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Fantasy basketball

Posted by Ed Ryan February 5, 2009 05:54 AM

When I drafted Amar’e Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns fifth overall last November, I expected nothing less than domination. I wanted the 25.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game he averaged last season. I wanted consistency. I wanted a cornerstone.

I didn’t expect to want to trade him by January.

But that’s what happened. What also happened is that I was laughed at when I offered him for Kevin Durant one month ago, right when Durant started to blow up, and I would have laughed too if I had been on the other end of the line. Stoudemire is hardly a joke, or a bust, but Durant has been putting up ungodly numbers recently. The type of numbers I expected — and needed — from Stoudemire.

This season Stoudemire’s averaging 21.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists (a career high), one steal, and one block per game. That’s borderline excellent, but for the fifth pick in the draft? It’s not enough. If you add up his averages just listed, you come up with 33.4. In my league, an average of 30 or more is solid, but the problem is that 16 players have higher averages than my guy.

Stoudemire is a forward, and we have to start three “frontcourt” players — not necessarily a center. The only frontcourt player taken ahead of Stoudemire in my draft was LeBron James (No. 1 overall). In the first round alone, though, I also missed out on Dwight Howard (I should retire), Dirk Nowitzki, and Al Jefferson. All have higher averages than Stoudemire.

(Disclaimer: If the rest of my team weren’t such a disaster, perhaps this Stoudemire dilemma wouldn’t matter. If you need further proof that I should retire, I took Tracy “Expected to Miss the Next Five Games” McGrady in the second round, and I’ve had Gilbert Arenas, whom I drafted very late, rotting on my bench all season. But anyway …)

Like a true American, I’ve found someone else to blame for my problems. This person’s name is Shaquille O’Neal. Really. I’ve been paying close attention to the Suns lately, and my disdain for Shaq as it pertains to Stoudemire’s performance is simple. Yes, we’ve all read about Shaq’s “resurgence” this season, and we know that he made the All-Star team as a backup (over Jefferson, a disgrace).

It’s all a mirage. Shaq is putting up good numbers (17.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg), but what no one is talking about is that he no longer requires a double team by opposing defenses. No one is worried about him going off for 30 or more points anymore, so he gets defended straight up.

The big loser in all of this (besides me)? The guy who is getting forced out on the perimeter because Shaq is backing his man in? The guy who is the focus of the opponent’s game plan every night?

I think you know who I’m talking about.

Ed Ryan writes about fantasy sports and betting for OT and can be reached at ed_ryan@globe.com

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