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Friday April 20, 2007 1:21 pm

Stat’s All Folks: The Season Finale

Kobe BryantIt’s over.  Go ahead and breathe that sigh of relief if you won on the final week of the season - THE championship or the consolation title - a win is a win.  For those of you that lost, scream but know that the constant waves of anxiety are now over.  Fortunately, I came out on the winning end of the PFS Experts League, beating SI.com Fantasy Sports Editor, James Quintong.  Sorry, JQ, but someone had to win and I certainly don’t mind it being myself.  I also won the DroppingDimes.com Roto Experts League, barely beating PFS and SI.com’s Matt Satten… by half a point!  That’s 0.5!!!  But enough about me.

Let’s get to the stats and those players that excelled in them (Blue Chippers), gave more production in the various categories relative to where they were drafted (Value Players), and those players that disappointed (Duds) this past season.  I’ll review the big three categories a little more heavily since they’re the main categories for a reason.  Afterwards, I’ll do a quick hit type of deal with treys, steals, and blocks, looking mostly at the positive to end on a happy note.

POINTS

Blue Chippers
Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers: 77 G; 31.6 PPG
Carmelo Anthony, SF, Denver Nuggets: 65 G; 28.9 PPG
Gilbert Arenas, PG, Washington Wizards: 74 G; 28.4 PPG

Surprise, surprise, surprise.  It’s not much of a surprise that Bryant once again led the league in scoring for the second consecutive time.  Sure there was a dropoff from 35.4 PPG to 31.6 PPG, but it was still good enough to label KB24 scoring champion.  But consider that he took less shots (27.2 PG last season to 22.8 this season) and actually upped his assists (4.5 to 5.4), like every player that defends Kobe, you have to respect him.  Anthony led the league in scoring for a bit of time, but then the Madison Square Garden debacle happened, which had Melo off the floor for a significant chunk of games.  Add the trade for Allen Iverson, another high-scoring player, and Melo’s reign on top was destined to be coming to an end.  However, there is no question that he is one of the top post players at the three position, if not the best.  There was no other player that was more enjoyable to watch, read about, or read his thoughts on his blog more than Arenas.  Unfortunately, thanks to Gerald “Crash” Wallace landing on his left knee, Agent Zero’s season was cut short.  But, before the injury, Arenas was lighting it up all over the League, including dropping 60 on the Lakers, 54 on the Suns, 51 on the Jazz, and a hypothetical 84 or 85 on Duke University.  Seriously, how can you not love this guy?

Value Players
Joe Johnson, PG/SG, Atlanta Hawks: 57 G; 25.0 PPG
Ben Gordon, PG/SG, Chicago Bulls: 82 G; 21.4 PPG
Kevin Martin, SG, Sacramento Kings: 80 G; 20.2 PPG

Before suffering a right calf strain and the Hawks had nothing to play for other than more balls in the lottery, Johnson was straight up stroking the ball and putting up points on the regular.  He increased his scoring output for the seventh straight season since his rookie campaign – 6.3, 9.6, 9.8, 16.7, 17.1, 20.2, and 25.0 PPG this season.  Despite starting off the season going back and forth between the bench and the court when games started, Gordon still snapped the nets from all over the court and increased his scoring from 16.9 PPG last season to 21.4 PPG this season.  The things that helped BG7 achieve this increase were an increase in FG% (42.2% last season to 45.5%), getting to the line more (3.4 FTA to 5.4), and converting more from the charity stripe (78.7% to 86.4%).  Last season, Martin flashed his scoring potential when he was given a chance to get minutes due to Peja Stojakovic getting injured.  However, to jump from 10.8 PPG to 20.2 PPG was nothing short of sensational.  Given the burn on the floor, Martin scorched the nets.

