Let's just take a moment to marvel at the production of Kevin Love. Here's a guy outscoring Carmelo Anthony, outrebounding Dwight Howard, out-assisting Pau Gasol, making more threes than James Harden and shooting better from the field than Chris Paul. On average, he was being drafted ninth overall in CBSSports.com leagues, meaning his stellar production, second only to Paul in total Fantasy points, came at a bargain price for most of the owners who drafted him. OK -- enough Love love. Let's get into the ups and downs of the statistical world of NBA basketball. For those of you in category-specific formats, here are some notable factoids that might help you gain an edge in areas of need. We'll continue to validate and debunk trends on a weekly basis in this column going forward.
(All stats up to date through Dec. 31 games. Info provided by NBA.com and Teamrankings.com)
Khris Middleton has been one of the best scorers in the league over the last two weeks, averaging 17.6 points per game in that span. His average took a huge hit Tuesday night when he only managed five points in 17 minutes. He's just the latest illustration of how frustrating it is to count on a Bucks player for steady production as their contributors seem to fluctuate on a nightly basis. ... Keep an eye on Dion Waiters heading into next week because Kyrie Irving hurt his knee Tuesday night against Indiana. If Irving misses significant time, Waiters gets a huge, bright green light to launch shots all game. He's averaging 16.4 points per game over the last two weeks. ... Without Jeff Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Bobcats offense comes almost exclusively from three players -- one of whom is Gerald Henderson. He's been one of the most consistent score-only guys in the league, so pick him up if you need points fast. ... With Russell Westbrook out until at least the All Star break, young Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb will take on more of a sixth-man responsibility. Look for him to score off the bench while acting as the primary ball handler for OKC's second unit. ... Deep leagues should take a look at Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks have been without Carmelo Anthony's 26.3 points per game the last three outings, and Hardaway Jr. has scored admirably in his absence, going for 21, 15 and 12 in those three games. ... Having been the laughing stock of the league the last few years, you'd think the Bobcats would be a Fantasy gold mine, but that hasn't been the case this year. They're giving up the third fewest points per game at 93.8 -- better than the Spurs, Grizzlies and Heat. The Pacers remain the only team allowing fewer than 90 points on average while the 76ers continue to be a revolving door for opposing offenses as the only team allowing more than 110 points per game.
Brandan Wright hasn't gotten the consistent minutes to be a starting Fantasy option, but his 34 makes on 45 shot attempts to start the year is a good sign that he'll be efficient once he gets there. ... Robin Lopez has just about reached must-add status in category leagues. He's making 54.4 percent of his shots from the field on the season. He's also made more than 80 percent of his free throws while averaging 9.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. For the sake of comparison, consider him a younger, healthier Andrew Bogut who can actually make free throws ... Point guards are usually among the least efficient players with much of their scoring coming from the perimeter. That being said, Tony Parker has been brilliant from the field as the only Fantasy point guard making 50 percent of his field goals. Just behind him is the Suns' tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, whose numbers are similar to the point of creepiness: .001 difference in field-goal percentage, .011 difference in free-throw percentage, 0.1 difference in made threes per game, 0.2 difference in steals per game, 0.1 difference in blocks per game, 0.4 difference in points per game. Weird, right? ... J.R. Smith sure is happy Danny Granger's back on the court, as the Indiana swing man has taken the crown as the worst-shooting player in Fantasy. Granger is owned in 82 percent of leagues, but we expect that number to continually decline as he's only made 28.9 percent of his shots since his return. Granted, it's only been a handful of games, but Granger was never efficient to begin with. Smith, meanwhile, has increased his field-goal rate to 35 percent. Baby steps. ... O.J. Mayo and Gordon Hayward haven't been much better this year, as both are still striving to reach the 40 percent mark.
The Cavs have set into motion a plan to sever ties with center Andrew Bynum, which is great news if you won Anderson Varejao or Tristan Thompson. Both become must-adds for their bounce-tastic rebounding abilities, which will be fully unleashed now that the big man is out of the middle. Varejao's averaging 10.0 over the last two weeks and Thompson's been good for 9.1. ... Brook Lopez going down for the year has also opened up some playing time for the Nets bench. Keep an eye on Reggie "The Rebound Monster" Evans' minutes going forward, as he is the one-stop shop for emergency rebounds in Fantasy basketball. He's been buried on a talented roster, but he snagged 13 rebounds in 20 minutes two nights in a row recently. Don't add him yet, but break the glass if he starts to get minutes. ... Brandon Knight has been the best rebounding point guard as of late, averaging 6.7 per game over the last two weeks. Reggie Jackson should also enter that discussion as he fills in as a starter for the injured Russell Westbrook. ... Paul Milsap has averaged 8.6 rebounds per game to start the year, but I expect him to be above 10 from here on out with the Hawks' loss of Al Horford. Someone else will likely pick up the rebounding pace too, but expect Milsap to be the main beneficiary of Horford's absence. ... If you're looking to stream a rebounder, look for players with Miami on their schedules. The Heat have the worst rebounding rate in the league, grabbing only 46.9 percent of the rebound opportunities afforded to them. Meanwhile, teams such as the Pacers, Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Warriors are keeping rebounders at bay and minimizing extra opportunities on the glass.
