The first half of the NBA regular season is behind us, and brings many fun things to watch for in the second half. The trade rumors are flying as the deadline approaches and names like Paul Milsap and Eric Bledsoe are big enough to draw every ones attention. Milsap is destined to land on a playoff team and have an important role, while Bledsoe will most likely end up on a rebuilding team looking to add a future stating PG. While Milsap's value won't increase/decrease too much, Bledsoe will see an increase in value if and when traded.
Fantasy owners need to buckle down and adjust their rosters to make their own playoff push!
Lets take a look at the Western Conference from both an NBA view and a Fantasy view:
Just like the Eastern Conference, we'll start with the bottom of the Western Conference and talk about the Phoenix Suns. 6 guys are averaging double figures - Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley. Unfortunately nobody averages more than 14, so they do not have one guy that they or us fantasy owners can rely on every night.
The team will be heavily involved in rumors in the upcoming week as the NBA trade deadline nears. Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat are almost guaranteed to be traded as they can absolutely help a team heading into the playoffs.
Sitting in 15th place and 9 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot is the Sacramento Kings. They give up the most points in the NBA at 103.8 points per game. This team has a young nucleus with DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, only 22 and 23 respectively, however they've both had their share of problems during their short careers in the NBA. If they can turn things around, the Kings will have two great players going forward and will hopefully turn their franchise around.
If you own Isaiah Thomas, you should take advantage and flip him for some players who do more than just score points. Thomas takes advantage of his free throws but doesn't get to the line often enough to be a consistent scoring threat.
Jason Thompson finished the 1st half really strong. His last five games has seen him averging 17.6 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 60%.
Next we have the New Orleans Hornets. They have some very talented young talent but are definitely lacking some veteran leadership.
Eric Gordon is worth looking to add on the low low. He has only played in 4 of the Hornets last 8 games and fantasy owners are probably fed up with him. If the price is low enough, this is a move that every fantasy owner should be looking to make.
At the age of 26 Greivis Vasquez is starting to turn into a star, despite not getting a lot of national attention because we all know that all goes to LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Vasquez is averaging 14 points, 9.4 assists, and 4.6 rebounds a game. In my eyes he's the closest player the NBA has to Rajon Rondo, in terms of triple doubles, as he's a threat to post one every night.
They acquired Ryan Anderson in a sign-and-trade this off season and he's putting up a solid 17 points and 6 rebounds a night while hitting 3's at 40%.
Robin Lopez is also putting up very good numbers at 11.7 points (56% from the field., 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game. Lopez was our breakout candidate at the Center position heading into the season.
Unfortunately they wasted a pick on Austin Rivers in this past draft at #10. He's making it pretty clear he wasn't ready to come out of college and the Hornets passed up on some very good players.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the best core group of young talent. At center and power forward they have two monsters on the boards in Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic who can also put up 20 points a night. Unfortunately the two of them can never stay on the court at the same time as they both have battled a number of injuries over the past 2 seasons.
Also at forward they have Derrick Williams who is only 21 and has all the potential to be a very good player in this league. With Love nursing an injury Williams over the last 5 games is averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds, so he is showing he has what it takes to be a fantasy contributor.
Then of course they have Ricky Rubio running the point. He's a great distributor who can rebound, and has quick hands leading to his 2 steals a night. The thing this team is really lacking is a pure scorer, somebody who can consistently hit jump shots.
The Dallas Mavericks who won the NBA championship just two seasons ago got off to a very slow start this season and now sit at 23-29 at the All-Star break. Dirk Nowitzki who missed the first 29 games of the season is finally getting back to the All-Star player he's been throughout his career. Since January he's averaging 16.5 points and 6 rebounds a night and will only continue to get better and stronger as the year goes on. His 3's are down but he's hitting them at 38%. I would be looking to ship Dirk if I owned him as another owner might value his name more than his 16 points per game.
O.J. Mayo is having a great first season in Dallas averaging 18 points, 4.3 assists, 4 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He's shooting a career high in field goal percentage (46%) and 3-point percentage (41%). With an aging team Mayo will continue to see around 36 minutes a game.
Off the bench Vince Carter continues to be effective. Sure he's only getting around 25 minutes a night but he's going to get his 10-15 shots up a night. In the month of February he's shooting 48% from the field and a ridiculous 59% from downtown (16-27). From a fantasy standpoint he will get you points and plenty of 3's on a nightly basis.
