2009 Midseason Fantasy Hoops Awards (Part 2)
by Eric Wong AKA Roto Evil
Where are the Blocks?Last season, the following players ranked 2nd, 5th, and 20th in total blocks. They combined for 498 rejections in 238 games, for an excellent 2.09 average. This season, none of them rank in the Top 30 in total blocks. They've combined for 122 rejections in 110 games, for a meager 1.11 average. If you drafted all 3 of them, you expected a 1st place finish in that category. Instead, you're likely in the middle of the pack or worse, scratching your head and wondering why. It's time to examine these 3 players and ask, where are the blocks?
#1: Josh Smith2.8 blocks last year
1.4 blocks this season
Do you remember that guy in Atlanta who used to dominate the paint? You know, the guy who averaged nearly 9 boards and 3 blocks per game in '06-07, the guy who blocked his 800th shot one day after turning 23, and the guy who John Hollinger says has a 17.8% chance of eclipsing Hakeem Olajuwon's all-time record of 3,830 blocked shots? What happened to that guy?
After rejecting 2.8 shots in '07-08, 2.9 shots in '06-07, and 2.6 shots in '05-06, Josh Smith is averaging a paltry 1.4 blocks this season. He's getting the same amount of playing time, but his rebounds have also declined from 8.2 last year to just 7.3. What gives? Well, the high ankle sprain that he suffered in Atlanta's 4th game of the season definitely didn't help (he had blocked 10 shots in their first 3 contests). Smith was sidelined for a full month, and when he returned, he recorded just 4 swats in his next 3 games. But that was to be expected.
From December 9th to December 15th, J-Smoov erased 14 shots in just 5 games, signaling that his ankle might be back to full strength. But in the 17 games since then, he's averaging just .82 rejections in 37.9 minutes per game. By comparison, 19-year old rookie Kosta Koufos (who isn't considered a great athlete or shot-blocker) is averaging .81 blocks in just 13.2 minutes this season. Will J-Smoov bounce back? I haven't seen him play recently so I can't give you a solid answer, but if you need some blocks and want to gamble on him, his value won't get much lower than it currently is.
#2: Amare Stoudemire2.1 blocks last year
1.1 blocks this season
Last season, Amare's value soared because he averaged over 25 points on nearly 60% shooting from the field and over 80% shooting from the line. However, the most impressive stat to me was his 2.1 blocks, becase he swatted just 1.3 per game the year before. Unfortunately, that number has plummeted to just 1.1 per game this season, tying his career-low average from his rookie season.
Should we have seen this drop-off coming? After Shaq was traded to Phoenix last year, Stoudemire's blocks fell 30% (2.347 bpg in 49 games before Shaq arrived vs. 1.655 bpg in 29 games after the trade). Clearly, O'Neals presence in the middle has limited Amare's chances, but there has to be more reasons for such a major decline. Sure enough, new coach Terry Porter has also played a role. After allowing opponents to attempt over 90 field goals per game under Mike D'Antoni, that number has fallen to just 85.2 attempts per game this season.
However, a finger should also be pointed at the man himself. Stoudemire may not be happy with his less prominent role on offense, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be busting his butt on defense. The guy is bigger, stronger, and more athletic than most of the power forwards that he faces, so he should be blocking a lot more shots and making a bigger impact on the defensive end. I can deal with a few less points and rebounds, but 1 block per game is unacceptable. If you're a fellow Amare owner, let's hope that Shaq takes a few weeks off in the 2nd half.
#3: Jamario Moon1.4 blocks last year
.9 blocks this season
Moon had a stellar rookie season, especially from a fantasy standpoint. He didn't score many points, but he was 1 of just 6 players to average over 1 steal and 1 block per game while shooting over 48% from the field (LeBron, KG, Marion, K-Mart, and Ak-47 were the others). His 6.2 boards and 1.4 blocks in just 27.8 minutes per game translated to a rock solid 10.7 boards and 2.4 blocks per 48 minutes. With Carlos Delfino's departure over the summer, I was one of many that expected more minutes and bigger stats from Jamario in '08-09.
Instead his playing time has declined and his rebounds and blocks have dropped significantly. In 24.5 minutes, Moon is averaging just 4.5 boards and .88 blocks. His FG% has also declined to 45.7%, making him a fringe fantasy option at best. Basically, his steals and blocks have flip-flopped (1.36 steals up from 1.0 last year), but I would much rather have the 1.4 blocks. How come?
Well, consider that only 29 players are averaging 1.2 blocks or more this season, whereas 40 guys are averaging 1.2 or more steals. One possible reason for his fewer blocks might be that he's playing strictly small forward this season, whereas he spent a quarter of his minutes at the power spot last year. In this case we can place some blame on Andrea Bargnani, since he's eating up a lot of the power forward minutes due to his improved play. Maybe he should listen to more Creedence!
All-Inconsistent 1st team
G: Beno Udrih26 years old
Beno Udrih got off to a slow start this year because he had a hip injury and sat out most of preseason. About 10 games in he started to get going, and from November 11th to November 19th, he averaged 17.8 points, 4.5 boards, 5 assists, 1.8 steals, and .8 threes in 6 games. His minutes went down for a couple of games, but then he got hot again and scored double digits in 9 straight. Mid-December he started stinkin' it up, and now he's totally unreliable.
