TORONTO - So far, this fantasy season has been all about old (and new) faces dominating in new places.
Most notably, James Harden has morphed into LeBron James-lite now that he’s in Houston. Kyle Lowry was rampaging for the Raptors until getting injured and Harden’s new teammate, Omer Asik, formerly of Chicago, has been great for the Rockets.
Others who have relocated and currently dwell near the top of the fantasy rankings include: Andrei Kirilenko (Minnesota), Mo Williams (Utah), O.J. Mayo (Dallas), Kevin Martin (Oklahoma City), Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers), Darren Collison (Dallas), Luis Scola (Phoenix), Arron Afflalo (Orlando), and Lou Williams (Atlanta).
INJURIES COME EARLY
The other big story has been how early in the season injuries have started to decimate fantasy teams. Some of the biggest, and how you can benefit from their misfortune:
Danny Granger, Indiana — It’s the worst-case scenario for the Pacers, Granger, the team’s leading scorer, will miss all but a month or so of the season after getting an injection in his knee. In his place, Paul George and Gerald Green will be asked to score in the 15 points a night range. George can do it, but the jury is out on Green. David West owners should also benefit, because he’ll get more touches.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto — Still awaiting word on the severity of his ankle injury. While he’s out, Jose Calderon becomes one of the more valuable fantasy point guards again. John Lucas III will get more time and will try to get back into the groove he was in in the pre-season and Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross also should play more. DeMar DeRozan’s numbers might fall off without Lowry.
Shawn Marion, Dallas — Out for at least a couple of weeks, which will give rookie Jae Crowder more minutes, as well as Vince Carter.
Brandon Rush, Golden State — A tough loss for the Warriors, Rush was looking like one of the league’s best sixth men before blowing out his knee. Harrison Barnes now likely will be cemented as a 30 minutes a game player.
Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers — The Lakers don’t have anybody to step in and cover for Nash, who should be out until mid-December. Steve Blake isn’t the answer. His absence will means Kobe Bryant becomes more of a facilitator for the time being.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans — Our condolences if you took him with a high pick. Who knows when or if the talented young guard will return. Rookie Austin Rivers gets thrown into the fire more with Gordon out and that should be good for Rivers in the long run. Rivers and Anthony Davis currently are injured, but should return soon and will be big parts of the offence, along with Al-Farouq Aminu, as the Hornets attempt to replace the 22 points a night Gordon brought to the table.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando — He’s got a nagging injury, not a serious one, but young E’Twaun Moore has been awesome as a fill-in and will keep getting minutes even when Nelson comes back. Moore is a stat-stuffer who is playing out of position while trying to run the offence.
Bad news for Danny Granger owners, he had to get a shot in his sore knee and will be out until March ... Golden State lost Brandon Rush for the season when he tore his ACL ... Dallas forward Shawn Marion was off to a great start, especially on the boards, but will miss at least three games due to a knee strain ... Charlotte G/F Gerald Henderson is expected to be out for a few weeks due to a foot sprain ... Atlanta’s Josh Smith is hobbled, but should still produce standout numbers ... Detroit’s Corey Maggette continues to progress towards a return, but is at least a week away from making his debut ... Reports indicate Steve Nash could miss up to a month with a small fracture in his leg, but it could only be a couple of weeks on the shelf ... Milwaukee backup PG Beno Udrih has a minor quadriceps “concern” and didn’t play on Wednesday ... Orlando starter Jameer Nelson has groin and hamstring problems which are forcing him to miss some action ... Former teammate Jason Richardson hurt his ankle stepping on a cameraman sitting on the baseline the other night and could miss the week.
CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARDS
It’s early, so the rebounding leaderboard looks a bit odd. Small forwards Durant and George are banging with the big boys so far:
Zach Randolph, MEM – 16.0;
Anderson Varejao, CLE – 15.0;
Omer Asik, HOU – 14.3;
Kevin Durant, OKC – 12.3;
Marcin Gortat, PHO – 12.3;
J.J. Hickson, POR – 11.3;
Paul George, IND – 10.5;
Tim Duncan, SAS – 10.3
HOT AND NOT
Surprises and disappointments
Anderson Varejao, F/C, CLE
14 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists per game and 65.8% shooting through 4 games!
Chris Bosh, F/C, MIA
No championship hangover. Bosh averaging 22.3 points, 8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 58% shooting.
Andrei Kirilenko, F, MIN
Is it 2012 or 2002? Turning back the clock with monster numbers (68% FG, 4.7 APG, 2.7 BLK)
Kemba Walker, G, CHA
Had tough rookie year, but 20 point, 4 rebound, 4 assist, 2 steal guy as a sophomore
Russell Westbrook, G, OKC
He’ll come around but 38% shooting and 2.8 turnovers a night are dragging down value.
Stephen Curry, G, GS
Healthy, but great shooter is at just 32%. Also turning it over 4 times a game.
Rudy Gay, F, MEM
Shooting 37%, turning it over and not putting up regular totals elsewhere.
Ratings out of 5
Jae Crowder, Mavericks, G/F
Had a great pre-season and with Shawn Marion out indefinitely, will continue to get time. Can contribute in a number of areas and is worth a long look.
Brendan Haywood, Bobcats, C
Has had a great start now that he’s back in Carolina. It’s early, but Haywood’s nearly averaging a double-double and also usually blocks some shots and shoots a good percentage from the field.
J.J. Barea, Timberwolves, G
With Ricky Rubio still out and Brandon Roy having some issues readapting to the NBA, Barea’s playing a lot and he has been a sparkplug for the Wolves. For at least the next two months, he should really produce in categories such as points, threes, assists and steals.
C.J. Watson, Nets, G
Among the league’s best backup point guards, Watson backs up both Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and can really play. Shot 58.8% over his first two games nailing 2.5 threes a night, a block and a steal. That won’t happen forever, but he’ll still help your team if you need help deep in your roster.
Nikola Vucevic, Magic, F/C
Somebody has to play in Orlando and the sophomore has stepped up to the plate. Fantastic first few games, so grab him if you can. Vucevic has averaged 13.3 points, 9 rebounds, one steal and 1.3 blocks so far.