Running the point for Dallas is Darren Collison who does a little bit of everything. 13 points, 5.5 assists, and 3 rebounds. So he's not a guy who you want to rely on for points or assists but he will contribute to those categories. He will occasionally score 20 points or dish out 10 assists but will not do it regularly. However he will help you out with free throw shooting as he's shooting 90% from the line.
At the age of 34 Shawn Marion continues to be an effective fantasy player as he's putting up 16 points and 8 rebounds this month. Since January, he's shooting over 50%. Marion still is a very good defender and will steal and block shots each night but if he is on your roster try and sell him high.
Chris Kaman continues to struggle with concussion symptoms and hasn't seen the court since late January.
Then we get to the Los Angeles Lakers. I think we're all tired of hearing about them but it's something we'll have to used to as long as they have Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. The team definitely have had their struggles this year and sit at 25-29 and 3 1/2 games out of the 8th and final playoff spot.
It's been a weird season for Kobe Bryant as for a while he was leading the NBA in scoring but then all of a sudden he went from taking 30 shots a night to taking 10-15 shots and dishing out 10 assists a night. In December Kobe averaged 34 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 46% from the field. Now in February he's averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists. Even if we continue to see a decrease in scoring from Kobe, I don't think fantasy owners will mind because he'll be flirting with a triple double every night.
The man who was brought in here to distribute and get Kobe the ball was Steve Nash. However he's only averaging 7.5 assists a night. Yes that's great for mostly anyone, but he has averaged more than 10.7 assists a night over the past 3 years. Clearly Kobe taking over as a distributor has hurt Nash's value but he is averaging 12 points a game and shooting over 50% from the field.
Earl Clark is the one player who is benefiting the most from all the injuries and the team's struggles. He's been moved into the starting lineup and is seeing about 35 minutes a night since mid January. He's a threat for a double double every night and is averaging 12.5 points, and 8.5 rebounds a night in February.
Sitting in the 9th spot and just 3 games out of the final playoff spot are the Portland Trail Blazers. They are led by All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge averaging 21 points and 9 rebounds a night. He is the ideal fantasy big man. Aldridge shoots under 50% from the field despite being 6'11 but is averaging 18 field goal attempts a night. 18 field goal attempts = lots of points. He has had plenty of games this year where he has scored in the high 20's, low 30's. He's pretty much a lock for a double double each and every night.
J.J. Hickson is another great front court player for the Blazers and is averaging 12.7 points and 10 rebounds a night. Another great fantasy player. Not only is he a double double guy but he's shooting 56%. Also he does this while playing under 30 minutes a night. Buy low on Hickson as his rebounds and scoring are way down this month.
In his 4th NBA season forward Nicolas Batum is finally making a name for himself in this league. He's averaging a career high 15.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks. He's not as consistent of a player as fantasy owners would hope for as he can have some pretty bad shooting games where he fails to score in double figures, but then he has some games where he hits 5 3-pointers and scores 25 points. At 6'8 it's nice to see him get assists but he's had 2 triple doubles this year and fills up the stat sheet every night with points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3's. Buy low on Batum and hope that his 12 points and 4 rebounds over this last 5 are frustrating his owner. Plus that wrist injury could scare his owner into a deal.
Hanging onto the 8 seed in the West are the Houston Rockets. Clearly they made a few headline moves this off-season signing for Jeremy Lin and trading for James Harden, completely transforming their back court. Harden is proving he can be a face of a franchise and is averaging 26 points a game along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
A guy who has really stepped up this year for the Rockets is Chandler Parsons. He's averaging 14.5 points a night to go with his 5.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists. When this guy gets hot he's a lethal shooter. As a Knicks fan I witnessed it first hand as Parsons went 13-17 from the field including 4-7 from downtown and scored 31 points. Although he didn't get to the line very often last year he's improved his free throw percentage from 55% to 72%.
When the Rockets offered Omer Asik a 3-year $25 mil deal, I literally laughed and thought they just threw away a ton of money. He's proved me wrong and I'm actually a fan of his game now. Asik is averaging 10.5 points and 11.5 rebounds a game, up from his 3 points and 5.3 rebounds last year. He's a great fantasy player because not only will he pull 10-20 rebounds any night but even though he wont score 20 points a game, he will not hurt you because he shoots 54% from the field. Offer his owner a low ball trade and try to sneak him on to your roster.
The Utah Jazz have a plethora of big men in Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Both Favors and Kanter lose fantasy value coming off the bench and having to compete for minutes with 2 all-star quality guys.