Duds
Jason Richardson, SG, Golden State Warriors: 51 G; 16.0 PPG
Mike James, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves: 82 G; 10.1 PPG
Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, Utah Jazz: 70 G; 8.3 PPG

I think just about any person on Earth wouldn’t mind averaging 16.0 PPG in the NBA, but relative to last season when Richardson averaged 23.2 PPG, J-Rich was J-Mid Income.  Thanks to injuries and the evolution of Monta Ellis, Richardson played less minutes per game and took about 25% less shots on average.  Even though since the month of February, J-Rich’s scoring average trended up to a peak of 21.6 PPG this month, considering where he was drafted, Richardson falls into the Dud category.  However, don’t feel bad for him because James did a lot worse.  A lot worse.  After averaging 20.3 PPG last season and signing a big contract with the T-Wolves, James’ game did not match what the T-Wolves or fantasy owners paid for him.  James only averaged 10.1 PPG, about half of last season’s output, and saw his time on the hardwood cut significantly because of rookie Randy Foye.  Let’s not get it twisted, by no means is Andrei Kirilenko a scoring machine, but 8.3 PPG?  The three previous seasons saw AK-47’s point production dip down from 16.5 to 15.6 to 15.3 points per contest.  So, a minor slide would be understandable, especially since Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams stepped up their games this season.  But, drop all the way to single digits? 

ASSISTS

Blue Chippers
Steve Nash, PG, Phoenix Suns: 76 G; 11.6 APG
Jason Kidd, PG, New Jersey Nets: 80 G; 9.2 APG
Chris Paul, PG, New Orleans Hornets: 64 G; 8.9 APG

Nash, the reigning two-time MVP did it again, arguably having a better season than the ones he won the hardware for.  However, what is not up for argument is that this was Captain Canada’s best season for dropping dimes, averaging a career-best 11.6 APG.  Are we looking at a three-peat performance from Nash regarding receiving the shiny trophy?  Maybe, but some big goateed guy in Dallas might have something to say about it.  Year in and year out, Kidd cements his position as one of the best point guards to ever lace up his sneakers in the NBA.  His 9.2 APG average is directly in tune with his career average.  Paul only played 64 games this season, but when he was on the basketball court, he was worth the borderline first or second round pick you used to get him.  CP3 increased his assists output from 7.8 APG last season to 8.9, on top of upping his scoring average from 16.1 PPG to 17.3.  Look forward to Paul one day leading the league in this category.

Value Players
Deron Williams, PG, Utah Jazz: 80 G; 9.4 APG
Tracy McGrady, SG/SF, Houston Rockets: 71 G; 6.5 APG
Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers: 76 G; 5.7 APG

Williams’ training sessions with Jazz legend, John Stockton, really helped him take his game to another level.  After a rough growing period last season and only averaging 4.5 APG, Williams came strong from the season’s get-go and easily became one of the top point guards in the League and arguably could have been an All-Star.  Regardless, is there any question that he was a fantasy All-Star player, finishing second in the league in dime drops?  McGrady was doing it all this season, elevating his game when Yao Ming was hurt and keeping the Rockets afloat.  Part of that was T-Mac’s career-best 6.5 APG and spreading the ball around to his teammates.  The Sixers now belong to Iguodala, who is loaded with talent on the offensive and defensive sides of the court and unlike the previous A.I. in Philly, yes that would be Allen Iverson, this A.I. doesn’t always look to score or force shots.  Iggy is undoubtedly a team player and does a lot of things well, including finding his teammates.  Look for Iguodala to improve next season as he’ll be the key to the 76ers success from the beginning.

Duds
Luke Ridnour, PG, Seattle SuperSonics: 71 G; 5.2 APG
Shaun Livingston, PG, Los Angeles Clippers: 54 G; 5.1 APG
Sebastian Telfair, PG, Boston Celtics: 78 G; 2.8 APG

Ridnour was a popular sleeper pick in most drafts before the season because of his promise of getting a steady stream of assists, which last season’s 7.0 APG seemingly foretold.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to kick the ball to.  Well, the only thing kicked was Ridnour’s playing time and the potential for assists.  Thank you, Earl Watson’s tight game and 5.7 dimes per contest.  Livingston’s future was now with the Clippers.  Or at least it should have been.  Peoria’s Finest had the starting point guard gig on lock, especially with Sam Cassell’s heels acting up and limiting Sam I Am’s time on the court., but a freak knee injury to Livingston dashed all hopes of him breaking out this season and holding down the job.  The injury was so bad, even the future is cloudy.  So, all those that took Livingston as a sleeper pick were left in a haze.  Telfair was supposed to fulfill the promise he showed in high school after moving back to the East Coast near his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, but it seems that his ability, Delonte West, and rookie Rajon Rondo just weren’t going to let it happen.  I loved the movie, Bassy, but I’m not feeling your game.

