Commentary

Early busts start to bounce back

Updated: January 30, 2012, 3:52 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

Don't look now, but some of this year's biggest early-season disappointments are finally starting to show signs of life. Just as players such as John Wall and Marcin Gortat have left their slow starts in the rearview mirror, fantasy owners are beginning to wonder if recent hot streaks for Serge Ibaka, Joakim Noah, Dorell Wright and Devin Harris are signs of things to come. Let's take a deeper look at some of the early-season bust candidates who have begun to turn things around after a month of play:

Serge Ibaka, C/PF, Oklahoma City Thunder: I probably should have included Serge on my list of per-minute warriors last week but didn't because despite his struggles, his shot-blocking stats have been close to preseason expectations. Much of Ibaka's early-season issues stemmed from a lack of confidence on the offensive end, but as the season has progressed so has Ibaka's confidence. Head coach Scott Brooks has noticed the improvement and has adjusted Ibaka's minutes accordingly. With 10.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game over his past five contests, Serge is looking much more like the player we hyped relentlessly in the preseason rather than the potential bust we saw in the early part of the season.

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

Joakim Noah, C/PF, Chicago Bulls: Perhaps in response to sharp media criticism of his effort on the court early in the season, Noah has upped his intensity in recent action and it's shown in the box scores as he's averaged 12.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks in 32.8 minutes over his past four games. It is nice to see that Noah can flip the switch like this, but can we trust him to keep playing at this pace? There are still some risks, given his injury history and early-season play, but it looks like he's finally figured things out and can be relied on for rebounding, steals and blocks going forward.

Dorell Wright, SF, Golden State Warriors: After last year's breakout campaign, Wright started the 2011-12 season looking like the bust of the season. With averages of just 5.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.6 3-pointers after his first eight games, Wright was a borderline drop candidate in the middle of January. But since then, he's posted 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.5 3-pointers in his past nine games. The good news is that he's finally starting to get involved in the Warriors' offense, the bad news is that we still can't expect him to be as dominant as he was last season when he's only attempting 10.0 shots per game compared to 14.0 last season.

Devin Harris, PG, Utah Jazz: As far as non-injury busts go, Harris is probably the league's biggest disappointment. After 18 contests, Harris is shooting just 41.9 percent from the floor with averages of just 9.2 points, 4.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.9 3-pointers in 25.9 minutes per game. Once revered for his ability to get to the free throw line, Harris has lacked aggression and is attempting only 3.1 foul shots per game. Like Jazz coach Ty Corbin, I have stubbornly stuck with Harris in a few leagues in the hopes that he would find his rhythm and provide his typical in points, assists, steals and free throw percentage. Thankfully, Harris has started to show signs of life with 14.3 points and 5.3 assists in his past three games. Corbin wants to see him be more aggressive, and it looks like Harris is slowly beginning to turn his season around. I'm not ready to declare him all the way back, but he should be scooped up in leagues if an impatient owner dropped him too soon.

Rankings News and Notes

• It took Paul Millsap some time to settle into his role in the deep Utah Jazz frontcourt, but we knew the workhorse would get his eventually. With 19.8 points, 10.8 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks over his past five games, Millsap is finally posting the numbers we've come to expect from him.

Tony Parker has completely taken control of the San Antonio Spurs since Manu Ginobili's injury, posting 18.1 points along with 7.9 assists and 1.0 steals per game in January. Parker has always been a great scorer, but we've never seen him distribute the ball like he's doing right now. Expect him to continue to play at this level at least until Ginobili returns to the lineup.

• Speaking of underrated point guards, Mike Conley is quietly having his best season as a pro. With 12.9 points, 7.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 0.8 3-pointers per game, Conley looks as confident and aggressive as he ever has. Currently the seventh-ranked point guard on our Player Rater when sorted by averages, Conley looks to be in the midst of his breakout season.

• It's been a roller-coaster ride for owners of any Phoenix Suns not named Steve Nash or Marcin Gortat. Alvin Gentry has been tinkering with his lineups, giving Jared Dudley and Channing Frye owners headaches. At some point, Frye owners are going to have to come to terms with the fact that he's a streaky player. We've been down this road many times in the past with him, so his owners will have to wait out this slump. As for Dudley, he appears to have regained his starting role after going off for 20 points with three steals in 42 minutes on Saturday night.

• With averages of 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks this month, Kris Humphries has been one of the league's most productive big men for fantasy leaguers. Many have questioned how Brook Lopez's impending return will impact Humphries, but I'm not too worried about him, given the way he competes on both sides of the court. Remember, Humphries was a double-double machine with Lopez on the court last season.

James Johnson's athleticism is off the charts, and while it hasn't helped his consistency on the offensive end, it's certainly showing up defensively. With 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 2.2 blocks in 28.2 minutes over his past five contests, Johnson is a must-add for anyone in need of steals and blocks in fantasy leagues.

• With D.J. Augustin out of action, rookie Kemba Walker has taken charge of the Bobcats' offense, with 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.4 3-pointers per game over his past five games. Walker won't be able to keep up this kind of pace once Augustin returns, but he's proven that he can be a big-time, multicategory producer even as a rookie.

• It feels like we've been talking about Rodrigue Beaubois' upside forever, so it's nice to finally see the 23-year-old having success in relief of Jason Kidd in Dallas. Roddy is super athletic and can contribute in multiple fantasy categories, provided that he can secure enough minutes in the Dallas Mavericks' rotation. With 11.6 points, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.4 blocks and 1.0 3-pointers over his past five games, Roddy should be a fantasy force at least until Kidd returns to the lineup. Even then, he could still hold some value if he continues to play at this pace.

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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