Isaiah Thomas has adapted nicely to full-time point guard duties, averaging 8.1 assists per game over the last two weeks. He's recorded more than 10 assists four times in the month of December, which should be a sign of things to come for the 24-year-old. ... Tyreke Evans has been a beast as of late, and his beasting has extended to the assists column, averaging 8.5 per game over the last two weeks. ... It's difficult to say whether or not you can trust D.J. Augustin for assists. I lean on the side of no because, 1. Kirk Hinrich is working his way back from injury, 2. He's more of a shoot-first player and 3. He's just not that great. He's averaging 6.3 over the last two weeks, but it's been very hit or miss: 10, 5, 3, 9, 3. ... After starting the year as an uncharacteristic spot-up shooter off the ball, Jose Calderon is starting to dish like we expected him too, tallying 15 total assists in his last two outings. ... Josh McRoberts leads power-forward eligible players in assists per game at 4.4 -- that is if you don't count LeBron James and his 6.6, which we never do. ... Mario Chalmers has been owning the assist column lately, tallying 9, 9, 10 and 7 in his last four outings. He's been filling up other categories too, so keep an eye on this production to see if Chalmers can become Lance Stephenson Lite for Fantasy purposes. ... If you're in a super deep league and need assists, check out Kendall Marshall. The Lakers could embrace full-on tank mode soon as the injuries continue to pile up, Jordan Farmar being the latest casualty. Marshall is a pass-first guy in an offense that inflates the production of its point guards. He dished out seven assists in 27 minutes when Farmar left Tuesday's game.
Damian Lillard has surged up the three-point rankings, currently tied for first at 3.2 makes per game with Ryan Anderson and Stephen Curry. This uptick is due in part to his recent string of three-point happy games, averaging a hair under five made threes per game over the last two weeks. ... Pretty much all of Gerald Green's production comes from the three-point line, so he's a safe bet if you need cheap points and threes. He's making more threes per game than Kevin Love, Arron Afflalo, Jamal Crawford and Kevin Durant. ... Kyle Korver will also be benefitting from Horford's absence, with the Hawks needing to draw up a few more plays per game for their 50 percent three-point shooter. ... Mirza Teletovic looks like he'll have the green light to launch from deep the rest of the season as the Nets will be hurting for frontcourt scoring without Brook Lopez. Teletovic is averaging 2.7 made threes per game over the last two weeks. ... Marcus Thornton and Randy Foye have been huge disappointments as three-point specialists. Thornton's only hit 31.4 percent of his threes on the year and Foye 33.3 percent. Foye's numbers might increase as he returns to Denver's starting lineup, but Thornton's Fantasy value basically got a death sentence when Rudy Gay arrived in Sacramento. ... Boston, Portland and Indiana each hold opponents to fewer than six made threes per game. Meanwhile, the 76ers give up more than 10 per night and the Kings more than nine.
Ryan Anderson has made 54 of his 56 free throws this season. ... Kevin Durant averages the most free throw attempts per game (9.4) and still makes 88 percent of them. Pretty impressive. ... Kelly Olynyk has made 86 percent of his free throws to start his career. He also went for 21, 4 and 5 with 2 blocks and 1 steal in just 24 minutes Tuesday night, so keep an eye on the young center as the Celtics may reward him for this outing with more playing time. ... Larry Sanders is back and his free throw shooting has not improved. He's making only 29 percent of them on the year, but he did shoot a career-best 62 percent from the line last season, so it's reasonable to expect he'll turn it around. ... J.R. Smith is really hard to start in Roto. He's only hitting on 60 percent of his free throw attempts and as a shooting guard that's almost unacceptable.
Speaking of Larry Sanders, he's averaging 2.0 blocks per game -- good for fifth in the league. I'm higher on Sanders than most, but he's a must-add in a category leagues regardless of how you value him. Look for him to get up close to three blocks per game as the season goes on. ... Paul Milsap is averaging 1.6 swats a contest the last two weeks, so that's probably a sign that he'll be patrolling the paint more often without Horford down low. ... Bismack Biyombo is to blocks what Reggie Evans is to rebounds. He's averaging 1.8 per game over the last two weeks despite playing only 14.8 minutes per game during that span. ... Brandan Wright also is good for a block or two no matter how many minutes he receives. He's averaging 1.7 per game over the last two weeks. ... James Johnson is a widely available athletic player averaging 1.3 blocks per game. Keep an eye on his minutes as he'll fill up the stat sheet when given ample minute -- and the Grizzlies need help from someone.
Trevor Ariza continues to impress me. He's been Roto gold over the last two weeks, averaging 2.2 steals per game to go along with 90 percent free-throw shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 3.4 made threes and just 1.6 turnovers per game. ... James Johnson also pops up in this category, averaging 1.4 steals per game in just 23 minutes per contest. That's better than LeBron James, Jeff Teague and Gordon Hayward. ... Playing full-time point guard has been great for Stephen Curry's assists, but an unfortunate side effect has been his league-leading 4.1 turnovers per game. ... Miami's relentless help defense has forced teams into a league-high 18.5 turnovers per game on average. On the flip side, the Trail Blazers generally let teams do what they please with the ball, forcing a league-low 12.3 turnovers per game.