by Dave Fuller
At times last season, Rudy Gay appeared not to be ready for the NBA. At times this season, it's appeared as though the NBA is not ready for Rudy Gay.
Don't worry, I'm not getting way ahead of myself. Rudy Gay will likely never be compared a phenom like LeBron James, but Gay is loaded with the kind of potential that could allow him to be a top player in the league. The only problem he's had to deal with thus far is an apparently lack of drive and intensity. Averaging 23.6 points per game (four games of 30+ points; that's pretty intense) in December, we can either determine that Rudy (which must be short for Rudolph) loves Christmas or he's beginning to mature and realize his vast potential. I vote for the former. It's more likely the latter.
Gay is on the road to winning the League's "Most Improved" award in his sophomore season, and watch out for him come All-Star break. He has little chance of becoming one this season with the names on the ballot and the fact that he's a relative unknown compared to current stars. He is sure to dominate the Sophomore vs. Rookie Challenge, however, and I for one as a UConn student am excited to see it. If you've got a Rudy Gay jersey lying around, apparently now's the time to "don" it. Who decided that? And better yet, who came up with the word "don"?
At any rate; here are fantasy basketball's current ups: ...
Sean Williams :: PF/C, New Jersey Nets
I've mentioned Williams before, but he's been absent from fantasy relevance for a little while now due to playing time inconsistencies and Lawrence Frank's odd undying devotion to Jason Collins as a defensive presence in the post. Williams' name has resurfaced after being named the starter for Tuesday's contest against the Kings. It's about time; the struggling Nets score a mere 90.6 points a game and have lacked the physical presence they've needed in the paint since Kenyon Martin ('03-'04). Williams' numbers as a starter a excellent, and he'll deliver the usual "big man" stats to your fantasy squad.
Travis Outlaw :: SF/PF, Portland Trail Blazers
I've also mentioned Outlaw, so I'm pleased to report that he's beginning to elevate his game to the next level in December. In his 5th year straight out of high school, Outlaw's one of the leading scorers on the team while coming off the bench as a spark plug on both ends of the court. Coach Nate McMillan may not want to mess with success, so Outlaw may continue playing as a 6th man in the near future. He anticipates well, using his long arms to generate steals and blocks in traffic. He's also shown his ability to score (17.3 points in December) and rebound well (6.2 this month) in limited time (29.5 minutes). All he needs now is more offensive consistency.
DeShawn Stevenson :: SG, Washington Wizards
Stevenson is athletic and has really began to develop consistency with his offense. He doesn't play defense very well, but his scoring is helping to secure his spot in the lineup. After starting the season ice cold, he has become the 3rd scoring option behind Butler and Jamison. Stevenson may not rebound very well or steal more than one ball a game, but he's hit 5 3-pointers and 5 assists a game over the past three. Solid percentages (45.2% FG/100% FT) during that span have helped mitigate Gilbert Arenas' absense as well, and in the game Antonio Daniels missed due to injury, Stevenson put up 7 assists and didn't lose a single ball. Play DS with confidence.
Noteable Mentions: Craig Smith :: SF/PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves; Kyle Lowry :: PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies; Jason Maxiell :: SF/PF/C, Detroit Pistons
... and downs:
Kevin Garnett :: SF/PF, Boston Celtics
What, KG?! Surely this is a typo. Let me check...nope, it's not. What's the deal? With how well the C's are playing defensively and how dominant their offense is, Garnett has been playing only 31.67 minutes in December (and only 35.33 on the season). The resulting numbers are not bad, persay, but they're definitely down from last season and slightly underwhelming for this season's projected #1 player (especially in December). This is cause for concern and something to look out for; I'm sure Doc Rivers would love to rest KG when possible like Popovich does with Tim Duncan. And, with how dominant they've been, that might be more than fantasy owners would like.
Manu Ginobili :: SG, San Antonio Spurs
Since posting back-to-back 37-point games, Ginobili has been shooting awfully (31.1%, 14.0 ppg over four games). He's also averaging a horrendous 4.5 TO per game over that span of four games. This current output is cause for concern solely because Tim Duncan is back and will surely allow Manu to return to his usual 27-29 minutes per game mark. Not a terrible thing, as it will keep Ginobili from over-asserting himself and tiring out quickly, but it will likely reduce his scoring average below 17-18. This isn't the best time to own him.
Ron Artest :: SF, Sacramento Kings
Artest has been mired in an even worse slump than Ginobili, shooting 34.8% over six games and scoring only 12.8 points in each contest. The main reason? The Law of Averages is one reason, but the bigger difference is the lack of Kevin Martin in the lineup. Artest has put more of an offensive burden on his shoulders since Martin's injury, and his offensive numbers have suffered for it. His other numbers have been equally poor, averaging 3.3 TOs, 4.3 rebounds, and a 62.5 free throw percentage. Don't expect his November numbers to return until Kevin Martin does.
Noteable Mentions: Andrew Bogut :: C, Milwaukee Bucks; Jason Terry :: PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks; J.R. Smith :: SG, Denver Nuggets