Hey, freaks. It's good to be back living the fantasy with you after taking Turkey Week off, but I gotta say...if I see that commercial with the little girl saying "it's the mirrors" one more time, I'm going to boycott television altogether. (Wish me luck.)
Gimme the caveman bumming on the billboard at the airport. Gimme the movie trailer voiceover guy helping a regular customer tell her story. Gimme Mini-Me singing "It's your birthday." But I don't want anymore of the girl, the elephant, or the mirrors, okay?
After all, it really isn't about the mirrors. It is, in fact, about the mirages that are causing fantasy owners to lose sleep and waste time at work worrying about under-achieving players.
And to help make sense of these spoilers, as well as facilitate trading around the world, I am back with eight mirages for your wheeling and dealing pleasure.
Richard Jefferson - Nets
In looking at the 8-cat rankings, I kept asking myself: "Self, where the hell is Richard Jefferson?" Into the 80s, no RJ...into the 100s, no RJ...into the 120s, no RJ. At this point, I'm thinking to myself that I missed him earlier in the rankings, so I go back and scroll through the 50s and 60s again. Still no RJ. So I resume my search in the 130s, still no RJ. Now panic sets in. I actually called the police to put out on APB on the man. Hey, I was worried about the dude. The police got back to me (I know, I couldn't believe it either) and said they found RJ disheveled, down on his luck, and on the wrong side of the tracks. His whereabouts: 151st Rock Bottom Street. Thanks mostly to ankle injuries, RJ is averaging 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.6 threes, and 44/76 on the percentages. His value may never be lower than this (ever), but he is getting healthier with each passing game, as he averaged 22.5 ppg in his last two games.
Gerald Wallace - Bobcats
Everyone wants to know what's wrong with Crash and when he's going to start blocking shots again? Good questions. First of all, Wallace got dumped on his skull in the first game of the season, so that set him back. Then, on the day he said his head was finally clear from the dumping, he falls again and injures his shoulder. Some have theorized that Emeka Okafor is hoarding all of Wallace's blocks, but I think that's only partially the case. No, Wallace isn't playing the four anymore, and that's limiting his time in the paint. However, you can still get blocks on close-outs, swipes from behind, and help situations, so I don't buy Okafor as an alibi for Wallace plummeting from 2.1 blocks last season to 0.3 this year. Wallace ranks 127th across eight categories right now, which is your signal to prey on the now-desperate Wallace owner in your league. Trust me, Crash won't be THIS stinky all season -- and keep in mind we do have roughly five months left.
Ben Wallace - Bulls
Was the headband thing a farce or what? Freaks, I've got Scott Skiles' back in this one because a rule is a rule and Ben is getting paid enough to fall in line, even if the rule is rather silly. Hey, the cops don't let us talk on cell phones while driving...wait a minute, bad example. Where was I...oh yeah, rules you don't like but have to follow. Ben is a grown-ass man and doesn't need Skiles going Dad on him, but he is getting 15 million per to shut up and play, and that shall be the case the rest of the season. Ben is averaging just 9.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 1.6 steals on the season (stats through Thursday), but he had 12 boards, two blocks, and two steals in Tuesday's win over the Knicks, and I am confident that will be the norm the rest of the way. Don't worry about the bone chips in his right wrist, as he's been playing through them for years.
Tracy McGrady - Rockets I wouldn't worry too much about T-Mac's scoring average of 18.7 or his 8-cat ranking of 69th because the best is yet to come. Lemme take you back to the beginning of the 04-05 season when T-Mac averaged 20.2 ppg in December before averaging 25.7 ppg for the year. Yes, that was two years ago and Yao Ming wasn't the superstar he is today, but T-Mac is still T-Mac (27 years old). I fully expect that scoring average to creep into the 20s and stay there. As his scoring average goes up, so too will his threes, which are a solid 1.5 per game as we speak.
Elton Brand - Clippers After ranking firmly in the top 10 a year ago, Brand has slipped all the way to 35th on the 8-cat rankings as we enter Friday's work. The statistical culprits are points (down from 24.7 to 17.1), field-goal percentage (down from .527 to .489), and blocks (down from 2.5 to 1.9). Brand has hinted to the media that he may be a bit fatigued after two playoff rounds last season, a lengthy stint with the U.S. National Team, and a trip to Moscow during the preseason. At some point, Brand is going to catch his first wind and get back to being the 20-10 stud we've come to know and love. Hang in there with him, freaks.
Amare Stoudemire - Suns
In determining trends from mirages, you can't take a player's full-season ranking at face value. You have to dig a little deeper to find out if the dude is trending up or down before giving him a label one way or the other. Amare ranks 50th on the season with averages of 15 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, and 62/73 on the percentages. However, he's been the second-best 8-cat player during the past week (3 games) with averages of 22.3 points, 12 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 2.0 steals, and 67/85 on the percentages. Um, wow. So make an offer to the Amare owner in your league to see if he's still wary of holding this microfracture survivor all season. Other than a horrible game when he had the flu, Amare has basically been the bomb since regaining his starting job on Nov. 8. My fingers are crossed, but dude looks good to go.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas - Cavaliers
Remember all the talk about how bad Big Z is? I'm not hearing that garbage anymore. First of all, just because a guy gets off to a slow start doesn't mean he stinks as a player. (I hate the mentality of people who are so quick to stick a fork in someone, permanently, when they are experiencing a temporary dip in biorhythms. Chill out and have faith.) Second, Big Z is officially back, ranking as the 36th player in 8-cat methods during the last week with averages of 10.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, and 50/80 on the percentages. Forget about his yearly ranking of 104 because he'll climb into the 50s or 40s before the year is done.
Andres Nocioni - Bulls
The Bulls' general malaise to start the season, as well as a bench assignment for the first couple weeks, have conspired to render the Argentine Animal just 95th in 8-cat rankings for the season. However, Noce has ranked 71st during the past week with averages of 17.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 threes, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 47/79 on the percentages. Now that he's the starting power forward, and because he's in a contract year, there isn't a doubt in my mind that Noce hovers around those numbers the rest of the way.
Rick Kamla is NBA.com's resident fantasy expert. Rick Kamla will be here all season long to give you his insider analysis on the fantasy basketball world. Kamla is the heady host for "NBA Fantasy Hoops Presented By Toyota," a seven-nights-a-week, one-hour studio show that has become the ultimate guide for NBA fantasy basketball players.