Fantasy Headlines from the Hardwood: December 17, 2007

By Rob Shaw, Lead Expert for FantasyFanatics.com

Lebron James is back on the hardwood, Craig Smith has evolved into a fantasy player, and Brandon Roy is enjoying his best run as a professional. Here’s a look at a few of the topics being discussed over the past week on fantasy basketball forum on FantasyFanatics.com:

Craig Smith Can Score with the Best of Them
At 6’7” and 272 lbs. Craig Smith has a Charles Barkley-type body and he is getting closer to imitating his game. The Timberwolves selected Smith in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Boston College. The big trade sending Kevin Garnett to Boston seems to have people forgetting that Smith enjoyed a fine rookie season last year, averaging 7.4 points, and 5.2 rebounds in just 19 minutes per game. Regardless, Ryan Gomes was placed in the starting lineup, leaving Smith on the bench when the season tipped off. Nevertheless, in his first 41 minutes of playing time, Smith scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. In the next 33 minutes, he scored 22 points with 12 rebounds. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, those numbers were compiled in four games, rather than two, severely limiting Smith’s fantasy value. The good news is that, a few weeks later, Smith would have his chance to shine. With Theo Ratliff out and Ryan Gomes limited due to injury, Smith played 27 minutes and scored 20 points with nine rebounds. The very next game, Smith started against the Suns and led the Wolves to a surprising win with 16 points and 8 rebounds. He followed with a career-high 36 points and 8 rebounds against the Wizards. After a combined 11 points and four rebounds in his next two starts, Smith scored 30 points with a season’s best 10 rebounds in a three point loss to the Bucks.

At the moment, Smith’s strong scoring (11.6 points), shooting (59% field goal), and decent rebounding (4.8 rebounds) make him a fine pick-up for fantasy owners. However, he is a bit too inconsistent to start. In addition, with just six blocks, eight steals, and four assists all season, he is a liability in several categories. Perhaps the clincher for Smith’s fantasy value has to be his position eligibility. He can be used as a small forward, power forward, and even center in most fantasy leagues. If he’s available on your waiver wire, you’d better grab him.

Brandon Roy Becomes Fantasy Star
The very fact that Brandon Roy was selected with the sixth pick of last season’s NBA draft tells you that the potential is there. However, a very solid rookie with 17 points, four assists, and 1.2 steals is getting even better in year two, as he has picked up his averages to 18 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. In fact, over the last six games, Roy has raised his scoring to 24 points per game along with a sensational six assists, and fine percentages. Roy has elevated his game to elite fantasy status, and best of all, he’s making his mark in reality too, as the Blazers have won all six of those games. This tells us that Roy’s recent breakthrough isn’t just about the box score, which means that it would be in the team’s best interest for Roy’s increase in production to hold some staying power. I like the chances of Roy’s point production to reach the 20 per game mark by the midway point of the season, making Roy a great player to trade for early.

Rudy Gay Does Not Slow Down
If Brandon Roy is not the best second-year player in the NBA, Rudy Gay is. The former UCONN star has become the best scorer on the Grizzlies, averaging 19 points per game. What makes Gay extra valuable is his ability to fill the stat sheet. He averages 1.5 three-pointers per game while shooting 48% from the field and 82% from the line. Gay excels in the hustle plays too, grabbing 5.6 boards per game, and he even makes 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks. Gay has become a Shane Battier-type presence with an offensive game to offer as well. In eight December games, Gay is playing at an All-Star level, scoring 22.5 points with seven rebounds per game. At 6’9”, Gay has the size to bang in the paint while shooting over smaller shooting guards or small forwards. There is no reason to expect a drop in production anytime soon.

Top 10 Fantasy Ballers as of Week 7:
RANK LAST WEEK
1. Shawn Marion 1
2. Chris Paul 3
3. Carlos Boozer 7
4. Caron Butler 6
5. Kevin Garnett 2
6. Kobe Bryant 5
7. Baron Davis UNRANKED
8. Marcus Camby 8
9. Steve Nash 9
10. Yao Ming 14

NO LONGER RANKED LAST WEEK
12) Lebron James 10
13) Manu Ginobili 4

As you can tell by the rankings, Lebron James’ injuries have taken their toll on his fantasy ranking, while Shawn Marion continues to dominate the fantasy scene thanks to his consistency and durability.

Baron Davis also makes the list. The talented playmaker that hasn’t played in 70 games any of the past five seasons has yet to miss a game this year.

Kevin Garnett is the only player to make the top 10 fantasy rankings list for every week of the season thus far.

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