We are 5 weeks into the NBA Season and things are starting to take shape. Fantasy ball is well underway and strong teams in each league are starting to emerge. Has your team been killed by injuries yet? Mine has in the K101 League, get this; I have Gilbert Arenas, Tyson Chandler, Corey Maggette, Brendan Haywood… bring on the 08/09 season! All those guys have gone down at some stage (or are still down). Anyway to the bright side of Fantasy Ball, has anyone had any pleasant surprises? Some guys have really stepped up their game and have just exploded! These guys are players you may have taken in the mid to later rounds of your drafts, possibly even signed them as a Free Agent. Some of these guys made have made your Fantasy team and resulted in you being on top in some leagues. I know some of these guys have definitely helped me out in a few of my leagues.

This causes for a new Top 5… Fantasy Style! These are the Top 5 Surprises so far this season (Pleasant Surprises, i.e. – NOT people like Gilbert Arenas or Ben Gordon who have stunk it up.)

5. Kelenna Azubuike: Also known as “Who?” in the 06-07 season. Before the season began, you may not have even heard of this guy, and if you had heard of him it was because of his crazy name. He only played 41 games last year in his Rookie Season at 16mins per. When watching this guy play, you almost can see why the Warriors made the J-Rich trade; he has started in J-Rich’s SG position and has filled a little of the void left with Richardson’s departure with many people even comparing their styles. From a fantasy perspective though, the most important thing is he took some of J-Rich’s minutes & stats! I picked him up as a free agent at the start of the season in the kickz101 league and have been rapped with him. He is 15ppg, 5rbpg and 1.4apg with a steal and over a 3 per game on the season. He is currently ranked 85th over eight categories, that puts him currently ahead of the likes of Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Udonis Haslem and Drew Gooden, all of which would have been drafted. With Stephen Jackson’s return, Azubuike recently has had his minutes drastically reduced which is a shame as he was giving them good production – if you’re in a shallow league with maybe 10-12 teams you might consider just dropping him now if you haven’t already. Or you may try finding a sucker that might want to trade for him…

4. Hedo Turkoglu: Hedo, Hedo, Hedo… he said he wants to be an all-star this season… no offence, but good luck buddy! To become an all-star forward in the East he will have to beat out Garnett, Bron, Pierce, Bosh, Jamison, Butler, Iguodala and many others. Anyway, Hedo has been magical thus far this season, no pun intended. With the arrival of Rashard Lewis in Orlando, many people backed off him in the draft and in some shallow leagues he went undrafted. Yep, I got him as a Free Agent in one of my leagues. He is currently 26th over eight categories and is averaging 18ppg, 6rbpg, 4apg, 1bpg, 1spg and is knockin’ down two 3’s a game… all of which are career highs. That’s a huge line of stats right there, I would expect these numbers to stay up around there, maybe on the season he will end up 16-17ppg and 5rbpg but the other numbers should stay afloat. He has been a great guy to have in fantasy as he performs well in six of the eight major categories.

3. Ronnie Brewer: This guy is another story like that of Kelenna Azubuike, Ronnie Brewer only played 56 games last year at 12mins per game. This season, with the departure of Derek Fisher, Brewer has got the start at SG… again, much like Azubuike and the departure of J-Rich. Brewer has come out of nowhere and is currently averaging 13ppg, 2.4rbpg, 2.3apg, while shooting 52% and 86% from the field and free throw line respectively which is all pretty alright. BUT, his money is in the steals, he is a steal machine. After 19 games this season, Ronnie has already racked up 45 steals, that’s 2.4 per game, which is currently good for 2nd in the league! Those steals are the main reason Ronnie has found himself ranked 51st over eight categories in Fantasy Ball. Ronnie wouldn’t have been drafted in many leagues but would have been snapped up in the first week of the NBA season as a free agent. Having Ronnie Brewer on your team may be the reason why your team could be winning steals in your league.

