Weekly Dish: December ranks update


In an effort to avoid the impact that a small sample size could have on the top 130, I try to make most of my major rankings updates at the end of each month. That way I can avoid overreacting to a hot or cold streak and instead focus on long-term trends. That said, you will see a lot of player movement in this week's edition of the top 130. As I sat down to update the ranks this week, I took a look through my e-mails and comments (yes, I do actually read them, but don't always respond), and decided to address some of the most common questions and complaints hitting my inbox over the past few weeks.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value from this point forward in the 2010-11 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC (1)
2. Chris Paul, PG, NO (2)
3. Deron Williams, PG, UTA (4)
4. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY (7)
5. LeBron James, SF, MIA (6)
6. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (3)
7. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (5)
8. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (8)
9. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (10)
10. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (9)
11. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (11)
12. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (14)
13. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (12)
14. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (16)
15. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (15)
16. Carmelo Anthony, SF, DEN (13)
17. Raymond Felton, PG, NY (17)
18. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (18)
19. Danny Granger, SF, IND (19)
20. Al Horford, C/PF, ATL (20)
21. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC (23)
22. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (24)
23. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (25)
24. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (27)
25. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, CHA (22)
26. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, PHI (26)
27. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (85)
28. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI (38)
29. John Wall, PG, WAS (30)
30. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR (32)
31. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (21)
32. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, CHA (33)
33. Tim Duncan, C/PF, SA (37)
34. Brook Lopez, C, NJ (28)
35. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (35)
36. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (29)
37. David Lee, PF/C, GS (31)
38. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTA (34)
39. Wilson Chandler, SF/SG, NY (46)
40. Eric Gordon, SG, LAC (42)
41. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (36)
42. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (39)
43. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (41)
44. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, POR (59)
45. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (44)
46. Nene, C/PF, DEN (45)
47. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (43)
48. Luis Scola, PF/C, HOU (47)
49. David West, PF, NO (48)
50. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA (61)
51. Devin Harris, PG, NJ (51)
52. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET (50)
53. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (60)
54. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, MIN (54)
55. Mo Williams, PG, CLE (72)
56. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (40)
57. Paul Millsap, PF, UTA (57)
58. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI (49)
59. Lamar Odom, PF/SF, LAL (58)
60. Wesley Matthews, SG, POR (80)
61. Jeff Green, PF/SF, OKC (53)
62. Aaron Brooks, PG, HOU (55)
63. Andre Miller, PG, POR (62)
64. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, NY (64)
65. Marcus Camby, C/PF, POR (65)
66. Andray Blatche, PF/C, WAS (67)
67. Gilbert Arenas, PG/SG, ORL (63)
68. Dorell Wright, SF, GS (75)
69. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (69)
70. Jason Richardson, SG, ORL (56)
71. Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN (71)
72. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (73)
73. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA (68)
74. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (52)
75. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (76)
76. Tony Parker, PG, SA (78)
77. Jason Terry, SG, DAL (77)
78. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (74)
79. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC (70)
80. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (79)
81. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (81)
82. JaVale McGee, C/PF, WAS (82)
83. John Salmons, SG/SF, MIL (90)
84. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, UTA (83)
85. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (93)
86. Rashard Lewis, PF/SF, WAS (84)
87. Brandon Roy, SG/SF, POR (66)
88. Boris Diaw, PF/SF, CHA (86)
89. O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM (91)
90. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, ATL (88)
91. Vince Carter, SG/SF, PHO (89)
92. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE (95)
93. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (98)
94. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA (102)
95. Tyson Chandler, C, DAL (96)
96. Beno Udrih, PG, SAC (106)
97. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (92)
98. Landry Fields, SG, NY (101)
99. Baron Davis, PG, LAC (103)
100. J.R. Smith, SG, DEN (105)
101. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (94)
102. Caron Butler, SF/SG, DAL (97)
103. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (100)
104. Darren Collison, PG, IND (87)
105. Richard Jefferson, SF, SA (107)
106. Ben Gordon, SG, DET (109)
108. Chris Kaman, C, LAC (111)
109. Daniel Gibson, PG, CLE (112)
111. Al Harrington, PF, DEN (108)
112. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, NO (99)
113. Nick Young, SG, WAS (119)
114. Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU (128)
115. Kirk Hinrich, SG/PG, WAS (NR)
116. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, ORL (127)
117. Robin Lopez, C, PHO (NR)
118. Rudy Fernandez, SG, POR (NR)
119. Marcin Gortat, C, PHO (113)
120. Andris Biedrins, C, GS (110)
121. Amir Johnson, PF, TOR (114)
122. Mike Miller, SF/SG, MIA (122)
123. Tayshaun Prince, SF, DET (123)
124. Arron Afflalo, SG, DEN (124)
125. Kenyon Martin, PF, DEN (NR)
126. George Hill, PG/SG, SA (115)
127. Samuel Dalembert, C, SAC (116)
128. Charlie Villanueva, PF/SF, DET (NR)
129. Spencer Hawes, C, PHI (121)
130. Brandon Bass, PF, ORL (129)

Many have questioned why I kept Kevin Durant in the top overall spot despite his shooting slump to start the season, and his play over the past five games is exactly why. Durant is averaging 30.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.8 3-pointers while shooting 54.1 percent from the floor over his past five game, good enough to rank him first on our Player Rater during that time. Remember, the top 130 is intended to look at long-term values, so when a player of Durant's talent goes through a mini-shooting slump, I'm not going to panic George Costanza-style and move him out of the top spot.

