- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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At the halfway point of the season, we've got gobs of numbers to sort through and analyze in hopes of making wise fantasy decisions. Luckily, the player rater has done most of the legwork for us, and after sorting through season averages, 30-day averages and 15-day averages, here are some players who have moved up and down the player rater in those time periods:
Rudy Gay, SG/SF, Grizzlies: It didn't take long for Gay to capitalize upon his freakish talent, and his combo of points, 3-pointers, steals and blocks makes me drool, especially considering that he is going to continue to improve. He's averaging 2.1 3s and 2.2 steals in January, and it's intriguing to think about how early he'll be drafted next season.
Brad Miller, C, Kings: Miller is enjoying his best season since 2004-05, and my favorite aspect of his game is that he attempts 1.4 3s per game. He has missed just one game this season, and even though I have fears that the injury bug that has plagued him throughout his career will bite him at some point, he should benefit from the return of Mike Bibby. His shooting percentage and assists should improve now that Bibby, Kevin Martin and Ron Artest are in the lineup with him. Plus, those handful of 3s from the center position could make a difference in your league standings.
Grant Hill, SF, Suns: After missing seven games due to an appendectomy, he's back in action, and once he's at full speed, he should resume his best season in years. What is curious is that Hill just started shooting 3s this season (apparently it's a requirement of all Suns players), which gives his value a boost along with his insane percentages (50.6 field goal, 87.9 free throw). It likely will take a few games for him to get his legs back and play at his full potential, but it's safe to get him back in your lineup. In addition, pay attention to how Boris Diaw's and Raja Bell's stats respond to Hill's return.
Raymond Felton, PG, Bobcats: Something's wrong here. Felton has talent, has no competition for his position, is a good center and is in that magical third year in the league. So why are his stats down? He's got great assists (7.1 per game, including 8.5 in January) but nothing else, and his shooting percentage is perennially terrible. Perhaps he is shouldering too much of a load and needs a capable backup, because he played better last season when he had the chance to be spelled by Brevin Knight. Regardless, his high assist totals make him start-worthy in any league, but pay heed to the categories in which he has a negative effect.
Ben Wallace, C, Bulls: His 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game are his lowest marks in a decade, and even though he never has been any kind of scorer, 4.6 points per game is laughable. With Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray both needing playing time to develop for the future, Wallace's minutes could decrease even more. At this point, he hurts you in as many categories as he helps you.
Morris Peterson, SG/SF, Hornets: He averaged 4.6 points in his past six game and is valuable only if you are looking for 3s. Jannero Pargo has played well recently and could cut into Peterson's minutes, especially if he continues to play like he did Wednesday, when he had 24 points in 24 minutes.
Jason Richardson, SG, Bobcats: He has been red-hot in January, averaging 23.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.7 3s. But perhaps most importantly, he is shooting 83.3 percent from the stripe this month, which has increased his average to more than 70 percent for the first time since 2002-03. It was a controversial choice when Charlotte traded for him on draft day, but he has rewarded the team by putting up the best overall numbers of his career and leading the league in 3-pointers made.
Ben Gordon, SG, Bulls: Keep an eye on the severity of his wrist sprain, because he is averaging 21.2 points and 2.3 3s per game in January, and it would be a huge hit to fantasy teams if he were to miss time. He has played well under new coach Jim Boylan since returning to his rightful role as the sixth man, but if he does miss time, look for Thabo Sefolosha's value to increase -- Sefolosha played 43 minutes and scored 14 points when Gordon was sidelined Wednesday.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C, Cavaliers: He has had just two double-digit rebounding games in January, and his shooting touch is off right now -- his 41.1 percent from the floor and 74.1 percent from the stripe this month are well below his career averages. Anderson Varejao is stealing his thunder and some of his minutes, so even though Z still is a top fantasy center, he likely has already played his best basketball this season.
Carlos Arroyo, PG, Magic: If he weren't so mediocre, he would be starting for the Magic even when Jameer Nelson is healthy, but he hasn't done enough to prove he is a better option. His statistical ceiling is low because he doesn't shoot 3s and never in his career has averaged a steal per game. Even if he retains the job when Nelson returns, Arroyo will provide only assists, and he doesn't contribute in enough categories to be a fantasy-worthy point guard.
Bobby Simmons, SF, Bucks: Simmons was a one-season wonder with the Clippers and cashed in with a big contract from the Bucks. Now he's floundering on a team that also features Yi Jianlian and Charlie Villanueva, both of whom are better options for Milwaukee for multiple reasons. His current percentages are below his career averages, especially from the stripe -- 73 percent this season as compared 83 percent for his career. He has been in and out of the starting lineup, and he isn't above average in any category. It's becoming clear that 2005-06 was Simmons' "Macarena."
Jose Calderon, PG, Raptors: He simply is one of the best fantasy players. He boasts incredible percentages (50.7 field goal, 91.3 free throw), and his 13 assists per 48 minutes average is the fourth-best in the league. Coach Sam Mitchell said Calderon will remain the starter if and when T.J. Ford returns, and given the way he has played in January (13.9 points, 9.6 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.4 3s and 50.5 percent from the floor, without missing a free throw all month), that decision is a no-brainer.
Ryan Gomes, SF/PF, Timberwolves: Despite a slow start to the season, he exploded for a career-high 35 points and 11 rebounds Monday and is averaging 16.6 points, 0.8 3s and 0.8 steals with 52.2 percent shooting on field goals and 90.5 percent shooting on free throws in January. His percentages and surprising 3s make him valuable, and it seems a brief demotion from the starting lineup in mid-December was a wake-up call. He is owned in just 76 percent of ESPN leagues, but that number is rising quickly, and if he's available in your league, you should pick him up now.
Corey Maggette, SG/SF, Clippers: He is a fairly one-dimensional player, but his 1.2 steals per game are a career-high, and he is one of the handful of players who can considerably impact your team's free-throw percentage with his high efficiency and frequency (80.1 percent on nine attempts per game). He could be traded before the deadline, and that likely would hurt his numbers a bit, since the Clippers are so shallow and Maggette has to shoulder most of the offensive load.
Shane Battier, SF, Rockets: Even though Houston probably would retract the draft-day Battier-for-Rudy Gay swap, Battier has fantastic peripheral stats (1.1 3s, 1.4 steals and 1.8 blocks per game in January) and is the definition of a "glue" player. He doesn't score at all, which is disappointing, but at least his poor percentages barely affect your team's stats. Anybody who has more steals, 3s and blocks than turnovers is especially valuable in turnover leagues.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Sonics: Until he reclaims the starting point guard role that was his for years, his value is nil. He has been plagued by a hamstring injury, is terrible defensively and has lost confidence this season. The fact that the Sonics haven't won a game in 2008 leads me to believe that some serious shake-ups will occur soon. I would be surprised if Ridnour went all season without starting, especially since Earl Watson has been erratic.
Keith Bogans, SG, Magic: His play is very inconsistent, and he has been replaced in the starting lineup by Maurice Evans. He still is a force from behind the arc, but he has minimal value if he isn't starting. His 23 minutes per game in January, compared to 32 in December, are the primary reason his fantasy value is negligible.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, Trail Blazers: Aldridge had his first single-digit scoring effort since Dec. 30 on Monday, and he hasn't scored 20 points in a game since Jan. 14 or snatched double-digit rebounds since Jan. 3. He's experiencing the growing pains that come with the first season of full duty, and even though January has been by far his worst month this season, he should turn it around and start performing on a level closer to his season averages.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Josh Whitling breaks down the first-half surprises and disappointments, as well as who's been hot lately.