Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NBA AMIDSEASON REPORTS

Sorry I couldn't post yesterday, the site was down.

So the Nets win streak was finally snapped at 10 games last night by none other than... the arch-rival Spurs. The score, 96-91.
"The Big Fundamental" banked 27 points last night and was 13 of 15 from the Free Throw line. Still, the Nets made it close thanks to Vince Carter’s 15 point 4th Q’ explosion, cutting a 16 point lead to 4. It was a rather sloppy game; 20 TOs (leading to 16 points) for the Spurs and 14 (leading to 18 points) for the Nets. Had "RJ" (back spasms) played, the outcome might’ve been different. NJ PG JK’s playing rock solid B-Ball, averaging 14.5 / 7.1/ 8.1, with 2+ steals per game and a 2nd-best 1.8 3’s per game on 36% accuracy.

Fantasy Hoops!

CENTERS:

Biggest Surprise: Utah's Mehmet Okur: Paired with AK-47, known in other circles as Andre Kirilenko, Okur’s rounding into a top tier big man. Offensively skilled and able to wipe down the glass, Okur simply needs to record more blocks to reach “elite” Center status. Playing 35 minutes a night, averaging 17+ points on 55+% shooting, and with 2 ½ Assists and 5 ½ Rebounds per game, Okur is going to get some serious “Most Improved Player of the Year” consideration.

Top Rookie: Milwaukee Bucks Andrew Bogut: Bogut’s been about what everyone expected. A throwback kind of player with excellent fundamentals, the big Buck’s throwing down almost 9 points per game, with 7+ ‘boards and a handy 2+ assists. Bogut has a single Double/Double to his name… a recent 14 points, 13 Rebound affair that came against the Cleveland Cavaliers and their defensively deficient Center, Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Bogut is ranked 9th amongst this year’s rookies in scoring, and 1st in Rebounds with 7 ½. Although he’s a young player, he’s pretty polished. He does, however, need to work on his free throw shooting. Draining a meager 59% of his gimmes’. He could make Shaq’ look like a sharp-shooter!

From Out of Nowhere!: Clipper Chris Kaman: Hey man, grab Kaman. The guy is prepared to explode. I pushed him towards the end of last season as I saw signs that he was emerging as a legit’ player, and this season he’s hatched! Over his last 5 games, Kaman is averaging 15+ points, 14+ ‘boards, and 1+ blocks. With a few more 20+/15+ games… Kaman may even become a solid #1 Center!

Steady-Eddy: NY Knick Eddy Curry: Curry came to NY in a much-maligned trade that sent Chicago NY’s 1st round pick in the upcoming draft. A defensive minded player Curry is not, thus he and coach Larry Brown see eye to belly-button, roughly. While Curry should be starting in all formats due to the dearth of “true” Centers, the former Bull is an injury prone, 1-dimensional player. As of Monday, The Human-Heartbeat is notching 14 points, 6 boards, 1 swat, and like… 1/5 of an assist per game.

In Decline Yet Still Dominant: Shaq’ and Ben Wallace: Both Shaq'-Daddy and "The Afro with Feet" are seeing their numbers fall. Wallace remains part of an incredible Piston machine... O'Neal is slowly giving way to young protege', Dwyane Wade.

Power Forwards:

Biggest Surprise: New Orleans Hornet David West: Much like the aforementioned Okur, David West is one of the league’s Most Improved Hoopsters! The 2nd-year Hornet has stung opponents with his shot, burying 52% of his attempts and averaging almost 19 points per game over his last 10 tilts. In addition, West’s pulled down an average of 9 boards and shot over 80% from the stripe over that same span. With “Rookie of the Year” candidate PG Chris Paul pine-lined with a bum thumb for a minimum of 2 weeks… a greater O-load will fall to the surprisingly confident Power Forward.

