The league's best passing big man (USP)
For someone 7-1, 265, Marc Gasol's rebounding ability remains a bit disappointing (7.0 rpg), but every other aspect of his game is exemplary. He's shooting 90.2 percent from the line, but what's really been impressive is his passing, as he's averaging 4.9 apg. To put this in perspective, the center with the next most apg has averaged 3.7 (Greg Monroe), while the third (Dwight Howard) has 2.1 and the fourth (Zaza Pachulia) has 1.8. And to make this difference even more stark, while Gasol has gotten just 1.2 turnovers per game, the next three have averaged 3.1, 3.3 and 1.8, respectively. In fact, Gasol's assist:turnover ratio (4.15) is the second-best in the league, regardless of position. He's been the 11th most valuable fantasy player so far this season in 9-cat leagues and is a big reason why Memphis is arguably a top-three team in the NBA right now (they rank in the top-five in both Offensive Efficiency and Defensive Efficiency).
Chandler Parsons has been among the most profitable fantasy players so far this season, considering his relatively low cost at the draft table and the reward (he's been a top-35 player so far). After a ridiculous performance Friday when he scored 18 points in the first quarter while shooting 8-for-8 from the field, he's averaging 15.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg and 2.4 3pt, all while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and committing just 2.0 tpg. Jeremy Lin may not have been the home run free agent grab (especially considering his contract), and Royce White may very well turn out to be a strikeout of a draft pick, but trading for James Harden and selecting Parsons in the middle of the second round last year sure look like savvy moves on Houston's part. Parsons may not be able to keep up this type of production all season long, but there's also no reason to expect him to fall off dramatically, and he's getting all the run he can handle (37:47 mpg). Parsons is absolutely going to go down as one of the most valuable grabs in fantasy leagues this season.
This young fan ogling a cheerleader is priceless.
Jason Kidd is 39 years old, just joined a new team (which essentially moved him to a new position) and has averaged only 26:06 mpg this season. Yet somehow, he's been the 15th most valuable fantasy player in 9-cat leagues so far, this despite him averaging just 8.0 ppg (and he also has the fourth lowest Usage Rate in the NBA, minimum 20 mpg). He's done so by being ridiculously efficient, getting 2.0 spg and 0.5 bpg while leading the NBA with a 5.13 assist:turnover ratio. And after shooting 36.1 and 36.3 percent from the field over the past two seasons, he's up to 51.8 this season, and while some of that can be explained by him picking his spots more and lowering the volume, Kidd has also made more three-pointers per game this year (1.8) than either of the past two, so it's probably safe to expect some regression soon, especially considering he hasn't missed a free throw yet (and he's making half his attempts from downtown). Still, Kidd currently looks like the poster boy for someone undervalued in fantasy leagues, as he's an old boring veteran who doesn't even score double-digits per game (nor does he even average four assists or four rebounds per contest). But he does everything else so well, and while there's some obvious drop off likely to occur with his shooting, Kidd's efficiency as a part time player in New York's system can't be completely overlooked, as it's clear he's a pretty good fit.
The halftime show at last week's Wizards/Bobcats game was…interesting.
After joining the starting lineup last year, Isaiah Thomas averaged 14.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.0 spg and 1.6 3pt while shooting 47.7 percent from the floor and 84.1 percent from the charity stripe. He put up those stats on a bad team and was literally the last pick of the 2011 draft, so he doesn't have much of a pedigree. But Keith Smart's unpredictable usage deserves some scrutiny, as Thomas' PER last year ranked better than John Wall, Rajon Rondo, Andre Iguodala and Amar'e Stoudemire, among others. PER is hardly a perfect way to evaluate players, but Aaron Brooks, who's now starting over Thomas, has never even approached the number Thomas put up last year during his rookie season. I say this as someone who lives close by, but is there a more dysfunctional franchise than Sacramento right now? A coach who appears clueless, owners who want to move to a different city, and a roster that while it may look enticing on paper, is much more suited for a fantasy team than a real life NBA squad. Actually, even speaking in pure fantasy terms, Sacramento has been equally as disappointing as its win/loss record. Not only has Thomas gone from sleeper to waiver wire material, but Tyreke Evans is averaging a career low 14.5 ppg, Marcus Thornton's numbers are down and then there's DeMarcus Cousins, who's currently the 99th most valuable fantasy player while somehow also having the league's seventh-highest Usage Rate.
If you've yet to see the red baby panda surprised, here it is.
Josh Smith is shooting a career high 77.8 percent at the rim and also 40.0 percent from within 3-9 feet, which is slightly above league average. He's also attempting the third fewest amount of three-pointers per game in his career, yet his field goal percentage is just 43.9 percent on the year, so what gives? From 10 feet and beyond, Smith's shooting has been simply brutal, as he's made only 16.7 percent from 10-15 feet and 24.0 percent from 16-23 feet. And most glaringly, he's somehow shooting 43.8 percent from the line, which is just killing his value. Smith's blocks are up (3.2 bpg), but his rebounding is way down (7.1 rpg), and if you add it all up, you're left with the 128th ranked fantasy player in 9-cat leagues. That's not exactly what most of his owners expected when they spent a first round pick on him.
And he was never heard from again.
Over the last three games, Robin Lopez has averaged 14.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 spg and 4.0 bpg while going 17-for-21 from the line. His playing time has been sporadic all year, and the recent production is directly related to Anthony Davis being out with an injury, but he's worth using in the short-term in deeper leagues, especially if you need blocks. Even in limited minutes (28:11), Lopez's 2.3 bpg is tied for seventh in the NBA. He's one of the rare exceptions who's seen his fantasy value actually increase after leaving Phoenix.
Two drivers arrested for drunken driving in the same car.
Quick Hits: Entering the weekend, Lou Williams actually had a higher Usage Rate than Kevin Durant, although that anomaly has since been corrected…I finally caved and dropped Andrew Bynum in the Y! Friends & Family league after he injured his other knee while bowling recently. Seriously? Talk about the right time for the Lakers to trade him. Poor Philadelphia…Rajon Rondo is averaging 13.7 apg. The next best mark in the league is Chris Paul with 9.6 apg. That's pretty crazy…Anthony Davis has been about as impressive as it gets for a rookie, but let's hope his fragility doesn't become a long-term concern…Serge Ibaka and Roy Hibbert are tied for the NBA lead with 3.1 bpg. The former is somehow shooting 88.1 percent from the free throw line, while the latter is somehow shooting 37.9 percent from the floor. Both extremes stand out like sore thumbs compared to others among the league leaders in blocks per game…Kenneth Faried's Offensive Rebound Rate (18.2) easily leads the NBA…I must say, I really didn't expect Klay Thompson to be shooting 37.1 percent from the field at this point in the season. Part of the reason is him attempting 6.6 three-pointers per game, but he's too good of a shooter to not come out of this slump. Stick with him.