In a recent stretch, he dropped 16 points and 6 dimes on Dallas, then scored just 8 points to go with 3 assists in only 17 minutes against Orlando. Then the very next day, he played a ridiculous 56 minutes in a triple overtime thriller vs. the Warriors! Beno had 17 points and 7 assists that game, but he shot 7-for-21 and his team scored 135 points (is 7 dimes really that good when your team scores 135?). His minutes fluctuate from game to game, his 3-point shooting has been terrible, his assist-to-turnover ratio is very weak at 1.83, and he still hasn't really proven that he's ready to be an NBA starter. He's capable and all, but I'm glad that I don't have to rely on him.
G: J.R. Smith23 years old
This was supposed to be JR's breakout season. I chose him as 1 of my 5 "Young Breakout Stars," and Hollinger liked him enough to name him his '08-09 Most Improved Player before the season started, saying "If I had to bet on one player to bust out in 2008-09, he is the guy."
And yet here we are, still waiting for some consistency. Just check out his point totals from the second half of November: 14, 5, 5, 18, 8, 0, 32, 0, 19. The guy is capable of dropping 30+ points on any night and a dozen or more treys on any given week, but George Karl continues to mess with his playing time. Smith finally started to get 30+ minutes on a usual basis when Carmelo went down, but even then, his numbers were disappointing until just recently.
He's been solid in his last 4 games (37 minutes, 17.8 points, 6.3 boards, 3.8 assists, 2.25 steals, 2.25 threes), but his production is going to fall again when Anthony comes back (around February 1st). It's his 5th year in the league, but JR still hasn't put it all together. He's shooting under 70% from the line, which is extremely poor for a guard, and his 37% from beyond the arc is just average. If he doesn't improve in the second half, then he might need a coaching change for that career year to happen.
F: Charlie Villanueva24 years old
In the Bucks' 1st game of the season, Villanueva played just 9 minutes and scored 4 points on 1-for-5 shooting. In game 2, he dropped 20 points, 12 boards, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and 1 three in 34 minutes. That's Charlie V in a nutshell. The guy is capable of putting up big numbers on any given night, but he rarely does so for an extended period of time. As a result, he's constantly being dropped, picked up, and cursed at by fantasy owners.
For further proof of his inconsistencies, consider that he's scored 0-9 points 15 times, 10-19 points 13 times, and 20 points or more 13 times. You never know what you're going to get with Villanueva, which is why his playing time is constantly fluctuating. He started off December with 30+ minutes in 5 of their first 7 games. Then he closed out the month by playing fewer than 20 minutes in 6 straight contests. Want another crazy "Jekyll and Hyde" stat? In 18 home games, Villanueva has made 22 treys while shooting a blistering 45.8% from beyond the arc. But in 23 road games, Charlie has made just 11 treys on an ice cold 23.4% shooting from outside. If you know of a more inconsistent player, please let me know.
F: Tyrus Thomas22 years old
Tyrus Thomas has been teasing us for a long time. He's an excellent athlete with a lot of fantasy potential, but he's one of the toughest guys to rely on. He started the season off by averaging 25.8 minutes, 6.4 boards, and 2.1 blocks in Chicago's first 9 games, but then he averaged just 15.6 minutes in the 13 games that followed. When Drew Gooden went down, he started to put up solid stats again, and he made people salivate with a 15 point, 8 rebound, 8 block, 4 assist, 2 steal game in early January.
Unfortunately, half of his games have been duds since then. His improved free throw shooting is very nice (over 85% FT in both December and January) and his potental in blocks is almost too good to pass up (10 games with 3+ rejections), but his shot selection remains terrible (under 42.5% from the field for the 2nd year in a row) and his rebounding rate has declined quite a bit since his rookie season. At 22 years old, it's way too early to write Thomas off, but when he's going to put it all together is anyone's guess.
C: Greg Oden20 years old
I'm not naming Oden to my All-Disappointment team because I wasn't expecting huge numbers from him in the first place, but I was expecting him to be a bit more dependable. The guy has yet to string together more than 3 solid games in a row, and his bad games are usually REALLY bad.
We're only 35 games into his NBA career, but he's already had 7 contests where he picked up 5 or 6 fouls in under 25 minutes. For the season, he's averaging 5.9 personal fouls per 36 minutes, which might be easier to swallow if he was blocking more shots. Oden's average of 1.09 blocks per 22.7 minutes translates to just 1.7 swats per 36 minutes, which is pretty weak if you ask me.
It was unfair for people to have such high expectations for him right away, but I question how high his upside really is. Physically, Greg is very unimpressive for a #1 overall pick. Guys like Brook Lopez, Jason Thompson, and JaVale McGee may not have as much beef as he does, but they're hell of a lot more mobile and athletic. If you think he's going to suddenly improve and average a double-double in the 2nd half, you're kidding yourself.
