week we will take a look at a variety of topics around the NBA. We will look at guys to trade, trade for, add off the waiver wire and also answer some of your social media questions, among other things. It's our CBSSports.com potpourri look at Fantasy Basketball.

Trade rumors

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday and we could see several prominent players on the move. Howard, Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis and Steve Nash are some of the popular names being discussed. But some of the smaller trades could affect Fantasy owners more with guys like Stephen Jackson, Chris Kaman and Ramon Sessions.

Another potential trade could involve Jamal Crawford, and we'd like to see him leave Portland. Raymond Felton is back as the starter, which could be a showcase move for him, but Crawford could be great if he was traded to the Clippers or Timberwolves.

One potential trade rumor has Minnesota sending Luke Ridnour to Portland for Crawford. That would give the Timberwolves a great scoring option with Love and Ricky Rubio, and the Trail Blazers would then have a natural backup point guard in Ridnour behind Felton.

It will be an exciting week for Fantasy owners so stay tuned. And be ready to pounce on a player if he's traded to a situation where his value could improve.

Guys on the rise

Here is a look at the five players who have improved their performance over the past seven days. We want to let you know if they can keep it up at this level.

Ty Lawson, PG, Nuggets
Key stats for the past seven days: 19.5 points, 11.3 assists, 7.0 rebounds

Antawn Jamison, PF, Cavs
Key stats for the past seven days: 26.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists

Paul Pierce, SF, Celtics
Key stats for the past seven days: 26.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, eight 3-pointers

Ersan Ilyasova, PF, Bucks
Key stats for the past seven days: 17.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.0 blocks

Drew Gooden, PF, Bucks
Key stats for the past seven days: 21.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals

Lawson is on an impressive tear and the key for him is staying healthy since he has battled various injuries all season. Jamison has quietly put together a stellar campaign, but he might be due for a letdown depending on how Cleveland closes the season. If you are still allowed to make trades in your league then consider him a sell-high candidate. Pierce has come alive following a slow start and playing in a pair of overtime games has padded his stats during this period. And Ilyasova and Gooden should both continue to thrive with Andrew Bogut (ankle) out. They have been two of the best free agent additions in the majority of leagues this year.

Free agent watch

Here are five guys I am looking at in my leagues:

Bismack Biyombo, PF, Bobcats
Owned: 50 percent of leagues

Gordon Hayward, SF, Jazz
Owned: 42 percent of leagues

Ekpe Udoh, PF, Warriors
Owned: 42 percent of leagues

Roddy Beaubois, PG, Mavericks
Owned: 39 percent of leagues

Jason Maxiell, PF, Pistons
Owned: 6 percent of leagues

We've mentioned Biyombo before but he should get plenty of playing time to close the season, especially with Boris Diaw falling out of favor with the Bobcats. He will continue to post inconsistent stats but he does have 12 points, 24 rebounds and seven blocks in his past two games. Hayward also will be inconsistent with his production, especially coming off the bench, but he could get more scoring chances in his new role. Udoh is now the starting center for the Warriors and has 26 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in his past two games. Beaubois, when given playing time, has produced and has four games with double digits in points in his past six outings. And Maxiell has started to come around of late with 20 points and 14 rebounds in his past two games. In deeper leagues, he could be a nice addition if he can continue to play at this level.

Social media corner

@JustFollow12 on Twitter wants to know: Who would you rather have in a head-to-head, nine category league with 12 teams, Udoh or Andray Blatche?

Blatche clearly has more upside when he's healthy but he might not be at 100 percent for a while with his calf injury. The Wizards also might continue to give Trevor Booker an extended look at power forward, so if you need to make a decision right now then go with Udoh.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyNews . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Wizards Wall, Beal ready to fight through injuries for Game 2
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(9:24 pm ET) The Wizards grabbed Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks despite guards John Wall and Bradley Beal both suffering what first appeared to be scary injuries during the contest. However, per The Washington Post, both players say they will be ready for Game 2 on Tuesday. 

Wall injured his wrist and hand after falling to the floor after a layup attempt. He returned quickly to the game, but did grab it several times. 

"If it's not broken, I'll play through anything," Wall said.

Beal's injury is a little more tricky. After turning his ankle on the follow through of a jump shot, the guard seemed in intense pain. Beal has a history of leg injuries, so he was a little more cautious about his status. 

