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Fantasy Fix: Get Shaq

There's a lot to talk about this week, even football, if you can believe it, as a week of trades and free agent chatter is starting to re-shape some of our expectations for next year's fantasy football draft. But, we'll get to that a little later.

First, with most fantasy basketball leagues encountering their trading deadlines this week, there may be one last deal you should make: Get Shaq. What do Shaquille O'Neal and the Dow have in common? They are both posting 1997-like numbers.

Shaq has come alive, and the long-term injury to Amare Stoudemire isn't the only reason. He is indeed playing a lot more, but actually playing like a man with something to play for. Is he trying to carry the Phoenix Suns into a playoff spot? He did earn co-MVP in the NBA All-Star game, but this was basically a door prize for attempting to actually bring some entertainment value to the typically lackluster exhibition (Shaq came out for his pre-game intro dancing and wearing a Jabbawockeez mask - and later scored 17 points in 11 minutes, though half of it came after opponents cleared the lane to let him show off.)

No, what Shaq has been doing in the last few weeks - and in particular, for the last week or so - is for real. In the last five games before Tuesday last week, he was averaging 27 points and 9 rebounds. He has posted two double-doubles in that span, including a 45-point, 11-rebound effort. His free throw percentage is still fairly awful, but he could be worth considering if you are hurting for points out of the center position.

Otherwise, the NBA is entering its final month or so of the season, and fantasy expert commentary seems suddenly scarce.

At least ESPN's Eric Karabell found something to talk about - the biggest single game fantasy performance this season. It takes him a while to get to it, but on the way, enjoy his discussion of the 47th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point, 25-rebound performance. It was, sadly, long before fantasy basketball and the ubiquitous media coverage of sporting events.

Meanwhile, RotoTimes has a quick look at the return of Stephon Marbury, who joined the Boston Celtics last week. Don't expect him to make much of a fantasy impact, though he could get more playing time down the stretch if the Celtics try to rest Rajon Rondo for the post-season.

Fantasy Baseball Round-Up
I signed up for my third fantasy baseball team this week, deciding to try an MLB.com public league for the chance to win $10,000 come October. I also wanted to try a league which uses team pitching staffs rather than individuals (like fantasy football leagues that use team defenses), and heard this was the case at MLB.com.

The list draft is this week, and my one controversial move is to rank the Detroit pitching staff at No. 10, several spots higher than the pre-draft ranking. I think Jim Leyland will have a better year managing that staff than in 2008. I like Brandon Lyon as the closer, as well as the potential for Justin Verlander , Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman to bounce back, new arrival Edwin Jackson to have some big games and Armando Galarraga to have another strong year.

And, as we continue our weekly draft preparations, here are my picks for top sleepers by position:

C: Chris Iannetta. 18 HRs and 65 RBIs last year doesn't make him a real sleeper, but how about 25-100 this year?

1B: Pablo Sandoval. Forecast to emerge as starting 1B for Giants. Power, average and catcher eligibility, too. A good late-round back-up choice.

2B: Mike Fontenot. If he leads off, his OBP could easily result in 100 runs. Also a doubles machine. This year's Mike Aviles?

3B: Dayan Viciedo. There are no real sleepers at this power position, so I'm digging deep. Another Cuban star-in-the-making, he still has to make the team and beat out Josh Fields, but has huge power. Could be a nice last-round pick if he makes the roster.

SS: Jason Bartlett. Ben Zobrist will press him, but Bartlett has 40-steal speed, could hit .300 and score 120 round in Tampa's line-up. Zobrist has pomise, too. Come to think of it, I'll change my sleeper pick to the power-hitting Zobrist if he beats out Bartlett.

OF: Cameron Maybin, Denard Span, Elijah Dukes. Maybin is likely to lead off and has great speed; Span could hit .300 and steal 50 bases; Given a full, controversy-free season, Dukes could hit 30 HRs, 100 RBIs.

SP: Chris Carpenter and Max Scherzer. Former Cy Young winner Carpenter is coming off major injury, and will be a major surprise for a better-than-it-looks Cardinals team. Scherzer is a sixth starter right now, but double-digit strikeouts per nine innings demand attention. Should have RP eligibility, too, so pick him after you have your starting four set and see what happens.

RP: Joey Devine, Jason Motte. Both Devine and Motte are set-up men who will compete for closer jobs in Oakland and St. Louis, respectively. Both throw very hard and collect multiple strikeouts per inning. Both could be a great source of hold points and K points even if they remain as set-up men.

Meanwhile, the other fantasy experts continue to make their lists and check them twice:

* Roto Arcade takes a look a SS Stephen Drew and asks if he's a better choice than Derek Jeter. Drew has an outside shot at 20 HRs, with a lower average than Jeter and around the same number of RBIs. I like Drew to improve this season, and would take him over Jeter given the chance.

* Bleacher Report has a position report on catchers. While everyone likes Matt Wieters, BR notes that Ramon Hernandez, who was shipped out of Baltimore to give Wieters a chance, could end up having a great year in his new home, Cincinnati. True enough, he's in a wonderful hitters' park now, in the midst of a young, exciting lineup.

* Fantasy Clocks ranks the top 40 pitchers, and the most interesting choice may be Kevin Slowey at No. 7. Slowey has been compared to - wait for it - Greg Maddux. Slowey was 12-11, 123 Ks and 3.99 ERA last year, so No. 7 - ahead of Jake Peavy and Cole Hamels, among others - is perhaps pushing it.

Fantasy Football Round-Up
There was probably more activity with fantasy football impact last week than during all of January. The big move was Matt Cassel's move to Kansas City, which answered the question of whether Cassel would start next year. He definitely will, and he'll have some pretty good targets. Two months ago, I wasn't sure where to put Cassel for next year's fantasy draft. Right now, I'll call him a third-round pick, and maybe the sixth or seventh QB overall.

Next up, tight end Kellen Winslow, somewhat of a bust last year, was traded from Cleveland to Tampa. The QB situation is really no better in Tampa than in Cleveland. Winslow still has great promise, but I think he falls outside the top 5 TEs for next year. Meanwhile, Cleveland QB Brady Quinn's stock could take a hit unless Cleveland makes some impressive off-season signing in the TE or receiver corps.

A lesser move saw QB Sage Rosenfels traded to Minnesota, which means Tarvaris Jackson will have competition for the starter's job. Rosenfels has big upside if he gets the job, but he basically lost the same sort of competition in Houston to Matt Schaub.

Other news: It was looking like QB comebacker Kurt Warner was headed to San Francisco, but fantasy managers got their wish when he returned to Arizona, where his points are. Also, QB Jay Cutler was annoyed by the reports that Denver tried to land Cassel before K.C. got him. Is it enough to make Cutler leave?

Finally, Mr. Consistency at running back, veteran Fred Taylor, landed in New England, a team that no doubt will know how to use him. It also means that Maurice Jones-Drew will have the backfield to himself in Jacksonville. Many folks already saw him as a top five running back, and you can bank on it now.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears every Wednesday, except when it appears on Thursday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome.

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