All-Inconsistent 2nd team
G: Luke Ridnour27 years old
Ridnour struggled out of the gates due to a bad back, but he exploded for 20 points, 11 dimes, 2 steals, and 2 threes in 43 minutes in Milwaukee's 5th game of the season. He scored in double figures in 5 of their next 6 games, then averaged just 6 points on 33% shooting in the 6 games that followed. December was a good month for him, as he averaged 11.6 points, 6.5 assists, and 2 steals while shooting 47% from the field, but then he played under 30 minutes in the first 5 games of January.
Overall, Ridnour has been pretty solid for the Bucks and for fantasy owners in deep leagues. Believe it or not, he ranks in the Top 20 in FT%, steals, and assists, and he's pulling down more rebounds than bigger guys like Derrick Rose, Rodney Stuckey, Randy Foye, and Devin Harris. Ramon Sessions has been mentioned in trade rumors, and if he was moved that would give Luke a huge boost in the 2nd half. Of course, there's also a decent chance that Ramon could stay in town and get more minutes if/when Milwaukee falls out of the playoff race. Stay tuned...
G: Leandro Barbosa26 years old
The early season was tough for Barbosa, as his mother was ill and passed away in mid-November. Since then, his playing time and fantasy production has been sporadic to say the least. Just check out this 6-game stretch in late-November/ early-December: he scored just 9 points in 18 minutes vs. Minnesota, dropped 20 points, 5 dimes, 2 steals, and 2 threes in 37 minutes vs. Miami, scored 8 points with zero assists in 14 minutes vs. New Jersey, scored 19 points, 3 assists, and 2 treys in 39 minutes vs. the Hornets, had 4 points and 3 turnovers in 21 minutes vs. Dallas, and then dropped 25 points and grabbed 3 steals on a perfect 10-10 free throw shooting vs. Utah.
The guy is capable of scoring 20+ points to go with multiple steals and threes on any given night, but good luck guessing when those games are going to happen. To make matters worse, since he doesn't get many assists, LB won't help you out that much when his shot isn't falling. It's unfortunate too, because Barbosa was a near-stud two years ago when he averaged 18 points, 4 assists, 2.4 treys, and 1.2 steals per game. Unless Jason Richardson gets hurt in the 2nd half, don't expect things to change.
F: Quentin Richardson28 years old
After shooting just 35.5% from the field and 32.2% from outside last year, Quentin's numbers could only go up. And reuniting with the man who coached him during his career year meant that a bounceback season was in order. Has it happened? Well, Q-Rich is making 2.1 treys per game and shooting 36.8% from 3-point land, which is his 2nd-highest mark in the past 7 years. He's also shooting a career-best 77.5% from the line.
However, Richardson is as inconsistent as ever. Here's the perfect example. I'm in a league with daily lineup changes, and after he dropped 26 points and made 6 treys vs. Washington, I decided to pick him up because the same teams were playing again two days later and the Wizards are one of the worst teams in the league in terms of giving up threes. I think it was the only time I've had Q-Rich on one of my fantasy teams in the last 5 years, and the stint didn't last long. In his next game, he shot just 3-for-11 from the field and scored 7 points to go with 3 boards and several donuts. I dropped his ass. In his next two games, he combined for 43 points, 13 boards, and 8 treys on 15-26 FG shooting. Thanks a lot Q.
F: Thaddeus Young20 years old
Young got off to a hot start, averaging 35 minutes, 15.1 points, and 1.1 treys on 49.5% FG shooting in November. In December, those numbers fell to 31.4 minutes, 11.4 points, and .5 treys on 44.8% FG shooting. That's a big drop-off, and many owners had to contemplate replacing him. However, he's bounced back in January to the tune of 35.3 minutes, 14.1 points, 5.5 boards, and .8 threes on 52% shooting from the field. His up and down nature can be seen in the steals category, where he has 7 games with 3+ thefts, but also 18 games with 0 pilfers.
Thaddeus isn't attempting nearly as many threes as he did at the beginning of the season, and that can probably be attributed to him playing more power forward with Elton Brand out. With Brand due back soon, it will be interesting to see what Philly does and how Young responds. The 76ers have played well without their star big man, and they might be better off starting Brand at center and Young at power forward (where he played most of last year), thus moving the disappointing Dalembert to the bench. He's been pretty inconsistent thus far, but he's still only 20 years old.
C: Andray Blatche22 years old
Much like Tyrus Thomas, Andray Blatche has big-time fantasy potential. In 15 starts last year, he averaged 31 minutes, 11.5 points, 8.1 boards, 1.9 blocks, 1.2 steals, 1.5 assists, and 3.7 fouls on 47% FG and 68% FT shooting. And when Brendan Haywood went down before the season began, it looked like Blatche might be a solid fantasy starter this season. Instead, veteran Etan Thomas and rookie JaVale McGee got the first crack at replacing Haywood as the Wizards' starting center. In the month of November, Andray averaged just 17 minutes, 7.8 points, 4.2 boards, and .8 blocks per game, but he flashed his potential with a monster 25 point, 12 rebound, 5 assist, 2 steal, 5 block, 1 three performance vs. Golden State (who else?).
