Rick’s Tips: Fantasy Microscope

We’re just about one month into the 2012-13 regular season, and several players are exceeding their preseason fantasy expectations. Now the question is, should you sell-high or ride it out? To that end, I have picked five players currently ranked in the top 25 of the 8-cat rankings to put under the fantasy microscope:

1) Nicolas Batum, Blazers: Many of us were expecting a breakout season from Batum, who flashed signs in the second half of last season. But few of us foresaw Batum emerging as an elite fantasy player, currently in the top five on the 8-cat charts thanks to all the fantasy gold: aka, blocks, steals, and threes.

Batum probably won’t stay in the top five all season, but he likely won’t fall below 15th either, meaning first-round value should be there all season. And why would you trade a dude who can score 35 points and block five shots in the same game, which he did last Friday against the Rockets?

2) Jrue Holiday, 76ers: If you watched Dennis Scott, Rashan Ali, and myself on NBA.com Fantasy Insider during the preseason, then you probably have Holiday on your team because we could not have been higher on the Sixers’ floor general. And Jrue is backing up the hype, currently giving owners first-round value, hovering around 20 points and 10 assists per game.

And with Andrew Bynum nowhere near returning to the court due to problems with both knees, there is no reason to expect a decrease in value from Holiday, who is Philly’s undisputed No. 1 player at this point. As such, I recommend riding it out with Holiday, who may take your team all the way to the Fantasy Promised Land.

3) Damian Lillard, Blazers: Lillard whetted our appetite at the Vegas Summer League, racking up impressive stats and Co-VSL MVP honors. Well, Lillard has carried over that fine play to the regular season, hovering around 20 ppg and ranking in the top 5 for threes made.

The Blazers have hitched their wagon to this young stud out of Weber State, and he will form a potent 1-2 combo with LaMarcus Aldridge for years to come. Not only would I resist selling high with Lillard, but I think it’s safe to expect even better numbers going forward as he continues to polish his craft.

4) J.R. Smith, Knicks: It wasn’t hard to see J.R. getting off to a fantastic start given the knee injuries to Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert. But I’m not sure anyone — including his family members — saw J.R. maintaining top 25 value across 8 cats through the NBA’s first month.

Enjoy all of these goodies while they last, however. When Amar’e and Shump get back to work in the new year, J.R.’s minutes and shots will decrease, and he likely will shift from fantasy starter to fantasy bench player. As such, I would be shopping J.R. for someone who has a better chance of keeping his value all season.

5) Kemba Walker, Bobcats: Kemba is the straw that stirs the drink in Charlotte, so you have nothing to worry about in terms of his value going forward. Currently, Kemba ranks in the top 25 across 8 categories, with 18.8 points, 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 86 percent from the free-throw line.

Perhaps best of all, after shooting .366 from the field as a rookie, Kemba is shooting .423 from the field as a sophomore. I was shocked to so him shoot so poorly last year, so I think this year’s percentage is more indicative of his talents. Do not sell-high with Kemba, who’s career arrow is pointing straight up.

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