Kemba Walker has made quite the leap as a sophomore so far this season, averaging 19.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.1 apg and 2.9 spg. He's also committing just 1.9 tpg while hitting 86.5 percent of his shots from the charity stripe, making him the 13th most valuable fantasy player. While growth was expected during his second year in the league, a jump so big has been a nice surprise, especially in the steals department (where he ranks second in the NBA). The biggest problem with Walker's game as a rookie was his shooting, as he went just 36.6 percent from the floor. While it's hardly above average, he's shooting 43.4 percent from the field this season, which is a real improvement. Part of it is him attempting fewer shots from downtown (2.4 3pt compared to 3.4 last year), but the biggest difference is his willingness to attack the basket. After attempting 2.7 shots at the rim last season, he's up to 6.6 this season — the 10th most in the NBA, with James Harden and Russell Westbrook being the only other guards in the top-10. Walker looks to be among the early favorites to go down as the most profitable fantasy player this year.
What's going on with Ersan Ilyasova? After the All-Star break last season, he averaged 16.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 0.8 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.1 3pt while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. The Bucks rewarded the breakout with a five-year, $40 million contract during the offseason, and he entered 2012/13 locked in as the team's starting power forward. Ilyasova was hardly a fantasy secret, as he went early in the fourth round in the Y! Friends & Family draft, but so far, he's been one of the biggest busts, averaging just 6.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.3 spg and 0.1 bpg while getting only 23:53 mpg. Scott Skiles can be a frustrating coach for fantasy owners, but it's hard to argue about playing time with how Ilyasova has performed this season (his Usage Rate is nearly identical to last year). After all, he's shooting 27.9 percent from the floor. The reason for this appears clear - after attempting 4.1 shots per game at the rim last season, he's down to 2.0 this year (while taking 0.7 more three-pointers as well). Ilyasova has made an NBA-worst 21.4 percent of those shots at the rim (league average is 64.2 percent), which should correct itself, but he also needs to go back to attacking inside more if he wants to approach last year's production. It's probably best to remain patient with Ilyasova, but there's no doubting just how discouraging his season has been so far.
Is this the single worst play in the history of basketball?
Speaking of struggling big men, Roy Hibbert hasn't been quite as bad thanks to 2.4 bpg, but he's averaging just 8.2 ppg while shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from the line. He's pulled down double-digit rebounds in only two of nine games and has actually attempted fewer shots per game this season compared to last despite Danny Granger's absence. I'm less worried about Hibbert than Ilyasova since the former has a longer track record (and he's actually attempting a career-high 4.1 shots at the rim this year), but while I try not to analyze anecdotal things like this for the most part, it's probably worth at least mentioning he signed a max contract worth $59 million during the offseason, so there's less incentive for him to be in shape this season than last. Still, it's obviously early, and I'm not going to panic about Hibbert just yet.
Especially with the departure of Ray Allen, it was safe to expect the usual production from Jason Terry with his move from Dallas to Boston, whether he was inserted into the starting lineup or maintained his previous role as sixth man. So far, it's been anything but similar production with his new team. Terry's stats never really jumped off the page in Dallas, but he was always a sneaky fantasy player, finishing as the 63rd most valuable last year, ahead of Tony Parker and Steve Nash and just behind Dwight Howard in 9-cat leagues. So far this season, Terry ranks 147th, which isn't surprising with him averaging 10.8 ppg, 1.0 rpg and 1.9 apg. He's actually shooting 49.2 percent from the floor, so it doesn't appear that age or a dramatic decline in play is the culprit. It's just that he's attempting about half as many shots in a Celtics uniform as he did with the Mavs, so the change in scenery has really hurt his stats more than expected, at least in the early going.
In case you missed it, here's my take on the fantasy fallout of Mike D'Antoni joining the Lakers.
Cats skydiving? Cats skydiving.
One final early season disappointment to discuss is Carlos Boozer. He busted out with a big performance during his last game (28 points, 14 boards), so maybe his funk is coming to an end, but he had totaled just 26 points over his previous three contests and had grabbed double-digit boards just once all season. Boozer's numbers aren't drastically down from last season (despite FG%, which has gone from 53.2 to 43.9), but the hope of him carrying more of the offensive load without Derrick Rose hasn't come to fruition at all. Over the last four years, he's averaged 19.5 ppg, 17.5 ppg, 15.0 ppg and 13.4 ppg, respectively. Something tells me that trend is going in the wrong direction, especially since his rebounding numbers are going down the same path. And we haven't even gotten into the fact Boozer is a health risk either, and he has just one block this season. One. Better things almost certainly are ahead, but Boozer continues to disappoint Bulls fans and fantasy owners alike.
Gasoline filled soy sauce containers spark fire at Midtown sushi restaurant.
Speaking of New York restaurants, this review of Guy Fieri's "America's Kitchen & Bar" is pretty funny.
One player who's been anything but a disappointment is O.J. Mayo, who's averaging a career-high 21.8 ppg while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 84.6 percent from the line. His 3.4 3pt also lead the NBA, and it's safe to expect more steals from him moving forward as well. The increased scoring isn't exactly unexpected, as he was relegated to a role player off the bench during his final two years in Memphis and is now not only starting but the centerpiece of Dallas' offense with Dirk Nowitzki sidelined. Mayo has been going off this month, as after a couple of down games while acclimating himself with his new teammates to start the year, he's averaged 24.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.9 apg and 3.7 3pt on 52.2 percent shooting in November. He's been the 19th most valuable fantasy player so far this season, according to Basketball Monster. Mayo will likely see a dip in scoring once Nowitzki returns, but there's no reason to be selling the former No. 3 overall pick, as fantasy owners should be able to enjoy this ride for the entirety of 2012/13.
Someone in my home league wrote this piece for Deadspin, which I thought was a good read.
Quick Hits: I apologize to Kyle Lowry owners, as he hasn't appeared in a game (and likely won't for another week or two) after I featured him in this column last week. My bad…Leandro Barbosa will definitely be worth using as long as Rajon Rondo is sidelined. As for Rondo, he's now reached double-digit assists in 32 straight games…The latest news on John Wall sure sounds discouraging. But nothing fantasy owners can really do at this point…Speaking of bad news on the injury front, depending on your format, it might be time to cut Andrew Bogut. I can't believe I fell for him yet again. I know the fool me once, fool me twice phrase, but what about if you're fooled three or four times? Either way, shame on me…The Byron Mullens update: 39 three-point attempts. Six free-throw attempts…Carmelo Anthony currently leads the league with 26.8 ppg, which if it finished that way would be the lowest since 1998/99 and the second lowest since 1956/57…Check out Andrew Bynum's hair and this LeBron James diss…The difference in the Knicks' Offensive Efficiency and Defensive Efficiency is 17.7. The next best team (the Clippers — yeah, it's officially bizarro world) is 8.8. It's early, but this Knicks team looks legit (with wins over Miami and at San Antonio already). There's going to be a serious dilemma with what New York does with Amar'e Stoudemire once he's ready to return.