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Fantasy Fix

There have been a handful of trades in the NBA already this season, none bigger than Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheik Samb for Allen Iverson. In the real world, it was a trade that kept the Detroit Pistons high in the standings and helped push the Denver Nuggets into first place in their division. However, in the fantasy world, it has been a massive disappointment for Iverson owners.

The Answer is way off his career average in points per game, and while 18.7 PPG is still pretty stout, Iverson averaged more than 26 PPG last year in Denver. He's had a minor bump in assists and rebounds since joining Detroit, but the trade basically bumped a Top 20 player about 40 spots lower on the big board.

Meanwhile, Billups has been better, slightly above his recent annual scoring average of around 17 PPG and right around last season's APG of 6.8. Iverson and Billups are both in their early 30s, and were so even coming into this year that they probably were drafted consecutively in the mid-second round of some fantasy league drafts. Right now, you have to wonder if Iverson is starting a late career breakdown as a scorer, while Billups looks as consistent as ever.

For talk of more possible trades, let's turn to the experts:

* Sports Illustrated's Dec. 29 issue has some trade suggestions for NBA teams to make before the first half of the season comes to a close. The most interesting one from a fantasy perspective is Rasheed Wallace for Tyson Chandler. Wallace joining Chris Paul and David West in New Orleans would be an exciting move for Hornets fans, but what about the fantasy effect?

West probably would lose a few touches on offense, though he probably would be counted on for a few more rebounds. Paul doesn't shoot many three-pointers, so Wallace, who still attempts multiple threes every game, wouldn't necessarily upset the balance there.

* Bleacher Report has a post on the decline of the center position in the NBA. It's true that several centers have been mediocre this year. After hyping Dwight Howard to death this fall, I've been mystified by his ongoing inconsistencies - horrible free throw shooting, bad field goal percentage nights from a guy who normally shoots from three feet away or less, and no effort to even pretend an interest in assists. Howard still has his monster rebound and block games, but I think we were promised a rounder set of numbers this year.

The same goes for the aforementioned Chandler, who seemed to have his break-out year last year with the Hornets, but this year has been playing like he did during his time with the Bulls.

* ESPN has a column on one of the latest fantasy metrics catching on - points per 48 minutes. I've heard this one before, and it's an interesting indicator, but also hard to build a team around. Sometimes you just needs guys who are getting playing time on a consistent basis to win out the week. You can't rely totally on super-subs whose per-minute averages are sky high if their real week-to-week totals remain low.

Fantasy Football Round-Up
I know what you're thinking: What else is there to say? Well, there's next year to think about. I started that game last week with a mock first round for next season. This week, it already looks stale, since my round-closer pick, Tom Brady, allegedly may not be ready for the 2009 season. I had kept LaDainian Tomlinson out of the first round, but let's put him back in to take Brady's place.

But, there's another San Diego Charger I also want to mention as a sleeper pick for next year: Darren Sproles. Earlier in the season, the kick-returning RB looked to be in line for a bigger offensive role. That didn't happen until the last quarter of the season, but Sproles' slick running and scoring on short passes in recent games provides great promise for next year.

In the best case scenario, he'll still get KR points to supplement a growing as a short-range pass target in San Diego's increasingly pass-happy offense. I like Sproles as a fifth-rounder next year, which may seem very high now, but he was tied for the lead in receiving TDs (5) by an RB with none other than Brian Westbrook, and finished 20th in total points by an RB in my recent fantasy league.

The fantasy football experts are taking their last laps around end-of-the-season stats:

* Roto Arcade takes a shot at predicting the first four rounds of next season's draft. They aren't on the Sproles bandwagon yet, but how about rookie Chris Wells in the second round?

* The Sports Network examines how unpredictable this year's fantasy football season was by looking at the disappointments that befell players drafted consistently in the first round. I guess that's why Roto Arcade and others are forecasting much different first rounds next year, as guys like LT, Steven Jackson, Brian Westbrook and Joseph Addai will drop into the second round in many drafts.

* The Dallas Morning News has end-of-the-season performance accolades to hand out. None of them are too surprising, but "Most Likely to Succeed in '09: Pierre Thomas" caught my eye. He is a totally different kind of RB than Sproles, at least physically, but like Sproles, he's a No. 2 with good hands in a pass-happy offense.


Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears every Wednesday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome.

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