Tuesday, March 15, 2005

New! Updated! Top 20!

Tier One – The Elite.

1. Kevin Garnett, F – OK, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know I put KG at number two last month, and maybe I was being a bit rash. But no worries, after putting up 25/14.4/5.6 on 56.5% shooting so far in March, he’s reclaimed the top spot. Sorry.

2. Lebron James, G/F – Whatever his position is on the court, LeBron is definitely no lower than #2 on this list. His non-scoring numbers have taken a hit since the All-Star break, but the fact that he helps you in 7 categories – and is a major plus in points, steals, assists, boards, and FG% - puts him a step above the next few guys.

3. Shawn Marion, SF – Every year, it happens. Marion falls to the second half of the first round of your fantasy draft, and then by the end of the year he’s a top-3 fantasy player. Don’t let it happen next year. He’s the only player who averages over 2 steals and 1 block every game. Add in his double digit rebounds (a first for him this year) and his 1.3 3’s, and there’s no reason he should fall any lower than 5 in next year’s draft.

4. Dirk Nowitzki, F/C – Center eligibility or no center eligibility, Dirk belongs in this tier. His scoring is at a career-high, as are his rebounds, but what’s really impressive has been his ability to get to the charity stripe this year. His 9.3 attempts per game are 7th in the league, and he knocks down over 85% of them. From a F/C, that’s incredible.

Tier Two – The Near Elite

5. Tracy McGrady, GF – The Rockets are on a 5-game winning streak and look to be a lock for the playoffs (and my pick for upset NBA Champion. There, I said it). And the turnaround has been led my Tracy McGrady, who is playing spectacular ball right now. His 29.3/7.5/5.9 so far in March is great, but his 2.3 steals and 1.9 3’s are even better. If only he got more blocks (only 3 in his last 10 games) or shot his free throws better, he’d be in the elite. But he’s a definite step up from the next couple guys on this list.

6. Allen Iverson, G – Yeah I know, this might be a little high, but AI is putting this team on his back right now. He’s #1 on the 30-day player rater. He’s averaging over 30 points AND over 7.5 assists this year. Plus 2.3 steals and 1.3 3’s? Awesome.

Tier Three – The Question Marks

7. Tim Duncan, F/C – You’ve seen me go back and forth on Duncan all year. We’ll let him settle in here on the list, because there’s something about a 20/10/2.5 guy with center eligibility. But there are serious concerns about his back. You’ll just have to ride him out at this point.

8. Kobe Bryant, SG – It’s been a strong March for Kobe, as he’s poured in 32.9 ppg, and knocked down an amazing 64 of his 70 free throws. All that scoring has meant less passing, though, and his health still worries me enough that he lands in the Question Marks tier.

9. Andrei Kirilenko, F – Finally a couple huge games from AK-47, amassing 52 points and 27 boards over his last 2. Unfortunately, these have been the exception to the rule – 15.7 points and 6.6 boards are far less than we had expected from someone who was picked as high as 5th or 6th in some drafts.

10. Jason Kidd, PG – There is nobody that would worry me more than Jason Kidd right now. The Nets are still 4 games out of a playoff spot, and will have to leapfrog Philly and Indiana to make it. Once they’re definitely out of it, Kidd will likely shut it down for the year. But until he does, he will continue to produce big-time. 3.6 steals over his last five? Awesome.

11. Gilbert Arenas, PG – Something just ain’t right with Gil, and it’s probably that knee. But his last 2 games has seen him fall off the charts in rebounds, he isn’t stealing the ball as well, and his shooting has been horrendous. The Curse o’ Les Boulez is lurking.

Tier Four – Solid Slashers

12. Jason Richardson, SG – Very quietly, J-Rich has been putting up a fantastic season out on the left coast. Career-high numbers in points, threes, assists, steals, and FG%. Possibly the best player taken in the 2001 Draft lottery.

13. Ray Allen, SG – His team might be exceeding expectations this year, but Mr. Shuttlesworth is having a down year for sure. Worst rebounds and steals since ’98, worst 3’s since ’99, worst assists since ’02, worst FG% ever.

14. Larry Hughes, SG – Back with a vengeance! Since returning from injury, Hughes has played like he’s got stick-um on his hands, grabbing 3 steals and 7.7 boards a game. With both Jamison and Arenas struggling with injuries, Hughes could have a huge last month.

15. Paul Pierce, SG – He’s been playing great since the return of Antoine Walker. His overall stats are certainly down from last year, but he should continue to play well through the rest of the regular season.

16. Vince Carter, GF – He fought through his first slump as a Net, and maybe he’s better for it. His rebounds since coming to the Nets (6.1) are his best ever, and most of his other stats are the best he’s put up in 3 or 4 years.

Tier Five – Just Ahead of the Pack

17. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C – I dunno what’s gotten in to this guy, but since the All-Star Break he’s been downright Duncan-esque, with 21.6/10.1 and 3 blocks. He’s going to be a very interesting draft pick next year. He could go as early as the second round, and as late as the 4th.

18. Mike Bibby, PG – No Webber. No Miller. So-so Peja. This is Bibby’s team now, even if it’s by default. And his numbers over his last five (21.4 points, 9.4 assists, 2 steals) suggest that he’s up to the challenge.

19. Dwayne Wade, PG – His improvement over last year has been remarkable. I had put a big red flag on him for this year’s draft, but next year I’ll happily take him at the end of the second round. He’s scoring 7.5 more ppg and dishing out 2.6 more assists than last year. Incredible.

20. Donyell Marshall, F – New rule. If you hit 12 3’s in one game, you get to be in the next New! Updated! Top 20! Enough said.

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