Commentary

Time to overhaul season rankings

Updated: January 16, 2012, 11:11 AM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

In an effort to remain patient and avoid the mass panic that typically ensues early in the season, I usually hold off on making any big changes to my preseason rankings during the first few weeks of the season. But now that the dust has settled and we are starting to pick up on some developing trends, it's time to start making some major changes based on what we've seen so far. Let's take a look at the players who are trending up and down after Week 3:

Trending Up

• We all knew Ricky Rubio was a brilliant playmaker, but I don't think any of us realized just how active he'd be on the defensive end. Much like fellow rookie Iman Shumpert, Rubio's hands are everywhere defensively, forcing turnovers and steals at a high rate. It has been his all-around play -- not just his slick passing skills -- that have earned him a starting spot under Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman. And now that he's guaranteed 30-35 minutes per game, Rubio makes a big jump in the weekly rankings. Currently ranked 30th (ahead of fellow point guard John Wall, I should add), Rubio is averaging 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 10.6 assists and 3.0 steals over his past five games. He might struggle in the field goal percentage area, but I doubt his owners will complain much given his strengths everywhere else.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value from this point forward in the 2011-12 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. LeBron James, SF, MIA (1)
2. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC (2)
3. Chris Paul, PG, LAC (3)
4. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (4)
5. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (5)
6. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (7)
7. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (11)
8. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (8)
9. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (9)
10. Carmelo Anthony, SF, NY (10)
11. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (15)
12. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (6)
13. Deron Williams, PG, NJ (13)
14. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (12)
15. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTAH (16)
16. Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU (20)
17. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, POR (19)
18. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (18)
19. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY (17)
20. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (14)
21. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (26)
22. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (23)
23. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC (24)
24. Ty Lawson, PG, DEN (28)
25. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (25)
26. Andre Iguodala, SF/SG, PHI (27)
27. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (29)
28. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, DEN (34)
29. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (30)
30. Ricky Rubio, PG, MIN (77)
31. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA (32)
32. JaVale McGee, C, WSH (36)
33. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (31)
34. John Wall, PG, WSH (22)
35. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (41)
36. Marcin Gortat, C, PHO (37)
37. David Lee, PF/C, GS (42)
38. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (33)
39. Greg Monroe, PF/C, DET (38)
40. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR (39)
41. Marcus Thornton, SG, SAC (40)
42. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (45)
43. James Harden, SG, OKC (48)
44. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (43)
45. Danny Granger, SF, IND (35)
46. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI (44)
47. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (46)
48. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, POR (49)
49. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (53)
50. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC (54)
51. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (63)
52. Paul Millsap, PF, UTAH (58)
53. Nene Hilario, C/PF, DEN (51)
54. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (52)
55. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (57)
56. Ryan Anderson, PF, ORL (64)
57. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, MIL (62)
58. Kyrie Irving, PG, CLE (76)
59. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC (47)
60. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (60)
61. Eric Gordon, SG, NO (65)
62. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI (59)
63. Raymond Felton, PG, POR (61)
64. Wesley Matthews, SG/SF, POR (66)
65. Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, NO (69)
66. Kris Humphries, PF, NJ (70)
67. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA (67)
68. Tyson Chandler, C, NY (68)
69. Tony Parker, PG, SA (73)
70. Jason Terry, SG, DAL (74)
71. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (50)
72. Andray Blatche, PF, WSH (55)
73. Spencer Hawes, C, PHI (82)
74. Jeff Teague, PG, ATL (87)
75. Boris Diaw, PF/SF/C, CHA (56)
76. Darren Collison, PG, IND (71)
77. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE (81)
78. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (79)
79. Chauncey Billups, PG/SG, LAC (84)
80. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (86)
81. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (90)
82. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, ORL (92)
83. Luis Scola, PF, HOU (75)
84. DeMar DeRozan, SG, TOR (83)
85. Al Harrington, PF, DEN (89)
86. Iman Shumpert, PG, NY (85)
87. Caron Butler, SF, LAC (101)
88. Dorell Wright, SF, GS (88)
89. Tim Duncan, PF/C, SA (94)
90. DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC (80)
91. Nicolas Batum, SF, POR (91)
92. David West, PF, IND (72)
93. Paul George, SF/SG, IND (104)
94. Chris Kaman, C, NO (93)
95. Jared Dudley, SF/SG, PHO (95)
96. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (99)
97. Kemba Walker, PG, CHA (NR)
98. Gerald Henderson, SG, CHA (97)
99. Devin Harris, PG, UTAH (78)
100. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, POR (98)
101. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (96)
102. Nick Young, SG, WSH (102)
103. Amir Johnson, PF/C, TOR (103)
104. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (105)
105. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (106)
106. Mario Chalmers, PG, MIA (113)
107. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (112)
108. Byron Mullens, C, CHA (NR)
109. Carlos Delfino, SF/SG, MIL (107)
110. Brandon Knight, PG/SG, DET (NR)
111. Andre Miller, PG, DEN (108)
112. Richard Jefferson, SF, SA (111)
113. Samuel Dalembert, C, HOU (118)
114. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET (114)
115. Anthony Morrow, SG/SF, NJ (NR)
116. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, MIN (100)
117. Carl Landry, PF, NO (116)
118. Tony Allen, SG, MEM (117)
119. Arron Afflalo, SG, DEN (110)
120. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA (109)
121. Ben Gordon, SG, DET (115)
122. MarShon Brooks, SG, NJ (120)
123. Shawn Marion, SF/PF, DAL (121)
124. Kawhi Leonard, PF, SA (NR)
125. Lou Williams, PG/SG, PHI (130)
126. DeJuan Blair, C/PF, SA (119)
127. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (126)
128. Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, PHI (124)
129. Jason Richardson, SG, ORL (125)
130. Derrick Favors, PF, UTAH (122)