Blatche was moved into the starting lineup in mid-December, and he immediately went to work, averaging 31.1 minutes, 12.8 points, and 7.5 boards in his next 8 games. However, the big-time blocks weren't there, and then his minutes started to fall again. He recently had back-to-back 20+ games, but they were against the Warriors and Kings, so take that with a grain of salt. In my opinion, Blatche is quite talented, but he often tries to do too much. His turnovers are pretty high when you consider that he's a big man playing limited minutes, and while his range is decent, he has no business shooting 3-pointers (13 makes in 68 attempts for his career). Will Blatche be a reliable fantasy option in the 2nd half? Don't count on it.
All-Wheelchair Basketball 1st teamThese are the guys who just can't seem to shake the injury bug. They all put up monster fantasy stats when they play, but they miss so many games it seems like they do more harm than good. Some of these guys may as well join a Wheelchair Basketball league, because then they can rehab their injuries and still pad their stats. Just make sure that they don't join THIS league.
G: Gilbert Arenas42 games missed this season
69 games missed last year
Regular reader "blissdom" came up with the All-Wheelchair team idea, and he chose Gilbert Arenas to be his Fantasy Wheelchair Basketball MVP. I second the notion, and it wouldn't surprise me if Agent Zero is secretly launching one-handed 30-footers from a wheelchair at this very moment. The guy loves playing basketball, and that's probably slowed his healing process.
Gil originally tore a lateral meniscus in his left knee back in April 2007. Eager to rush back, he was playing in Summer League games just a few months later. In order to get ready for the upcoming season, he also spent rigorous time on a bike. The result was a 2nd knee operation in November 2007. He returned at the end of last season to play in 13 games, but then shut himself down soon after. This past September, he had a 3rd surgery on the same knee to remove a "moderate amount of debris." That doesn't sound good, and that's not what Washington fans wanted to hear after the Wizards signed him to a $111 million contract over the summer.
Of course, the only thing that Arenas loves more than basketball is himself. The guy's ego has swollen to ridiculous proportions, and I don't even know if people feel sorry for the guy's injury woes anymore. In typical Gilbert fashion, he went from saying that he didn't want to vote for Obama because he feared paying more taxes, to getting an Obama tattoo just a few weeks later. In his blog, Arenas often talks about "My Wizards." Umm, if he was a real leader, wouldn't it be "Our Team"?
G: Kevin Martin22 games missed this season
21 games missed last year
Using per game averages, Kevin Martin currently ranks 3rd in free throw attempts, 6th in scoring, and 10th in made threes while also ranking 17th in FT% and 28th in 3P%. When healthy, Martin is capable of putting up Top 20 fantasy numbers.
Unfortunately, he's already missed 20+ games for the 2nd year in a row. Last year it was a groin strain. This season a bad ankle sprain put him on the shelf. At a slender 6-foot-7 and 185 pounds, Kev-Mart's body has not proven to be very durable.
That's no excuse however, as Reggie Miller had the same body type and played in 1,173 out of a possible 1,198 games in his first 15 seasons (97.9%). He's only 25, but Martin is already considered "injury-prone." Can he shake it or will it haunt him like the man below?
F: Tracy McGrady15 games missed this season
16 games missed last year
If Arenas is the Wheelchair Basketball MVP, then Tracy McGrady is the team captain. Even in a wheelchair this guy will find a way to miss games. In the past 3 years he missed an average of 20.7 games per season, and he's already at 15 for '08-09. Since Christmas day, he has played in 1 game, missed 1 game, played in 3 games, missed 1 game, played in 1 game, missed 1 game, played in 1 game, then missed 5 games and counting. It's unfortunate because, despite his constant shuffling in and out the lineup, the Rockets have been very good.
If T-Mac had just one nagging injury it would be one thing, but he usually has several. From back spasms to knee soreness to shoulder pain, McGrady's body is sore and fragile. He's never played 80+ games in his career, and even tho he's only 29, you wonder how many more miles his engine can go. If the constant injuries weren't bad enough, McGrady is also shooting a career-low 38.8% from the field this season, making it the 3rd time in the past 4 years that he's been under 42% FG.
F: Ron Artest12 games missed this season
25 games missed last year
Not to be overshadowed by his teammate, Ron Artest has missed 12 games (and counting) of his own this season. And believe it or not, Artest's track record is even WORSE than T-Mac's. In the past 7 years Artest missed an average of 26.7 games per season, and he's played 75+ games just once in his career. I thought that he might stay healthy this year and finally put together a complete season, but that's clearly not the case. And just like McGrady, Ron-Ron is shooting a career-worst 37.8% from the field.
It's no surprise that a frail player like Kevin Martin is prone to injuries, but Artest is a rock solid 260 pounds. He gives off the impression that he's a tough guy who can play thru pain, but is it all just a front? Well, I actually think that Artest IS tough and that he does play thru pain, but it wouldn't surprise me if he spends a lot of time pumping iron the traditional way, which doesn't neccessarily prepare your body for the rigors of the NBA. If that's the case, I think he should switch up his workout routines. Maybe some kettlebell lifting to get his whole body involved and some yoga for core strength and flexibility. Because whatever he's been doing doesn't seem to be working...
C: Chris Kaman26 games missed this season
26 games missed last year
When you sign players to big long-term contracts, you want to feel pretty good about their chances of staying healthy. After all, how can a player help you if he's not healthy enough to play? Unfortunately for the Clippers, Chris Kaman hasn't been the reliable center that they hoped he'd be when they signed him to a 5-year contract extension for over $50 million in October 2006. He only missed 7 games in '06-07, but he wasn't very productive, averaging only 7.8 rebounds and shooting just 45% from the field. He had a breakout season last year, but he also missed 26 games with back and ankle injuries.
This season the injury bug has struck again. Kaman has been sidelined since the end of November with a strained arch/ plantar fasciitis in his left foot, and he won't return until after the All-Star break. Even then, there's no guarantee that the injury won't bother him for the rest of the season. While it's most likely tougher for 7-footers to stay injury-free, Kaman has not done a good job of justifying $10 million dollars per year.
All-Wheelchair Basketball 2nd team
G: Baron Davis11 games missed this season
19 games missed in '06-07
After missing an average of 26 games per season from '02-'07, Baron Davis had rightfully earned the "injury-prone" tag. But he silenced those critics last season by playing in all 82 games and putting up All-Star caliber numbers. If you gambled on him last year, your team probably did very well.
Unfortunately, the move to L.A. brought his bad luck back, and he's missed 11 games and counting so far. Davis is trying to return from a bruised tailbone, but a recent hamstring tweak has set him back another week. Baron has had hamstring problems in the past, so if you own Baron you need to be very wary of this.
When he's healthy he's usually a fantasy stud, but I'm not sure if I trust the Clippers' medical staff and head trainer.
G: Monta Ellis43 games missed this season
Monta joins his former teammate in the backcourt for the All-Wheelchair 2nd team. Ellis missed just 1 game last season, but he deserves a special spot on this squad for his unique offseason injury. Enough people have talked about it already, so let's examine what it means going forward. The dynamic scoring guard is set to return today, so many eyes will be on him and his ankle. Will he still have the lateral quickness and blazing speed? Will he still have his super first step and high elevation? How soon till he's 100% healthy? We shall see...
One thing to remember is that he had knee surgery in high school, which is the main reason he slipped to the 2nd round in the 2005 draft. Before the '07-08 season, he also suffered what appeared to be a serious neck injury. His body also takes a lot of hits a la Dwyane Wade, but yet, none of those injuries seemed to affect his play last year. If he really does have Wolverine-like healing abilities, then we may see the Monta of old in the 2nd half.
F: Corey Maggette19 games missed this season
12 games missed last year
Is it me, or are a lot of injured players associated with the Clippers and Warriors? After playing in 77 games as a rookie, Maggette has missed an average of 18.1 games over the last 9 seasons. The guy is no stranger to sitting in a suit on the bench, which is why I was flabbergasted when the Warriors paid him $50 million over 5 years.
Of all of the injury-prone players on this list, Maggette's problems are perhaps the most frustrating. This is because more often than not, he's sidelined with a hamstring injury. There isn't a single player in the NBA with more tender hammies, and he still hasn't figured out how to manage and prevent future strains. Either he's missing a few tendons in there, he isn't warming up properly, or he isn't trying hard enough to stay healthy, but it's major bummer for his fantasy owners.
F: Carlos Boozer31 games missed this season
8 games missed in '06-07
Boozer played in 81 games last season, but apparently that was a fluke. In the 3 seasons prior, Carlos sat out a total of 88 games, and he's missed 31 games and counting thus far. His recent quad/ knee injury has been especially annoying, because it took THREE MRI's to figure out what was wrong and what needed to be done. He finally underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month, and he isn't expected back till after the All-Star break.
The double-double machine has a player option for next season, but he already said that he's going to opt out "no matter what" in order to get a higher salary. Does Boozer deserve more than $12 million per year? Yes, he's a very gifted offensive player, but his defense is average at best, and he's played 75+ games just once in the past 4 years. In 407 regular season games, Boozer has made 54.2% of his shots, but in 29 playoff games, he's shooting just 49.1% from the field. Meanwhile, his teammate Paul Millsap is 4 years younger, a much better defensive player, and less injury-prone. To me, this one's a no-brainer.
C: Jermaine O'Neal14 games missed this season
40 games missed last year
It was supposed to be a fresh start for Jermaine O'Neal. After 8 seasons in Indiana, he moved north of the border to play for the Raptors. After missing a whopping 122 games in his last 4 seasons, he declared that he was finally healthy and ready to have a bounceback season. I'm not a huge fan of his, but I wanted to see what he could do at 100% health playing next to an All-Star like Chris Bosh. He got off to a decent start, but it didn't last long.
O'Neal has already missed 14 games, and it seems almost certain that he'll have missed 20+ games when this season's over. At 30 years old, Jermaine seems to have the knees of a man twice his age. He's currently being mentioned in several trade rumors, but I'm not even sure if he can pass a physical right now. Any NBA team or fantasy owner who decides to gamble on O'Neal right now is taking a big risk.
