Rick’s Tips: Fantasy Awards, So Far

Happy New Year, fantasy fans! It’s time to get back to work with 10 fantasy awards for the 2012 portion of the 2012-13 regular season.

Most Surprising Player – Larry Sanders, Bucks
Raise your hand if you saw Sanders ranking 46th across eight categories thanks to 8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, and 54 percent shooting. Sanders leads the NBA in blocks per game, ahead of last year’s leader Serge Ibaka and three-time DPOY Dwight Howard. Disappointment – Deron Williams, Nets
I’ve been disappointed by D-Will for three reasons. One, how do you play on Christmas, then take off the next night against Milwaukee, then watch your coach get fired the next day, and then immediately return to the lineup the day after that? Two, how could D-Will not come into his first season in Brooklyn in the best shape of his life? Finally, after averaging 21.0 points and 8.7 assists last season, he’s down to 16.6 and 7.8 through 33 games this year.

Mr. Headache – Pau Gasol, Lakers
Not only are Pau’s numbers way down and not only did he take two weeks off to rest tendonitis in both knees, but he has been benched in the fourth quarter several times since Mike D’Antoni took over. I didn’t think Pau was going to be a 20-10 guy this year, but I certainly predicted more than 12.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks. And whereas Pau has historically been a 50-80 guy on the percentages, he is shooting 42-74.

Best Pickup – Lou Williams, Hawks
Williams was picked up in most leagues a couple weeks ago when Larry Drew promoted him to the starting lineup. Lou has been solid all season, but he has taken his game to another level in eight starts, averaging 18.3 points, 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.3 threes, while shooting 49 percent, and 80 percent from the stripe. Lou is as competitive as he is talented, so there’s no end in sight to this productivity.

Best Comeback – Dwight Howard, Lakers
Dwight’s final season in Orlando was cut short by a back problem that required surgery. He returned late in the preseason and has been a beast for LA ever since, averaging 17.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks, while shooting 57 percent.

Most Improved Player – Jrue Holiday, 76ers
Holiday was a disappointment last season, averaging a pedestrian 13.5 points and 4.5 assists. But his scoring average is up to 18.4 and his assists have spiked to 8.9 — good for fourth in the NBA. With Andre Iguodala in Denver, Doug Collins has given Holiday the ball and a long leash, and he has not disappointed this time around.

Defensive MVP – Josh Smith, Hawks
My definition of Defensive MVP is the player with the best combination of blocks and steals, and Josh leads the league at 3.8 combined B/S per game. His 2.3 blocks rank sixth in the league, while his 1.5 steals rank 19th.

Best Rookie – Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
This is a two-horse race between Lillard and Anthony Davis, but Lillard is currently lapping Davis. Lillard ranks 31st across eight categories with 18.2 points, 6.4 assists, 2.2 threes, 1.0 steal, and 85 percent from the line, while Davis ranks 53rd. As a proud owner of Lillard, I can only hope the Blazers stay in the playoff hunt because that will keep him motivated to push through the rookie wall.

Most Valuable Player – James Harden, Rockets
Other candidates for Fantasy MVP include Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and Tim Duncan, but Harden is my choice because he is providing first-round value despite being drafted in the second or third round. Harden has blossomed into a true 8-cat player in Houston, with 26.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.5 blocks, 2 steals, 2 threes, 45 percent from the field and 86 percent from the line. He ranks fourth across eight categories, with only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant ahead of him.

Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.

Rick’s Tips: Keep Rubio Benched For Now

The fantasy basketball world received a huge boost on Saturday when Ricky Rubio made his return to the Timberwolves’ lineup in an overtime win over the Mavericks.

The selfless Spaniard tore up his knee on March 9, making it amazing that he got back to work in just over nine months. When you combine Rubio’s speedy recovery with what Vikings’ RB Adrian Peterson is doing — also less than a year removed from major knee surgery — it makes me wonder what’s in the water up there. And as a Minneapolis native, it makes me pump my fist a la Tiger Woods after a big putt.

Rubio was Rubio in his return, recording eight points, four rebounds, nine assists and three steals in 18 minutes off the bench. The plan was for Rubio to play 16-18 minutes, so Wolves’ coach Rick Adelman deftly deployed his franchise PG, bridging the first and second quarters, and then bridging the third and fourth quarters, before bringing Rubio back for the final two-plus minutes of regulation.

