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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
76ers PF Nerlens Noel: 'I'm feeling a lot more confident'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:34 am ET) 76ers power forward Nerlens Noel delivered season highs of 17 points and 12 rebounds Saturday and expressed confidence in his play after the game.

''I am really starting to feel like my legs are under me now,'' Noel told the Associated Press. ''(After) not playing basketball in so long, I am already starting to feel my timing is a lot better and I'm feeling a lot more confident.''

''That was Nerlens' best game. So everybody in Philadelphia is seeing what we're seeing. It's slow but it's coming,'' coach Brett Brown said.

Noel will look to build on the excellent outing Monday when the 76ers host the Blazers.


Jazz PG Trey Burke scores season-high 20 vs. Pelicans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) Jazz point guard Trey Burke scored a season-high 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including 2 of 5 shooting from three-point range, in his team's 106-94 loss to the Pelicans Saturday.

Burke was just 1 of 8 from the field in a two-point outing Friday but bounced back big on night later. He also managed to tally four assists and one block in 34 minutes Saturday. Burke will try and build on the excellent performance Monday against the Bulls.


Spurs SF Danny Green scores season-high 21 vs. Nets
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Spurs small forward Danny Green scored a season-high 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting, including 5 of 7 shooting from behind the arc, in his team's 99-87 win over the Nets Saturday.

Green also set a season-high scoring mark Friday by putting up 18 points in Minnesota but topped that performance Saturday, making a season-best 80 percent of his shots and sinking five three-pointers for the first time this season. He also racked up seven rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 33 minutes off the bench. Green will look to stay hot Wednesday against the Pacers.


Rockets G Patrick Beverley (hamstring) expects to play Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) Rockets guard Patrick Beverley said after suffering a hamstring injury Saturday that he expects to play Monday, the team announced.

"Tweaked it a little bit, I didn't wanna push it like I did the Miami game," Beverley said of his hamstring.

Beverley returned from a hamstring issue on Nov. 4 to play 30 minutes against the Heat but had to miss another four games while recovering after aggravating the injury. He was able to play four games before being struck by another hamstring injury Saturday.


Wizards C Marcin Gortat notches double-double vs. Bucks
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Wizards center Marcin Gortat scored 10 points on 5 of 12 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds in his team's 111-100 win over the Bucks Saturday.

Gortat has been able to put together a string of good scoring totals, but Saturday's double-double was his fourth of the season, with his 13 boards matching a season high. He matched another season high by blocking three shots while also kicking in two assists in 35 minutes of action. Gortat's next matchup will come Tuesday against the Hawks.


Timberwolves C Gorgui Dieng doubles up vs. Kings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:01 am ET) Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng scored 12 points on 5 of 10 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds in his team's 113-101 loss to the Kings Saturday.

It was just the second double-double of the season for Dieng, though he did manage 10 rebounds Friday as well while scoring nine points. His 12 points and 10 rebounds both matched season highs. Dieng also managed two steals, two blocks and one assist in 39 minutes Saturday. He'll look to build on the solid performance Wednesday against Milwaukee.


Kings guard Ben McLemore scores season-high 22 vs. Minnesota
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Kings guard Ben McLemore scored a season-high 22 points on 9 of 17 shooting, including 4 of 9 shooting from three-point range, in his team's 113-101 win over the Timberwolves Saturday.

McLemore had managed just 21 points in his previous three games combined before exploding Saturday. He nearly notched his first double-double by racking up a season-high nine rebounds while also tallying three assists and one steal in 41 minutes. The Kings will look for three wins in a row when they face the Pelicans Tuesday.


Timberwolves C Nikola Pekovic to be evaluated Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said Saturday that center Nikola Pekovic will be evaluated Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Pekovic is dealing with wrist and foot injuries. If it's determined that he'll need at least 10 more days before returning, the team could receive a roster exception to add another player. Pekovic has averaged 11.9 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 42.2 percent in nine games.


Kevin Love's 23 points not enough for Cavaliers
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Cavaliers forward Kevin Love scored a team-high 23 points in a 110-93 loss to the Raptors Saturday.

Love also added seven rebounds, but he is still trying to find a rhythm in the offense. For the season, he has recorded six double-doubles. The Cavaliers next play Monday against Orlando.


Jazz SF Gordon Hayward scores team-high 31 vs. Pelicans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward scored a team-high 31 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including 2 of 3 shooting from three-point range, in his team's 106-94 loss to the Pelicans Saturday.

Hayward did a fantastic job on the offense end while also making 11 of his 14 free-throw attempts, but his night was overshadowed by a career-best 43-point performance from Pelicans forward Anthony Davis. However, Hayward did manage eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 39 minutes while posting his third 30-point performance of the season. He'll look to keep rolling Monday against the Bulls.


 
 
 
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