#1: Elton Brand18 games missed
After making the Playoffs in 2008 and giving the Pistons all that they could handle, the 76ers added "Mr. 20 & 10" Elton Brand over the summer. It was one of the most talked about offseason moves, but in my 76ers team preview, I questioned their lack of accurate 3-point shooters: "As a team, they made just 302 threes (for comparison, Orlando made 801 and the league average was 537), but Carney & Korver made 38 each (both gone), Giricek made 5 (gone), and Smith made 4 (injured), which means their returning roster made just 217 threes in '07-08! And of those returning players, only 1 shot over 35% from beyond the arc (Louis Williams)."
Sure enough, Philly ranks 27th in 3P% and 29th in threes per game this season. What's interesting however, is that Philly is averaging 97.6 points and 5.1 threes per game on 37.8% 3P shooting since Brand went down on December 17th, compared to just 95.6 points and 3.8 threes per game on 30.4% shooting from beyond the arc before the injury. That's just the first example of how disappointing Elton Brand has been this season. Quite simply, the 76ers have been a better team without him, going 10-13 with and 10-8 without.
When Brand was playing, he was also killing the value of Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller. In October & November, Iggy averaged a mere 13.0 points, 11.5 FG attempts, and .6 threes on 39.8% FG shooting. Since then, he's put up a rock solid 20.7 points, 14.8 FG attempts, and 1.1 threes per game on 50.8% FG shooting. Similarly, Miller averaged just 13.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 12.6 FG attempts on 43% FG shooting in October & November, compared to 17.4 points, 6.6 assists, and 13.1 FG attempts on 50.3% FG shooting since. With Brand out, his teammates' fantasy values have soared (well, except for the guy below).
And then there's the man himself. After rupturing his achilles tendon in August 2007, some people questioned if Brand had fully recovered from the injury. Judging by his early season numbers, maybe he hadn't. In 23 games before getting hurt, the career 20+ point, 2+ block, 50% FG shooter averaged just 16 points and 1.4 blocks on 44.7% shooting from the field. He still pulled down 10 boards per game, but his usual 77% FT shooting had plummeted to 68.3% and his turnovers had gone up sharply. Of course he needed an adjustment period to get comfortable in his new setting, but those numbers were far worse than anyone expected. When you factor in all of these things, that makes Elton my Most Disappointing Player for the 1st half.
#2: Allen Iverson2 games missed
Just three games into the '08-09 season, Iverson was traded to his 3rd team in two years. Unfortunately, the move to Detroit has really hurt his fantasy value. To see how much his scoring has dropped off as a Piston, compare his current averages of 17.8 points, .6 threes, and 5.9 free throw attempts per game to his career averages of 27.3 points, 1.2 threes, and 9.1 free throw attempts. Obviously, those are enormous drop-offs. To make matters worse, his 5.3 dimes per game is his lowest average in 8 years.
Another area where AI's fantasy value has plummeted is in steals. After grabbing 2+ steals per game in 10 of his first 12 years, that number has fallen to just 1.6 this season. When you add it all up, Iverson has gone from being a Top 10 fantasy player to barely cracking the Top 100. His best days are clearly behind him, and if I had to guess, I'd say that "The Answer" is on a lot of last place teams this year.
#3: Mike Miller9 games missed
Talk about a prolonged slump. Not only have Miller's stats come down from last season, but many of them are at career-low levels. His 9.1 ppg is easily a career-worst, and he's currently gone 10 straight games without scoring in double figures. He's shooting just 18% from beyond the arc in January, and it's the first time in 5 years that his 3P% has been (well) below 40%. What's most annoying about Miller's slump is how reluctant he's been to shoot the ball. Most top shooters enjoy shooting themselves back into it when they're cold, but Miller continues to share the ball, perhaps to a fault.
Whatever the reason may be for him passing up open looks, there's one thing that's certain: Miller is no longer a stud fantasy player. After scoring 18.5 points and draining 2.9 treys per game for Memphis just 2 years ago, his numbers now are LESS THAN HALF that. The presence of Al Jefferson has not helped him in the slightest, making him one of the biggest busts thus far. The Nets are said to be interested in his services, and his fantasy owners can only hope for a change of scenery.
#4: Shawn Marion5 games missed
My, how the mighty have fallen. After being a Top 5 fantasy player for 8 years in a row in Phoenix, Marion now stuggles to crack the Top 50. We saw his stats decline at the end of last season, but a lot of people expected him to bounce back in '08-09 with Wade entering the season healthy. But while Dwyane has been brilliant, Shawn's numbers have fallen off the map. However, the drop-off in field goal shooting and rebounds should have been expected.
In my Heat team preview, I said to "BE CAREFUL OF: Shawn Marion," citing his FG% with and without Nash & D'Antoni and his rebounding potential: In 47 games for Phoenix last year, he shot 52.6% FG. In the 2 seasons prior he shot 52.4% FG and 52.5% FG... consistently rock solid. But after being traded to Miami, Marion shot just 45.9% FG in 16 games. Yes, that's a small sample size, but if you go back to '03-04 and earlier (i.e. pre-Nash & D'Antoni), Shawn's FG% hovered in the 44-48% range. Clearly, running and gunning with Nash & company helped out his FG% quite a bit... with Haslem & Beasley crashing the glass, the chances of him averaging 11+ boards are slim to none.
