A chance to revisit the world of fantasy hoops could not have come at a better time for me. It gives me a reprieve, as a loss-weary Pittsburgh Pirates fan, from dealing with what appears to be yet another poor showing at major league baseball's trading deadline. In addition, we are almost halfway through the NBA offseason, and regular season games are about three months away. Even with fantasy football season looming in the nearer future, I know that hoops die-hards are keeping tabs on the goings-on around the league and contemplating how they will affect the 2006-2007 season. Let's get to it.
The Bucks are making some serious noise this offseason, trading T.J. Ford to the Raptors for Charlie Villanueva on June 30, and sending Jamaal Magloire to Portland in exchange for Steve Blake, Brian Skinner, and Ha Seung-Jin on Monday.
Villanueva must have left quite an impression on the Bucks' front office when he scored 48 points in 46 minutes on March 26, a night in which the Raptors also lost Chris Bosh to a season-ending injury. Charlie V. went on to average 16.8 points, 1.5 threes, and 8.6 boards in 13 games after Bosh's injury, and could be headed for that type of a season line as a full-time starting power forward. Ford won't receive the push for playing time from Raptors reserves that he did in Milwaukee. His numbers could improve slightly, but don't expect a quantum leap in Ford's relatively marginal overall fantasy production. Until he improves his shooting percentages and raises his assist-to-turnover ratio, Ford won't break into the upper echelon of fantasy point guards. Mo Williams will likely fill the vacated starting spot in Milwaukee – he averaged 16.9 points, 1.7 threes, 5.8 assists, and 1.3 steals in 12 starts last season, numbers that are certainly attainable for Williams next season.
Magloire's departure to Portland will allow Andrew Bogut to return to his natural position of center and makes room for Villanueva in the starting lineup. Magloire figures to back up Joel Przybilla, who has yet to have shown the ability to log heavy minutes over a full season. That said, the trade has left the Blazers with a bevy of big men, including Przybilla, Magloire, Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Raef LaFrentz. You have to wonder if they haven't finished making moves yet, because their desire to unload Darius Miles' contract is no secret. Bogut's numbers should be in for modest but noticeable improvements in his second season, and will be one of the more desired No.2 centers in upcoming drafts. Blake is a solid outside shooter and good distributor, and he will see minutes behind Williams, with Charlie Bell getting playing time backing up both guard positions.
The Bulls shipped Tyson Chandler to the Hornets for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith on July 14. Chandler gets the chance to make a fresh start at the tender age of 23, and he will team with David West to give the Hornets a solid, young frontcourt. Perhaps those who predicted a breakout from Chandler last season will prove to have just been a year off. P.J. Brown becomes the likely starter alongside Ben Wallace at his natural position of power forward in Chicago, where he will continue to make a fantasy contribution of a spot starter or injury fill-in. Smith was subsequently dealt to the Nuggets, and gets his own chance at a fresh start while still shy of his 21st birthday. The Nuggets have been desperate for a consistent scoring threat at shooting guard since Voshon Lenard's last productive season, which was 03-04 if you were wondering. Smith could be just that player – the opportunity is there and all Smith needs to do is take advantage of it.
Amare Stoudemire is making progress in his recovery from knee surgery that forced him to miss the majority of the 05-06 season, but he's not at 100 percent quite yet. Most observers of summer league action and at practice for the world championships have reported much of the same thing – he's looked pretty good, but his conditioning still has a ways to go, and his trademark explosiveness has only made sporadic appearances. Some good news came on July 26 when Stoudemire was selected as one of 15 finalists for the 12-man roster that will represent the United States next month in Japan. "There's nothing to prevent him from getting back to where he was," Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo said at a recent U.S. team practice. He qualified that statement with what is on every fantasy owner's mind, adding, "The only question is when."
Yao Ming's status on China's roster for the world championships will shed a great deal of light on how far he has come in his recovery from foot surgery. He hopes to compete for his native country during the games taking place from August 19 to September 3. Yao told reporters in mid-July, "I probably need to be at 80 or 90 percent, but if I really cannot get in the best shape then I better not go." He then said in a July 21 press conference, "As to my injury, I don't have any major concerns. Everything's going really smoothly." Yao is set to join his national team on August 1, and he recently told Agence France-Presse, "I had a check up, we took some pictures of it, the bone is growing back well." Fantasy owners should be monitoring updates on Yao's condition as he steps up his activity in the coming days and subsequent details are released.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Speedy Claxton (PG, Atlanta) – Claxton finally gives the Hawks a legitimate starting point guard, and joining the Hawks should finally give Claxton a consistent starting role. Claxton's most recent run as at least a part-time starter, in 04-05 with Golden State, saw him put up 13.1 points, 6.2 assists, and 1.9 steals in 32.6 minutes for 46 games (44 starts).
