Headlines from the Fantasy Hardwood – January 14, 2008

Compiled By FantasyFanatics.com Lead Expert Rob Shaw

On the Rise
Mike Bibby – Point Guard – Kings
For those that have been stashing Bibby on their reserve squad waiting patiently for his return, it finally appears that your patience is going to pay off. He is scheduled to return on Wednesday, January 16th. He may need a couple games to hit his stride, but he should be back to his normal 17 points, three rebounds, five assists, and two three pointers before too long. There are still trade rumors surrounding Bibby, mainly to the Cavaliers, but a move to a different team probably would not hurt his fantasy value much. The question is: what will happen to the sudden glut of guards when he and Kevin Martin get healthy? From what is coming from Coach Reggie Theus, expect Bibby and eventually Martin to log big minutes. That leaves Beno Udrih, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia, and Quincy Douby fighting for the 30 or so minutes left for the reserves at the two guard positions.

Mike Conley – Point Guard – Grizzlies
Conley has proven that he is ready to play at this level since returning from injury in late December. So far in January, he has per game averages of 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and two steals. The problem here is that he is shooting a field goal percentage of 41% and only 62.5% from the free throw line in those games. Considering that he played in only 10 of the Grizzlies first 34 games this season, Conley is still getting his feet under him professionally. He still needs quite a bit of work on his jumper, but he is lightning quick and can penetrate into the lane almost at will. It appears that the Grizzlies have turned the keys over to the youngster already this season, so the minutes should be there for him barring a complete meltdown – which is highly unlikely.

On the Way Down
Beno Udrih – Point Guard – Kings
Udrih has been one of the more pleasant surprises on the waiver wire this season. It appears that it will all come to an end really soon. With Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin due back from injury soon, the minutes are going to run dry for Udrih. He has done a nice job as the team’s starter, averaging 13.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. The saving grace for him may be if Bibby is traded, which is rumored to be a possibility. Udrih has definitely proven that he is capable of being a productive player in this league. However, something has to change, either more injuries or a trade, for him to be able to help your fantasy team for the rest of this season.

Damien Wilkins – Shooting Guard/Small Forward – Sonics
It is official, Wilkins can now be released from all fantasy teams still holding on to him. He lost starting job to the promising rookie Jeff Green and has getting less than 20 minutes a game in his last four contests. He is averaging 1.5 points, 0.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists over that span. The soon-to-be 28 year-old does not forecast out as a prospect anymore, so the rebuilding Sonics have no real motivation to take minutes away from a younger player to distribute them out to Wilkins.

THE FANTASYFANATICS.COM ONE ON ONE

Emeka Okafor (2004) vs. Marvin Williams (2005)

The History: Both players were drafted in the NBA fresh off national titles in college. Emeka Okafor was one of the Huskies’ go-to-guys, along with fellow 2004 lottery pick Ben Gordon. Okafor has been solid, but unspectacular, in his first 3 1?2 seasons with the Bobcats, averaging a double-double with two blocked shots a game. He has been limited by injuries, playing only in two-thirds of his team’s games in his first three seasons. Marvin Williams did not even start for the Tar Heels on their title run. Nonetheless, enough potential was displayed to push him past more logical need picks for Atlanta, Deron Williams and Chris Paul, to the number two overall selection. His forgettable rookie campaign was followed up by a decent second season in which he improved almost all of his fantasy significant statistics. He was limited to 64 games last year due to injury, but he has proven to be somewhat durable otherwise.

The Numbers: Okafor provides strong rebounding and blocked shots, and is one of the best options for these two categories in the game. However, he has more career games played than career assists, which negates his modest turnover numbers. He shoots an acceptable field goal percentage, but is dreadful from the line and seems to be getting worse. Williams does not rebound as well as you would expect, considering that he spends some time playing the power forward position. The good news is that he has improved his rebounding average in each of his seasons in the league. What compounds the lack of big-time rebounding, and lack of shot blocks, is the fact that he has abandoned the three point shot. The advantage to Williams not hoisting up threes, especially for a career 24% three point shooter, is that he has his field goal percentage approaching 50%. Along with his rebounding average, his scoring and steals averages have increased in each season. His two assists per game is a weak spot to his game.

The Current Situation: Okafor is the cornerstone for the Bobcats franchise, however, it appears that he is more of a glorified role player than a true feature performer. He should continue to see steady minutes barring more injury woes. Williams seems to be finding his stride in the professional ranks. He plays on a team that has a bit of a log jam at the forward/wing positions, but he seems to have fortified himself as a primary option when it comes to minute distribution.

The Fantasy Winner – this season: Marvin Williams. This is a bit of an upset, I know, but Okafor’s 53% from the line hurts more than the four-plus rebounds and one and half more blocks that he offers. The fact that scoring is in Williams’ favor and difference in field goal percentage is so close, provides the former Tar Heel with the edge. However, if you need rebounds and blocks and can withstand the free throw percentage, Okafor is definitely your guy.

The Fantasy Winner – career: Marvin Williams. The injury history of Okafor and the fact that his production has hit a plateau keeps me from predicting big things for the big man. Williams has the higher ceiling and continues to increase his productivity each season.

Top 10 Fantasy Ballers as of Week 9:
RANK LAST WEEK

1) Chris Paul 1
2) Shawn Marion 2
3) Kobe Bryant 5
4) Kevin Garnett 3
5) Caron Butler 4
6) Baron Davis 6
7) Dirk Nowitzki UNRANKED
8 ) Allen Iverson 7
9) Marcus Camby 9
10) Yao Ming 10

NO LONGER RANKED LAST WEEK
12) Carlos Boozer 8

For the first time all season, Dirk Nowitzki has made his way to top ten. It seems like he has finally shaken off the ugly slump from the playoffs, as he has led his team in scoring for 9 consecutive games. This is no easy task on a team that features Josh Howard and Jason Terry. Expect Nowitzki to continue to put up big fantasy numbers for the remainder of the season.

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