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Mother lode or fool's gold?


We look at three players who each had a rough first half of the season to see what we can hope to expect from them in the second half.

Through 31 games: 33.6 MPG, 15.3 PTS, 37.8 FG%, 78.3 FT%, 18 3PM, 5.9 AST, 3.1 REB, 1.5 STL, 0.2 BLK

Harris looked to be on the verge of elite fantasy point guard status after a breakout year in 2008-09. However, he has taken a huge step back this year as his numbers are down in all categories except for turnovers. Will his bad first-half prove to be just a blip on the screen or evidence that last year's production was just a fluke?

Tamer: Remember when the Dallas Mavericks were being criticized for giving up Harris in the Jason Kidd trade two winters ago at the trade deadline? Well, the critics have fallen silent almost two years later with Harris struggling in his second full season in New Jersey while Kidd continues to reach into the fountain of youth in Dallas.

Harris' numbers are pretty much down across the board, but the significant drop in points, assists and shooting percentages is most alarming. In addition, a big reason why fantasy owners loved him coming into the season was the high volume/high percentage combination he provided at the free-throw line. Well, that combination has taken a hit this season as his free-throw percentage is down 3.7 percent and his attempts are down 2.4 per game. Unfortunately for Harris owners I don't see his numbers improving much in the second half of the season.

For starters, his point totals last year were an aberration. He is not a good shooter and opponents have figured out that if you take away his ability to get to the basket he is not nearly as effective because he can't consistently make an outside shot. Along with his drop in points, this has negatively affected his field-goal percentage and his ability to get to the line. You would think that Harris would adjust and therefore his assist totals would increase but they haven't partly because he is not a great pure passer and has a score-first mentality. I believe his assist totals have also been hurt by the departure of Vince Carter and the overall ineptitude of the Nets offense which ranks last in the NBA in points per game. The slight drop in rebounds, steals, and threes this season I believe are more minutes based since he is averaging 2.5 less minutes per game. I can see his averages rising somewhat in these categories if his minutes get back up around 36 per game. I also see his free-throw percentage increasing into the low 80s in the second half. This does not, however, make up for the fact that his points, assists, field-goal percentage and free-throw attempts will likely not increase, and if they do it will not be near the totals he put up in these categories in 2008-09. Look to trade Harris as soon as possible because he gets a Fool's Gold from me.

Trevor: So last season I guided my squad to a league championship, thanks in large part to the contributions of Harris. I snagged him relatively late in the draft and grinned from ear to ear all season while he tore it up. This year, dreaming of a similar result, I burned my fourth-round pick on him (Rajon Rondo, incidentally, went one pick prior. If I lose this year I'm going to pinpoint that exact moment as the reason why). Harris has spent much of the first half of the season in street clothes, and when he has been healthy his numbers have disappointed me more than when Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone's vault.

When I drafted Harris I envisioned a few things: solid field-goal and free-throw numbers due to his ability to get to the basket and convert at the line, a decent if not spectacular amount of threes, assists and steals, and a hearty point total. I got none of those things. Well, OK, his assists and steals aren't bad, but still, I'm bitter. Harris has the ability to be a very good point guard but for some reason this year it just hasn't happened.

Now call me a glutton for punishment, but I think it will happen in the second half of the season. The talent is there, he just hasn't put it all together yet. This isn't a case like Trevor Ariza, where the opportunity is there but not the talent. The Nets know that if they are going to avoid infamy this season Harris is going to need to step up his play. He's on seriously thin ice with me, but because of the victory he led me to last year I'm going to stand by Harris and give him a Mother Lode vote.

Through 44 games: 30.4 MPG, 11.1 PTS, 52.4 FG%, 59.5 FT%, 9.7 REB, 0.6 AST, 1.7 BLK, 0.5 STL

After a stellar 2008-09 campaign with the Charlotte Bobcats, a lot was expected of Okafor this season in his new home playing alongside Chris Paul in New Orleans. Okafor, however, had a subpar first half with the Hornets and has really only met fantasy owners' expectations in the blocks category. Will he be able to bounce back in the second half and finally produce the numbers fantasy owners expected coming into the season?

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Tamer: Okafor seems like an ideal candidate to bounce back from his bad first-half production. It is not like age is a factor since he is only 27 and he should be more comfortable now with his new team. There are a few problems with Okafor, however, that make a second-half turnaround highly unlikely. While Okafor should be getting better at his age, he has actually regressed statistically in key categories over the last four seasons.