Monta Ellis (PG, Golden State) – Ellis figures to be the main backup to Baron Davis with Derek Fisher being dealt to the Jazz. Numbers worth noting: Davis has missed an average of 32 games over the past two seasons, and Ellis averaged 11.6 points, 1.1 threes, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.1 steals in 28.2 minutes during 11 April games last season.
Nazr Mohammed (C, Detroit) – Mohammed will "replace" the departed Ben Wallace in the Pistons starting lineup, and could be in line for more than 30 minutes per game for the first time in his career. Mohammed's career per-30 minute averages include 11.3 points, 9.1 boards, 1.1 blocks, and 0.8 steals.
Delonte West (G, Boston) – Celtics brass insisted that they wanted a "true" point guard running their team, and believe they have found him in newly-acquired Sebastian Telfair. West, one of the most pleasant fantasy surprises of the 05-06 season, figures to be relegated to a backup role at both guard positions.
Josh Boone (PF, New Jersey) – Boone was looking at a prominent role in the Nets' frontcourt this coming season, but his surgery on July 19 to repair a torn labrum will keep him out of action for four to six months and greatly diminishes his chances of making a sizeable fantasy impact as a rookie.
Leandro Barbosa (PG – Phoenix) – Marcus Banks' five-year, $21 million contract all but assures that he will be handling the backup point guard duties, while Barbosa will likely be seeing most of his minutes behind Raja Bell. It may be difficult for Barbosa to find another 27.9 minutes per game this season, and a slight statistical regression may be forthcoming.
EDDY CURRY LINE: 05-06 final standings
For those of you who need a refresher, I established the Eddy Curry Line to help point out how truly anemic Eddy Curry's overall game is. The standard: a player must average more turnovers than assists, steals, and blocks combined – in order to qualify, you must have played in at least 41 games and recorded at least 20 minutes of playing time per game. I am pleased (and not surprised) to announce that, for the fourth consecutive season, Curry was comfortably in this territory. In 72 games, Curry recorded 103 positive stats (19 assists, 28 steals, and 56 blocks) and 179 turnovers, good for a pristine 0.58:1 ratio. The only other player to join Curry at this level of ineptitude this past season was Jamaal Magloire. In 82 games, he recorded 165 positive stats (56 assists, 29 steals, and 80 blocks) and 166 turnovers, just barely in the negative with a 0.994:1 ratio. Congrats, or perhaps condolences, to Magloire.
The bottom five among qualifiers in the Eddy Curry Line standings were as follows: Ben Wallace (5.51:1), Charlie Bell (4.73:1), Brevin Knight (4.70:1), Rasheed Wallace (4.62:1), and Chauncey Billups (4.58:1).
Other statistics of note from the 05-06 season:
Single-game highs for the 05-06 season were as follows: 81 points (Kobe Bryant, 1/22 vs Toronto), 9 threes (Ben Gordon, 2/4 at Phoenix; Ben Gordon, 4.14 vs Washington), 26 rebounds (Dwight Howard, 4/15 vs Philadelphia), 22 assists (Steve Nash, 1/2 at New York, 3OT), 8 steals (Gerald Wallace, 1/13 vs Milwaukee; Shawn Marion, 2/6 vs Minnesota; Morris Peterson, 2/10 at Charlotte), 10 blocks (Andrei Kirilenko, 3.25 vs Sacramento), 10 turnovers (Dwyane Wade, 11/9 at Indiana; Dwyane Wade, 3/18 at Chicago).
Despite missing 27 games to injury, Gerald Wallace was one of only five players to record at least 100 steals and 100 blocks, with totals of 138 steals and 115 blocks in 55 games. He joined Shawn Marion (160, 137), Ben Wallace (146, 181), Kevin Garnett (104, 107), and Andrei Kirilenko (102, 220).
LeBron James and Kevin Garnett were the only two players to finish in the top 50 in the league in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Others who finished in the top 50 in four of five categories: Shawn Marion (assists), Paul Pierce (blocks), Pau Gasol (steals), Chris Webber (assists), Lamar Odom (steals), and Brad Miller (steals).
Among players who averaged at least 5.0 assists per game, the top five assist-to-turnover ratios: Chauncey Billups (4.11:1), Brevin Knight (3.71:1), Jason Kidd (3.50:1), Luke Ridnour (3.40:1), and Chris Paul (3.34:1). The bottom five: Gilbert Arenas (1.63:1), Tony Parker (1.85:1), Ricky Davis (1.85:1), Dwyane Wade (1.88:1), and Jamaal Tinsley (1.94:1).