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Fantasy Basketball: Season of Change - Mike Bibby

by Dave Fuller

Ah, it already feels weird to be writing (or in this case, typing) out 2008 rather than 2007. But doesn't it always when the new year arrives? At any rate; as this holiday season comes to a close, Happy New Year and good luck with those resolutions. I know I don't even bother anymore.

Now that we're starting fresh, I'm sure Mike Bibby is more than ready to return to the floor. I don't blame him. He hasn't played basketball since just before the start of the regular season, as thumb surgery has kept him off the court. It's looking less and less likely that Bibby will be dealt to a team such as the Heat (Bibby's more of a shoot-first point anyway, so I don't see him being the right fit for Pat Riley's team). Of course, that doesn't inhibit him from being dealt to Miami. Riley adapts to the situation, and Bibby has shown the type of court vision that could make him an efficient passer. So, let's take a look at how Bibby's return will likely impact the Kings.

As you probably know, Beno Udrih claimed the starting job a couple weeks into the season. The team is 9-13 with him running the offense (2-5 without him starting), and he's put up a very solid (even if slightly unspectacular) line at the 1. Really, he's a slightly larger version of Bibby with the difference in their play being speed vs. tempo. Udrih has an instinctive ability to keep the game at the right tempo and allow the offense to develop, something the Kings have needed with the scoring talents they have. His team defense is still developing, and he learned some things in San Antonio that should make him solid on the defensive end with time. Playing with Ron Artest has helped a bit as well.

Bibby is a poor defender, and although his offensive game is faster-paced than Udrih's (coach Reggie Theus wants to move to a small-ball-style offense which promotes fast-break pace and quick scoring), his lack of defensive intensity is threatening his playing time. This could really hurt him if he doesn't get dealt right away, because the bottom line is, Beno Udrih is establishing himself as the starting point guard even while Bibby is healthy enough to play.

The verdict: pick up Bibby if you have the room for him, as he should be back in a couple weeks. Don't expect him to pick back up where he left off, though; he's coming off an underwhelming season and a thumb injury that should initially reduce his ball-handling abilities. If Sacramento moves to a small-ball lineup, Bibby could become a solid (though undersized) scorer at the 2 because of his quickness a la Monta Ellis. The most value comes through a trade involving him, however, so if you're a Bibby owner, pray for one.

Here are fantasy basketball's current ups: ...

Jason Richardson :: SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats
The two reasons I'm actually glad Golden State gave up J-Rich for the young and über-talented Brandan Wright are what Richardson continues to do this season. He's slowly developing into a three-point shooter who doesn't slash the basket as often as he used to, and he's even more of a streaky shooter now because of it. But, of course, you have to give a player props when he deserves them. He's playing insanely well right now, due to the fact that his shots (mainly his 3's) are falling at a sick rate. Expect this streak to end soon as he'll undoubtedly become ice cold, but 26.4 points on 49.6% shooting with 4.0 3's on 52.8% from down-town is just incredible over his past seven.

Kurt Thomas :: PF/C, Seattle SuperSonics
Thomas is one of those defensive-minded players who do all the dirty work for a team, and he's extremely underrated because he plays for one of the worst in the league. Thomas will rarely put up double-digit points in a game, but since all of the Seattle big-men are a bit under-sized, Kurt plays like the biggest man on the court for the Sonics. Thomas had a very nice December for rebounds with respectable percentages, but he's kicked his play up a notch over the past four: 13.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 2.0 blocks, and 100.0% (7 of 7) from the line.

Michael Finley :: SG/SF, San Antonio Spurs
There's always that savvy vet who comes in and has himself a scoring run reminiscent of his younger days; right now, Finley's that guy. He's bumped his scoring average up into the double-digits during December, and he's really stepped it up while Manu Ginobili nurses a sprained left index finger. Finley's been a starter all season due to his team defense and ability to stretch opposing defenses with his three-point shot, and now he's making up for some lost points, 3's, and rebounds with 19.0 points (47.8 FG%), 3.0 3's, and 6.3 rebounds per game of his own.

Noteable Mentions: Peja Stojakovic :: SG/SF, New Orleans Hornets; Dorrell Wright :: SG/SF, Miami Heat; Linas Kleiza :: SG/SF, Denver Nuggets

... and downs:

Ronnie Brewer :: SG/SF, Utah Jazz
It pains me more than anything to list Ronnie Brewer here; he's basically my claim to fame (or anything relatively close) for this fantasy basketball season. However, I can't be biased and ignore the obvious. C.J. Miles has emerged as a legitimate scorer and offensive threat off the bench, and Kyle Korver was just traded for from the Philadelphia 76ers to improve Utah's league-worst 3's per game mark. Miles' and Korver's presence have begun to cut into Brewer's time, reducing Brewer's scoring to 8.3 points per contest over the past six. Even worse, Brewer's stolen a mere two balls over the past three contests.

Nazr Mohammed :: C, Charlotte Bobcats
Well that was a short but sweet stint for Mohammed as a waiver-wire wonder. As a starter for the Bobcats, Mohammed was posting career-best numbers: 14.4 ppg (58.2% from the field), 11.8 rpg, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks. Nazr's out as a starter for a few reasons. For one, he's not a great defender. The Bobcats were already a mediocre defensive team, and neither he or Emeka Okafor are very mobile or able to defend the perimeter. So, Wallace moves back to the PF position while Okafor stays at C, keeping Mohammed's production at a lowly 5.0 points, 6.5 reounds, 1.0 steals, and 0.0 blocks in two games as a reserve.

Danny Granger :: SG/SF, Indiana Pacers
It's not like Granger's way off on his shot or anything. However, Granger was pegged as a potential member of the 1/1/1 club (1 steal, 1 block, 1 3-pointer) before the season started. He's there now, but his recent stretch of games has him playing below that (0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.5 3's over the past four). To make matters worse, Granger just hasn't been taking as many shots recently and failed to get to the free throw line in consecutive games. His shooting percentage is actually up over his season average in the last four (46.2 compared to 43.8), but his lack of those three miscellaneous categories and low scoring (11.8 points per game) is disconcerting.

Noteable Mentions: Juan Carlos Navarro :: PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies; Tracy McGrady :: SG/SF, Houston Rockets; Charlie Bell :: SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks