FBA: Fantasy Surprises
- It's easy to be negative in fantasy sports. Some owners claim to be the ultimate jinx on even the league's best players, while others love to blame all of their team's troubles on injuries. You hear the moaning and groaning every season, drowning out any mention of the pleasant surprises.
Surprises can come in many forms. There are those who come out of nowhere to be major fantasy contributors. Others have taken their games to another level, perhaps one many didn't think they would ever reach. Just for fun, let's look at the All-Feel Good Team with three months still to play in the 2006-07 season:
Center: Andris Biedrins, Warriors
Talk about something you never saw coming. The 20-year-old from Latvia burst on the scene in a big way after averaging about four points and four rebounds in his first two seasons in the NBA. He's given the Warriors a nice interior presence and is nearly averaging a double-double. In addition, he's continued to shoot over 60 percent from the field and added a couple blocks per game. What a great waiver-wire find at the thin center position.
Honorable mention: Amare Stoudemire, Suns. It was not known how his knee would hold up, but he's been healthy (no games missed), productive (17.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and efficient (60% FG).
Power forward: Zach Randolph, Trail Blazers
You might say, "How can a player who's been good for at least 18 points and 8 boards over the last three years be considered a surprise?" Well, let's not forget that Randolph was a disappointment last season when he put up his worst numbers in three years as a full-time starter in the league, including a sorry 43.6 field-goal percentage. It's been a different story this season, as Randolph has put this inexperienced Trail Blazers team on his back. He and Dirk Nowitzki are the only two players in the NBA to rank in the top 15 in scoring and rebounding this season. He is scoring six more points per game and his rebounding is back into double digits.
Honorable mention: David Lee, Knicks. If you predicted before the season that Lee would be one of nine players in the entire league to average a double-double, then you likely predicted Tony Romo would botch a snap on a chip-shot game-winning field goal attempt in the playoffs, too.
Small forward: Caron Butler, Wizards
The number on Butler's jersey used to correspond with the option he was in the Wizards' offense. No longer. While Gilbert Arenas has dazzled with his scoring prowess and big shot-making ability again this season, Butler has experienced an impressive jump in nearly every category imaginable. At 21 points, 8 boards, 4 assists, 50 percent FG aim, 88 percent FT accuracy and nearly two steals per game, he's become one of the top all-around talents in fantasy -- and a better option than teammate Antawn Jamison.
Honorable mention: Luke Walton, Lakers. I'll admit that I was skeptical about Walton's ability to keep up his early pace when Kobe was getting his legs under him. But he's been a nice contributor in many categories and has improved his field-goal percentage by over nine percent thus far.
Point guard: Mo Williams, Bucks
There were many nonbelievers in Williams' ability to handle big minutes on a nightly basis. Not the Bucks, who sent T.J. Ford packing in order to give Williams a greater opportunity. While he's at career-high levels nearly across the board, Williams' most impressive totals come in rebounds (5.3 per game) and shooting percentage (45.6%). Hopefully, his recent shoulder injury won't put a damper on a great first half.
Honorable mention: Deron Williams, Jazz. He looks a lot like he did leading the Fighting Illini just two seasons ago, shooting the ball with confidence and keeping his teammates involved. After some growing pains as a rookie, he's realizing his potential -- and fast.
Shooting guard: Monta Ellis, Warriors
How could anyone have predicted Ellis' fine '06-07 season as long as Jason Richardson was his teammate? While J-Rich has battled injuries all season, the 21-year-old Ellis has thrived under Don Nelson in his sophomore campaign. Despite showing flashes of his immense talent last April, he's played at a significantly higher level all season long. He's averaging more than 10 points per game more than he did as a rookie and is shooting over six percent higher from the field. In addition, he's shown a nice ability to share the basketball by averaging four assists per game.
Honorable mention: Kevin Martin, Kings. The rail-thin prolific scorer out of Western Carolina barely got off the bench as a rookie two seasons ago. And when he made a big jump from 2.9 ppg to 10.8 ppg last season, the team was thrilled with his development. How great must they feel now? Martin's funky -- but dead-eye -- stroke has made him Sacramento's top scoring option and a rare scoring guard who actually helps your field-goal percentage.
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