Batum, Holiday off to fast starts


The first few weeks of the NBA season can be a whirlwind for fantasy owners, and although we are dealing with an extremely small sample size this early in the season, we can still pick up on some trends that might carry over for the rest of the 2012-13 season.

Here are some of the more notable and not-so-notable starts to the season.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value from this point forward in the 2012-13 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. Kevin Durant, OKC (1)
2. LeBron James, MIA (2)
3. Chris Paul, LAC (3)
4. Russell Westbrook, OKC (4)
5. Deron Williams, BKN (5)
6. Dwyane Wade, MIA (7)
7. James Harden, HOU (12)
8. Kyrie Irving, CLE (9)
9. Josh Smith, ATL (6)
10. Serge Ibaka, OKC (17)
11. Kobe Bryant, LAL (11)
12. Al Jefferson, UTAH (8)
13. LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (14)
14. Kevin Love, MIN (18)
15. DeMarcus Cousins, SAC (10)
16. Ty Lawson, DEN (13)
17. Marc Gasol, MEM (15)
18. Carmelo Anthony, NY (20)
19. Nicolas Batum, POR (39)
20. Pau Gasol, LAL (16)
21. Dwight Howard, LAL (19)
22. Rajon Rondo, BOS (21)
23. Goran Dragic, PHO (23)
24. Al Horford, ATL (24)
25. Anthony Davis, NO (40)
26. Rudy Gay, MEM (25)
27. Jrue Holiday, PHI (50)
28. Brandon Jennings, MIL (26)
29. Marcin Gortat, PHO (32)
30. Monta Ellis, MIL (27)
31. Greg Monroe, DET (30)
32. Paul Millsap, UTAH (28)
33. Dirk Nowitzki, DAL (29)
34. Paul Pierce, BOS (36)
35. Stephen Curry, GS (46)
36. Paul George, IND (38)
37. Andre Iguodala, DEN (35)
38. Joakim Noah, CHI (49)
39. Kyle Lowry, TOR (56)
40. Mike Conley, MEM (34)
41. Blake Griffin, LAC (31)
42. Damian Lillard, POR (60)
43. Kenneth Faried, DEN (53)
44. Wesley Matthews, POR (58)
45. David Lee, GS (37)
46. Roy Hibbert, IND (41)
47. Chris Bosh, MIA (48)
48. Zach Randolph, MEM (63)
49. Andrew Bynum, PHI (22)
50. Ersan Ilyasova, MIL (43)
51. Brook Lopez, BKN (54)
52. Steve Nash, LAL (33)
53. Joe Johnson, BKN (45)
54. John Wall, WSH (51)
55. Jeremy Lin, HOU (64)
56. Tony Parker, SA (42)
57. Ryan Anderson, NO (47)
58. Kevin Garnett, BOS (55)
59. O.J. Mayo, DAL (83)
60. Marcus Thornton, SAC (59)
61. Klay Thompson, GS (62)
62. Luol Deng, CHI (65)
63. Raymond Felton, NY (74)
64. Andrea Bargnani, TOR (66)
65. Danilo Gallinari, DEN (57)
66. Tyson Chandler, NY (61)
67. Tyreke Evans, SAC (52)
68. Anderson Varejao, CLE (92)
69. Gerald Wallace, BKN (70)
70. Jeff Teague, ATL (86)
71. Kevin Martin, OKC (82)
72. Nikola Pekovic, MIN (71)
73. DeAndre Jordan, LAC (109)
74. JaVale McGee, DEN (67)
75. Arron Afflalo, ORL (68)
76. Gordon Hayward, UTAH (72)
77. Mo Williams, UTAH (77)
78. George Hill, IND (93)
79. J.R. Smith, NY (111)
80. Eric Gordon, NO (75)
81. Tim Duncan, SA (85)
82. Andrei Kirilenko, MIN (96)
83. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, CHA (88)
84. Kemba Walker, CHA (95)
85. Kawhi Leonard, SA (90)
86. Kris Humphries, BKN (78)
87. Isaiah Thomas, SAC (76)
88. Brandon Knight, DET (91)
89. Omer Asik, HOU (102)
90. Carlos Boozer, CHI (69)
91. Darren Collison, DAL (97)
92. Lou Williams, ATL (79)
93. Glen Davis, ORL (87)
94. Amare Stoudemire, NY (80)
95. Thaddeus Young, PHI (103)
96. Manu Ginobili, SA (73)
97. Ray Allen, MIA (106)
98. Dion Waiters, CLE (119)
99. Nene Hilario, WSH (81)
100. Evan Turner, PHI (101)
101. Jason Terry, BOS (84)
102. Luis Scola, PHO (105)
103. David West, IND (108)
104. Byron Mullens, CHA (110)
105. DeMar DeRozan, TOR (120)
106. Larry Sanders, MIL (NR)
107. Chris Kaman, DAL (116)
108. Jamal Crawford, LAC (114)
109. J.J. Hickson, POR (117)
110. Derrick Favors, UTAH (100)
111. Dorell Wright, PHI (NR)
112. Greivis Vasquez, NO (115)
113. Michael Beasley, PHO (94)
114. Al-Farouq Aminu, NO (NR)
115. Jameer Nelson, ORL (98)
116. J.J. Redick, ORL (NR)
117. Andrew Bogut, GS (99)
118. Mario Chalmers, MIA (118)
119. Ramon Sessions, CHA (NR)
120. Rodney Stuckey, DET (89)
121. Daniel Green, SA (NR)
122. Carl Landry, GSW (NR)
123. Ricky Rubio, MIN (122)
124. Luke Ridnour, MIN (123)
125. Tristan Thompson, CLE (107)
126. Nikola Vucevic, ORL (NR)
127. Derrick Rose, CHI (128)
128. Robin Lopez, NO (NR)
129. Ben Gordon, CHA (129)
130. Danny Granger, IND (44)