Top Rookie: Toronto Raptor Charlie Villanueva: CV goes up and down like a hot-air balloon… but that’s more attributable to Raptor coach Sam Mitchell’s curious style of player substitutions. Given his upside and production to date, Villanueva is second only to Hornet Point Chris Paul in Rook of the Year consideration. The Raptors flat-out stink, but when they wanna’ toss a big lineup out, they can go with both Bosh AND Villanueva. Chuck, to friends, should be getting at least 30 minnies’ a night… but he’s not. Yet, in his limited time (25 or so minutes), the flexible Forward is posting a line of 12+/1/5+. Okay, so Assists aren’t strength. Villanueva’s a riddle wrapped in a conundrum enshrouded in mystery. On December 30th, against a stout Indy squad, dude drained 25 points on 70% shooting, and added a double-fistful (10) of boards.

Sophomore Jump: Orlando Magic Dwight Howard: Howard’s taken his game to a whole ‘nutha level this season. Averaging an impressive “Doub’ Doub’” of almost 15 points and 12+ ‘boards, a night, D-How’ also bats a shot plus into the $1,000 Floor seats and “thiefs” the ball once per game as well. He does, however, need to work on his free throw shooting and fouls (almost 4/game).

Comeback Player of the Year Utah: Jazz Andre Kirilenko: Before the regular season, the Jazz lost PF Carlos Boozer to a left Hamstring tear, I believe. After 2 seasons of playing cavalier hoops for the Cavaliers… Boozer decided to cash in on a free agent market that was simply hurling handfuls of cash at him. And so he did. The Jazz gave him a BIG dollar deal… and almost as quickly as the first paycheck was cashed, Utah realized that perhaps… just perhaps, Boozer benefited from the play of … I dunno, maybe LeBron James for one? With Boozer out and Kirilenko finally healthy, Mehmet Okur slides over to Center and former Center Greg Ostertag to the pine.AK-47 as he’s affectionately known is an absolute real and fantasy STUD with a capital “SSTT!” The big man is nimble enough to put the ball on the floor, he’s got a sweet shot, and the dude is a shot blocker par excellence! AK-47 is hangin’ a line of 14+ points, 8+ ‘boards, 4+ dimes’, and 1.6 Steals!
In his last 5 games, the giant of Jazz has stopped, popped and dropped 118 points, 37 Rebounds, 27 Assists, 13 steals (including 1 6-steal game), 18 Blocks (including consecutive 6 and 7 swat affairs) and shot 57.9% from the floor.

The Human Double’ Double: L.A Clipper Elton Brand: Averaging a ridiculous 25/11/2.5, with 2 ½ No-No’s a game, dude is taking his game to a whole other level and posting career-best numbers in many categories. In one recent 3 consecutive game stretch, EBrand dropped 72 points, 34 ‘boards, 5 Assists, 3 Steals, 6 Blocks turned the ball over a mere 2 times a game and was called for 5 TOTAL PFs over that span.

MVP Candidate Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki: Able to take over a game in much the same way Kobe and LeBron can… the difference is, the giant German is a true-7 Footer. Dirk can put the ball on the floor and take his man off the dribble.. remarkable for such a big guy, hustle up court on D, and he’s got a sugar-sweet jumper. Currently posting a line of 26/9/2.6, Dirk’s also stealing 1+ per game and is shooting career best numbers from the stripe (88.9), 2nd best numbers from downtown (39.8), and 3rd best numbers from the field (46.3). Nowitzki has helped to redefine the Power Forward position.

Human Disappearing Act Denver Nugget Kenyon Martin: Frequently banged up with a balky back and knee tendonitis, the still-young F is not nearly the dominating player he was as a Net, Kmart is a cut-rate Hoopster. He’s playing 26 minutes and accruing 11.8 points per night; both are career lows. In addition, his 5.7 boards are 2nd worst to the 5.3 he pulled down in his sophomore season. Just contrast those diggies’ with his last year in Jersey, 2003-2004… coincidentally, his career and “Walk year.” Martin banked 16.7 points and 9.5 Rebounds, dished 2.5 Assists (2nd best number) and a career best steal and a half. Further, he recorded 2nd best %’s of 48.8 from the floor and 68.4 from the foul line. Martin’s numbers are down substantially!

