Headlines from the Fantasy Hardwood: December 10

By Rob Shaw, Lead Expert for FantasyFanatics.com

Rasheed Wallace has returned to health and back into fantasy form, Lebron James continues to miss time, Rudy Gay is dropping threes like a multi-dimensional Reggie Miller, and Amare Stoudemire is back to his dominant self. Here’s a look at a few of the topics being discussed over the past week on the FantasyFanatics.com fantasy basketball forum:

Amare’s Getting Better
Last season, Amare Stoudemire returned to the hardwood, but not to his former dominant play. He averaged 20 points, close to 10 rebounds, and just over a block per game. Considering he was one season removed from major reconstructive knee surgery, you had to take it as a success, especially with most fantasy managers avoiding him for the first couple of rounds in the 2006 fantasy draft. A season later, the expectations have grown. Stoudemire had minor surgery during the off-season and, after playing every game last season, he is expected to offer not only durability, but return to the dominance he offered a few seasons ago. So far, so good.

Stoudemire was drafted between the first and second rounds this season in most fantasy leagues. He offered a minor scare early in the season when he scored just 7 points in the second game of the season, then missed the next three with knee soreness before returning for only 9 points on November 9. The good news is that he has since rebounded.

In four December games, Stoudemire is averaging 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 assists. He is shooting 73% from the field and close to perfect from the line. In the last week, Amare Stoudemire has been the most valuable player in fantasy basketball. The best part of Stoudemire’s game is that he does not weigh down his fantasy team in any categories. He is great from the free throw line, doesn’t turn the ball over, and can score with the best of them. For this reason, I would recommend grabbing Stoudemire in a trade for Dwight Howard. He is a more durable Yao Ming on a fast-paced offense.

Jason Maxiell Gains Center Eligibility
There are not many 6’7” players who are listed as a center, but Jason Maxiell is one of them. The Pistons 6th man might have a small forward’s height, but at 260 lbs., he has a center’s girth and the passion and hustle of a Ben Wallace inside of him. This explains how Maxiell scores 1.6 blocks per game, to go along with 9 points and 6 rebounds. When Rasheed Wallace missed some time, Maxiell filled in at the center spot.

When starting, Maxiell’s scoring spikes up to 11 points. Recently, he has taken his game to a different level coming off the bench in December. The new month has brought about 12 points, 8 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks per game. Maxiell’s numbers don’t spell stardom, but at a power forward and center position that is shallow in depth, Maxiell rates as a better option than David Lee or even Piston starter Antonio McDyess.

Of course, when discussing a young player producing, you always have to consider the potential for an expanded role later in the season. It is conceivable that Maxiell will replace McDyess in the starting lineup, or even earn a starting position due to injury. For this reason, along with his fantasy value at the moment, it would be a good idea to invest now for a talent that is only beginning to develop.

Enjoy Some Marko Jaric For Now
There are a couple of point guards available who can help you out in the short-term. Among them include Washington Wizards Antonio Daniels (filling in for Gilbert Arenas), Sacramento Kings Beno Udrih (filling in for Mike Bibby), and Marko Jaric (filling in for Randy Foye). While Arenas and Bibby are established stars, Randy Foye has yet to establish himself in the NBA. For that reason, you can expect Marko Jaric to hold down the starting point guard position, at least a couple of weeks into Foye’s return.

The greatest threat to Jaric’s playing time is, indeed, Foye. The Wolves second year man has just resumed practicing on Saturday and is expected to return to the hardwood in a matter of a week or two. Sadly, Marko Jaric, who is five years older than Foye, will return to the pine, despite a recent breakthrough. At 6’7”, Jaric has a great presence on the hardwood and great vision to run the point. In fact, the Timberwolves opened their pockets to bring Jaric in to do just that in the ’05 off-season. However, with Sam Cassell and Troy Hudson already in Minnesota, Jaric failed to receive an opportunity to run the point and his statistics have regressed since his 04-’05 season of 10 points and 6 assists for the Clippers.

Ultimately, Jaric finally earned his chance to run the point guard position when Foye was injured this year. At the end of November, Jaric began the greatest hot streak of his career. Not counting the November 30 contest when Jaric left with an injury, over the past six games, Jaric is averaging 17 points, 6.5 assists, 2 steals, and 4 rebounds. He has been a star in fantasy hoops and is a great answer to the guard spot for an interim basis. At just 29, there is always the chance that Jaric remains in the lineup even when Foye does return, with Rashad McCants heading to the bench. If he’s available, grab him as he flirts with a triple-double from time to time.

Top 10 Fantasy Ballers as of Week 6:
RANK LAST WEEK
1. Shawn Marion 5
2. Kevin Garnett 4
3. Chris Paul 2
4. Manu Ginobili 7
5. Kobe Bryant 6
6. Caron Butler 3
7. Carlos Boozer 9
8. Marcus Camby 8
9. Steve Nash 11
10. Lebron James 1

NO LONGER RANKED LAST WEEK
14) Yao Ming 10

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