Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It may be hard to believe, but in this shortened 2011-12 NBA season, we've already passed the "quarter pole." Here are a few of the things I've learned through the first portion of the season.
Kobe Bryant has established once again that he can overcome injury to play at an unbelievably high level, Kevin Love is approaching No.1 overall fantasy status with his ability to post a "20-10" every night and also contribute to the three-point shooting category, and the Portland Trailblazers will go as far as LaMarcus Aldridge will take them.
On the downside, I blame the lockout for the rash of injuries that has left every fantasy owner scrambling to fill out his starting lineup on a night-to- night basis.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte - The Bobcats' rookie was installed into the starting lineup six games ago and his statistics took a corresponding jump. Over that span he's averaging 15.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 3.8 apg while increasing his shooting percentages across the board. Like all rookies, he'll throw in a "clunker" once in a while, but he's playing well enough that he should be able to keep the starting role even when Corey Maggette and D.J. Augustin return to the court. Walker is owned in about 70% of all leagues.
Samuel Dalembert, Houston - On his third team in three seasons, Dalembert was installed as the starting center 10 games ago and the team went on a tear, winning eight of them. Dalembert is doing a solid job, averaging 10.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg and 2.2 bpg as a starter. If you are struggling with the season- ending loss of Al Horford, or injuries to Brook Lopez or Spencer Hawes, Dalembert could be the bridge while you await their return.
David Lee, Golden State - Lee has been averaging 18+ points all year long, but he's picked up his game in the peripheral categories. Since we flipped the calendar to January, Lee has increased his rebounding average by 3.7 rpg and his assist total by 1.2 assists-per-game. Given the Golden State Warriors extremely thin frontcourt, Lee should be able to maintain this pace for the remainder of the season. If you can trade for him, pull the trigger on the deal.
Other hot players include; Leandro Barbosa, Toronto; Joe Johnson, Atlanta; Tony Parker, San Antonio; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City.
Amar'e Stoudemire, New York - Stoudemire is taking four less shots-per-game than last season and it shows in his scoring which is down from 25.3 ppg in 2010-11 to 17.7 ppg this season. Fantasy owners keep waiting for him to explode, but I submit that it might not happen this year and it could be time to trade him while you can still get reasonable value. Stoudemire's scoring average dropped by 2.6 ppg after last year's All-Star break and continues to fall. It's the effect of Carmelo Anthony's arrival in New York and that isn't going to change any time soon.
Carl Landry, New Orleans - Landry was a 17.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg guy back in 2009-10, but slumped last year while splitting the season between Sacramento and New Orleans. He began this year on fire, averaging 17.0 ppg and 8.7 rpg in three December starts and many thought he had found his game again. But January has seen him stumble, he's lost some playing time and is averaging just 11.0 ppg and 3.9 rpg for the 14 games this month. Landry has scored 19 and 18 points in his last two games, so I wouldn't send him packing just yet.
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers - Bynum got off to an "obscene" start, averaging 22.6 ppg and 17.0 rpg over the first three games, but he's calmed down of late averaging just 13.6 ppg and 10.6 rpg over the last week. The good news is that he seems completely healthy and is averaging a career-high 34.1 minutes-per-game. He has clearly joined Bryant and Pau Gasol as the main cogs of this year's Lakers offense and should not be traded away unless overwhelmed.
Other cold players; Boris Diaw, Charlotte; D.J. Augustin, Charlotte; Jason Richardson, Orlando; Derrick Favors, Utah.