Problem is, the excitement about Rubio’s early return (preseason reports had him returning on Christmas at earliest) was mitigated by the fact that he played tonight in Orlando but is not scheduled to play Tuesday in Miami. According to the Pioneer Press, Rubio has not yet been cleared for both ends of back-to-backs, and he remains on the NBA version of a pitch count when he does play.

So, despite the Wolves playing four games this week, it’s time to move Rubio to the bench for Week 8. Unfortunately, I recommend leaving him on the bench next week as well because the Wolves play only two games.

Rubio becomes startable in Week 10, when the Wolves play three division games against the Jazz, Nuggets and Blazers.

The fantasy basketball world has waited patiently for Rubio’s return and we need to stay patient for another fortnight. That said, it helps me sleep at night knowing that Rubio will rescue two of my four fantasy teams once we ring in the New Year.

Happy Holidays!

Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.

Rick’s Tips: Thunder A Fantasy Dream

Not only are the Memphis Grizzlies one of the NBA’s elite teams, they may also rank as the best overall fantasy team.

It’s a two-horse race for the best overall fantasy team between the Grizzles and Thunder, with the Heat (3 of the top 37 players: James, Bosh, Wade) and Trail Blazers (3 of the top 41 players: Batum, Lillard, Aldridge) ranking third and fourth, respectively. Working in the Grizzlies’ favor is the fact that they have 4 of the top 42 fantasy players, while the Thunder sport 4 of the top 49. Working in the Thunder’s favor is the fact that they have 3 of the top 20 players and 2 of the top 8. Durant is 1st overall (by a wide margin over Kobe Bryant), Russell Westbrook ranks 8th (career-high 8.5 assists per game), Serge Ibaka ranks 20th (may lead the NBA in blocks for the next decade), and Kevin Martin ranks 49th (15.8 ppg, 2.2 3pg, 1.1 spg).

Mike Conley ranks 12th (yes, first-round value from Conley!), Marc Gasol ranks 22nd (averaging 4.4 assists and 91 percent from the line), Rudy Gay is 33rd (one-one-and-one in blocks, steals, and threes), and Zach Randolph is 42nd (18 and 13 mitigates his lack of D).

As for each team’s fourth-best fantasy player, I’d much rather have Z-Bo than Martin for a million reasons. In terms of the top two players for each team, I’d MUCH rather have Durant and Westbrook than Conley and Gasol. So which Core Four would I rather have? It’s a coin flip, but it would be tough to leave Durant and Westbrook on the table, even if I have to take on the injury-prone Martin.

That said, there are three reasons to remain bullish on the Grizzlies. One, Lionel Hollins deploys a very fantasy-friendly rotation in that his Core Four plays between 34.6 and 37.2 minutes per game. Two, every player knows and accepts his role. To wit, the Core Four averages between 14.4 (Conley) and 19.0 (Gay) points per game. And three, GM Chris Wallace has built a deep and talented roster full of players who love to compete and win—both in reality and fantasy.

Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.

Rick’s Tips: Five Random Thoughts

I’m back with five random fantasy thoughts on our beloved NBA …

1. Gregg Popovich’s strategy of resting healthy players has been a fantasy headache for years. But after getting fined $250,000 by the league for resting the Spurs’ Big Three (plus Danny Green) for last Thursday’s TNT game against the Heat, Pop might actually give pause to doing it again. As for the other 29 teams, this fine will serve as a powerful precedent against resting healthy players — and that’s great news in the fantasy basketball world.

2. The Dwightmare morphed into Dwight’s Debacle in the first game against his former team on Sunday in Los Angeles. Dwight Howard made only 7-of-14 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter (9-of-21 in the game) as the Magic deployed the Hack-a-Dwight strategy to perfection, winning the game by 10. Don Nelson must have been proud as he watched on NBA League Pass. Much to the chagrin of Dwight’s fantasy owners, he failed to record a block for the first time this year. Oh, the irony …

3. Welcome back, Andray Blatche. In the three games since Brook Lopez injured his foot, Blatche has averaged roughly 17 points and 10 rebounds. His weight is down, his activity is up, and so are his stats. Simply jump for your mouse and ride the wave until Lopez comes back, whenever that is.