Small Forwards:

MJ to LBJ: LeBron James: King James had a Hummer, courtesy of Mama James, before he even had his Driver’s License…what’s my point? Frankly, I dunno. All I know is, James is a FILTHY hoopster and, if you collect Trading Cards, get your hands on a James Auto rookie. There are still several that can be had for under $1,000. Rookie auto JERSEY cards, on the other hand, are approaching $2,000 and up. His cards will approach… if not exceed Jordan’s in value due to production scarcity. Not interested in Basketball or Baseball cards? ‘Kay, how ‘bout his numbers since that’s what we’re really talkin’ bout. The league’s 3rd leading scorer… just behind Kobe’s 33.7 PPG and AI’s 33.1, LBJ is putting 30+ points through the shiny orange hoop each game. In addition, well-rounded player that he is, the 3rd-year monster is cleaning the glass 6 ½ times a game, dishing almost 6 dimes’ a game, and taking the ball from others almost twice per game. Maybe he’s getting the calls… or maybe he’s just a squeaky clean player, but the Cav SG is being called for fewer than 2.5 fouls a game. With sharp-shootin’ fellow Guard Larry “Never Seen a Shot I DIdn’t Like” Hughes out for 6-8 weeks with a busted up finger, more of the scoring burden will fall to James. Hard to believe… but his game could get turned up a notch. Mama James will be SO proud!

Still Second-Fiddle: Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony: Melo’ is definitely working to improve both his image and game. Putting in extra effort on the court is part of it… but being a teammate is the other. As of today, “Got Milk” poster-boy has really increased his intensity and his numbers reflect that. Melo’s dropping25 points, almost 6 boards, and almost 3 Assists per game. In addition, the Nugg’ has improved his on-court accuracy to 46.1% (up 3 % significant points). Without C Marcus Camby and with a continually tabled Kenyon Martin, Carmelo’s doing his best to keep Denver competitive and relevant. And that, my fantasy friends, is no easy task.

Rising Sun… Most Under-Rated NBA’er: Phoenix Sun Shawn Marion: Marion is, hands-down, the grittiest, toughest, most high-flying Forward in the game. With Power Forward Amare Stoudemire sidelined until February at the earliest following knee surgery, the grunt-work and much of the scoring load has fallen upon Marion’s broad shoulders. “The Matrix” has accepted his role, embraced it… made it his own. A fantasy (and real) monster, the prodigal Sun is single-handedly keeping the Suns atop the Western Conference Pacific and is putting ill diggies’ on the backs of his Basketball trading cards. Take a look; averaging a gaudy Double/ Double of 20+ points and 12 ‘boards, Matrix has become a Doub’ / Doub’ machine with 25 of ‘em in 33 total games. Need harder numbers? In his last 10 games, Marion’s nailed a ridiculous 233 points (including a career-high 39 in a recent triple OT game against the Knicks), with 102 ‘boards, 15 ‘helpers, 21 Steals, 14 no-no’s, and 13- 3’s. A complete player, Shawn Marion’s averaging an exhausting 40+ minutes while shooting a career-best 51.5% from the floor.

Undrafted Baby Bull: Andres Nocioni: Noce’ is working hard to help his “who dat’” teammates put the now hapless Bulls back on the NBA’s map. No more Pippen, No more MJ, no more Steve Kerr… no more recognizable Championship figures. Now, it’s Chandler, Sweetney, Hinrich, Duhon, Gordon and Deng. Nocioni and Deng split time, with Deng receiving a few additional minutes. In fact, you could go either way… and I’m not sure Deng isn’t more deserving of this slot. Noce’ is, however, a nice 3-point threat. Currently shooting 47+% from beyond the arc… 2 points better than his 45+ % from the field. As of Wednesday, the Bull forward is hangin’ 11.6/5.0/1.3, with 1 block per game.

Fellow Baby Bull Luol Deng: Deng’s dropping 14 points, cleaning the glass 6 times a night, and handing out a couple of Assists per night. In addition, Deng’s shooting an acceptable 47.6% from the floor.

Can I Get a Shot… Please? Nominee L.A Laker Lamar Odom: Kobe, if he could, would play 1-man Hoops. Nevertheless, Odom’s doing yeoman’s work and is having a rock-solid season; 14+ points, 9.5 boards, 5.5 Assists, and tying his career low with 2 ½ TO’s a game.

