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The fantasy fab four
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Miami Heat have LeBron James, the Oklahoma City Thunder have Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Clippers have Chris Paul, but none of those teams has more than two players in the overall fantasy top 25.

The Portland Trail Blazers have four.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews all rank 16th overall or higher in total stats in nine-category yahoo.com fantasy leagues.

Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Houston, Golden State and Atlanta all have two players in the top 25, but no team besides Portland has more than that.

Aldridge has been a fixture in the top-25 over the last three seasons, averaging 21.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals in that span, and he's taken his game to a higher level in 2013-14.

In his first 29 games, Aldridge has posted career highs with 23.4 points, 11 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He's also averaging 0.8 blocks, making the two-time All-Star the ninth overall fantasy player.

Lillard, the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year, ranks two spots behind Aldridge.

The 23-year-old point guard is tied for third in the NBA with 3.1 3-pointers made per game, up from 2.3 last season. He's attempted 1.1 more threes than last season but has raised his percentage from .368 to .426.

But Lillard hasn't just been spotting up behind the 3-point line. He ranks fifth in the NBA in total drives, according to stats.nba.com.

Lillard is only shooting 32.8 percent on drives, but he's also averaging 5.6 free-throw attempts per game, an increase of 1.7 per game from his rookie year. With a free-throw percentage of .889, Lillard has picked up 5.0 ppg at the foul line.

There's room for growth in Lillard's 21.3 ppg average if he can improve his poor shooting percentage on drives to the basket. He's also posting 5.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game, so he is a well-rounded fantasy asset.

Batum is once again providing the all-around production he became known for in 2011-12. He's an eight-category star, averaging 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks, 2.2 threes with .471/.822 shooting percentages.

Along with Lillard and Batum, Matthews is one of three Blazers players averaging at least 2.0 threes per game.

The 27-year-old shooting guard has made a career-high 43.6 percent from behind the arc, and his 16.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.6 3pg and .494 field-goal percentage are all career highs.

While he's not a top-25 player, the Blazers starting center Robin Lopez is not devoid of fantasy value. In fact, he ranks 48th overall in yahoo.com leagues and is averaging 9.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

Unlike many NBA big men, Lopez actually can make a free throw. He's shooting 79.7 percent from the charity stripe on 2.4 attempts per game after hitting 77.8 percent in 2012-13 with New Orleans. He also turns the ball over just 1.1 times per game and is shooting 53.6 percent from the floor.

Lopez had 11 points and 15 boards in Portland's overtime win over the Clippers Thursday night, a game in which all five Blazers starters scored in double figures. Aldridge led the team with 32 points on 15-of-31 shooting.

With the victory, Portland is 3-0 in overtime games this season and moved up to first in the Western Conference with an NBA-high 24 wins.

With just a half-game lead over Oklahoma City Portland's reign over the West might not last long, but with Aldridge, Lillard, Batum and Matthews, the Trail Blazers' control over fantasyland is just beginning.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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