- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
As we approach the All-Star break in the Association, fantasy owners can pretty much guarantee that the numbers your players are putting up aren't going to change much. A few teams already have played 50 or more games, so what you see is what you get.
What are the most surprising numbers on the board, and is there any reason to worry about them continuing? I usually write this topical blog earlier in the season, but even now in the final week of the "mythical" first half (we're well past the midway point of the season), let's take a category-by-category look at the biggest shocker in the cumulative stats.
Richard Jefferson, Nets (points): He's not the only surprise among the top-10 scorers at 23.5 points per game, but where did this come from? A year ago, Jefferson averaged 16.3 points before his season was truncated with ankle problems. The most points he has averaged in a season was 22.2 back in 2004-05, which was the same season Vince Carter joined up a month in and averaged 27.5 points as a Net. Jefferson still isn't an elite fantasy option, offering little in rebounds, assists, 3s and field-goal percentage, and it's reflected in his moribund No. 56 rank on our Player Rater, the worst of any top-10 scorer. OK, so he's not having a great fantasy season, but only five players are averaging more points than Jefferson, and that has value. If Jason Kidd gets sent elsewhere before the trade deadline, it would affect Jefferson adversely; there might not be a better passer in the league. However, that doesn't mean Jefferson's point-per-game production will drop below 20 points per game. Who else later: Gerald Wallace, No. 18 in scoring, keeps adding three or more points per game to his scoring average, going from 11.1 in 2004-05 to 15.2 to 18.1 to its current 21.2. Next year, 25 points per game!
Chris Kaman, Clippers (rebounds): Kaman was a helpful player the past few seasons, even if he hadn't reached his full potential. Honestly, did you think his "potential" included 13.6 rebounds per game? How many players have that much potential? As we saw in the fascinating "Outside the Lines" piece on Kaman a month ago, the center believes his misdiagnosis for attention deficit disorder (ADD) played a role in holding him back, and now that he has figured it all out, he's a fantasy monster! Kaman has been the bright spot on a not-so-bright Clippers outfit, and next year when Elton Brand is back to hog the rebounds, maybe Kaman will go back down to eight or nine boards per game. For now he's the No. 3 rebounder in the league, and No. 25 on the Rater. Marcus Camby is the No. 2 rebounder, which isn't shocking; it's just surprising he has stayed healthy this long. And I must admit I didn't think Al Jefferson was good for 12-plus boards per night. Who else later: Well, I sure thought Kevin Garnett would be a top-5 rebounder. He's No. 13, tied with Andris Biedrins. Al Horford at No. 16 is nice, and more proof that nobody wants their starting center to be named Zaza.
Jose Calderon, Raptors (assists): Jamaal Tinsley is a pretty big surprise as well, but in a Camby sort of way. The guy can play ball; his problem has been his health. Calderon's problem was T.J. Ford, and it might still be, but for now Calderon is No. 5 in dimes with 8.8 per game, and as a starter, it's a Kidd-like 10 per game. For those in turnover leagues, note that Calderon has the lowest number of turnovers of anyone in the top 25 in assists, a stupefying 5.58 assists per turnover. Ford is back, and he delivered 13 assists in 21 minutes Sunday off the bench, but Calderon had 10, and made all his field goals and free throws. Who else later: Earl Watson isn't a great fantasy option, and he's still available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues, but only 14 players average more assists per game. Watson also delivered a triple-double two games ago.
Ronnie Brewer, Jazz (steals): The No. 9 thief in the league has made major strides as a sophomore, though he's still an asset mainly in just two categories for fantasy owners (field-goal percentage and steals). But he's still worth owning. So far in February, Brewer is getting three steals per game and making 58 percent of his field-goal attempts. It's easier to overlook the 11.5 points and 2.8 rebounds when a guy starts the month with five and four steals, respectively. Brewer missed Utah's past two games with a bruised tailbone and might miss a few more, but if you need steals, consider him after the All-Star break. Who else later: Josh Smith has raised his scoring and blocks, but to jump his steals from 1.4 to 2.0 is a neat trick. This guy deserves consideration for top defensive player honors. Camby has the blocks, but not the steals.