Headlines from the Fantasy Hardwood – January 28, 2008

Compiled By FantasyFanatics.com Lead Expert Rob Shaw and Brian Wagoner

On the Rise

Gilbert Arenas – Guard – Wizards – Word is that Arenas has started more extensive workouts in preparation of a return shortly after the All-Star break. This may be the time to see if you can grab him at a bargain from an owner that is getting impatient.

Al Thornton – Forward – Clippers – Thornton was a sleeper pick for Rookie of the Year going into this season. He started out extremely slow, averaging only 6.3 points in November and 8.1 points in December. Not only was he having trouble getting acclimated to the league, he was also loosing the confidence of the coach. In January, he is gaining that confidence by posting 13 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 0.7 blocked shots per game. It is probably too little, too late to be in the running for the R.O.Y award. Still, if he can continue this type of production, he could make the first team of the All-Rookie Team, helping your fantasy team along the way.

On the Way Down

Larry Hughes – Guard – Cavaliers – What happened to this guy? He used to be a solid fantasy starter and borderline fantasy star. He is still young enough to be in the prime years of his basketball career at age 29. Regardless, his numbers have gotten progressively worse each of the past four seasons. His production has hit a concerning low in January. His 8.3 points, 2.3 assists, and 36% field goal percentage should have him nailed to your bench until, or even if, he finds his groove.

Yi Jianlian – Forward – Bucks – Yi is going to be good someday, many agree, but he is not quite ready to be counted on for consistent fantasy production yet. He can frustrate fantasy owners with games of 29 points and 10 rebounds and then have 8 points and 5 rebounds the very next game. Part of the problem is that Yi gets himself into early foul trouble too often. His 8 point, 5 rebound January averages do not merit a spot on your fantasy team right now.

THE FANTASYFANATICS.COM MID-SEASON REWARDS

First Half Fantasy Most Improved: Hedo Turkoglu – Turkoglu was moved to the power forward position with the injury to Tony Battie and the signing of Rashard Lewis. He has thrived in the perimeter-based Magic offense. He is posting career highs in multiple categories. At age 28, he is older than most players that breakout. However, there is no denying that Turkoglu has given his fantasy an unexpected lift. Runner-up: Chris Kaman.

First Half Fantasy Top Rookie: Kevin Durant – Durant was the odds-on favorite to win the “Rookie-of-the-Year” award going into this season. Not much has changed going into the season’s second half. So far in his first year, he has shown some glimpses of the fantasy superstar that he will soon become. Next year may be the last time that you will be able to snag Durant outside of the first two rounds of your fantasy draft. Runner-up: Al Horford.

First Half Fantasy MVP: LeBron James – Cavaliers – This guy just continues to get better. James is averaging career highs in rebounds, assists, and blocked shots so far this season. His free throw percentage is a definite concern, especially considering the amount of attempts. Still, he does much more to help your fantasy team than 70% from the line will hurt. Runner-up: Chris Paul.

Top 10 Fantasy Ballers as of Week 12:

RANK LAST WEEK

1) Chris Paul 1
2) Shawn Marion 2
3) Baron Davis 3
4) Kobe Bryant 4
5) Caron Butler 5
6) Kevin Garnett 6
7) Marcus Camby 7
8 ) Amare Stoudemire UNRANKED
9) Chauncey Billups 8
10) Steve Nash UNRANKED

NO LONGER RANKED LAST WEEK

11) Dirk Nowitzki 9
14) Allen Iverson 10

For the first time all season, there was no movement among the top 7 players in the fantasy rankings. Two Suns make the list this week, including the first appearance of the season by Amare Stoudemire. The Suns center is enjoying a sensational return to prominence, as his knee woes appear to be a matter of the past. For the second month in a row, Stoudemire is scoring 25 points per game and grabbing 9 rebounds. His shot-blocking is also notable, as he is swatting more than 2 shots per game. Considering his ability to shoot from the field, plus the charity stripe it wouldn’t be a surprise to find that Stoudemire will continue to climb the rankings throughout the second half of the season. Steve Nash once again appears in the top ten after averaging 28 points and 12 assists throughout the week. Dirk Nowitzki will likely return to the top ten next week thanks to his consistency and scoring. Allen Iverson has resorted to taking all the shots for his team with Carmelo Anthony sidelined. He will have to play more efficiently to return to the top of the fantasy ranks.

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