Sure enough, his rebounding average is its lowest since his rookie year and his field goal shooting is back under 48%. However, it's his lack of activity on defense that is really killing his fantasy owners. In the past, Marion was a lock for 2 steals and 1.5 blocked shots per game, making him one of the best for those categories. This season, those numbers have fallen to just 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks. Still very respectable, but a far cry from the numbers that made him a fantasy stud. Most people expected weaker stats, but Marion has been especially disappointing.
#5: Tyson Chandler7 games missed
It still doesn't make sense to me. At 26 years old, Tyson Chandler should be in the prime of his career. He plays with the best point guard in the world and the two displayed excellent chemistry last season. His team has solid 3-point shooters to space out the floor and he's had the same coach for three years in a row. And yet, Chandler's stats have plummeted this season. After ranking 3rd in rebounds last year with 11.7, and 2nd the year before with 12.4 per game, he's pulling down just 8.3 boards this season, his lowest average in 5 years and barely good enough to crack the Top 20.
He's also had problems offensively, where he's scoring just 8.8 points per game. He's getting fewer dunks, and as a result his FG% has dropped from over 62% in each of the past 2 years to under 57% this season. One reason for his decreased production is fewer minutes: Tyson has gone from 35.2 mpg in '07-08 to just 31.1 mpg this season. He was supposed to be Team USA's #1 alternate for the Olympics, but he had to pull out of that spot because of an inflamed big toe. He's also missed 7 games already with neck and ankle injuries, and that number is rising. Clearly injuries have been plaguing him for awhile, but he's still been a major disappointment.
#6: Jason Richardson7 games missed
After last season's career year, a drop-off in stats seemed inevitable for Richardson. However, he put up nice numbers in preseason and he was still the go-guy in Charlotte. However, after averaging 21.8 points, 17.9 field goal attempts, and 7.3 three-point attempts under Sam Vincent, J-Rich managed just 18.7 points, 15.7 field goal attempts, and 4.2 three-point attempts under Larry Brown. Those are declines of 17%, 12%, and 42% respectively. To make matters worse, Jason's solid 5.4 boards, 1.4 steals, and .7 blocks per game from the year before dropped to a mediocre 4.1 boards, 1.0 steals, and .2 blocks.
Thankfully (or so we thought), Richardson was traded to Phoenix in December. He's attempting more treys and pulling down more boards and blocks now, but he has to share the ball a lot more, thus limiting his touches and points. In 17 games as a Sun, J-Rich has just five 20+ point games. His production has been a far cry from what his owners were hoping for, but let's hope that improves in the 2nd half a la last year.
#7: Deron Williams13 games missed
In early October... A slight (not catastrophic) decline in Iverson's stats seemed inevitable. Baron was a major question mark due to joining a new team with a stricter coach. Nash was sure to play in fewer games and put up smaller stats thanks to Terry Porter. Kidd had lost a step over the summer and his age was a definite concern. Billups had to worry about Stuckey stealing minutes. And thus, Deron Williams was supposed to be the "SAFE" point guard pick after Chris Paul. And then Williams sprained his ankle on October 19th and had to be carried off the court.
I suddenly had no clue who to take for my upcoming 8-cat draft where I had the #11 pick. I was all set on taking Deron, but I've had bad ankle sprains in the past and they scare me. However, the fact that he'd only missed 4 games in his first 3 years was a good sign, so I couldn't resist passing him up. As a result, my team was last in assists and near the bottom of the standings for the first month of the season. The 13 games missed sucked for Deron owners, but it would have been okay if he came back and played like the 2nd best point guard in the world.
Unfortunately, he was clearly limited by his ankle. Williams was not being his aggressive self on offense, and he scored 20+ points just ONCE before Christmas. He was still dishing out assists, but he was turning the ball over a LOT (3.8 times per game in November & December) and he wasn't getting to the free throw line (3.9 attempts per game in November & December). It looks like Deron has finally turned the corner (he's averaging 20.4 points, 10.4 assists, 1.4 threes, and 6.8 free throw attempts in January), but those first 2 months were really disappointing.
#8: Samuel Dalembert24.3 minutes
Over the past 2 years, Dalembert was one of the most dependable centers around. In '06-07, he ranked 15th in total boards and 8th in total blocks. In '07-08, he ranked 7th in total boards and 3rd in total blocks. He didn't miss a single game, he shot over 51% from the field, and he scored over 10 ppg in each season. However, with Elton Brand arriving in Philly over the summer, it was time to get worried...
In my 76ers team preview posted in August, I said to: BE CAREFUL OF: Samuel Dalembert "some of his stats (the 33.2 minutes and 10.3 rebounds in particular) are likely to fall with Elton Brand now in the mix, not to mention the additions of Speights & Ratliff as well. And then there's the Canadian National team controversy. While Team USA players are entering the season on a high from winning Gold, Dalembert was kicked off Team Canada for being a prima donna and his team didn't even qualify for the Olympics. He's still a solid center, but be careful about drafting him too soon."
