Kevin Durant has slipped from second in the current season rankings to 16th. That means there are fifteen other players better than him now in NBA Fantasy basketball barely two weeks gone in the regular season. LeBron James (1st to 2nd) and Chris Paul (3rd to 7th) have also slid, but not by much.
However, a bunch of dudes who we really didn't put much stock in have invaded the elite circle of the Fantasy elite and the question is: are these guys for real or has their schedule just allowed them to be freaks so far? Here are five overachievers who have been constantly under the microscope—for now.
1. Marc Gasol-C (MEM): Many were surprised when the Yahoo! O-Ranks came out in October declaring Marc a better Fantasy option than Pau—a noted stud. Marc went on to become a 2nd round pick across the board and sceptics thought his jump in the rankings was very overrated. Sure, he held the fort for Memphis last year when Zach Randolph had another odyssey into the realm of pain but the Grizzlies had no one else to rely on down low. With a "healthy" Z-Bo, could Gasol replicate his 2011-12 upsurge? Apparently, yes. Over the Griz's first four games (three wins), Gasol has averages of 19.2 PPG on 57.8% FGs and only three FTs missed in 28 attempts. He's still not quite the double-double machine many drafters forecasted him to be (7.5 RPG), but blame that on Randolph who's been like a vacuum cleaner off the boards for Memphis (15.2 RPG). The 5.8 APG and 1.5 BPG is quite delicious, though. Gasol, Randolph and Rudy Gay comprise one of the most underrated frontcourts in the league and it appears Marc is primed for a breakout year—with or without Z-Bo's presence.
Fluke Meter: 5/10
Consistency Meter: 8/10
Sustainability Meter: 7/10
2. (Combo) Darren Collison-PG/O.J. Mayo-SG (DAL): Here's a case of two seemingly unappreciated and allegedly disgruntled players finding a new home instead of a temporary shelter. Collison's plight had been noted as early as his days as one of the most talented back-up point guards in the NBA with the Hornets, then his struggle for value and respect in Indiana. Mayo's numerous run-ins with Tony Allen at Memphis relegated the former traded lottery pick to a bench role, when many agreed that he could start for any contender easily.
The departure of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Delonte West has created an opportunity for this unlikely backcourt duo to shine, at least early in the season. Collison is kicking off his Mavericks campaign with career-highs in points (16.2 PPG), shooting percentages (56.1 FGs with 57.1% 3pts) assists (7.2 APG), steals (1.4 SPG) and, most importantly, minutes (33:06 MPG). Although he still has more than seventy games to go to prove he can continue at this pace, it's a great start for the former Bruin. In Mayo's case, it's even sicker. He's catapulted to eighth in scoring (21.6 PPG, including 84 points in his last three games), first in triples (21 total) and 74 attempted FGs—already a tenth of his total tries from the whole of last season. Believe it or not, this trend will continue…until the return of one Dirk Nowitzki. The numbers of these most notable overachievers will drop on all fronts when Dirk—who likes to create his own opportunities, therefore eradicating many passes from them for assists—starts demanding the ball. So ride the wave of this awesome twosome's brilliant showing for now. It will taper off big time very soon.
Fluke Meter: 8/10
Consistency Meter: 5/10
Sustainability Meter: 2/10
3. Omer Asik-C (HOU): The void left by Yao Ming and Luis Scola has been filled by a former Bulls reserve who may have cost Chicago a playoff series from the free throw line. Chicago fans still rue the horror of Asik and were more than happy to see him sign with another team. But no one would have guessed that this utility big from Turkey could actually be contending for the league's rebounding title. When Asik (3.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG in his last season with the Bulls) moved to Houston, the expectation was he would just try to plug the center position for a Rockets offense that really does not rely on a pivot. Well 14.0 RPG is more than a bonus for Kevin McHale, it's a blessing. For all the beauty Asik shows on the glass, however, you still can't snub his other numbers: 6.5 PPG on 35.5% FGs, 44.4% FTs and almost three fouls a game (he's slower than a flagpole). In a Roto league, you may find value in his rebounding numbers (if you're close to overloading on points and percentages). Otherwise, he'd just be a drag because of the other deficiencies that more than one player has to compensate for.
Fluke Meter: 8/10
Consistency Meter: 5/10
Sustainability Meter: 6/10
4. Brandon Jennings-PG (MIL): We all know he can score (16.8 PPG, career). We drafted him in the 2nd-3rd round precisely for that. When Monta Ellis joined the Bucks and Andrew Bogut got traded, Jennings' value took a minor hit because now he'd have to share the ball with another black hole. Well, we now realize that Jennings can also pass. His average of 5.5 APG for his career has made people shy away from considering him a bonafide Fantasy stud and find more value in people like Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry because points can be garnered anywhere, but assists are rare.
Will Jennings' 10.3 APG (3rd best in the league behind Rondo and Chris Paul) change your perception on his worth? Ellis and surprise Fantasy hero Mike Dunleavy, Jr. have been the biggest beneficiaries of Jennings' unforeseen generosity. Milwaukee has no key injuries, no hidden cards, no new offensive scheme. That being said, Jennings could very well install himself to be mentioned in the same breath as Rondo and CP3 as a reliable double-double source. This may not be a fluke but a glimpse into the future of a franchise that just might make some noise late in the season.
Fluke Meter: 6/10
Consistency Meter: 7/10
Sustainability Meter: 8/10
5. Marcin Gortat-C (PHX): Doesn't he remind you of one of those nasties from the Phantom Zone who tried to defeat Superman on his home turf? He and Nikola Pekovic can team up with Rebecca Lobo to bring that trio back to life. Well, Gortat has brought his pocket full of Kryptonite to the Suns first five sorties to date with averages of 15.0 PPG on a career-best 59.3% FGs, 11.8 RPG and a mind-boggling 4.2 BPG. He's got more blocks than free throw attempts, just to put things in perspective for the 28-year-old former Dwight Howard back-up. This 3rd round Fantasy steal is already working in a crowded environment which includes post-hog Luis Scola and semi-black hole Michael Beasley.
There's only one issue that can keep Gortat from having the most ridiculous Fantasy season ever: an injury. He has never enjoyed a campaign where he wasn't slowed down by getting hurt and although Scola's presence helps alleviate the burden on him being the only inside threat of Phoenix, Gortat is known to just flat-out play 101% nightly. So it's truly up to him on how far he can take this immense skill level because the only one who can stop Gortat is Gortat.
Fluke Meter: 3/10
Consistency Meter: 9/10
Sustainability Meter: 8/10
Follow Noel on Twitter: @NoelZarate
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.
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