Josh Smith was already starting to turn it on before Al Horford went down with a torn pectoral muscle, and he'll be asked to carry an even heavier load now that Horford is likely lost for the entire fantasy season. Smith, who has put up 21.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.2 blocks over his past five games, could have a career year with Horford out. Now, if we could only get him to fix that Dwight Howard-esque free throw shooting …

Kyrie Irving is on a nice streak of four straight games with 20-plus points, mostly because he's able to get in the lane and to the basket at will. With nearly 35 percent of his shot attempts coming at the rim, Irving is proving that he is going to be a dynamic offensive force for many years to come. I'd like to see a little more in the defensive categories, but I won't complain with his stellar percentages and averages of 17.0 points, 5.1 assists and 1.1 3-pointers per game.

Brandon Jennings is quietly having himself a nice little season, with 18.7 points, 5.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.8 3-pointers per game for the Milwaukee Bucks. Hampered at times by nagging injuries last year, Jennings looks fully healthy in the early going. He also looks like he's beginning to mature and harness some of his raw talent in his third professional season. Evidence of his maturity can be seen in his improved shot selection and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.32). Through 11 games, Jennings is shooting a career-high 44.3 percent from the floor despite attempting a career high 16.0 shots per game.

• The emergence of Byron Mullens is undoubtedly killing Boris Diaw's fantasy value, but Diaw is still valuable in fantasy leagues thanks to his ability to contribute in multiple categories. Mullens, meanwhile, has proven to be a reliable scorer given his ability to step outside and knock down the 15-20 foot jumper with consistency. Mullens won't provide much in the way of shot-blocking, but he'll be a nice addition for anyone in need of scoring, rebounding and percentages.

• Speaking of the Bobcats, rookie Kemba Walker had 23 points to go along with four boards, five assists, two steals and two 3-pointers his first professional start in a win against the Warriors on Saturday. The Bobcats figure to keep Walker in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future, and he's a must-add in all fantasy formats given his ability to contribute in scoring, steals and 3-pointers despite the fact that he'll struggle in the field goal percentage category.