As expected, the addition of Brand hurt his stats, as Sammy averaged just 26.5 minutes, 6.2 points, 8.6 boards, and 1.3 blocks in November. But when Brand hurt his shoulder in mid-December, it looked like Dalembert might get a chance to shine again. I don't think so. Tony DiLeo don't play that. The first year coach gave Samuel 30+ minutes just 3 times in 16 games when Brand was out. In his last 22 games, Dalembert has scored in double figures just ONCE, and he's averaging just 7.3 rebounds in January. He's still blocking shots, but with Elton scheduled to return on Saturday, his stats can only go down from here. Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights are superior offensive players, so they'll continue to steal some of Sammy's minutes away. If you're looking for a dependable 2nd half center, I suggest looking elsewhere.
#9: Michael Beasley1 game missed
I consider Michael Beasley to be an even bigger disappointment than Greg Oden, because Beasley had one of the most impressive seasons EVER by a college freshman last year. His offensive skills are thru the roof, and all of his college stats pointed to him being a great NBA player. I wasn't expecting him to be a Top 50 fantasy player right away, but I figured that he was a lock for the Top 100 with a solid chance of cracking the Top 75. Instead, Bucks rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (the #37 overall pick in the '08 draft) has been more valuable.
Beasley got off to a decent start, averaging a respectable 33.4 minutes, 16.3 points, 5.9 boards, and .7 blocks in his first 10 games. But soon after, he was moved to the bench and his minutes plummeted. In the month of December, he saw just 19.3 minutes of action and shot only 43% from the field and 71% from the line. In January, those numbers have jumped back up to 25.8 minutes, 15.1 points, and 6.5 boards on 48% shooting from the field, but he's doing little else to help out fantasy squads. For example, he's blocked only 2 shots in his last 13 games and he's dished out 3+ assists just 3 times this season.
The guy is a very capable scorer, but his weaknesses are already very apparent. Standing just 6-8 with shoes on, Beasley is an undersized power forward, which limits his ability to block shots. He's a shoot-first, shoot-second, pass-third type of player, so he's never going to rack up many assists. He's also a very poor defensive player right now, which is why his minutes have been so limited. After being a dominant rebounder at the college level, Beasley has been terrible in the NBA thus far. His average of 7.6 boards per 36 minutes is very weak, and he can often be seen flat-footed while opposing players are jumping over him to grab the ball. Michael Beasley has a long ways to go before he's a solid NBA player and reliable fantasy starter, which is disappointing for a guy who looked so dominant in college.
#10: Carmelo Anthony11 games missed
Anthony started the '08-09 season on the wrong foot, sitting out game 1 thanks to a DUI suspension. He was terrible in November, averaging a meager 19.9 points, .8 threes, and .7 steals on 39.9% shooting from field. Surely those numbers were bound to improve, and he started December by averaging 24.6 points, 2 threes, and 1.7 steals on 48.5% FG shooting in his first 7 games. Then he slumped again and we finally found out that he'd been dealing with a lingering elbow injury.
Fine, his owners thought, at least there was a reason for his shooting woes. After sitting out a few games, Melo came back to shoot 49.5% from the field in his next 6 games before breaking his hand. He wants to come back before February 1st, and his owners just hope that he'll be healthy and that his play will improve. When he's on, Anthony is capable of being a Top 20 fantasy player and helping out across the board, but he's been a big disappointment thus far.
Most Annoying Player to Own: Josh Howard17 games missed
Josh Howard doesn't care. He thinks that marijuana laws are a joke (which he announced just hours before a playoff game) and that cars are meant for drag racing (am I the only one who thinks that David Wesley should advise NBA players on this?). He'll say and do whatever he wants, and he has no respect for the Star-Spangled Banner.
Is Josh Howard an 18-year old punk kid with nothing going for him? No, he's 28 years old and he's making $10 million dollars this year. Still, some owners tried to look past his immaturities and gambled on him on draft day. How have they been rewarded? Starting with opening night, Howard played in 5 games, sat out 2, played in 4 more, then missed the next 11 contests due to a wrist injury. When he returned, he had just 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 block in his next 7 games COMBINED. Just when it looked like he was ready to turn things around, he hurt his wrist again and missed 4 more games. Are you kidding me? The guy has never played more than 76 games in a season, which is why I gave him just a .6 injury rating (out of 2.5) in my Draft Guide. After this season, that number's dropping to 0 or below.
His shooting has also dropped significantly this season. After making over 45% of his shots from the field in each of the past 4 seasons and over 80% of his shots from the line in each of the past 2 seasons, those numbers have slipped to a sub-par 43.8% FG and 72.4% FT in '08-09. He's nabbing less than a steal per game for the 2nd year in a row (career-high of 1.5 in '04-05), and his 5.0 rebounds are easily the lowest mark of his career. When he's healthy and focused, Josh is one of the most versatile and valuable players in the NBA. Unfortunately, those times are few and far between, which is why he's officially my Most Annoying Player to Own.
Eff you too buddy!