It's past time that I admit that LaMarcus Aldridge has more value than I've been giving him credit for. At the start of the season, I did not believe in his newfound ability to block shots, but we're now closing in on the end of December and he's still getting after it defensively. I'd still like to see a few more rebounds, but I'm not going to complain about his averages in December: 19.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

Speculation that interim head coach Paul Silas will insert Tyrus Thomas into the Bobcats' starting lineup has fantasy owners salivating once again. Will T2 finally be able to secure enough playing time to become a consistent fantasy force? It's a question we've asked repeatedly over the past four years, and one that has always been answered with a resounding "no." Still, everyone knows Thomas has off-the-charts upside, and with Silas looking to run and gun, T2 could be a huge fantasy force starting Monday when the Bobcats take the court for the first time under Silas' tutelage. As a side note, how pumped are you that Silas started his first practice by changing the shot clocks from 24 seconds to 14 seconds? That can only mean good things for our Charlotte fantasy players, including D.J. Augustin, despite the fact that he hasn't been playing well and appears to be on the trade block.

No one loves Kevin Love more than I do; in fact, I urge you to check my archives going all the way back to when he was drafted in June 2008; my man-crush on Love has been evident since he first donned an NBA uniform. That said, I can't in good conscience put him in my top 10 when he's creating only 0.5 steals and blocking 0.4 shots per game out of the power forward position. Granted, Love does a lot of other things very well (which is why he's in the top 20), but even with his averages of 23.5 points, 16.5 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor and 84.0 percent from the line over the past month, he still ranks just 10th on the Player Rater during that time due to his lack of steals and blocks. Love continues to move up my rankings list, but I don't think he'll make it into the top 10, simply because he fails to contribute in the two most scarce fantasy categories.

The Brandon Roy saga just continues to get worse, doesn't it? As a Roy owner, I'd almost rather he shut it down for the season, because he's too talented to just drop, but he's also not producing nearly enough even when he's on the court. With just 13.9 points, 4.4 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.7 3-pointers in nine December games, Roy is a mere fringe fantasy player at the moment. Again, he has too much talent to release straight up, so his owners will have to stick tight for the time being and hope he can somehow recover from his knee injuries. Wesley Matthews has been the obvious beneficiary, while Rudy Fernandez and Nicholas Batum continue to have value (albeit inconsistent value) as Roy struggles.

One of the toughest challenges in writing a weekly rankings column is deciding what to do with injured players, particularly when we are talking about guys with top-50 talent like Joe Johnson, Aaron Brooks, Brandon Jennings and Joakim Noah. Fantasy owners have faced the same dilemma since the injured list went away a few years back, and it's not an exact science when deciding how to cope when injuries strike. Generally speaking, fantasy owners shouldn't be dropping anyone with top-100 talent unless the injury is extremely serious. Let's take Joe Johnson as an example. When news first broke of his injury a few weeks ago, he plummeted in the rankings but never dropped out of them completely. Now that he's back and looking healthy with 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.4 3-pointers in four games, he'll slide back into his rightful spot in the top 30. Congrats if you stayed patient and held onto him through the injury.

I may be stating the obvious, but Avery Johnson is an incredibly frustrating coach for fantasy owners. You know, I don't necessarily mind when coaches make strange lineup changes, as long as they are somewhat consistent with it and hold true to their word. But don't tell us that Derrick Favors is going to get more run then proceed to give him 18.2 minutes to Kris Humphries' 27.0 over the past five games. My complaint is not so much about Humphries (he's a great rebounder and solid end-of-rotation guy in fantasy leagues); it's Favors I want to see more of. I still think Favors is going to be a great pickup at some point this season, but we may have to wait a little longer than we originally expected.

Jared Dudley has had a couple of huge games since the big trade that sent Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson to Orlando, but keep in mind that Vince Carter was not on the court for Dudley's 27- and 33-point efforts this week. I'm inclined to believe that Dudley's breakout is a flash in the pan, but I've also said that Phoenix appears to be headed towards a youth movement in the second half of the season. Dudley could benefit if (when) the Suns pack it in. At the very least, he will have plenty of value while VC is sidelined with a minor knee injury.

If the past week is any indication, John Salmons owners will have fun while Brandon Jennings mends from a foot injury. With Jennings out for the next 4-6 weeks, Salmons will assume the role as the main facilitator in the Bucks' offense, and over his past four games, Salmons has gone off to the tune of 18.3 points, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 3-pointers per contest. Earl Boykins and Keyon Dooling will see extra run in the Bucks' backcourt, but the two will likely negate each other in a time share while Salmons becomes the main beneficiary of the injury. I would say that Salmons owners should start thinking about potential sell-high deals now, but that might be tough to pull off if people are paying attention, and I think Salmons retains a good amount of his value after Jennings returns.

People keep waiting for Kevin Garnett to slow down, but he's doing just the opposite, according to his monthly splits. After 11 games in the month of December, KG is averaging a cool 15.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks, while shooting 59.5 percent from the floor and 83.3 percent from the free throw line. Those kind of numbers, particularly the rebounds, steals and percentages, make him an unquestioned top-50 player in fantasy leagues. Now, there's a chance that Doc Rivers will limit KG's minutes in the second half, but Garnett owners won't have to worry about that until after the All-Star break. Enjoy the ride for now, and look to sell high in mid-February.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at bmckitish@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @bmckitish.