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By Dan O'Shea
The NBA is witnessing a superstar in the making this year, and his name is Kevin Durant.
The third-year Oklahoma City shooting guard/small forward had a lot of people excited heading into this season, and went in mid-first round in many fantasy leagues. It was no secret he was going to be good, but he has out-performed expectations thus far. His overall stats look almost LeBron-like: 28.5 points per game, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.6 three-pointers. All of those marks are tenths of a point above or below LeBron's, and his nearly 90 percent free throw rating is better than King James. Though he has far fewer assists, which tarnishes the overall stat sheet a bit, he probably would have more if there were anyone in OKC worth passing to.
If Durant keeps this up, he could seriously vault ahead of Kobe and Dwyane Wade to become the No. 3 fantasy pick next year after LeBron and Chris Paul. There's also a good chance he also could lead the NBA this year in scoring, assuming Carmelo Anthony cools off.
Speaking of 'Melo, Durant joins 'Melo and King James as cream of the crop at small forward (though he obviously needs a decent nickname). That provides me with the only segue I need to assess in our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings some current hot performers at the SF slot (a position we'll talk more about in a moment):
Player: Brandon Roy,PG/SG/SF
Comment: Roy, who acquired SF eligibility just this year, has played way lower than his borderline-first-rounder pre-season rank. At one point a few weeks ago, he was barely making it in the top 100. However, his scoring average has been pumped up to about 21 PPG in the last week or so by a string of good games, so there is a reason to believe he will again achieve top 20 status.
Player: Danny Granger, SG/SF/PF
Comment: The plantar fascia injury reported last week could easily kill this first-rounder's season, though officially he'll be out a month. Rookie SF/PF Blake Griffin could be an interesting pick-up while you wait. He's due back from injury any day now, and though he's no Granger, he could prove a waiver wire steal before anyone else remembers him.
Player: Richard Jefferson, SF
Comment: Once a top scorer, he's averaging just 13.7 PPG. That doesn't sound so bad, but even in his best days his scoring consistency was his only dimension. He also has no limited flexibility with only SF eligibility - that isn't such a bad thing when your name is LeBron, but it further lowers Jefferson's value.
Player: Ron Artest, SG/SF
Comment: He's having a somewhat off year playing for a team, the Lakers, that doesn't really need him to shoot much. He may come around, but his overall stat sheet could be tempting bait if you want to land a big-time scorer.
Player: Josh Howard, SG/SF
Comment: Just came back from an injury, and not shooting well at the moment. He's running about 5 PPG below last year's average, but should come around. He's also available in about 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and would be worth pick-up as a long-term investment.
* More SF talk: The Sporting News has an extremely timely (for my purposes, at least) column on the reassessment of the small forward position. The most impressive thing about this piece is that the headline is somehow not "Forward Thinking."
* With Tracy McGrady returning from injury, Bleacher Report has an interesting column weighing who will have more fantasy impact - T-Mac or Allen Iverson. Both will be eased in, but both will be sorely needed by their teams to contribute baskets. There's every reason to believe McGrady will be the more valuable player, but there's still a question of how often a tender knee will have him sitting and leaving games early.
Week 14 in the NFL, traditionally the start of the playoffs for many 10-team and 12-team fantasy leagues, yielded some amazing performances at the wide receiver and tight end positions:
* Brandon Marshall, WR: 200 rec. yds, 2 TDs (and an NFL record 21 catches)
* Andre Johnson, WR: 193 rec. yds, 2 TDs
* DeSean Jackson, WR: 178 rec yds, 1 TD; 83 return yds., 1 TD
* Dallas Clark, TE: 43 rec. yds, 3 TDs
* Fred Davis, TE: 50 rec. yds, 2 TDs
Those kinds of performances almost ensure playoff wins, barring catastrophic results at other positions. There's nothing left on the waiver wire, and the expert wire is growing quieter by the day, but in a few weeks, we'll come back to hand out a few awards and make some observations for next year.
Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Comments welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.
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