"Even if I'm not a threat, I can still be a decoy," Beal said. 


Cavaliers G Iman Shumpert to start in Game 1
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8:26 pm ET) With shooting guard J.R. Smith suspended for two games, the Cavaliers will turn to Iman Shumpert to start Game 1 against the Bulls, per the Morning Journal

"I think I'll get more opportunities just playing more minutes if J.R. is out, but as far as going in with a different mindset, it's not like I'm going to transform into J.R. for the team," he said. "It just doesn't go like that. You just got to sort of do your part."

Shumpert averaged 8.0 points and 3.6 rebounds in 62 regular season games with the Knicks and Cavaliers. 


Clippers PG Chris Paul passes MRI, still questionable for Game 1
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:57 pm ET) The results on the MRI to Chris Paul's injured hamstring came back negative on Sunday, but he remains a game-time decision for the opener of the Western Conference semis between the Clippers and Warriors, per ESPN.com. 

Paul was hurt earlier in Saturday's game against the Spurs but returned to hit the dramatic game winner that sent the Clippers into the next round. 


Marc Gasol's solid game not enough for Grizzlies
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:25 pm ET) The Grizzlies have an interior advantage in their Western Conference semifinal series against the Warriors and on Sunday, center Marc Gasol was able to make a living at the free throw line, but it wasn't enough in Memphis 101-86 loss. 

Gasol finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. He was 11-of-12 from the charity stripe, the only Grizzlies player to shoot more than four free throws. 


Stephen Curry scores 22 as Warriors roll to Game 1 victory
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:18 pm ET) Stephen Curry got off to a slow start but warmed up quickly as the Warriors ran past the Grizzlies 101-86 Sunday to capture Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series. 

Curry added seven assists and four steals as the Warriors kept Memphis at bay for most of the game. Curry was 4-of-8 from behind the arc and finished 8-for-18 from the floor as Golden State shot 50.6 percent in the victory. 


DeMarre Carroll's huge first half not enough for Hawks
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:59 pm ET) Entering Sunday's Game 1 against Washington, the Hawks' DeMarre Carroll had scored 20 points or more in four straight postseason games. He extended his streak by halftime. 

Carroll had already surpassed his career high for postseason points by halftime, with 21. It was the most a Hawks player has scored in a half this season, and Carroll became the first Hawk with five straight 20-point postseason games since Dominique Wilkins in 1989. 

Carroll cooled in the second half, finishing with 24 in the Hawks' 104-98 loss to Washington. 


Early wrist injury doesn't slow Wizards' John Wall
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:53 pm ET) Wizards guard John Wall went down with an apparent wrist injury in the first half of Sunday's 104-98 Game 1 win over Atlanta. 

Wall went to the bench briefly, then returned to the game without heading to the locker room for an examination. He finished the game with 18 points and 13 assists to help the Wizards take home-court advantage from Atlanta. 


Wizards' Bradley Beal shakes off sprained ankle in Game 1
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:51 pm ET) Wizards guard Bradley Beal sprained his right ankle late in Game 1. The team said that he was questionable to return, but he ended up missing four minutes, 18 seconds of game time. 

Beal returned to the contest midway through the fourth quarter, and his 28 points led the Wizards to a 104-98 Game 1 win over Atlanta. 


Warriors' Stephen Curry, Draymond Green benefit from time off
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:27 pm ET) The Warriors wrapped up their first-round series last Saturday, and coach Steve Kerr said the team benefitted from the time off. 

Kerr said that Stephen Curry looked "bouncy and fresh" in practice, and Draymond Green's injured ankle was able to heal, per the San Francisco Chronicle


J.J. Barea wants to stay with Mavericks
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:23 pm ET) J.J. Barea is a free agent this offseason, but he made it clear that he wants to remain with the Mavericks. 

"I want to. I want to and hopefully this time we make it work," per Mavs Moneyball. "I had a lot of fun this year. I enjoyed being back. It feels like home for me here in Dallas so hopefully I can come back and finish my career here for the next couple years."

Barea left the Mavericks in 2011, when he was a free agent, but he doesn't anticipate history repeating itself.

"It's going to be a little different," he said. "I think at that point I had to make a decision. This time I think it'll be a lot easier to keep me around."


 
 
 
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