Milsap has been the subject of many trade rumors and that will be great for Favor's and Kanter's fantasy value. Derrick Favors is just getting 22 minutes a night and is putting up 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. Give him another 10 minutes and he's averaging close to a double double. With the trade deadline less than a week away, there is a chance that the Jazz move Milsap and if that happens Favors will move into that starting lineup and will play 30+ minutes a night. Now might be a good time to trade for him in hopes of Milsap being shipped out of Utah.
Both Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward have been hit with injuries and because of that Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley and Alec Burks have all seen increased minutes lately. With the exception of Foye, none of these guards are deserved of a spot on your fantasy team as they do not produce enough on the court.
The most surprising team this year in the NBA in my eyes are the Golden State Warriors. They have a great young back court with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson who are both lethal shooters.
Curry fills up the stat sheet every night, averaging 21 points, 6.6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 3-pointers a night. As long as he can keep his ankles healthy, he is a guy that can lead you to a NBA fantasy championship, but that's a big if. I own him in a Yahoo but will be looking to dangle him in a trade as I can't trust the ankles to hold up in the second half and I suggest you do the same.
The Denver Nuggets continue to be one of the leagues top scoring teams lead by Danilo Gallinari and 17.2 points per game. Both he and Andre Iguodala did not played in the teams last two games but you can expect them to return right after the break.
Ty Lawson has really stepped up his play in February averaging 22 points per game while managing to add 9 assists a night as well. Lawson is a great player but if you can flip him into a couple of useful assets, now is the time to do so!
If you are looking to find a player to add to your roster without making a trade, look at Wilson Chandler. He can help with adding some points and some rebounds while knocking down some 3s every now and then.
The Memphis Grizzlies not lost a step since trading Rudy Gay to the Raptors, and the scoring has been spread amongst all of the Grizzlies. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley continue to be the top fantasy options in Memphis but none of these guys will win your league for you. Take a chance and offer any of these three in a trade and see what people offer you. You might be surprised how much people value names over production.
Eric Bledsoe has been named in MANY trade rumors and the Los Angeles Clippers would be wise to make a deal. Bledsoe is going to be a solid NBA player but he can not help the Clippers contend for the Championship this season the way a Josh Smith or Paul Milsap can. The return of Chauncey Billups gives the Clippers the leadership and playoff experience that Bledsoe doesn't have yet. Billups is averaging 14 points per game in his 4 games including a 21 point night in the Clippers first half finale.
Lamar Odom has been so disappointing since his return and he has not looked to shoot the basketball. He has hit 10 points just once all season.
Chris Paul and his knee are something that all fantasy owners should be watching very carefully in the second half. If people come knocking for CP3 you might want to consider seriously listening.
The Oklahoma City Thunder trail the Western Conference leading Spurs by just 2 1/2 games. One thing is clear in OKC, Kevin Martin is NOT James Harden. While we all understand why the trade went down, Martin provides very little outside of his 15 points per game and a couple of 3s.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to be two of the leagues 10 best fantasy players, but outside of them, they offer little fantasy help.
Serge Ibaka is not as valuable a fantasy player as his owners may think he is. Outside of the blocks, there isn't much left to desire. He has reached double digits in rebounds just 4 time since the New Year and just once in that same span scored 20 points. Sell Ibaka on name alone and see what comes back!
If you own Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili, I suggest trading them immediately! The way Gregg Popovich has been resting his veteran stars, who knows how often they will play after the San Antonio Spurs clinch a playoff birth.
Kawhi Leonard has stepped his game up in February dropping 15.5 points per game. On top of the increased scoring, he is adding 7 rebounds a steal and a block every night. He has been aggressive attempting over 11 shots per game and is finally the fantasy player we all hoped he would become out of San Diego St.
Speaking of stepping it up, Danny Green has been knocking down 3s like its going out of style! Attempting 7 shots from beyond the arc in February, Green has made 22 3s in 6 games, including an 0-5 night to finish the first half. Green is another guy I would look to trade as owners looking for 3 point shooters would love to add him to their team.
Western Conference Playoff Predictions:
San Antonio Spurs (1)
Houston Rockets (8)
Memphis Grizzlies (4)
Denver Nuggets (5)
Los Angeles Clippers (3)
Golden State Warriors (6)
Oklahoma City Thunder (2)
Utah Jazz (7)
San Antonio Spurs (1)
Denver Nuggets (5)
Los Angeles Clippers (3)
Oklahoma City Thunder (2)
Denver Nuggets (5)
Oklahoma City Thunder (2)
Western Conference Champions - Oklahoma City Thunder
Check out what @WeTlkFntsySprts says about the Eastern Conference and see who he thinks the Thunder will face in the NBA Finals!