Headlines from the Fantasy Hardwood, January 7, 2008

By Rob Shaw, Lead Expert for FantasyFanatics.com

Players On the Rise

Brendan Haywood – Center – Wizards: Do not get me wrong, I am not on the Haywood bandwagon just yet. However, the numbers that he has put up this season just can not be ignored. So far, he is averaging career highs in points (10.6) and rebounds (8.1). More impressively, his free throw percentage (72.1%) is almost an astounding nine percentage points above his previous career best. He also has been able to hold off up-and-comer Andray Blatche for the minutes in the post. Haywood is still not an elite option at center. However, he is proving to be a solid option as a second center or even at a utility spot for a team in need of rebounds or blocks.

Gerald Wallace – Forward – Bobcats: Wallace has thrived since being shifted to the power forward spot. In those games, he has averaged 27.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and a block while hitting 3 threes a game. It is not clear how long the Bobcats will stick with this lineup. Regardless, Wallace has been solid all year long, including career high averages in three pointers made, free throw percentage, and assists.

Players On the Way Down

Ronnie Brewer – Guard/Forward – Jazz: Brewer makes the list for the second consecutive week. Last time, the concern was with the third year swingman C.J. Miles. Now, to muddy the waters, Kyle Korver comes over in a trade from Philadelphia. If Brewer has one weakness, it is the range on his jump shot, which happens to be a strong point to Korver’s game. What Brewer does have going for him is that he is the best defender of the three. He could have some fantasy value if he can fend off his competition and keep his minutes north of 27 a game.

Rashard Lewis – Forward – Magic: Lewis is still an elite option at small forward, especially if you need three-point production. However, he was brought to Orlando on a hefty contract to be the primary offensive weapon. He currently sits as the third leading scorer on the roster behind Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu. Most players would be happy with a scoring average of over 18 points a game, but much more was expected from Lewis. Part of the problem is that he has not been as aggressive since landing with the Magic. That can most clearly be demonstrated by the fewest free throw attempts per game in five years. On the bright side, he is on pace to reach a new career high in three point makes.

The One on One: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Andrew Bynum

LaMarcus Aldridge was number two overall in the 2006 draft by the Chicago Bulls. He was then dealt in a draft day deal to Portland for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa. Aldridge was used somewhat sporadically in his rookie season, but moved into the starting lineup in March of 2007 with much success. Andrew Bynum was a surprise pick as the tenth overall pick in the 2005 draft, given his tender age of 17. He only managed to get in 46 games in his rookie season, averaging less than seven and a half minutes a game. He started his second season with a bang, posting 18 points, nine rebounds, and five assists on opening night against the Phoenix Suns. The rest of the season was a roller coaster for Bynum. He did manage to post ten double-doubles during that season.

The Numbers: Aldridge has doubled his scoring output from his rookie campaign, scoring almost 18 points a game. In the first 87 games of his career, he has managed to shoot over 51% from the field. He has some areas to improve in, as his rebound and block shot numbers are decent but not great. Bynum is a more defensive-minded player at this point in their careers than Aldridge. His blocked shots per game average is up to two so far this season. Rebounding is a strong point to Bynum’s game averaging double-digits. As much as he will help your field goal percentage, shooting over 60% from the field, he will hurt your free throw percentage, connecting on just two-thirds of his shots from the line.

The Current Situation: Aldridge, along with Brandon Roy, is leading the charge for the much improved Trailblazers. His improved mid-range jumper and ability to get out on fast breaks has helped elevate his offense game. He seems to be an ideal frontcourt mate to Greg Oden, when he returns from injury next season, because of the range on his jump shot. Bynum was inserted into the starting lineup when perennial disappointment, Kwame Brown, went down with injury in November. He has been dominant ever since, posting 11 double-doubles out of the 19 he has started this season. Reluctantly, the coaching staff continues to put more of the offense on this 20 year-old’s shoulders.

The Fantasy Winner – This Season: Andrew Bynum. This is a close call. But the rebounding, blocked shots, and field goal percentage of Bynum is just too alluring. Also, Aldridge seems to be a little more of an injury risk, missing 20% of his games in his brief career. He is a better option if you need a little more scoring and a better free throw percentage from your center spot, although those gaps should close some as the season goes on.

The Fantasy Winner – Career: Andrew Bynum. Do not get me wrong, Aldridge will be a fantasy factor for many years to come, possibly even a top five option at center. But with Bynum, you have a guy that could challenge Dwight Howard as the best fantasy center in a couple of years.

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

NO LONGER RANKED LAST WEEK
12) Steve Nash 8
Not much change from the top two spots as Shawn Marion remains a jack-of-all-trades, while Chris Paul is willing to play all 48 minutes to lead his team to victory. Kevin Garnett jumped four spots to the top three thanks to great percentages and only three turnovers in three January games. Yao Ming made his way back into the top ten aided by his 30-point, four block, six assist, and eight rebound performance on Saturday.

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