Think back to last October as we waited in anticipation for the 2009/10 NBA season to begin.

The Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess acquisitions installed San Antonio as West favourites in many experts’ eyes. We wondered whether one ball was enough for the Memphis Grizzlies’ offense. We were annoyed that Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio wouldn’t be coming over to Minnesota just yet, but hey, at least we’d get to see #1 pick Blake Griffin in action!

Well a lot has happened since then.

The early months saw a kid named Brandon Jennings light up the Warriors for a double-nickel, by all accounts on his way to the Rookie of the Year award. Greg Oden was showing signs of becoming a defensive force. The Sacramento Kings were one of the surprise teams, hovering at .500.

This was followed by the dog days of January and February when the never ending NBA schedule tests our staying power as avid NBA followers. In this period we witnessed one of the worst dunk contests ever, the ignominious exit of Allen Iverson and the Javaris Crittenton gun saga.

But now we’ve finally made it to the end…well, almost. We’re into the last week and a half of the NBA regular season with a large number of teams jostling for playoff position and a large number of NBAMate readers reeling from the Andrew Bogut injury. Despite this disappointment NBAMate must go on, so before the postseason begins let’s take a look back at what transpired in fantasy circles this season.

Top 10 revelations

1. Stax of production in Memphis

When Zach Randolph was added to the Grizzlies roster, fantasy owners thought something had to give. O.J. Mayo would have to take a backseat. The Randolph black hole would frustrate beta-dog Rudy Gay. Instead, an inexperienced bench forced Memphis into relying on their starters more than any other team in the league and the Grizzlies also picked up the tempo allowing everyone to get their shots (of course, this doesn’t necessarily translate to being an unselfish team – Memphis may be in the top 10 in pace factor according to John Hollinger, but they are dead last in Assist Ratio).

The results? Well, Randolph became a first time All-Star and led the league in offensive rebounds per game. Gay continued his fantasy career as a valuable multi-cat contributor. Mayo showed no drop-off, producing virtually the same numbers as his rookie year (except with FG% up a little and FT% down a little). Even Marc Gasol raised his game into MIP territory, helping you everywhere except FT%. Only Mike Conley has disappointed, but much like last season he’s lifted his game post-All Star break and is someone who should be picked up from the Free Agent list if available.

Shortly after this picture was taken, A.I. took his ball and went home

2. Josh Smith’s head screwed on straight

The love of the 3-point shot is gone…well, repressed at least. The focus has returned to the (primarily defensive) aspects of the game that can not only help the Hawks on-court but also show up in the box score for fantasy owners. The steal, block and rebound numbers have all been bumped up a little from last season’s disappointment and Josh is also the leading assist getter amongst all forwards not aiming to become global icons, with an impressive 4.3 per game.

3.Old people don’t get healthy, they die”

Okay, this one isn’t that surprising but the effects of wear and tear on the aging Boston bodies has turned from inevitability into reality. Numbers are down across the board as the once all-conquering pillars of Pierce, Allen and (especially) Garnett have begun to crumble, perhaps reminding introspective Celtic fantasy owners of their own mortality. Thank Jesus, Buddah and Allah for Rajon Rondo.

4. Crash’ing the Boards

Somehow Gerald Wallace is going to average over 10 rebounds a game while missing a career low 3 games this season. This is a guy who slipped into mid-to-late 3rd round territory in fantasy drafts. Time to make a mental note for next season: If it’s your pick and you’re deciding between Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler and Vince Carter…well, forget those SF’s and draft Wallace instead.

Gerald Wallace also joined a select group this season:
NBA players who have hairstyles like the Predator

5. Fear the fantasy deer

I don’t really know what to say about the Andrew Bogut injury. Just thinking about it gets me down. Still, it would be remiss of me not to mention his statistical contributions as they definitely warrant a spot on this list, with an amazing jump in blocks per game being the standout.

In Yahoo! Fantasy leagues Bogut was taken at an average draft position of 97.5. This translated to being the 30th Centre selected on average, after such luminaries as Elton Brand, Andris Biedrins, Anthony Randolph, Shaq and Spencer Hawes. With his breakout year Bogut proved he is now a legit #1 Centre option for fantasy teams. Hopefully he recovers, comes back strong and proves the same again next season.

6. Golden State D-League Warriors

Don Nelson has a habit of giving extended minutes to no-name players in season’s past (see, Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Morrow and C.J. Watson). He’s taken it to new levels this time around with sharpshooter Reggie Williams* and double-double threat Anthony Tolliver becoming guys you should seriously consider picking up as final week fill-ins in your fantasy league.

Who ARE these guys?