Fast starts

With the exception of one off night against Oklahoma City, Nicolas Batum has been operating in full fantasy beast mode with averages of 19.3 points, 6.2 boards, 3.2 assists, 2.7 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.7 3-pointers after six games. More importantly, he is playing a whopping 39.5 minutes per game for the Blazers. He might be inconsistent on a night-to-night basis, but with minutes like that, Batum has the potential to be a top-20 player in fantasy leagues this season. Congrats if you drafted him, and enjoy the ride.

I know we're only six games into the season, but boy does Jrue Holiday look poised to deliver the breakout season everyone expected last season. Granted, things might change a bit once Andrew Bynum returns to the lineup, but it's nice to see Holiday living up to his potential, posting a cool 18.2 points, 9.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 3-pointers per game after his mildly disappointing 2011-12 campaign.

Don't look now, but Serge Ibaka (18.2 points per game over his past five) is beginning to step up his scoring output to help fill the void left by James Harden's departure. Already a dominant fantasy player thanks to his elite shot-blocking skills, Ibaka is going to do some serious damage this season if he continues his rapid development on the offensive end.

Now that's the old Zach Randolph we all know and love. After struggling through injuries last season, Z-Bo looks terrific in the early going, posting a double-double in six consecutive games to start the season. He's leading the league in rebounding with 14.5 per game, but, more importantly, he's getting 37.3 minutes per game after playing just 26.3 minutes per game last season. I think it's safe to say Z-Bo is back.

Omer Asik's defense is for real, folks. Averaging 8.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.2 blocks per contest after six games, Asik is going to be a force in the paint all season. There's no doubt that he'll struggle offensively at times, particularly from the free throw line, but he likely will be near the top of the league in rebounds at the end of the season.

Anderson Varejao is going to be a double-double machine with lots of steals for as long as he's able to stay healthy. Averaging 12.7 points, 13.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game after six contests, Varejao looks primed to deliver a big season. Just keep in mind that he's been an injury risk for most of his career.

It really is a shame that Kyle Lowry reinjured his ankle because wow was he dominating with 18.3 points, 5.8 boards, 6.3 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.0 3-pointers per game in four contests before the injury. There is no doubt that Lowry is a top-25 player when healthy, but we'll have to cross our fingers that he can stay on the court as he has had a variety of health issues the past few seasons.

It hasn't taken long for O.J. Mayo to live up to his preseason hype with averages of 21.9 points and 4.0 3-pointers per game after seven contests. Those who considered Mayo a solid sleeper in the preseason (myself included) should be ecstatic, but remember, Mayo has always been a bit of a streaky shooter, and he's putting up these early numbers with Dirk Nowitzki sidelined. Mayo is still going to be a great fantasy option at shooting guard this season, but there's no doubt he'll come back down to earth once Dirk returns to the lineup.

