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NBA Skinny: State of the Association

We're close to the end of another season of fantasy basketball, one that is likely to be remembered as the season of the injury. While excessive injuries were a season-long lowlight, Josh Smith's and Andre Iguodala's rise to true prominence, Kobe Bryant's scoring binge, and the emergence of hustle-board stalwarts like Andris Biedrins and David Lee made it easier for diehards to keep the faith.

We are looking towards an offseason that will likely bring with it significant change. Free agency is bound to alter the NBA and fantasy landscape a bit, with names like Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Gerald Wallace, Mo Williams, Andres Nocioni, and Luke Walton among the most prominent of potential free agents. The 2006 draft failed to produce many immediate contributors, but the 2007 draft could be quite different. It figures to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, potentially highlighted by the dynamic duo of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Trades could also shift the landscape of the league, particularly if Kevin Garnett and/or Pau Gasol end up changing addresses.

Good luck to those of you in the finals of your head-to-head league or in a tight race to the very end in a roto league. Let's examine some players whose stock is rising or falling heading into the offseason, and also hand out the hardware for the 2006-07 season.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Gerald Wallace (GF, Charlotte) – Wallace has reached 70 games played for just the second time in his career, but that's not even the biggest positive in terms of G-Wall's development. He has shaken early-season inconsistencies to average 21.7 points on 52 percent shooting, 0.7 threes, 8.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.2 blocks over the past 40 games. While the blocks are less than what fantasy owners were expecting, that overall line is about as good as it gets, evidenced by the fact that Wallace has been the top-ranked player in the Yahoo! game over the past month. Wallace has a player option for next season, so he could explore free agency and end up with another team.

Nene Hilario (FC, Denver) – Nene has not missed a game since January 5, and in 33 games since February 2, he's put up 14.8 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.0 block in 32 minutes per game. Nene is still just 24 years old – it appears as though he has finally put his knee problems behind him, so he can claim his rightful place as a fantasy favorite, beginning with next season's drafts.

Rudy Gay (GF, Memphis) – Inconsistent minutes resulted in inconsistent production in the first half of the season, but Gay has shown a lot over the past few months. In 30 games since the beginning of February, Gay has averaged 14.5 points on 45 percent shooting, 1.2 threes, 5.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 1.2 blocks. The Grizzlies figure to undergo some significant changes this offseason, but Gay will figure largely in their plans next season and beyond.

Tyrus Thomas (F, Chicago) – Thomas has shown down the stretch that, when given the playing time, he's going to put up some solid fantasy numbers. This season, Thomas has single-game highs of 27 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, and five blocks, while producing per-35 minute averages of 13.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 2.9 blocks. A worst-case scenario for Thomas next season is significant minutes as a reserve, particularly if P.J. Brown does not return to the Bulls.

Walter Herrmann (F, Charlotte) – Herrmann has been fantastic since being thrust into the starting lineup due to extensive injuries to Bobcats big men. Not only does he win the matchup of hairstyles with fellow rookie Adam Morrison, but he's also been light-years ahead of him in terms of efficiency. Over the past 13 games, the 28-year-old Argentinean has averaged 17.4 points on 57 percent shooting, 1.8 threes, and 5.3 boards, while making 81 percent of his free throws. Herrmann isn't likely to have much less than a very significant role for the Bobcats next season.

LaMarcus Aldridge (FC, Portland) – Aldridge entered the starting lineup at the beginning of March as a result of Joel Przybilla's season-ending injury, and went on to average 14.7 points on 52 percent shooting, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 15 games during the month. Optimism is tempered by concerns of his recent episode of dizziness and an accelerated heartbeat, however, as that situation has yet to be completely updated.

Randy Foye (G, Minnesota) – Foye's lack of a steady fantasy game as a rookie has had more to do with his lack of steady playing time than anything. This especially rings true when you consider that his per-35 minute averages (15.2 points, 1.2 threes, 3.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks) compare quite favorably with Brandon Roy's (16.6 points, 0.9 threes, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks). Minnesota could be another team that is in for a major roster overhaul, but Foye figures to loom largely for the Wolves next season, either way.