4. My Pickup of the Week is Patrick Patterson, who has 20+ points in four of his last five games. I am totally sold on the Rockets’ power forward of the future, who has a superhero build with a Midas touch. Patterson is crushing the percentages across the board, shooting 51 percent from the field, 38 percent on threes (making 0.8 of 2.1 attempts), and 77 percent from the line. Not only is Patterson an early candidate for Fantasy Pickup of the Year, but he will also generate Most Improved buzz before the year is out.

5. If you were quick enough to pick up Larry Sanders, then the fantasy bills are paid for the rest of the season in boards and blocks. Sanders recorded a triple-double with blocks last Friday against the Wolves, and he backed it up with 18 points, 16 rebounds, and five more blocks the next night against the Celtics. UNC rookie John Henson looks good as well, but the Bucks’ center gig is Sanders to lose.

Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.

Rick’s Tips: Don’t Sell Pau Short

Boy, the criticism sure is mounting on Pau Gasol, isn’t it? To some it sounds like hate. To others it sounds like the “noise” Erik Spoelstra always talks about. To me, it sounds like a perfect time to buy-low.

And that’s exactly what I did in League Freak (12-team, HTH, 8-cat). Check this out. I’m driving to work this morning and my dear friend Paul Allen (radio voice of our Minnesota Vikings) e-mails me an offer of Pau Gasol and Andre Miller for DeAndre Jordan and Tristan Thompson.

Two words: all day!

I hustled into work so I could log on and pull the trigger before P.A. came to his senses. Understand that I have not lost faith in Jordan; quite the contrary, as I still start him in two of my four leagues. But the chance to get Pau, historically a top-20 player across 8 categories, for Jordan and Thompson (who has been a disappointment through one month, especially the lack of shot blocking) was too good to pass up.

As I type this blog on Monday afternoon, Pau is averaging 13.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.3 blocks. The boards, dimes, and swats are at or near his career averages, so he’s a medium improvement in scoring away from reclaiming his lofty fantasy status. All he needs is one more basket per half — or four more points per game — to get that scoring average from the 13s to the 17s.

Keep in mind that once Steve Nash returns from his broken leg, whenever that may be, the L.A. Lakers are going to be painting offensive masterpieces nightly. Run-and-gun head coach Mike D’Antoni had major talent in Phoenix, but he didn’t have four future-Hall-of-Famers in the same starting 5.

Nash will make sure that Pau is not only involved, but involved in ways that will maximize his strengths. Pau complained after Friday’s loss to the Grizzlies that his touches are coming too far from the basket and that all he’s getting these days are jump shots. Well, that’s because second-year point guard Darius Morris isn’t quite ready and Kobe Bryant is serving as the most trigger-happy PG in the league until Nash returns.

For the time being, it’s safe to expect around 15-9-3 from Pau with blocks and solid percentages, which is easily better than Jordan. But when Nash comes back — and Pau is actually smiling while playing the game he loves — you’ll be very happy that you went bargain-shopping.

Antawn Jamison was finally spotted Friday in Memphis (16 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes) and Saturday in Dallas (19 points and 15 rebounds in 30 minutes). Many of those minutes came at the expense of Gasol, who was benched toward the end of the Memphis game because the Lakers needed 3s for their comeback attempt. The next night in Dallas, Pau had 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block in 28 minutes, and his minutes were limited because the game was a blowout.

I am not worried about Jamison turning the Lakers’ power forward position into a timeshare. Furthermore, I fully expect Pau to hover around 32 minutes a night, which should be plenty of time to hit the aforementioned 17-9-3.

Lastly, I am not overly concerned with the knee tendinitis that Pau is currently overcoming. He clearly needs to get in better shape, and I’m confident that he will because he’s always been one of the most dedicated and diligent players in the league.

Listen, this isn’t the first time it’s taken an elite big man a month or so to get in shape — and it won’t be the last. So buy low now and reap the fantasy rewards now and later.

Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.

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 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.

Rick’s Tips: Waiver Wire Gems

We’re two weeks into the 2012-13 regular season and players are being picked up and dropped at a furious clip. In one of my four leagues, there’s an owner who dropped Shannon Brown for Nate Robinson, who was then dropped minutes later for Ramon Sessions, who was then swapped out one day later for Larry Sanders.

Sometimes, that’s the only way to survive the ebbs and flows of the NBA’s regular-season marathon in fantasy basketball leagues. Just don’t mistake activity for achievement.

