With NBA All-Star weekend over, we're now ready to get back to the remainder of fantasy basketball season. But before moving on from the break, it's time to shine the spotlight on one player who received a lot of buzz going into the weekend for NOT being selected as one of the Western Conference All-Stars. Over the last month, he was the top ranked big man according to our rankings. That player is none other than the Portland Trail Blazers' power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge has recently turned up the fantasy heat several notches, averaging 26 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks over the last month. All that while shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 83.7 percent from the line. Aldridge not only represents one of the league's most improved big men, he also has a skill that is not very common among big men in the NBA: the ability to shoot 80 percent from the free-throw line.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm quite fond of drafting point guards. I just enjoy winning the assists category week in and week out in head-to-head leagues. That being said, the best fantasy teams I have put together have come when my draft strategies have not been guard-centric.
In 2008 Dirk Nowitzki, Al Horford and Brook Lopez guided my team to a first-place finish. This season, I'm currently sitting at the top of the standings in an experts league, nine games ahead of the second-place team. From the 10th draft position I assembled a core group of quality big men who have carried my team above the competition based on their solid scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage AND free-throw percentage. Four of my first five picks were Pau Gasol, David Lee, Marc Gasol and Aldridge. Recently, my team (The Gasols) has been anchored on the solid production of both Gasol and Aldridge. There must be some value to giving good free-throw shooting big men priority when drafting in fantasy, especially when playing in standard nine-category leagues. Aside from not having to punt free-throw percentage, good, big shooters are generally very difficult to find off the waiver wire deep in the regular season. They are simply an in-demand commodity that everyone wants.
While you may not be able to pry Pau Gasol or Aldridge from other owners at this point in the season, here are some big men who may be able to help you win those key categories of rebounds, blocks, field-goal percentage and turnovers as the season winds down to an end.
Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers -- Kaman was rushed back into action just before the All-Star break by the Clippers, likely due to DeAndre Jordan's recent struggles. Kaman has been out since the beginning of November with an ankle injury, so it's no surprise that he was dropped by many fantasy teams who didn't want to wait for a player with his long injury history. Even if he eventually splits time with Jordan, Kaman will be a decent source of boards, points and blocks provided he can stay healthy. While he doesn't shoot that well from the charity stripe, he's no longer a focus of the Clippers' offense and shouldn't be expected to make too many trips there moving forward.
Ed Davis, PF, Toronto Raptors -- The rookie has recorded 13 or more rebounds in his last three games for the Raptors. It appears he's found his niche coming off the bench in the team's rotation and has steadily improved his rebounding rate. He may not put up a lot of points, but his strong rebounding and shot-blocking is a welcome development.
DeJuan Blair, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs -- Blair, who is only 21, has been the ultimate yo-yo type fantasy player so far in his short career. From game-to-game, he can just as easily disappear in 12 minutes on the court as he can pull down a huge double-double. But his recent lines have shown much more consistency, and expect Tim Duncan to get more rest going forward as Gregg Popovich attempts to preserve his star big man for the postseason. Blair will steadily get more and more opportunities to contribute points, rebounds and steals as the season winds down.
Brandon Bass, PF, Orlando Magic -- Bass is back after missing some time with a sprained left ankle. He's regained his starting job at power forward for the Magic, but his minutes will be split with reserve Ryan Anderson. Bass should be a good boost to a team's rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. Don't expect a lot of consistency from him, though as San Van Gundy has been known to give minutes to the hot hand or whomever is playing better defense, depending on what Orlando needs in a particular game.
Kenyon Martin, PF, Denver Nuggets -- K-Mart is coming back from yet another knee surgery and is slowly returning to his old form. The good news is that his best game of the season came right before the break as he nearly had a triple-double against the Bucks. Martin is not going to give you a lot as far as points are concerned, but on a good night he can be expected to deliver about seven boards, a steal and a block. His value could also be in for a big boost if the Nuggets can finally agree to a Carmelo Anthony deal before the deadline.
Darrell Arthur, PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies -- Arthur was impressive during the two games Zach Randolph took to recover from an ankle sprain. Arthur has generally been inconsistent, but with Rudy Gay out four weeks with a badly dislocated shoulder, he will likely be tapped to step up his production a bit more. For now, he's a marginal add in deeper leagues, but keep an eye on him for signs of increased minutes and production. He's also one of the few available big men who can contribute to a team's free-throw percentage category.