Sometimes we get infatuated with the aggregate.
We marvel at the person who juggles several attractive mates at once, laud the "American hero" who ate 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes and envy the individual who sports a new outfit every day. But what about the guy with only one girlfriend, but she's attractive, funny and has a personality? Or the fella who appreciates the value of one perfect spicy kielbasa? Or the individual who boasts just a handful of stellar getups?
In certain cases, averages are more important than aggregate totals, and fantasy hoops is one such case, especially this early in the season. The difference between 16 and 20 games played can be significant to the aggregate, and if a player missed a few games because of injury or suspension, his total numbers won't reflect what you can expect from him when he plays. So click on the Player Rater, sort by averages, and join in the fun.
Carlos Boozer, PF, Jazz: Hello, my name is Josh, and I am a recovering Boozer doubter. (Hello, Josh.) During his first couple of years in Utah, Boozer was injury-prone and didn't come close to the nightly 20-10 you can expect from him now. I hated. But this season, Boozer is averaging an insane 25.3 points and 11.4 boards, with delicious percentages; he's playing the best basketball of his career. With two fabulous facilitators seemingly playing on the same page in Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko, Boozer is fed more often than Eric Cartman on "South Park." And his numbers should remain just as fat.
Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, Warriors: The Warriors are a better team when Captain Jack is on the floor. His free-throw percentage will only improve, and he has a killer combo of 3-pointers and steals. He has all-around game and is flashing it since returning from his suspension, averaging 21.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.4 3s and 1.9 steals. His field goal percentage is sure to be low, but otherwise, Jackson will outperform preseason expectations.
Al Jefferson, PF/C, Timberwolves: If a few other pieces of the Kevin Garnett trade pan out, the Wolves might not look quite as ignorant as they did when they sent away their best player ever. They got a stellar big man in Jefferson, who will garner several All-Star appearances in his future. His scoring and free-throw shooting has improved since last season, and with no college experience and very little playing time during his first two seasons, he's still developing as an NBA player. Barring injury, the numbers he's averaging right now are the least of what you should expect from big Al.
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Pacers: The only thing consistent about Dunleavy is his inconsistency. He'll piece together a few good games, then drop a miserable six points one night. But when examining the big picture, it averages out to nice all-around numbers, and right now Dunleavy is playing superbly. His versatility and contribution in multiple categories makes him a great "glue" player for your fantasy team. Take the bad games in stride; it'll pay off in the end.
Mike Miller, SG/SF, Grizzlies: It seems as if he's undervalued every year, but he's a former rookie of the year who has consistently improved his game and provides much more than 3-pointers. His Team USA berth exemplifies how much coaches respect him, and anybody who owns him and looks at his box scores on a nightly basis understand how awesome a fantasy player he is. Miller is a perennial top-50 fantasy option, and this season is no different.
Andris Biedrins, C, Warriors: I'm pulling for him to shoot a better percentage from the floor than the stripe again, with improvements in each category. Biedrins' numbers are up across the board following his breakout season, and with such little NBA experience under his belt and several other Warriors attracting defensive attention, his improvement should continue. He has a chance to average a double-double with two blocks while shooting 60 percent from the field. If those aren't starting center stats, I don't know what is. If your percentages are lopsided, you need field goals and can handle the hit in free throws, Biedrins is an ideal target.
Andrew Bogut, C, Bucks: With guys like LeBron James and Dwight Howard sandwiching him, Bogut has become the forgotten No. 1 overall draft pick from the past few years. But he has far from reached his potential, and his blocks have been through the roof this season. After averaging 0.8 and 0.5 blocks per game in his rookie and sophomore seasons, respectively, he's swatting a stunning 2.3 shots per game this year. I don't expect him to maintain that rate, but he should be close to 1.5 at season's end. Plus, his per-minute point and rebounds stats are up this season, and he's a near lock to shoot 50 percent from the floor.
Sebastian Telfair, PG, Timberwolves: Get used to seeing his name in fantasy articles again because the Wolves are awful, and Telfair is playing just well enough to be on the bubble. He has scored in double-digits in four of his past five games and is averaging 4.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game on the season. Once Marko Jaric and Randy Foye are healthy, his minutes will decrease. But he does have talent, and he plays for a bad enough team that he'll likely average the best stats of his career if he can keep his nose clean and stay out of the doghouse.
Damon Stoudamire and Jason Williams, PG, Grizzlies and Heat, respectively: Their situations entering the season were similar. Both cagey vets with starting jobs, but many people figured the guys brought in to replace them would quickly seize those jobs. Well, Mike Conley and Smush Parker have been huge disappointments, while Mighty Mouse (Stoudamire) and White Chocolate (Williams) are holding down the fort like it's the '90s. Stoudamire is averaging 2.6 3-pointers over his past five games and is getting a bulk of the minutes at the point for the Griz. With consistent minutes, Stoudamire could average two 3s and a steal per game, which makes him very fantasy-worthy. Williams, like Stoudamire, is a mediocre scorer, at best, and he posts a low shooting percentage from the field. But you can expect healthy steal, assist and 3-point numbers from them both, with good percentages from the stripe. Consider them apt fill-ins when your fantasy starters get injured.
Dorell Wright, SG/SF, Heat: Many people, including me, figured Wright would step in and assume a big role for the Heat, but his season has been compromised by injuries and coach Pat Riley's unpredictable rotation. Between his, Julian and Brandan's struggles, this certainly hasn't been the season of the Wrights, as it was in 1903, when Orville and Wilbur Wright had career years. Dorell is mired behind Anfernee Hardaway, Ricky Davis and Daequan Cook, but Hardaway could get osteoporosis and Cook could hit the rookie wall at any point, potentially opening the door for Wright. Don't forget his name, but forget him from a fantasy perspective for now.
Jorge Garbajosa, PF/C, Raptors: I bet someone clever somewhere has referred to him as "Garbage-josa," based upon his dip in stats this season. While Jamario Moon's emergence has been as exciting as the Victoria's Secret fashion show, Garbajosa's play has been as uninspired as the Spice Girls' lip-synched performance at that fashion show. (I'm pretty sure that was the first time I've thought to myself, "Man, I wish Seal was singing again.") Even when healthy, Garbajosa did little with his minutes, and now he's out indefinitely and will have surgery on his troublesome leg.
Charlie Bell, PG/SG, Bucks: Remember the offseason hoopla surrounding Bell's free agency? Of course you do. Remember a single game Bell has had this season? Exactly.
Reggie Evans, PF, Sixers: Evans is a monster on the boards but does little else and is a putrid free-throw shooter(47.8 percent). Even though he doesn't take many attempts, he also contributes in no other categories but rebounds (8.5) and steals (1.0). Unless you specifically need those categories and can take the hit elsewhere, especially in free-throw percentage, avoid Evans.
Rasho Nesterovic, C, Raptors: Rasho has stunk for a long, long time. And the fact that his Player Rater ranking is so low even though his free-throw percentage is spotless illustrates the fact that you should continue to avoid him at all costs.
Luther Head, SG, Rockets: For two years, Head was one of the best contributors in 3s in the fantasy game and was a night-in, night-out starter. But with the Rockets' much-documented glut at guard, there isn't room for him with the additions of Mike James, Steve Francis and Bonzi Wells, along with Tracy McGrady's dominant play. The Rockets are better than they used to be at Head's expense.
Smush Parker, PG, Heat: Parker has off-court troubles, coupled with his on-court problems, and has been a letdown this season. C'mon, 31.5 percent from the field? No steals or 3-pointers? All the more reason Jason Williams is a viable fantasy option this season. Parker is an afterthought.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.