To that end, I submit five waiver wire players with the best chances of sticking on your roster — long term:

Larry Sanders, Bucks: Sanders mystified the Bucks in his first two NBA seasons with freakish athleticism tossed in a salad of inconsistency and immaturity. Now, five games into his third season (aka, the make-or-break season for most NBA players), Sanders is averaging 12.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 66 percent from the field, and 83 percent from the line — good for 34th across 8 categories. And he’s doing it off the bench in only 27 minutes per game, so it’s reasonable to think there’s upside from here. Samuel Dalembert remains a viable player, and Milwaukee’s starting center, but Sanders’ role, minutes, bank account, etc. are expanding by the quarter.

Nate Robinson, Bulls: With Kirk Hinrich injured, again, look for Nate to take the Bulls’ starting point guard job and run with it. When Nate gets starter’s minutes, he lives in double figures, hits threes, gets steals, and generally loads the box score with love. To wit, Nate had 18 points in 31 minutes against the Wolves on Saturday, with a three and a steal. That’s what he does, and I think he’ll be doing it more consistently than Hinrich until Derrick Rose returns.

Jason Terry, Celtics: After a slow start to the season, the Celtics have moved Terry into the starting lineup at the expense of Courtney Lee. Terry responded with his best performance as a Celtic, netting 15 points in 22 minutes on Saturday against the Bucks. The promotion is important because now Terry gets to finish passes from arguably the best playmaker in the game, Rajon Rondo. Playing with the starters is going to make Terry better, more efficient, and he’s a heckuva start this week with five games on the schedule.

Eric Bledsoe, Clippers: Bledsoe was playing so well in Sunday’s win over the Hawks, Vinny Del Negro waited until deep in the fourth quarter before subbing out Bledsoe for Chris Paul — aka, the best PG in the league! Don’t get it twisted, with or without Chauncey Billups in the lineup, Bledsoe is a part of the immediate plan for the Clippers. No, he won’t fully spike while playing behind Paul, but he’s in the mix for 20ish minutes per game, and because he’s so incredibly athletic, he can’t help but produce usable fantasy numbers. For instance, in 18.1 minutes per game, he’s averaging 10.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.6 steals. My recommendation is to pick up Bledsoe and sit on him because the best is yet to come.

Carl Landry, Warriors: Raise your hand if you think Andrew Bogut has been shut down for ONLY 7-10 days to rehab his broken ankle. I’m hoping the big fella can return, as I spent a mid-round pick on him in my 5-cat league. However, given the parade of DNPs in the past 2-3 years — albeit to serious injuries that require months or years of recovery time — it’s hard to trust Bogut at this point. Enter offseason acquisition Landry, who is averaging 16.1 points on 60 percent shooting with 8.1 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per game. Right now, it’s basically Landry and David Lee against the world in the Warriors frontcourt, so those minutes and categories should only increase as long as Bogut nurses his ankle back to health.

Rick’s Tips: Trends vs. Mirages

The first week of any NBA season is loaded with unpredictable events, but the first week of 2012-13 has been as crazy as it’s been historic. As such, I am back with the top 5 value-risers across eight categories.

Time to play one of my favorite games within the fantasy game: trend vs mirage.

 1. James Harden, Rockets: Many projected Harden to have first- or second-round value coming into the season, but few saw 82 points in his first two games. Through week 1, Harden is second only to Kyle Lowry across eight cats through three games, and “The Beard” should remain in the top five all season. Diagnosis: Trend.

2. Mo Williams, Jazz: Mo was one of my favorite sleepers coming into the season because he has always put up numbers as a starter. Plus, he’s the QB on a team loaded with young, athletic talent. Williams is ninth across eight cats after three games, averaging 22 points, 6.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 2.0 threes. Diagnosis: Trend.

3. Kevin Martin, Thunder: Thanks in large part to 28 points on 6-of-8 shooting against the Hawks on Sunday, Martin is 11th across eight cats after three games. He is averaging 20.7 points in 30.3 minutes, but his track record of missing games overshadows his contract year status. Diagnosis: Mirage.

4. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers: I was actually mocked in my brother’s five-cat draft for taking Lillard in the third round of a 12-team league. That sound you hear is me laughing last. After seeing him blaze through Vegas, I was sold, and I’m not one bit surprised he’s 19th across eight cats after three games. Diagnosis: Trend.

5. Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers: Andy set career highs in rebounds (23) and assists (nine) in the opening win over Washington, and he kept the beat rolling over the weekend as well. After three games, he ranks 22nd across eight cats with rounded averages of 14-15-4 and a shooting percentage of .643. However, his history of injuries makes me think selling high is the way to go. Diagnosis: Mirage.

Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick and check out the rest of’s fantasy coverage here.

Rick’s Tips: Stepping Up For Granger

As you have seen and heard on both of our preseason editions of Fantasy Insider on NBA TV, I was not feeling Danny Granger entering this season because of lingering soreness in his left knee. Now, after just receiving word from the Pacers that Granger is out indefinitely as he seeks a second opinion on his knee, I am back with the fantasy aftermath.

Here are the fantasy beneficiaries, ranked in order of biggest jump in fantasy value …

 1. Gerald Green: Last year in 31 games with the Nets, Green averaged 12.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 1.4 threes in 25.2 minutes. I fully expect Green to enter the starting lineup for Granger and play at least 30 minutes per game, so look for upwards of 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1+ steals, and 2+ threes per game. Pick him up at once! (more…)

Rick’s Tips: Top 10 Fantasy Centers

Hopefully you guys have seen the 2012-13 season premier of Fantasy Insider. If not, be sure to catch one of the re-airs on NBA TV — or watch the video clips right here on

With that promotional announcement out of the way, let’s get into my top 10 fantasy centers. But first, here’s a word or two about some of the centers who did not make the cut.

Andrew Bogut’s double-double, assist-block combo platter makes him a top 10 center when healthy … when healthy … when healthy …

The Nuggets showed Javale McGee the money in the offseason, but George Karl doesn’t seem ready to show him the floor. McGee is in a timeshare with Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov, if you can believe it.

The center position is very deep this year. I remain bullish on Kevin Garnett, Marcin Gortat, Roy Hibbert, Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, Nikola Pekovic and Omer Asik, but there wasn’t room for them in my top 10 because I like these centers just a little bit better …

1. Dwight Howard, Lakers: 19-12-4 in his Lakers’ debut. Any questions?

2. Al Jefferson, Jazz: Big Al was the second-ranked fantasy center across 8-cats a season ago and I see no reason to rank his near 20-10-2 line any differently.

3. DeMarcus Cousins, Kings: Cousins was the sixth-ranked 8-cat center last year. However, I see him vaulting over Marc Gasol and K.G. based on the fact that D.C. averaged nearly 20 and 11 after the All-Star break.

4. Andrew Bynum, 76ers: If Bynum were racking up double-doubles for the Sixers this preseason, instead of nursing a bone bruise, I would rank him as center 1a behind Dwight. But given the fact we’re still putting the words “Bynum” and “knee” in the same sentence causes me to drop him beneath Jefferson and Cousins.

5. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: Gasol contributes in every category except threes, and he’s tough as nails, willing himself to double-doubles despite injuries that would keep Chris Kaman out for weeks.

6. Chris Bosh, Heat: Bosh is embracing the center role with which he and the Heat won the ring last year. I don’t know if he gets all the way back to 20-10, but it’ll be close.

7. Al Horford, Hawks: Very tough call between Horford and Greg Monroe, who project around 15-10-3 with nice percentages and decent D. But Horford has more upside both on the offensive end (more shots with Joe Johnson in Brooklyn?) and defensive end (Horford is 1.1 career bpg; Monroe is 0.6).

8. Greg Monroe, Pistons: Monroe IS the 2012-13 Detroit Pistons, so look for more continued improvement across the board. I wish he blocked more shots, but bigs like Chris Bosh and David West have had terrific value for years despite that shortcoming.

9. DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: D.J. has been my biggest preseason riser because he doesn’t look good … or even great … he looks AWESOME! He lulled me sound-to-sleep with his sluggish finish to last season. But his weight is down, his involvement is up and the activity is better than ever. This new-and-improved D.J. will contend for the blocks title and provide consistent double-doubles all year.

10. Brook Lopez, Nets: The 19-and-9 thing in the preseason is a throwback to Lopez before the foot problems, when he was a fantasy force. To me, there’s just more upside with Lopez than there is with guys like Garnett, Gortat, Hibbert, Chandler and Noah.

Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.