REBOUNDS

Blue Chippers
Kevin Garnett, SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves: 76 G; 12.8 RPG
Dwight Howard, PF/C, Orlando Magic: 82 G; 12.3 RPG
Marcus Camby, C, Denver Nuggets: 70 G; 11.7 RPG

“Oh, Garnett is getting old.  He needs to find a team to win that ring before he becomes the next Karl Malone.”  Well, if getting old means leading the league once again in boards and averaging over 20 points a night, I can’t wait to get old!  While KG might be NBA old, playing in his 12th season, he’ll still only turn 31 next month.  Now to the other side of the coin, Howard is a youngster, only legally able to imbibe alcoholic beverages since this past December.  While, I don’t know his lifestyle, Howard grabs boards like college kids (we’ll say college seniors for the sake of legality) grab plastic cups to fill.  Howard is so tenacious on the boards, don’t be surprised if he leads the League in rebounds as soon as next season, knocking the “old man” down from his pedestal.  Holy Where The Heck Did That Come From, Camby Man?!?!?!  Camby stayed healthy this season, relatively speaking given his lack of durability, throwing on the uniform for 70 games.  Camby is always good for double-digit glass cleanings, but it’s whether or not his health slips that makes a difference to him being a studly or dudly.

Value Players
Tyson Chandler, C, New Orleans Hornets: 73 G; 12.4 RPG
Al Jefferson, PF/C, Boston Celtics: 69 G; 11.0 RPG
David Lee, SF/PF, New York Knicks: 58 G; 10.4 RPG

It turns out that Chandler was worth the contract and played better than Ben Wallace – lucky Hornets, unlucky Bulls.  And if you owned Chandler, very fortunate for you as he averaged a personal best 12.4 RPG, improving on last season’s nine boards a contest.  On top of that, Chandler scored at a 9.5 clip per game and blocked almost two shots a game.  Could it be that Chandler is the next (healthy) version of Camby?  Don’t be surprised.  FINALLY, Jefferson’s stats matched his potential as Big Al came up big-time for the Celtics, unlike the team in general.  He more than doubled his 5.1 RPG last season and could potentially team up with that big guy in Ohio that everyone is waiting for to eventually declare for the draft.  Imagine that… I know Beantown is.  Before getting hurt, Lee was getting busy in the N-Y-C as he grabbed every loose ball caroming off the rim or bouncing off the backboard.  He almost doubled his minutes on the floor, but more than doubled his rebound production from last season’s 4.5 RPG.  Lee also scored 10.7 points per game while only playing 30 minutes a night.  And of the 58 games he played, he only started a dozen times.  Yeah, he’s that good.

Duds
Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers: 75 G; 7.8 RPG
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Indiana Pacers: 68 G; 6.1 RPG
Boris Diaw, PF/C, Phoenix Suns: 73 G; 4.3 RPG

Kaman was the darling of fantasy players last season as he almost averaged a double-double (12.0 PPG; 9.6 RPG) and the potential was there for him to improve those numbers, but instead both numbers fell.  Maybe it’s not fair to call Kaman a dud, but the expectations were high, especially coming from the five position.  Murphy was another player who dropped off, but he was a double-double player the past two seasons with Golden State, so to see him drop from 10+ boards per game to 6.1 is disappointing.  At Golden State, before Andris Biedrins breaking out, Murphy was the only legit big man who could board.  Now with Indiana, Murph has to share the rebounds with both Jermaine O’Neal and Jeff Foster.  I don’t see Murphy averaging double digit boards again.  I was surprised to see Diaw still going in the fourth round this season since Amare Stoudemire was coming back, but there he went.  Personally, I wasn’t surprised to see Diaw’s board numbers (6.9 RPG last season) fall along with the other categories.  From breakout to breakdown.  Of course, it didn’t help that Leandro Barbosa came hard and Stoudemire stayed healthy all season and was his old self again.  Je suis desole, Boris.

