There wasn't much debate over who should take over as the undisputed first pick in fantasy drafts after news of Kevin Durant's foot injury surfaced late last month. Clearly LeBron James would reassume his throne on top of the fantasy world, right?
Anthony Davis had other ideas. Davis has more than lived up to his lofty preseason expectations, averaging 24.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 4.4 blocks while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 82 percent from the free throw line after five games. He's the new king of fantasy hoops -- at least until Durant returns.
This is far less about LeBron's struggles and much more about the brilliance of Davis. In fact, LeBron's early woes might be a bit overstated as he still ranks fifth on our Player Rater on a per-game basis. But Davis is proving that he is who we thought he was (and more), and there's no doubt in my mind that he's the No. 1 fantasy player this season as long as he can stay healthy.
Let's take a look at who else of note is moving, or holding steady, in this week's rankings update (full rankings can be found in the table following the analysis).
Kawhi Leonard's 30.8 percent shooting from the floor makes sense now that we know that he still has blurred vision in his right eye due to a preseason eye infection. Those who drafted Leonard in the second round can't be happy with his production thus far, which makes him a prime buy-low candidate. He's simply too talented to not turn things around, and he should be a top-20 option once his eye issues clear up.
Kenneth Faried has been a favorite of mine since he entered the league, but even I can't pretend that his 26.8 minutes per game isn't concerning as a fantasy owner. This was supposed to be the season that the Nuggets would let the "Manimal" loose, but head coach Brian Shaw appears to have other plans. With only two players averaging 30-plus minutes per game (Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo), we'll have to lower our expectations for almost everyone in Denver until Shaw decides on a lineup. The good news is that Faried is still a great per-minute producer despite his disappointing start.
Sticking with the Nuggets, Afflalo has had a rough homecoming with averages of just 9.4 points, 0.4 steals and 1.0 3-pointers in five games. His minutes are down (32.0 per game), and he's getting just 9.6 shots after averaging 35.0 minutes and 13.8 shot attempts in Orlando last season. Fantasy owners should hold onto him for a few more weeks, but Afflalo is someone to watch closely if he doesn't take on a bigger role in the offense, since his fantasy value is heavily reliant on scoring, 3-point shooting and percentages.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started the season ice cold after shooting 11-for-42 from the floor in his first three contests before connecting on 15-of-25 shots in his next two games. He may not be the most efficient guy in the league, but he is getting 36.6 minutes per game and is attempting 13.4 shots with 5.6 3-point attempts per contest. There's a lot to like about his peripheral numbers, and KCP is a nice under-the-radar pickup candidate who is owned in just 20.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Detroit's Andre Drummond has found himself in foul trouble early and often this season, averaging 4.6 personal fouls per game, which has limited him to just 27.0 minutes per game. He's been productive on a per-minute basis with 10.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but has shot just 33.3 percent from the line. Plus, he needs to find a way to stay out of foul trouble if he's going to have the breakout campaign many were predicting in the preseason.
Atlanta's DeMarre Carroll continues to remain an underrated fantasy option, even after he averaged 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 3-pointers after the All-Star break last season. He's picked up right where he left off, averaging 12.6 points, 5.6 boards, 1.2 steals and 2.0 3-pointers in his first five games this season. It's amazing that someone who's been this productive and is locked into 30-plus minutes per game is still available in 35.5 percent of fantasy leagues.
Now that we've had some time to see the new-look Mavericks in action, it's becoming evident that the additions of Jameer Nelson and Chandler Parsons may impact the fantasy value of Monta Ellis. Monta's usage rate (25.8 percent) has remained constant, but his minutes have dropped from 36.9 per game in 2013-14 to just 31.7 per game in the early going this season. He's also taking fewer 3-point attempts with just 1.2 per game as Parsons and Nelson have been firing away from downtown. Monta should remain a top-50 fantasy option due to his per-minute production, but the depth in Dallas may cap his ceiling.
Chris Copeland joins the top-130 ranks this week after averaging 16.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.6 3-pointers in 32.7 minutes per game this season. With nearly the entire Pacers roster sidelined due to injury, Copeland has stepped up to fill the void on the offensive end. He likely won't get this many opportunities once David West and George Hill return to the lineup, but Copeland is more than just a short-term pickup candidate. He should remain relevant in fantasy leagues even after the Pacers return to health thanks to his 3-point shooting.
A few players who we discussed last week continue to move in the rankings. A second strong week for Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Brandon Knight and Tony Wroten keep them climbing up in the ranks, while Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins continue to slide. I'm not ready to drop either of the ultra-talented rookies just yet but perhaps it's time to lower our expectations until we get a little deeper into the season.
Fantasy Basketball Top 130
Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their value for the rest of the 2014-15 NBA season, independent of the value accrued to this point. For a ranking of players' value to this point, please refer to Player Rater