- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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Last week, I played out 30-day averages like Soulja Boy played out "Crank That," so this week, I'll highlight players who have moved up and down the player rater based on season averages and 15-day averages. I glance at both of these frequently, because one provides a big-picture perspective of player value, the other a short-term look. Their player rater ranking during the respective time period is in parentheses:
Ron Artest, SF, Kings (43rd): It's easy to overlook his high level of play because he missed time due to suspension, then injury, and is perpetually involved in trade rumors. But if you can stomach his percentages (44 percent field goals, 68 percent free throws), his 18.4 points, 5.6 boards, 4.0 assists, 1.4 3-pointers, 2.1 steals and 0.8 blocks are well-balanced totals, and I'll take any player who contributes in six categories. He is healthy and productive, and even if he's traded, it won't be to a team looking to reduce his minutes.
Josh Howard, SF, Mavericks (53rd): The consistency of Howard's statistical improvement through his five seasons is remarkable. His career highs in points, rebounds and assists are not surprising, because he has taken a step forward every season. Howard is fruitful in five categories, and his defensive statistics should improve, trending toward his career averages (he will have more than one steal per game by the end of the season). And for you keeper league folk, I bet he'll improve again next season.
Anthony Carter, PG, Nuggets (80th) : Which point guard, based on averages, is ranked higher than Andre Miller, Kirk Hinrich and Tony Parker? At first guess, I doubt you would say Carter, but he is having by far his best season ever starting for the Nuggets. He's no star, but 6.2 assists, 1.6 steals and a barely passable 0.5 3s make him valuable in all fantasy formats. Given the fact that he consistently has been in the starting lineup since late November, there's no reason his success shouldn't continue.
Rashad McCants, SG, Timberwolves (106th): Apart from Al Jefferson's freakishness, things haven't been very promising for the Wolves this season, although McCants has emerged as a reliable scorer. He is averaging 15 points and two 3s per game, which instantly makes him fantasy viable. Even though McCants bounces between starting and sixth man, he always is looking to score, which translates into fantasy value from behind the arc.
Boris Diaw, SF/PF, Suns (152nd): He has been disappointing ever since his breakout 2005-06 campaign, when he flourished in the absence of Amare Stoudemire. Since then, he constantly has had to compete for playing time, but the big trade for Shaquille O'Neal changes everything. With Shawn Marion out of the picture and the likelihood that Shaq's minutes will be limited even if he stays healthy, Diaw's role with the team just expanded. He could be the biggest beneficiary of the blockbuster deal. In the first post-Marion era game Wednesday, Diaw scored 22 points with seven rebounds and five assists in 43 minutes, a promising indication he will soak up many of the minutes at small forward left behind by Marion. Diaw's ability to provide assists from the power forward position is unmatched by anybody other than Andrei Kirilenko, so adding him to your starting lineup is an ideal way to make up ground there. If he is available, add him immediately, despite the down arrow next to his name.
Al Thornton, SF, Clippers (238th): His minutes are sporadic, but the potential is there, as evidenced by his 33 points Jan. 30. However, he had a 1-of-15 effort from the floor Feb. 2, and as a rookie, Thornton will have bumps that frustrate fantasy owners. He will have big nights, but right now, Thornton isn't ready to contribute in any specific category on a night-in, night-out basis.
Corey Maggette, SG/SF, Clippers (2nd) : His past two seasons have been marred by injuries and alleged tiffs with Mike Dunleavy, but this season, he is staying healthy, sticking up for his coach and becoming a more balanced fantasy player. He dropped 33 points, eight rebounds, five steals and two 3s while shooting 9-of-9 from the stripe Wednesday night. His 21.2-point average is the second-highest of his career, along with his career-high 1.3 steals, 6.0 rebounds and 47.3 percent from the floor. He is another guy involved in trade rumors whose value will be high regardless of the uniform he wears, especially from the stripe, where Maggette contributes with high frequency and efficiency.
Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, Warriors (14th): Captain Jack is averaging 21.6 points, 5.2 assists, 3.2 3s, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks in his past five games, and his overall numbers are by far the best of his career, namely his 20.4 points and 2.3 3s per game. He has gone insane behind the arc this season but has stayed out of trouble since serving his suspension, so if you are a Jackson owner, bask in the glory. The addition of adept passer Chris Webber could help his value even more, and while it might cut into his shot attempts, it will augment his percentages.
Rajon Rondo, PG, Celtics (32nd): Rondo, who scored 24 points with eight assists, five rebounds and four steals while shooting 10-of-13 from the floor Wednesday night, has stepped up in Kevin Garnett's absence. He crashes the boards a lot for a point guard, averaging eight per game over his past three, and his scoring has improved since the start of the season. His weak free throws and his lack of 3s seriously harm his value, but his high steal total, to go along with rebounds, assists and efficient scoring, help balance his shortcomings.
Emeka Okafor, PF/C, Bobcats (46th): Over the past couple of weeks, Okafor has wreaked havoc on the boards and is averaging 15 per game over his past seven. He had a stint of mediocrity that could have had something to do with adjusting to the addition of Nazr Mohammed in the frontcourt, but whatever it was, it has subsided, and Okafor is back to being a dominant center.
David Lee, SF/PF, Knicks (59th): Isiah Thomas' misuse of Lee is a tragedy, although he still has been able to establish value in just 27 minutes per game due to his high rebound rate (his 14.4 rebounds per 48 minutes ranks ahead of Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett) and beautiful percentages. He is efficient and doesn't hurt you anywhere, so even though Lee deserves more minutes, he is good enough to contribute in his current situation.
James Posey, SG/SF, Celtics (71st): Posey has been a vocal leader for the Celtics all season, and recently, his role has increased, with him averaging 2.6 3s and 1.4 steals in his past five games. With Garnett temporarily sidelined, bench players have needed to pick up the slack, and Posey has done just that. He is an option if you need 3s and steals in a deep league, which is more than was expected of him entering the season.
Lamarcus Aldridge, PF/C, Blazers (100th): Aldridge started the year hot, but his fourth-quarter minutes have been reduced and his points per game have decreased each month of the season. He is the Blazers' only big man with size and scoring ability, so opposing defenses focus on him. He'll adjust, but his greatness might not emerge until he is paired with Greg Oden.
Rafer Alston, PG, Rockets (114th): Skip never has been the most efficient player, but he typically has provided enough assists, 3s and steals to offset his deficiencies. This season is no exception -- 5.4 assists, 1.6 3s and 1.3 steals -- although his 39.1 shooting percentage is so painful you can't afford to start Alston if that is a category in which you are hurting. He only fits teams stocked with efficient scorers.
Luke Walton, SF, Lakers (205th): He is playing eight fewer minutes per game this season than last, and when Andrew Bynum returns, shifting Pau Gasol to power forward and Lamar Odom to small forward, Walton's minutes will diminish further. He has been unimpressive this season anyway. Last season, he was able to provide an excellent 4.3 assists from forward to go along with one steal, 5.1 rebounds, 0.8 3s, 47.4 field goal percentage and 74.5 free-throw percentage. But this year, he is averaging just three assists, 0.9 steals, 3.6 rebounds, 0.5 3s, 44.3 field goal percentage and 63.6 free-throw percentage. He has become a forgettable fantasy player.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Josh Whitling looks at players who have made season-long strides in addition to some short-term movers.