Ike Diogu: David Sherman/Getty Images
About three months ago I was rapping with a friend about Ike Diogu, who was residing in the "Where are they now" fantasy files. Back in 2005, I didn't really think Diogu was worthy of being taken eighth overall by the Warriors, because his game was underdeveloped. But Diogu at times flashed signs of some legitimate fantasy upside early on.
The Arizona State standout went on a scoring binge in the final weeks of his rookie campaign, reaching double digits in each of his final seven games and hitting the glass at a respectable rate.
But since then he's done next to nothing while bouncing from the Warriors to the Pacers to the Trail Blazers and, eventually, to the Kings at the trade deadline this year. At least he did nothing until exploding for 32 points and 11 boards in the second-to-last game this season and 28 points and 13 rebounds in the finale.
All sorts of players see extra action in the final games of each NBA season, and in Ike's case, specifically, he got that extra play because Spencer Hawes and Kevin Martin were hurt. So you can't read too far into numbers like this. On the other hand, those numbers were big enough that Diogu should remain in the back of your mind for deep leagues next year. He could make for a decent late-round flier who could surprise if the 25-year-old can finally carve out a decent spot in the rotation.
So I was working yesterday morning and received a text from my tag-team partner in the Ultimate American League Challenge, a head-to-head points-based experts league. It said: Hey take out freel for matthews.
Obviously, since he was talking about Ryan Freel and Gary Matthews, we're in a very deep AL-only league. I stopped what I was doing and remembered that Freel was facing the Red Sox in the annual morning Patriots' Day game. Since the game was already in progress, I couldn't take Freel out.
I was a bit perplexed about why my friend didn't realize that Freel was playing since he was actually at the game in Boston. It was only later that I realized why the tongue-in-cheek text had been sent: Freel was beaned by an errant pickoff throw and was taken to a hospital.
Freel's as prone to injury as anyone, but they usually come from his overzealous style of play. In this case, he just appeared to be a magnet for getting hurt.
Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun wrote in his blog that the Orioles aren't happy with Freel's play or attitude and may be looking for an excuse to shelve Freel on the DL even if a CT scan reveals nothing serious. Considering he's hitting .133 with no steals, fantasy folk probably feel the same way.
Schmuck added that the O's probably would recall Lou Montanez from Triple-A Norfolk rather than reigning International League Player of the Week Nolan Reimold, because Freel's replacement won't play much, regardless.
After talking about some low-end fantasy options, let's take a look at the best of the best: LeBron James. In the first five years of his career, free throws were the only thing keeping LeBron from reigning supreme in Fantasyland.
Year after year, he'd take 9-of-10 free throws per night and convert only about 73 percent of them. It wasn't a horrific percentage like what Dwight Howard or Shaq post, but it was enough to hold teams down in roto leagues.
But this year, he obviously figured it out, as he finished with a career-high 78 percent average from the charity stripe. In fact, he had only two months averaging under 78 percent.
As if that's not enough of an improvement, LeBron also blocked a career-best 1.2 shots, dished out a career-best 7.3 dimes, shot a career-best 48.9 percent from the field and matched a career-best with 1.6 threes per game.
Amazingly, he did all that while averaging less than 40 minutes per game (37:42) for the first time in his career. He also rarely misses game action, so I see LeBron atop my fantasy rankings heading into next season.
Ben Gordon: Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Ben Gordon blew up last night for 42 points on 14-of-24 shooting from the field, while hitting six treys. He singlehandedly kept the Bulls in contention as they tried to take a 2-0 series lead on the Celtics, before Ray Allen sunk a game-winning triple.
Scoring has never been an issue for Gordon, at least so long as former Bulls coach Scotty Skiles kept his guard in the game and let him take some shots. However, once you get beyond the scoring and treys (usually right about two per contest), Gordon's fantasy stats ring hollow.
He's never averaged so many as 1.0 steals per game; his 3.5 rpg this year were a career-best; he never shoots better than 45 percent from the field; though his 3-plus assists per game can be helpful, they're nothing special; and even though his free-throw percentage is always between 85 and 90, he doesn't take enough (4.7 this season) to make a big impact.
I'm sure no fantasy hoops veteran was surprised to see the rest of Gordon's stat line from last night, which included zero dimes, one steal and one board.
He can be helpful as a draft pick in the middle-to-later rounds, because he's very reliable at scoring and dropping treys. But more often than not, he goes too early in drafts based only on those categories by an owner who isn't looking at the complete fantasy picture. Keep that in mind next fall.