• With averages of 11.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.2 3-pointers while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor and 95.0 percent from the line, Jose Calderon has been one of fantasy's more underrated point guards in the early going. Although he'll always be an injury concern, Calderon looks healthy and primed for a career year in Toronto.

Trending Down

• Concerning stat of the day: Amare Stoudemire has gone eight consecutive games without blocking a shot. Normally I wouldn't worry too much about a guy who averages 1.5 blocks for his career, but with Tyson Chandler as the primary rim defender in New York, Stoudemire simply isn't getting as many shot-blocking opportunities. I would be shocked if he finished the season with more than a block per game.

• Sticking with the Knicks, last week's man-crush Iman Shumpert is shooting 36.8 percent from the floor, including a horrendous 2-for-16 from downtown, over his past five games. Someone needs to get to the rook and let him know that he needs to get to the basket for more high-percentage shots if he's cold from the outside. Regardless, I refuse to jump off the Shumpert bandwagon considering his knack for creating steals on the defensive end. Make no mistake about it, he's going to be a field goal percentage killer, but he's a still a unique talent who can contribute in multiple areas for fantasy owners. I should also note that I like him a lot less in leagues that count turnovers.

• Is it already safe to say John Wall is not going to make that Derrick Rose-like leap this year? Wall has yet to show any signs of growth in his second season, and his youth is showing in his repeated poor shot selection and high turnover rate. Luckily, his athleticism saves his fantasy value; he's still averaging a versatile 13.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks. Still, those expecting him to morph into a top-20 player in his second season (myself included) may have to wait another year before he's ready to realize his full potential.

• It pains me to write this given my love for Serge Ibaka, but if he wasn't swatting 2.2 shots per game, he'd be considered one of the biggest non-injury busts early this season. Ibaka's struggles have more to do with playing time than anything else. The Thunder are spreading around their frontcourt minutes with Kendrick Perkins (26.5), Nick Collison (20.8) and Nazr Mohammed (14.5) pulling much-needed time away from Ibaka. Serge simply can't produce the numbers we want him to in 24.2 minutes per contest. It's beginning to look like JaVale McGee or Marcin Gortat would have been better mid-round options.

Joakim Noah continues to struggle in Chicago as Taj Gibson and Omer Asik begin to cut into his playing time. Noah owners can take solace in the fact that he's swatting 1.2 shots per game, but 26.7 minutes per night is simply not going to cut it. With Gibson and Asik playing tough interior defense, it's awfully crowded in the Bulls frontcourt, and Noah might need an unfortunate injury to a teammate before he can live up to his draft expectations in fantasy leagues.

Devin Harris' early-season struggles would make a lot more sense if he were hiding an injury, and although he hasn't missed a game due to injury, he hasn't played well since tweaking his calf on Jan. 3 against Milwaukee. Regardless of his injury status, Harris simply hasn't looked himself early this season. At his best when he's getting to the rim and drawing fouls, Harris has been settling for long-distance jump shots rather than taking the ball to the basket. I still think Harris can turn his season around (barring injury, of course), but if he doesn't pick it up soon, he's a borderline drop candidate in standard fantasy leagues.

• For a guy who has never been the best shot-blocker or rebounder for a big man, David West's fantasy value has always been tied to his efficient scoring and percentages. With only 9.9 shots per game, West simply isn't involved enough in Indiana's offense to warrant the type of respect he used to get in fantasy circles. Making matters worse, West has seemed a bit reluctant to take the ball to the rack in the early going, perhaps due to offseason knee surgery. That reluctance has pushed him further away from the basket, causing his field goal percentage to freefall all the way down to 43.7 percent. West will improve from here, but fantasy owners should temper their expectations going forward.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com and was named the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2011. He can be reached at bmckitish@yahoo.com, or follow him on Twitter @bmckitish.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com and is a two-time Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year, as named by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

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