Point Guards:

Top Rookie: New Orleans Hornet Chris Paul: Here’s a guy who has taken his team by storm. With a history of drafting rock-solid Points, such as former malcontent Baron Davis who is now a G-State Warrior, Paul is learning on the job. A very distinct lack of talent… coupled with the fact that they’re perennially on the road has really hurt the team. Paul, though, is thriving in his role. The former Wake Forest star has been forced to the bench due to a damaged digit. This will serve as a learning process for the Hornet as Paul has NEVER missed a game due to injury. In his first NBA year, the kid’s dropping 16+ points, dishing 7+ Assists, and pulling down almost 6 ‘boards a game. Defensively, at 6 foot nuthin’ Paul’s too short to block a shot. However… he’s liquid-quick, fly-paper sticky, and averages more than 2 steals a game. Over his last 10 games… those prior to yesterday’s injury, C-Paul notched 23 swipes.

Boston Celtic Delonte West: West has seen his stock shoot north this season! Last season's 24th overall pick by the Celts', Smith has seen every stat improve since last season.... and that's precisely what a summer of hard work will do for you! On the year, D-Smith's hangin' a line of 11/4/4, with at least 1 steal and 1 3- per game, the Boston SG is draining 52% from the field, 42% from downtown, and 83% from the line. His numbers for January are awfully encouraging; 18 points, 5 dimes', and 6 'boards. Over the span of his last quartet o' contests, West's dropped 71 points/ 20 Assists/ 23 Rebounds and 10 of 16 3's. His last game is an indicator of his po'; 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting, 7 'boards and 2 helpers.

NY's Knick Nate Robinson: A tiny player at 5-9/180, Larry Brown was reluctant to throw him out there. For the season he's averaging 9 points/ 3 boards/ 2 Assists on the season, those numbers are increasing exponentially as he's seeing far more floor time and not pine-time. Over his last 4, Nate's averaged 30 minutes with 12+ points, almost 5 Rebounds, 4 Assists, Jamal Crawford's injury has meant increased floor-time for rookie Robinson. However, "LB" say's he'll start both Nate Robinson and David Lee. This is heresy from the mouth of a coach who seems to detest young players. Rook' is a 4-letter word for Larry. Then again, it is for most people.
Shooting 41% from the floor and 65% from the charity stripe, increased minutes will help him hone both his shot selection and acccuracy. Dude can bury the 3- He's shooting almost 50% from beyond the arc, with 28 of 58 3's made. Of concern, "Nate the not-quite-great" is averaging almost 3 Fouls per game... and 5+ in his past 6 games. He needs to be more careful and stay out of Foul trouble. That being said, so long as Jamal Crawford is benched... Robinson is worth a spot in deep leagues. Crawford is, however, a much better scoring option, is as deadly as Nate from 3-point land, and is able to record a steal/game with his quick hands. Still, Nate puts in effort on D... something Crawford... potential trade-bait, is loath to do.

Minnesota Timberwolves Marko Jaric: A virtual "who dat'" entering the season, Jaric's really emerged on a wafer-thin T-Wolve roster this season. One of the "new breed" of fundamentally solid Eastern Euro' players, Jaric is distributing the ball "Democratically." Thus far, Jaric's hangin' a line of 10+/5+/3+, and ranked 8th league-wide with almost 2 steals a game. Jaric needs to improve upon his free throws (shooting slightly below 68%) and fouls.

Gotta Grab Him NOW! Orlando Magic Jameer Nelson: Nelson is outplaying his far more celebrated teammate, Stevie "Franchise" Francis. Nailing 54 total points over his last 3, with 15 Rebounds and 19 Assists over that span... Nelson should be picked up in ALL formats as he's now moved into the starting lineup.

Deeper Sleeper: LA Clipper Shaun Livingston: The 2nd year Clip' has been a human triage unit. Most recently, a back injury prevented him from flying on the team plane to "Away" games. Further, for a Point Guard, the guy’s shot is AWFUL! Livvy’s burying a scant 36.2% of his shots. Still, Livvy' has an uncanny floor presence and as he puts on some weight and muscle, and improves his shot... the sky's the limit. If you have room on your bench… and belong to a “Keeper” league, you might consider stashing the Clipp’ for NEXT season. Dude’s game is much to raw and I wouldn’t look for anything from him this season.

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