Chris Kaman goes around Big Ben

2. Chris Kaman: Chris Kaman has been fantastic thus far this season, for some reason when I was thinking who would be the major beneficiary of Elton Brand being out of action I immediately thought of Corey Maggette and completely overlooked “Shaggy” Kaman. Or should I call him “Not-So-Shaggy-Anymore” Kaman since he cut his hair. Chris Kaman has exploded this season and has set career highs in every category except steals. On the season he is 18ppg, 14rbpg, 2apg, 2.9bpg, .4spg and is shooting 50% from the field and 77% from the line which is a brilliant FT% from a centre. 14rbpg is good enough for 3rd in the league, 18ppg is good for 35th in the league and 2.9bpg is good for 4th in the league. Kaman this year also has had multiple games with 20+ rebounds. He is currently ranked 25th over eight categories, ranking him higher then Tracy McGrady, Dirk, Ray Allen and Andre Iguodala to name a few. I personally have been waiting for this guy to slow down but it seems as though he may not until Elton Brand returns to the lineup but that won’t be until around February or March of 2008. Kaman, in some leagues, may be the difference between you winning or losing rebounds and blocks. I’m still mad at myself for not drafting him in any of my leagues!

1. Manu Ginobili: Being a die-hard Spurs fan, I love this! Oh Manuuu… how do you do the voodoo that you do so well! Manu has been incredible this season; he is stuffin the stat sheet in every category. Manu is currently at 19.4ppg, 5rbpg, 4.4apg, 2spg, .5bpg, over two 3’s per game and he is shooting 48% from the field, 45% from 3 and 84% from the line. That’s right, that’s an eight cat line! The .5 blocks maybe could argue it to a 7 cat line but he is a SG! 1 block every 2 games from a shooting guard is very nice. Some other interesting facts is that he is under two points from leading the Spurs in scoring despite not starting and he is the only player in the league right now to be over 18ppg in under 30mins per game. When you see those averages, you think he would be playing 41mins, incredible production. Manu is currently ranked 8th over eight categories, 8th! That puts him in front of players like Marion, Yao, Camby, Dirk, Duncan, Kidd, Iverson, Boozer and even Garnett. All of whom you would have taken over Ginobili in the draft… right? Don’t lie! The only people ahead of Ginobili this season in Fantasy is (in order from 1 to 7) Bron, Kobe, CP3, Nash, Caron Butler, Dwight Howard (aka League MVP 07/08, aka Man-Child) and B-Diddy. Ginobili has made many people’s Fantasy teams, he is the reason why I am winning the two leagues I have him in.

Manu has been near impossible to stop this season

BUT this week he injured his index finger on his left (shooting) hand; this is the same injury that has kept The King out for the past week. This might be a bit less serious than the one sustained by LeBron as they are talking about him playing through it and possibly missing no time. I personally hope he does play on as I don’t like the Spurs with no Duncan and no Ginobili. Especially with the extremely hard schedule they have coming up which includes Dallas, Utah, Golden State, Lakers, Denver and Phoenix all before the 19th of December!!

Other Noteworthy Players:

Rudy Gay: Almost like a lesser version of Josh Smith, gives you great defensive stats and is currently ranked 36th over eight categories. This was one guy I was targeting in drafts at the start of the season.

Kevin Martin: You knew he would be good, but for a second did you think he would be 4th in the league in scoring at 25ppg and ranked 17th over eight categories in Fantasy? I didn’t think so… He really helps the FT% as he shoots around 10 a game at 86%.

Damien Wilkins: He is ranked 60th over eight categories and would not have been drafted in pretty much any league. I picked him up as a free agent in one league and have enjoyed his 15ppg, 5rbpg, 2apg and 1spg.

John Salmons: This guy would have only been drafted in deep leagues, but with Ron Artest and Mike Bibby out, he got the start and was 18ppg and 4.4rbpg as well as many other goodies. His value has gone WAY down since the return of Ron Artest. But now with Kevin Martin down his value has gone back up again.

Al Horford: He has started about half the Hawks games this season in place of Zaza Pachulia and has averaged around 10 and 10, with a block. He is a great source of rebounds if your team needs it and can be found as a free agent in most leagues. He will end the season as the rebounding leader amongst rookies.

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