Continuing with last week's theme, I'm going to look at a few more players whose midseason value on the Player Rater is much higher than we originally expected. Again, it's important with these players to realize that their inflated rankings are the result of a little bit of luck -- either they've been completely healthy to this point of the season, or their situations have changed in the early part of the season in a way that might not always continue through to the playoffs. That said, we also need to take into consideration when a player has made a leap forward in his ability, and might simply be a better player than we originally thought.
Steve Nash, PG, Phoenix Suns (No. 2 on Player Rater): This should be a classic case of selling high, as Nash is playing the best basketball of his career at age 35, but I don't think we're dealing with a normal situation here. This ranking isn't inflated, actually; he's really been playing this well, crushing his career highs in percentages from the floor and the line and averaging a career high in points as well. What's interesting here is that for Nash's team to be as good as it has been so far, he needs to keep playing this way, and considering the fact that very few players keep themselves in better physical condition, it's within the realm of possibility that he'll be able to do it. If someone's not offering me LeBron, Durant or a combination of players I absolutely need more than I need Nash, I wouldn't deal Nash for anyone right now.
Aaron Brooks, PG, Houston Rockets (37): When Brooks played well down the stretch last season for the depleted Rockets, he became a great fantasy pickup. Still, some of the enthusiasm for his future prospects got tempered by assumptions that: (1) he's not a true point guard, and (2) his small stature made any major success that was more than a flash-in-the-pan somewhat unlikely. Considering his ADP (Average Draft Position) of 86.7, it seems most of us agreed with those assumptions. When you draft someone in the seventh or eighth round, it's OK if all they do is score and make 3-pointers and free throws. Turns out Brooks is exactly what the Rockets need, and the increased opportunity has made him a contributor in assists, too.
Can he keep it up? Well, even though he's proved me wrong once already, I'm not ready to buy into Brooks as a top-40 fantasy player quite yet. Like Nash, he's outpacing last season's numbers in the percentages by a significant margin, and if he tails off it's going to sap his value pretty fiercely. He's a great player, but if I could get top-50 value for him in a trade -- say, Stephen Jackson or Stephen Curry -- I'd take it.
Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (38): Keeping in mind that Curry is a rookie playing on the most volatile team in the league, it stands to reason that he might not be a bad guy to sell high on, but Curry has been everything anyone could have hoped for as a rookie so far, and I don't think that's about to change any time soon. Amazingly, if you look at Curry's rankings based on per-game averages, he provides positive value on the Player Rater in every category, save blocks. What that seems to mean is that he's not just a shooter like many of us assumed. He's already proven to be among the best in the league at picking up steals, and his 46 percent shooting from the floor is fantastic for a guy taking as many 3-pointers as he does. He's not afraid to rebound (3.7 per game) and picks up assists, too (4.4). Brooks may be ranked slightly ahead of Curry in the overall rankings, but I would rather have Curry going forward 10 times out of 10.
Samuel Dalembert, C, Philadelphia 76ers (44): Let's start by saying that he's really only helping you in three categories. He's a great shot-blocker, a really good rebounder and a solid free throw shooter (for a guy who rebounds and blocks shots). It's important to remember this, because when Dalembert stops scoring in a week or two (he had just six points Monday night against the Hornets after scoring in double figures in three straight games), a lot of people will probably assume that he's not playing well. Amazingly, Dalembert is owned in only 83 percent of ESPN.com fantasy leagues, which is less than just about anyone ranked above him.
Don't let the perception fool you, though; Dalembert is useful, and he has been useful for a long, long time. Last season, for example, in the most disappointing year of his career, he averaged 6.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Maybe he's not a very good NBA player sometimes, but those numbers are useful in fantasy. You can't usually just pick up two blocks per game on the waiver wire, especially when the guy is pulling down more than eight boards per game and not killing you at the line. That's the situation we're in this season, too, and that's why Dalembert is ranked 44th on the Player Rater. It's definitely an inflated rating, and he's absolutely not a top-50 guy going forward, but if he's carrying you in blocks and rebounds, he's worth holding on to.
Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, Atlanta Hawks (54): Like Brooks, Crawford is outpacing his career high in field goal percentage, and as a result, he has eliminated what once was a major weakness in his game as it pertains to fantasy basketball. This year's Crawford is playing the fewest minutes he has since the 2002-03 season, and is coming off the bench for the Hawks rather than starting. None of this would normally be good for the prospects of a fantasy player.
Crawford, however, is not your average basketball player. I just heard on the Hawks-Celtics broadcast over the weekend that Crawford has scored 50 points or more in a game for three different franchises. Considering a guy like Paul Pierce has reached 50 points only once in his career (and that was in an overtime game!), it's a pretty remarkable feat. And what it says about Crawford is that he's an extremely volatile scorer. What's nice about his coming off the bench is that he's getting a chance to put up points occasionally against inferior talent, and as a result he seems to be doing it a lot more efficiently. So now, in addition to scoring, making 3s and shooting a high percentage at the line, Crawford is no longer killing your field goal shooting, and that's a difference that's worth a lot in fantasy. I'd hold on to him unless I could get in return someone like Jason Richardson or Eric Gordon, who duplicates Crawford's stats in a starting role.
Wilson Chandler, SG/SF, New York Knicks (59): This is what happens when guys are on a team like the Knicks. Chandler had a decent season in 2008-09, but when we all went back and looked at the numbers, they didn't look so great. Middling points, middling rebounds, poor percentages, no stand-out categories. Couple the mediocre numbers with his uncertain future as a member of a team that didn't care about the upcoming season at all, and you can see why Chandler had an ADP of 113.8. No one was excited about drafting Chandler.
Now? Well um his numbers look pretty much the same. So what gives? Well, in his third season in the league, Chandler has become a more efficient player. He's better from the line and better from the floor. He's making fewer 3-pointers, but he's also taking fewer, hence the improved shooting percentage. He's a classic example of a guy who contributes a very small amount in every single category and ends up being valuable in the aggregate. Would I trade him? It depends. As the season goes on, the fact that he's so well-rounded might become less important. If you're falling off in one category, you can deal a guy like Chandler for help in that problem area and not kill yourself in any other categories. In the final estimation, I wouldn't hesitate to deal Chandler, but I also don't think he's wildly out of place as a top-60 fantasy guy.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.