I can't say that I'm completely surprised at DeAndre Jordan's impressive start. He has always had a ton of talent, and it's clear he worked on his offensive game in the offseason. But even though he has dropped 20 points twice in this young season, I'm still going to proceed with caution. We know he'll be a great option for boards and blocks, but he likely will be a bit inconsistent on the offensive end despite his obvious improvement there.

What's not to like about what J.R. Smith has been doing early in the season for the Knicks? He sits ninth on our Player Rater when sorted by averages, fueled by his per-game averages of 17.5 points, 2.3 steals and 2.8 3-pointers after four contests. Smith is an electric player when he's on, but he also has been incredibly streaky in the course of his career. Ride him while he's hot, but try to stay patient when he goes cold.

Other notables moving up the rankings: Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Joakim Noah, Damian Lillard, Kenneth Faried, Wesley Matthews, Jeff Teague, George Hill, Andrei Kirilenko, Kemba Walker, Dion Waiters, Larry Sanders, Dorell Wright and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Cause for concern?

I know I put Tyreke Evans on my hate list in the preseason, but not even I thought he'd be this bad early in the season. With averages of just 11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.4 steals and shooting 36.9 percent from the floor, Tyreke has looked completely lost on the court. He should get better from here, but I'm not confident enough to recommend a buy low given that I already had concerns before the season.

Because he still doesn't block many shots and can't hit his free throws, Blake Griffin really needs to put up huge numbers in points and rebounds if he's going to come anywhere close to returning value based on his draft position in fantasy leagues. Unfortunately, elbow and neck injuries appear to be limiting him on the offensive end. Averaging just 15.7 points and 8.3 boards per game after seven contests, Blake really needs to be putting up 20/10, given his aforementioned deficiencies in blocks and free throw percentage.

Danilo Gallinari has started the season cold, shooting just 30.0 percent from the floor and 20.5 percent from downtown. Don't go crazy just yet, Gallinari owners. The Rooster has always been a streaky shooter, and he is getting a lot of looks (15 shots per game, including 7.3 from downtown). He'll turn it around as soon as his shot starts falling. He's a solid buy-low candidate, but keep in mind that he's not only streaky but also an injury risk.

I don't care how productive he is on a per-minute basis, Manu Ginobili needs to get more than 21.0 minutes per game if he's going to have fantasy value. He's been dealing with back spasms early this season, so hopefully we'll see his minutes increase as he begins to feel better. Meanwhile, let's keep a close eye on San Antonio as the season progresses, as it looks as if Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will have more responsibility (and value) this season.

I have never been a huge Carlos Boozer fan from a fantasy perspective, and it's awfully troubling to see that the Bulls are relying more on Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to help fill the scoring void left by Derrick Rose's absence. Averaging 10.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest after six games, Boozer still deserves a roster spot in most fantasy leagues, but he's been a major disappointment to those who were expecting him to pick up the slack on the offensive end.

I won't blame owners who want to drop Rodney Stuckey after he has shot just 23.6 percent from the floor in the early going, but I'm not going to completely give up on him yet. The issues for Stuckey are obvious: He is settling for jump shots instead of taking the ball to the rim. With 3.1 3-point attempts per game compared with only 1.9 last season, it is clear what Stuckey needs to do to turn his season around. He is still getting 31.3 minutes per game along with 10.3 shot attempts per contest, so there is some reason to be optimistic if his shot selection improves.

It's still way too early to make any sweeping statements about the Lakers, but let's keep a close eye on Pau Gasol's production, especially with Mike D'Antoni now at the helm. Averaging just 14.3 points, 9.9 boards and 1.4 blocks per game, Gasol was beginning to look like a disappointment early in the season. Let's see how he responds to D'Antoni before making any rash decisions, though.

Let's also wait a few weeks before we start making rash judgments about players such as Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins and Ersan Ilyasova. These guys are far too talented to struggle the way they have early in the season. Of the three, I'd be most concerned about Ilyasova, given his lack of playing time, but his owners would be wise to be patient at this point in the season.