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Finding the elusive NBA assist

Jose Calderon has pushed his assist average up to 9.3 per game.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The assist in basketball, like the yeti and the Loch Ness Monster, are only seen for a brief instant...if at all. In this day and age of taking your man off the dribble and slamming it home to make the sports highlight show, the assist and those practiced in its fine art, the point guard...are a relic of the past - as are dial phones and "snail mail."

But there are still a few practitioners left and for the fantasy owner seeking to win the assist category, they are valued like diamonds.

So finding new sources is a particularly difficult task, but lets see if there are any.

Obviously, if you have Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Dwayne Wade or Steve Nash you have a good beginning. Baron Davis and LeBron James are also adept at making the good pass. But what if you didn't have a high enough draft pick to select one of those assist-making jewels?

Here are a few names to sooth your soul and help your assist total.

Jose Calderon, G, Toronto - Calderson is so good that the team sent T.J. Ford packing and Ford is also on this list. He seems to slow the game down and rarely turns the ball over while pushing his assist average up to 9.3 apg in 2008-09. His assist/turnover ratio is 5.6-1 best of any of the NBA leaders. Better yet, he's just 27 and in his fourth NBA season. He is also averaging 16.2 ppg and 3.5 rpg.

Rajon Rondo, G, Boston - While he didn't "lead" the Celtics to last year's championship, he did play an integral part. Not only has his assists-per-game risen in each of his two plus NBA seasons (3.8-to-5.1-to-6.7), but so has his field goal percentage.

Chris Duhon, G, NYK - Duhon could never get a chance for big minutes in Chicago with Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon ahead of him. When the team drafted rookie Derrick Rose, Duhon had to go. Now in New York he is averaging 36.8 minutes and his assists-per-game is up to 6.7. He'll never be a "big-time" scorer, but he is adding more than four rebounds a game too.

Brandon Roy, G, Portland - Roy does so many things for the Trail Blazers that his assist-making ability sometimes gets overlooked. While he does take the big shot down the stretch, he is a top-notch assist man who is averaging 6.0 apg along with his 19.8 ppg and 4.0 rpg. He's just 24 and beginning his third year as a pro.

Stephen Jackson, G/F, Golden State - Jackson doesn't make the picture-perfect pass like Nash or Paul, but he is effective at it. In the up-and-down game the Warriors play he gets plenty of opportunities and his 5.7 apg show the benefits. Add in 23.5 ppg and 4.2 rpg and he's a solid contributor in all categories.

Mario Chalmers, G, Miami - The 22-year-old rookie out of Kansas has already made an impact on the Miami Heat by handing out 5.7 apg along with 2.8 steals in 31 minutes of action. He'll never be a big scorer with Wade, Marion and Beasley as the first options, but eventually he'll take over most of the point guard duties from Wade.

Randy Foye, G, Minnesota - Foye has been largely a fantasy disappointment since leaving Villanova, but he is beginning to show signs of life. He'll only average around 10 ppg, but his assist totals are climbing - from 2.8 apg in 2006 to 5.5 apg this season.

T.J. Ford, G, Indiana - In 2007 when Ford went down with an injury, it gave Toronto a chance to see just how good Jose Calderon was. Even when Ford returned to health, he couldn't beat out Calderon and having the two on one team was wasted talent. Now that Ford is in Indiana, he is thriving. He's putting up 15.6 ppg along with 5.2 assist and 3.8 rebounds. And as he gets to know his new teammates even better, the assist numbers should grow.

Derrick Rose, G, Chicago - The 2008 No.1 selection in the NBA draft is already proving he belongs with the elite. Barely over 20 years old, Rose is averaging 17.7 ppg, 5.1 apg and 3.9 rpg. He will have to cut down on the turnovers, but he is a star in the making.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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