Headlines from the Fantasy Hardwood: December 24, 2007

By Rob Shaw, Lead Expert for FantasyFanatics.com

Nazr Mohammed is a great pick-up after a trade, Alonzo Mourning’s fantasy owners are in mourning after a career-ending injury, and Yao Ming’s injury concerns are once again in play. Here’s a look at a few of the players being discussed over the past week in the www.Fantasyfanatics.com fantasy basketball forum:

NAZR MOHAMMED, CENTER, BOBCATS
It’s been an interesting career for Mohammed since he was putting up numbers in the SEC. The former Kentucky Wildcats star was a late first round draft pick in 1998. After struggling to crack into the Philadelphia 76ers rotation for two and a half years, opportunity struck when he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in 2000-2001. In his final 28 games with his new team, Mohammed averaged 12 points and nine rebounds with a block. Injuries riddled his next few seasons before opportunity again came calling with the New York Knicks in 2004. As the team’s starting center, Mohammed averaged 11 points, one block, one steal, and eight rebounds before the Knicks suddenly realized they had a productive player on their roster, so they dealt him to San Antonio for a draft pick that would end up being David Lee (not a bad deal). The next three seasons, Mohammed again fell into fantasy obscurity as he played off the bench for the perennial contending Spurs, and then Pistons. However, this week, Mohammed was again traded, this time to the struggling Bobcats. With Primoz Brezec involved in the deal, the Bobcats are a team desperate for some help in the middle. After coming off the bench in his Bobcats’ debut, Mohammed has started his past three games. The numbers have been staggering: 17 points, 2.3 blocks, one steal, and 11 rebounds on 61% field goal shooting. It will be impossible for Mohammed to maintain those numbers; however, if given 35 minutes per game, 13 points, nine rebounds, and a block are realistic. Those are the same type of numbers that had fantasy managers drafting Andrew Bogut and Brad Miller in the early rounds. Mohammed is an excellent player to pick up if he is available. If not, offering your fantasy opponent Ronnie Brewer, Eddy Curry, or Jason Maxiell would be a wise decision, as productive centers are hard to come by.

JOSE CALDERON, POINT GUARD, RAPTORS
The player currently ranked sixth in the NBA for assists may soon average double-digits thanks to a boost in playing time. When T.J. Ford went down with a scary upper back injury, Jose Calderon was immediately called upon to fill in for the injury-prone guard. Last season, the 26-year old Spaniard averaged 13 points and nine assists as a starter. This season, Calderon has already been called upon to make 15 starts and he has responded with 13 points and 10 assists per game. Calderon is an excellent shooter who hits the occasional three and makes the occasional steal. However, much like Andre Miller, his bread and butter is getting the ball to open teammates. He has passed for 13 or more assists four times on the season, including 16 assists twice. The Raptors currently rank second in the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference and may have to make a trade to increase their depth. However, with Ford out indefinitely, you can expect Calderon to start, which means 13 points and 10 assists are in the books.

YI JIANLIAN, POWER FORWARD, BUCKS
The 6’11” 20-year old has tons of talent and ability, but despite starting, the playing time has been lacking. While recent first pick overall, Andrew Bogut, seems to have hit a plateau, Jianlian has demonstrated the rare ability to dominate a game. Most recently, the Chinese native poured in 29 points with a block, three steals, three assists, and 10 rebounds. More impressive was his efficiency. He missed just three of the 17 field goals that he attempted. On the season, Jianlian is averaging 11 points and six rebounds with a block. You might want to start proposing some trades for him now because as the playing time picks up in the second half of the season, his numbers may reach 16 points, eight rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Jianlian seems to be everything we expected out of Darko Milicic, but the myths and stories of potential will actually prove to be real.

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

NO LONGER RANKED LAST WEEK
11) Yao Ming 10
13) Marcus Camby 8

As you can tell by the rankings, Lebron James’ return from injuries has marked his return to the fantasy rankings. Shawn Marion continues to dominate the fantasy scene thanks to his consistency and durability. Allen Iverson also makes the list thanks to his playmaking ability (7.3 assists) along with 26.6 points per game and 2.4 steals. Marcus Camby fell from the list simply because he played fewer games last week; however, after 19 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks against the Kings on Sunday, he should return to the list by next week. Caron Butler maintained his spot despite missing a game this week due to injury.

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