As I look at the Player Rater this week, I am reminded of two very important things. First, it is no surprise whatsoever which names have already buoyed up to the surface. Two weeks into the season, and the top four are Amare Stoudemire, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Those four names would show up on anyone's list of the best players in the league (at least when Wade is healthy).
The Player Rater, however, doesn't stop there; it also reminds us all categories are equal. This is important when you spend a good 15 minutes trying to figure out in what strange universe Spencer Hawes could be ranked ahead of Al Jefferson.
This example is important because it's easy to think a player is playing great just because he is scoring a lot of points. Jefferson is scoring almost 22 points per game to Hawes' 13. That's a significant advantage, but it's just one category out of eight.
Hawes currently is ranked sixth on the Player Rater because he's one of only four players -- along with LeBron, Dirk Nowitzki and Andrei Kirilenko -- to have a positive value in all eight categories. Why is Hawes ranked ahead of Jefferson in particular? The biggest reason is Hawes has made nine 3-pointers in seven games, and Jefferson has made -- you guessed it -- zilch. This is no knock on either player; they both have been terrific in the early going. It's merely a plug for checking the Player Rater before you jump to conclusions about how your players are doing. We watch games with our eyes, but our eyes often are wrong. Our eyes know Jefferson is better at playing basketball than Hawes. Two weeks into the season, the Player Rater knows better.
Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Knicks (Player Rater rank: 17): Until I researched him, I did not know in which category to file Robinson, so you should know I'm conflicted here. On one hand, I don't see how he could finish the season ranked higher than he is now. He's not one of the 20 best fantasy players, right? The more I think about it, though, maybe he is. It has become clear in the early part of this season that he's a perfect fit for Mike D'Antoni's system. Because of the faster pace, his 2.8 steals per game seem slightly less unreasonable than they normally would. That's where he is deriving most of his value in fantasy. However, if anything, he's going to play more minutes as the season wears on because he has been so effective. I own him in a couple of leagues, and part of me wants to sell high, but I'm terrified to do it. For now, you should keep him, too.
Roger Mason, PG/SG, Spurs (45): For the time being, this guy should be an automatic start in all leagues. With Tony Parker out for about a month, Mason will continue hitting 3s off Tim Duncan's kickouts, and he'll accumulate more assists and more points simply by playing more minutes. He has a great skill set for this team, as he can play the point and the off-guard position. I expect the Spurs to run the offense through Duncan more than ever with Parker out, but Mason should be the next Spur in the fantasy pecking order.
Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics (47): I've spent a lot of time lately arguing that Garnett is not an elite fantasy player anymore. It's true. He's going to continue to play just 32 minutes per game, which is few enough to water down the contributions of even the most efficient player. That said, he's going to finish the season ranked a lot higher than 47th. Right now, he's shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and 71.4 percent from the stripe. That field goal percentage would be the worst of his career if taken over a whole season, and that free-throw percentage would be his worst since the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. If you can get somebody to bail on him, I still consider Garnett a late-second- or early-third-round value in standard leagues.
T.J. Ford, PG, Pacers (101): I was going to write a paragraph about how Chris Duhon won't be ranked in the 70s all season until I realized how much of his value was coming from assists. Can Duhon continue averaging 6.7 assists if he plays 37 minutes per game as the starting point guard for the Knicks? Sure! Well, Ford is averaging only 5.2 assists. He is an elite point guard when healthy, and I have no doubt that number will go up. You still need to worry about him getting hurt, but if he's playing, his value has nowhere to go but up.
Jason Kidd, PG, Mavericks (Player Rater rank: 5): It comes down to this: Do you believe Kidd can shoot 47 percent from the floor all season? There are two ways of thinking about this. One way is that the nearly 43 percent he put up in his post-All-Star-break stint with Dallas last season was the second-best number of his entire career, so it is possible that playing with this team at this point in his career is making him a more efficient player. The other way is that 43 percent probably is a ceiling for this guy, considering he is in the decline stage of his career. I don't think he's going to continue having a positive effect on your team's field goal percentage, which makes him a great sell-high candidate if you can dupe one of your league mates.
Spencer Hawes, C, Kings (6): I'll keep this short because I've already dwelled on him too much. I like Hawes, and I think he'll be a great value compared to his Average Draft Position all season, but his ranking has to go down. He still is slightly benefitting from that six-block performance to start the season, but more importantly, he is 9-for-12 on 3s so far. That is not going to continue, but you should hold on to him unless you get offered something too good to pass up.
John Salmons, SG/SF, Kings (24): Not to keep picking on the Kings, but there is no way Salmons is going to shoot 50 percent from the floor all season. Right now, he is at his absolute peak. He is making half his shots, playing 37 minutes per game and cleaning up against weak defenses like Memphis and Golden State. When he loses value, most of it will be in field goal percentage, so he won't fall too far, but I think he's more likely to end up ranked closer to 50 than 25.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.