Okafor posted his best season as a pro in 2006-07, when he averaged 14.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 1.2 assists and 0.9 steals per game while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 59.3 percent from the line. Since then his points, rebounds, assists and steals have decreased in each of the next three seasons. His blocks dropped to 1.7 per game in 2007-08 and he stayed at that number in 2008-09 and so far this season. His field-goal percentage is the only category that has increased significantly since his career-year, and that only happened once last season when he shot 56.1 percent from the field. It is hard to envision Okafor suddenly reversing a downward statistical trend that is three-plus seasons in the making.

Another problem with the belief that Okafor will improve in the second half is that he is now playing in the Western Conference. The Western Conference is light years ahead of the Eastern Conference in terms of overall talent. All you have to do is look at the records of the teams in each conference. The Western Conference has 11 teams that are currently at least four games over .500 while the Eastern Conference has only four. Okafor is going up against tougher competition this year compared to his previous five seasons in the NBA and it will be difficult for him to improve given these circumstances. I have no choice but to dish out my second consecutive Fool's Gold.

Trevor: Every once in a while the powers that be allow Tamer and I to strike a temporary truce and agree on these picks, and this happens to be one of those occasions. Emeka Okafor is an OK fantasy center. He does everything a run-of-the-mill, everyday NBA center would: helps with field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks, and pretty much hurts you everywhere else.

The problem is Okafor shouldn't be a run-of-the-mill anything, and for two reasons: 1. This is the same guy who many analysts were calling on Orlando to take No. 1 overall ahead of Dwight Howard. Of course, no one would argue that now, but Okafor is still a smart, capable player who has the ability to be much better than average. 2. He plays with Chris Paul. Do I really need to say anything else? How much money did the offensively challenged Tyson Chandler make because he could guide a perfectly-placed CP3 lob into the basket two or three times a game? Okafor should be getting 15 points without even being completely conscious. The bottom line is that if he isn't breaking out now it's probably never going to happen, so this one's a Fool's Gold from me.

Through 39 games: 32.3 MPG, 17.1 PTS, 48.8 FG%, 76.9 FT%, 6 3PM, 5.7 AST, 2.5 REB, 0.5 STL, 0.2 BLK

Parker delighted fantasy owners last year by posting his best overall season as a pro. The Frenchmen has not carried his 2008-09 success into this season even though he is in the prime of his career. What do we make of Parker's mysterious drop in production this season.

Tamer: Parker's situation is similar to Okafor in that they are both 27 and in the prime of their careers. The similarities end there, though, because unlike Okafor, Parker's numbers have not been getting progressively worse over the last several years. Except for threes, which he used to take and make at a higher rate earlier in his career, all of his other numbers have fluctuated from season to season.

The categories that Parker has seen the biggest drop in this season compared to last year are points, assists, rebounds and steals. Last year he averaged 22 points, 6.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.9 steals. Let's look at points first. His points per game last year was by far the highest of his career. He did average at least 18.5 points per game, however, in the three seasons prior to last year. While I don't see him averaging 22 points per game the rest of the season I do see him making up for lost ground by averaging around 20 points per game over the last three months of the season. The other three categories in question should all meet if not surpass last year's levels. He has not averaged less than three rebounds per game since 2002-03, he has never averaged less then 0.8 steals, and he was over six assists per game in each of his last two seasons. There is no reason to think he won't average at least three rebounds and one steal per game the rest of the season.

As for assists, the statistical evidence is not as overwhelming since it is only a two-year sample, but given the talent he has around him he should exceed six assists per game in the second half. The drop off in field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage is minimal, and he should have no problem shooting around 50 percent from the field and 78 percent from the line in the second half. While Parker may not exactly match last season's production in the second half of this season, he will get close enough for me to give him a Mother Lode. Then again, his most recent ankle injury may delay his Mother Lode-ness.

Trevor: The Spurs are a second-half team. We've heard that for years, but the problem is that it's not really true anymore. Even with the addition of Richard Jefferson and a turn back the clock season from Tim Duncan there just seems to be something missing. To me, that something is the combination of Parker and Manu Ginobili. While Ginobili is a story for another day, Parker has been sub-par all season, especially when compared to his breakout campaign last year. I drafted Mr. Eva Longoria (along with Devin Harris) assuming that I could live with his lack of threes because he would be such a solid contributor in field-goal percentage, and while he has been good he just hasn't lived up to previous seasons. As a result of the dip in percentage and attempts, his scoring is down. Whether it's his nagging ankle injury that is catching up to him or he's just a little older, I'm not sure, but Parker has definitely lost a step this season. It's possible the Spurs put on their infamous second-half surge, but I just don't see the same fire from them anymore. Until he gets his mojo back, Parker gets a Fool's Gold from me.

* All stats up to date as of 1/26/10