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The rise and fall of fantasy values

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The fantasy value of most basketball players is relatively consistent from game to game, which is one of the reasons NBA fantasy doesn't have the huge following of Major League Baseball despite its many other similarities.

While Albert Pujols can go 0-for-5 on any given night or 4-for-4 with three home runs, even on a bad day Kobe Bryant will still score 20-plus points and Dwight Howard will pull down double-digit rebounds.

Once in a while, however, we find players who defy preseason expectations and provide for some completely unexpected fantasy values on the roster.

The 2012 Milwaukee Bucks are one of those teams.

The Bucks' season-opening roster consisted of Brandon Jennings and Mike Dunleavy at guards, Stephen Jackson as small forward, Ersan Ilyasova at power forward and Andrew Bogut in the middle.

Most fantasy experts had the team's scoring leaders to be Jennings (career average 17.5 ppg), Jackson (16.1 ppg) and Bogut (12.7 ppg). Jennings has produced as expected, but not much else has gone according to plan for Milwaukee and fantasy owners.

Jackson has been a complete bust to fantasy owners. His shooting percentages (35.7 percent from the field, 27.8 percent from three-point range) are the worst of his career and have forced head coach Scott Skiles to remove him from the starting lineup. Add in Jackson's "diva" attitude, which has earned his two suspensions this season, and he's been a huge disappointment - scoring just 10.5 ppg, which is his lowest production since 2001-02 when he was a part-time player in San Antonio.

At center, Bogut broke his leg in the 12th game this season against Houston. The Australian has failed to play more than 69 games in any of the past three seasons and has become a huge gamble for any fantasy owner given his continuing health issues.

The failures at small forward and center have opened the door for the rest of the roster and two players in particular have taken advantage - Drew Gooden and Ilyasova.

Gooden is a 10-year veteran and the very definition of a journeyman. Despite being the fourth overall pick in 2002, he's played on nine teams in the last decade. With Bogut sidelined, Gooden jumped on the opportunity for playing time and is putting together the best basketball of his professional career. He averaged 17.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg in February and 21.3 ppg and 7.8 rpg in March, well above his 12-point career average.

Even after a productive two months, Gooden, who was at best a last-round fantasy selection on Draft Day, is still available in 30 percent of all Yahoo leagues and should be picked up by anyone needing a big man as Bogut admitted "it's going to be tough to make it back during the regular season."

Ilyasova is an even bigger surprise than Gooden. After a couple of years with only low-end bench value averaging around 10 points and six rebounds per contest, the fourth-year power forward from Turkey has become a major force. Since the All-Star game, Ilyasova is playing 34 minutes per night and averaging 17.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 2.2 apg. Those are Pau Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins-type numbers equal to early second-round value from a player with a Yahoo ADP of 186 (16th round).

The moral of this story is that fantasy sports, even basketball, is unpredictable and your ability to recognize change and adapt quickly could reward you with unexpectedly good fantasy results.

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


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