Renaldo Balkman (F, New York) – Balkman has been putting up some good fantasy numbers down the stretch, outperforming regular starter Jared Jeffries more often than not. When given playing time this season, Balkman has put up solid fantasy numbers – in 26 games in which he's played at least 20 minutes, Balkman has averaged 8.8 points on 54 percent shooting, 7.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 block. He could emerge as next season's David Lee if Knicks coach Isaiah Thomas solidifies his role.

Tarence Kinsey (G, Memphis) – Kinsey certainly hasn't hurt his own stock in recent weeks, averaging 18.8 points on 47 percent shooting, 0.9 threes, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.6 steals in eight games as a starter. He could be playing himself into a solid role next season, but it will also depend on what kind of roster overhaul the Grizzlies go through.

Ronny Turiaf (F, LA Lakers) – Look at Turiaf's 19 points and 15 rebounds on Sunday and his 23 points, 9 boards, two steals and two blocks on November 1, and you've got solid bookends to an otherwise uninspiring season. But take a closer look and you see some serious fantasy potential – Turiaf has blocked at least two shots in seven of the past nine games, averaging 2.4 blocks despite seeing less than 20 minutes of playing time per game. In 14 games in which Turiaf played at least 20 minutes this season, he averaged 9.4 points on 61 percent shooting, 6.4 boards, and 2.1 blocks – he could emerge as a real fantasy asset with a greater role next season.

Dwight Howard (FC, Orlando) – Take an objective look at all of Howard's stats before you become incensed by the mere mention of his name here. Howard's 17.7 points on 60 percent shooting, 12.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks on the season are great, but his 4.4 turnovers per game and 54 percent shooting from the foul line after the All-Star break are downright abysmal. Howard's ADP this season was 25.6 – his current Yahoo! season rank is 65, including 128 over the past month. I like Howard in 'real life' just as much as the next guy, but just be sure to stay objective when it comes to Howard on draft day next season.

Adam Morrison (F, Charlotte) – Not a lot has gone right for Morrison this season. He's done a bit of scoring, but has yet to shoot above 40 percent over the course of an entire month, and his combination of 38 percent from the field and 71 percent from the line is about as bad as you can get. He's lost playing time as the season has progressed, despite Charlotte's significant injury woes – he'll need to make significant strides if he's to make any sort of fantasy impact in the near future.

Channing Frye (FC, New York) – Frye has regressed significantly in his second season, averaging 9.7 points and 5.6 boards in 53 starts after posting 15.6 points and 7.9 boards in 14 starts last season. Another reason to downgrade Frye: not only are David Lee and Renaldo Balkman emerging players in their own right, but their defensive-oriented style is a bit of a necessity to complement the offense-only game that Eddy Curry brings. It's hard to imagine Frye exceeding anything but the most modest of expectations next season.

Sam Cassell (PG, LA Clippers) – Cassell's best days are clearly well behind him. He had a few productive stretches over the course of the season, but I'm not banking on hearing Cassell's name and the phrase "completely healthy" uttered in the same sentence outside of the very early going next season. Corey Maggette has already been lobbying for the Clippers to re-sign Jason Hart, who has stepped in as the starting point guard in Cassell's absence and led the team to seven wins in its past nine games.

Jameer Nelson (PG, Orlando) – Consider this a bit of a tentative downgrade, but I've got no choice but to list Nelson based on his numbers after the All-Star break – in 23 games, he's averaged 12.7 points on 40 percent shooting, 0.8 threes, 4.0 assists versus 2.9 turnovers, and 0.7 steals in 32 minutes per game. Perhaps the Grant Hill factor (taking touches away from Nelson) has played a part, but I can't help but be leery of counting on Nelson for big-time production based on his titanic struggles with inconsistency this season. If Hill ends up with another team, I will be targeting Nelson next season, but only if I can get him at a discount price.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
HoopsKLYCE.com maintains a three point lead on RotoWire_Liss as we enter the season's final week. Last minute transactions included Chris Webber, Renaldo Balkman, Travis Outlaw, Jameer Nelson, Tyrus Thomas, and Damien Wilkins, among others.