3PTM

Blue Chippers
Gilbert Arenas, PG, Washington Wizards: 74 G; 2.8 3PTM
Raja Bell, SG, Phoenix Suns: 78 G; 2.6 3PTM
Rashard Lewis, SF, Seattle SuperSonics: 60 G; 2.5 3PTM

Arenas would shoot from half-court if it wasn’t completely weird… and that’s saying a lot considering we’re talking about the enigmatic Agent Zero.  No question Bell again benefited from the personnel of the Suns.  Lewis plus contract year equals stats from everywhere, including beyond the arch.

Value Players
Mike Miller, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies: 70 G; 2.9 3PTM
J.R. Smith, SG, Denver Nuggets: 62 G; 2.4 3PTM
Luther Head, PG/SG, Houston Rockets: 80 G; 2.2 3PTM

Miller went bananas from behind the line, draining triples like they were going out of style and he wanted to keep it going like his headband.  Smith’s breakout had a lot to do with his ability to drain triples at a prolific pace.  When Head was on the floor, his ability to snap nets after releasing his shot from three-point range put him head and shoulders above the other players on the court.

STEALS

Blue Chippers
Dwyane Wade, PG/SG, Miami Heat: 51 G; 2.1 SPG
Ron Artest, SF, Sacramento Kings: 70 G; 2.1 SPG
Baron Davis, PG, Golden State Warriors: 63 G; 2.1 SPG

What can’t Wade do?  Artest was always good in stealing the ball, so to see him at the top of category isn’t a surprise.  When healthy, Davis can score, drop dimes, and rip rocks… unfortunately, he can also chuck them.

Value Players
Caron Butler, SF, Washington Wizards: 63 G; 2.1 SPG
Monta Ellis, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors: 77 G; 1.7 SPG
Rajon Rondo, PG/SG, Boston Celtics: 78 G; 1.6 SPG

Considering his defensive ability and quickness, Butler being tied at the top of this category was a long time coming.  Ellis was waiver wire fodder in standard leagues, but instantly became a gem in the cumulative categories, including this one.  Rondo was also fodder, but despite mostly coming off the pine, was still able to average 1.6 steals thanks to his long arms and instinct. 

BLOCKS

Blue Chippers
Marcus Camby, C, Denver Nuggets: 70 G; 3.3 BPG
Jermaine O’Neal, PF/C, Indiana Pacers: 69 G; 2.6 BPG
Tim Duncan, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs: 80 G; 2.4 BPG

Camby’s long arms and quick jumping ability will always lead to success as long as he takes to the hardwood.  O’Neal is a force down low on both ends of the floor and has been hindered from being a superstar because of health issues.  Duncan is Mr. Consistency in every way, including when it comes to rejecting shots from the opposing team.

Value Players
Josh Smith, SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks: 72 G; 2.9 BPG
Darko Milicic, PF/C, Orlando Magic: 80 G; 1.8 BPG
Andris Biedrins, PF/C, Golden State Warrios: 82 G; 1.7 BPG

I know that Smith owns a 2.5 BPG career average, but I’m simply amazed that wing player can average so many blocks and end up second in the league in blocking shots.  Milicic was let loose for a full season this year and built on the potential he flashed with the Magic for a short time last season.  Biedrins had a breakout season this year, almost averaging a double-double and improving from last year’s 0.7 BPG to 1.7.

Well, it’s been a long season for us fantasy hoopsters, but win or lose, it’s always enriching and fun to see those who continued their greatness, came out of nowhere, fulfilled their promise and taking the good with the bad, seeing those players that fell off a bit or a lot in their fantasy value.  Now, it’s time to watch the games without worrying about the individual numbers.  It’s time to pack up the fantasy basketball bags and call it a season – stat’s all folks!

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