*Hearing the name Reggie Williams in the NBA has transported my mind back to the mid 90’s Mutombo-era Nuggets. Specifically, seeing this facial block against the Kings on NBA Action. Ahhh, the memories!

7. Is it a Jennings? Is it an Evans? No, it’s…

Darren Collison as a starter: 47.3% FG, 84.6% FT, 18.2 ppg, 9.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.9 3pg

Marcus Thornton post-All Star break: 47.0% FG, 86.3% FT, 19.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.9 spg, 2.1 3pg

The numbers say it all really. Yes, injuries may have opened up their opportunities but they took full advantage of the situation. Not bad for a pair of non-lottery pick rookies.

8. This Durant kid can play

I had the 5th pick in one of my fantasy drafts this season and a spent an unhealthy amount of time debating between Kevin Durant and Danny Granger. Ultimately I lucked out and picked Durant due to, for all reasons, a better H2H playoff schedule. Turns out that I should’ve picked him anyways for the fact that he’s an absurdly good player.

Earlier in the season I wrote “I’m not sure whether he (Durant) has justified being taken in the top half of round 1“…Err, let me retract that statement now. KD has been one of the most consistent contributors in 2009/10 (don’t underestimate reliability in fantasy hoops), a killer in the points, FG% and FT% categories and a solid contributor in the remaining cats. In other words, a fantasy stud.

9.Reke havoc

We’ve already heard this statement a million times: “He’ll join Oscar, Jordan and LeBron as the only rookies to average above 20, 5 and 5”. Still, it’s hard not to be amazed by the numbers Tyreke Evans has put up for someone who was probably bypassed in your fantasy drafts. He has wrested the ROY award away from Brandon Jennings with his ball-domination and unstoppable “euro-step”.

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Yeah, you could say Tyreke’s had a pretty good season

10. Stats don’t discriminate

You could be a head case. A bad teammate with an inflated sense of entitlement. A sieve on defense. But if you can consistently put up good numbers it doesn’t matter – you belong on a fantasy team. That said, congrats to those of you who picked up Andray Blatche mid-season. The post-allstar break stats are outstanding: 49.6% FG, 22.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.9 bpg.

Forget E = mc2. The equation for fantasy owners to remember is: talent + god-awful team = fantasy stats.

Breakout stars that weren’t

Now for a quick look at the other side of the coin. Guys who came into the season with big fantasy wraps but couldn’t get the job done.

Caron Butler (Average Draft Position in Yahoo! Leagues: 19.6). The triumvirate of Arenas/Butler/Jamison never recaptured the glory of seasons past.

Jose Calderon (ADP: 23.8). Mr. Timeshare couldn’t separate himself from Jarrett Jack.

Shawn Marion (ADP: 37.2). Didn’t need to be a stat-stuffer in the Dallas system.

Andris Biedrins (ADP: 50.8). An amazing 4 from 25 from the free throw line this season.

Hedo Turkoglu (ADP: 58.3). Turns out a change in cities just meant a change in nightclubs for Hedo.

Ben Gordon (ADP: 61.8) and Charlie Villanueva (ADP: 66.3). What happened to these guys?

Anthony Randolph (ADP: 76.1). Haven’t seen a big man this overrated in fantasy drafts since Stromile Swift. To be fair, he’s shown flashes despite limited opportunities from Don Nelson.

Spencer Hawes (ADP: 86.0). Just couldn’t bring his game to the next level.

Tyrus Thomas (ADP: 89.1). Needs to cement a starting spot to become a reliable fantasy player.

Richard Jefferson (ADP: 90.6). Turns out Spurs GM Buford pulled a Dumars on this one.

Trevor Ariza (ADP: 94.6). Shooting %’s reminiscent of Antoine Walker.

Michael Beasley (ADP: 106.3). Undoubtedly talented offensively, but will the light bulb ever go on upstairs?

D.J. Augustin (ADP: ?). Found his way into the Bobcats doghouse even though they didn’t have a decent SG prior to the Jackson acquisition.

Brandon Rush (ADP: ?). According to Hollinger, is on track to record the worst PER ever for a player leading their team in minutes.

From L to R: $58m over 5 years, $37.7m over 5 years.

Finally…

Good luck to those owners still in contention for their fantasy championships.

For those in roto leagues, I hope you’ve done your calculations. For those in H2H leagues, make a note not only of how many times a team plays in the final week, but also the days on which they play (e.g. Chicago has great final week, playing games on the less busy days of the NBA schedule).

Remember to visit any daily-updated fantasy sites for the latest info on potential shutdown candidates and their replacements. Matt Buser has a good summary here.

And once you end up winning your league you can relax, rip yourself away from the box scores and enjoy the playoffs.


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