All-Fantasy Team

POINT GUARD
1st Chair: Steve Nash
2nd Chair: Gilbert Arenas
Nash gets the nod here due to Arenas' season-ending injury coming at a terrible time for fantasy owners (not that there is a good time for something like that). Nash was neck-and-neck with Arenas, anyway, thanks to the third consecutive 'best season of his career' – Nash is averaging career-highs in field goal percentage (53 percent) and threes (2.2) and has matched his career-high in assists (11.5) and scoring (18.9 points), while making 89 percent of his free throws. Arenas was once again a multiple-category superstar before being lost to the knee injury.

SHOOTING GUARD
1st Chair: Kobe Bryant
2nd Chair: Kevin Martin
Kobe was huge yet again for fantasy owners, as he currently leads the league in scoring at 31.3 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 87 percent from the foul line. Other season averages include 1.8 threes, 5.6 boards, 5.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.5 blocks. Martin was a boon for fantasy owners who got him on the cheap (read: one, and only one, owner in just about every league). Ray Allen and Michael Redd were brilliant when they played, but each missed too much time to injury.

SMALL FORWARD
1st Chair: Shawn Marion
2nd Chair: LeBron James
With an ADP of 3.9, Marion was once again underappreciated on draft day, as he was once again the top-ranked player in Yahoo! fantasy hoops. While his numbers dropped from many of his career-highs a season ago, he was so good then that it still didn't bump him from the No.1 spot. The Marion special: per-game averages of 1.0 three, 2.0 steals, 1.6 blocks, and just 1.4 turnovers. James worked through a mid-season slump (by his own standards) and has posted fantastic numbers since the All-Star break, including making a somewhat respectable 74 percent of his free throws.

POWER FORWARD
1st Chair: Kevin Garnett
2nd Chair: Dirk Nowitzki
KG has turned in another KG season, as he's currently averaging 22.5 points on 48 percent shooting, 12.9 boards, 4.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.7 blocks. There's not much else that needs to be said there. Nowitzki would likely have gotten the nod over Garnett by the slimmest of margins a month ago, but he's dealt with injuries and struggled a bit down the stretch.

CENTER
1st Chair: Marcus Camby
2nd Chair: Amare Stoudemire
Camby has only been slightly less impressive on a per-game basis than he was during last year's breakout campaign, and the extra games played have more than made up for the difference. Camby has now played in at least 66 games in three of the past four seasons, while averaging 11.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks in 188 games over the past three. Stoudemire struggled with pain in his knees all preseason but has not missed a game during the regular season, and is currently averaging 20.5 points on 58 percent shooting, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks. Elton Brand gained his eligibility too late in the season to be considered here.

Fantasy ROY
1st Chair: Brandon Roy
2nd Chair: Rudy Gay
Roy has clearly been the best rookie in the game this season, despite missing over a month in the early going with a heel injury. In 54 games thus far, Roy has averaged 16.7 points on 45 percent shooting, 0.9 threes, 4.3 boards, 4.0 assists, and 1.2 steals. Gay emerged from a group of players which included Jorge Garbajosa, Andrea Bargnani, Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Randy Foye. All were solid fantasy players during at least one point of the season, however.

Biggest Bust
1st Chair: Andrei Kirilenko
2nd Chair: Boris Diaw
Not only did Kirilenko completely disappear on the offensive end (8.5 points on just 6.1 field goal attempts per game), but his rebounds (4.7), assists (2.9), steals (1.1), and blocks (2.0) all were significantly lower than fantasy owners were anticipating when they established his ADP at 20.3 in this year's drafts. AK will be a true wildcard come next season. Diaw was rewarded for last season's breakout with an ADP of 29.0, but his numbers fell across the board, as well.

Biggest Surprise
1st Chair: Kevin Martin
2nd Chair: Al Jefferson
Martin went from a draft-day afterthought (ADP of 117.5 in just 50 percent of leagues) to one of the most valuable players this season, period (currently ranked 10th in the Yahoo! game). He has posted per-game averages of 20.7 points on 48 percent shooting, 1.6 threes, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals, while making 84 percent of his free throws. Jefferson was a true afterthought on draft day, as he wasn't even selected in enough leagues to establish an ADP. He has put up season averages of 15.8 points on 51 percent shooting, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 66 games while adding center eligibility during the season's early going.