PG Ty Lawson
Denver's speedy point guard does everything well and is a big reason why Denver is battling for a playoff spot. After backing up Chauncey Billups for his first season and a half, he became the starter after "Big Shot" was dealt to the Knicks along with Carmelo Anthony last winter and (literally) hit the ground running. For what he lacks in size (5'11, 195 pounds) he makes up for in agility, energy, and explosiveness. Despite his diminuitive frame he rebounds well and is not afraid to attack the rim. He's an efficient shooter from the floor (47.5 percent) and the line (80.9 percent) who can knock down threes (1.1 per game) and play solid defense. Lawson deserves a lot of credit for keeping the prolific offense humming at full capacity, especially after Danilo Gallinari went down with an injury. His stats--15.4 points, 6.6 assists, and 3.8 rebounds are good but don't leap off the page because Denver has so many weapons in Gallinari, Al Harrington, Aaron Afflalo, Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Wilson Chandler, and former teammate Nene Hilario (replaced by JaVale McGee. He understands his role on that team and rarely tries to play outside his game, but showed what he was capable of when he earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors earlier in the month. The Association's incredible depth at the position helps him fly under the radar as he emerges into one of the better point guards in the league.
Honorable Mention: Mike Conley-very similar to Lawson statistically, and he's currently leading the league in steals
SG Marcus Thornton
Chris Paul and David West, but he took off after getting traded to the Kings for Carl Landry last winter. He had been a productive player there, as his per 36 minutes numbers indicate, but before switching teams he simply wasn't getting the opportunity (0 starts and about 16 minutes per game last year). Upon his arrival Sacramento immediately thrust him into a starting role, and he didn't disappoint, averaging 21.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and two triples in 38.1 minutes per game after the trade (27 games). This year he's proved that strong finish wasn't a fluke by averaging 19 points, 2.1 treys, and hitting a career best 85.7 percent of his freebies. He gambles too much on defense and isn't the most efficient or consistent shooter in the world, but the 24 year-old gunner has teamed with Tyreke Evans to form one of the more potent backcourt scoring tandems in the league. Unless Jimmer Fredette suddenly enjoys a Jeremy Lin-esque breakout, Thornton's scoring average should continue to hover around the hallowed 20 point per game mark as he outscores bigger names like Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay and Danny Granger.
Honorable Mention: Arron Afflalo-Efficient scorer shot nearly 50 percent from the floor last year and drills threes at a 40.4 percent rate for his career
SF Ersan Ilyasova
The waiver wire savior of many a fantasy basketball team. All of his percentages are well above average (over 48 from the field, 81 from the charity stripe and nearly 41 from downtown) and his rebounding figures--8.5 per game and 11.4 per 36 minutes--are off the charts for a small forward. To put that number in perspective, he's outrebounding Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kevin Garnett despite averaging fewer than 27 minutes per game! He's finally getting his chance to shine this year, and he's seized the opportunity by averaging career highs across the board. The Bucks have been lacking depth all season, especially with Andrew Bogut injured (suprise surprise), so they really needed somebody to pick up the slack. He's only gotten better as the season's progressed, and has done his best to help keep Milwaukee within shouting distance of the Knicks for that hotly contested eight seed. With offensive sparkplug Monta Ellis now on board to provide some serious firepower, don't be surprised if they make a run down the stretch and overtake New York, who just lost Amare Stoudemire for two to four weeks. Ilyasova and Drew Gooden need to keep their breakout campaigns rolling for that to happen, though.
Honorable Mention: Nicolas Batum-one of the rare players who averages at least one three pointer, a block and a steal per game. Every now and then he'll have a big night, but for the most part he keeps a low profile in Rip City
PF Paul Millsap
He didn't become a full time starter until last season, so that probably explains why people haven't caught on to the fact that he's one of the best all-around power forwards in the game. Over the past year and a half, all he's done is average 16.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, and nearly a block while maintaining a 51.8 percent success rate from the floor and 77 percent free throw rate. Everything in his statistical profile screams Chris Bosh: an efficient shooter with some range, hits his free throws, and passes well. Like Bosh, Millsap is not a shot blocker, but he compensates for that deficiency with lots of steals--1.8 per game this year, in fact, a figure that leads all power forwards. And although his field goal perentage is below 50 percent for the first time in his career, he's made up for it by sinking more than 79 percent of his free throws, way above his 70.5 percent mark coming into the season. For a big man he's remained incredibly durable, missing an average of just three games per season over his career and playing all 82 three times. If he didn't have to share a frontcourt with Al Jefferson, he'd be meeting or exceeding Jefferson's rough averages--20 points and 10 rebounds--easily. As it is, Big Al limits his statistical ceiling by gobbling up rebounds and shot attempts down low. If he ever misses an extended period of time, look for Millsap to explode.
Honorable Mention: Greg Monroe-Detroit's sophomore is only 21 years old, but he's already averaging 16 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 dimes with great percentages. Got snubbed from the East's All-Star team this year, but should be a fixture in the game for years to come
C Marcin Gortat
|Admit it; Gortat looks like an NBA center.|
Now he's playing like one, too
Honorable Mention: Zaza Pachulia-has been a double double machine in place of Al Horford this year