By Emry DowningHall

As we enter the mid-way point of the season I thought I would breakout of my usual routine and hand out some mid-season honors to those making ripples in fantasy hoops.

A lot of fantasy writers hand out mid-season awards, so I tried to focus on some new players, without ignoring those that make it impossible to be ignored.

I’m sure some people will question my selection of Marcus Camby as the #1 overall player thus far but do remember (Clue!), the man was a late second round pick in your draft, plays a position that’s very scarce and sures up blocks and rebounds without hurting you in any category. Sure, Lebron, Kobe and CP3 wont hurt production either, and I’m not knocking those guys, but most leagues start two-centers making that the hardest spot to fill.

I will be heading back to my waiver wire format next week but for now, I’m recommending owners take a close look at Marcus Williams, especially if you can’t live with another guy in your league sniping him from you. Also, Kyle Lowry, a guy who will absolutely blow up if anything should happen to Mike Conley long term. Anyway, more on that next week and if you need a question answered right away, email me or hit the comments and I got you. Drum roll please…

“Sh*t I got to play him this week?”

The mid-season top five players you hope are scheduled for a 2-game week when your team matches up.

Marcus Camby – He’s always been a first round talent with a 9th round talents durability. This season, Camby has only missed one game and is leading the league in blocks. Beyond protecting the rim he’s also getting buckets, rebounding, and shooting at a high clip from the floor and the line. I love Dwight Howard’s game but in fantasy, give me Camby.

Chris Paul – Everywhere you look this season people are praising Paul’s efforts and fantasy basketball is no different. Not only is he filling the stat sheet, he’s also got his squad atop the Western Conference and is responsible for the emergence of David West and Tyson Chandler. Yahoo and ESPN have him ranked as the #1 overall player and his trade value is approaching untouchable levels.

Lebron James – Everyone was down on Lebron at the start of the season and he slid to the 3rd and 4th pick in a majority of drafts. Problem is, we were all operating under the impression that LBJ was human. Based on his performance thus far, this is certainly not the case. If he doesn’t average a triple-double at one point during a majority of a season in his career, I will be shocked.

Baron Davis – It was tough to choose guys for this category and I could see some people not co-signing with Davis in the top five. Especially with another point guard already in the mix. Fair enough. But, please consider the fact that he slipped in your draft due to fear of injury and he’s been nothing short of a warrior (pause) this season. He also gets a bonus for being a cold blooded assassin the fourth quarter week after week.

Josh Smith – Complaining about his field goal % and tendency to take a few out of rhythm three balls would only cloud the issue at hand. Josh Smith fills the box score like no player in fantasy basketball. He’s going to have a quadruple-double at least once in his career.

What happened to that boy?

This is the All-Nightmare team, as in if you own them, they’re causing nightmares for you, not your opponents.

Shaquille O’Neal – Just like Will Smith, Shaq commands a large budget and he’s legend. Unlike Will Smith, Shaq is dealing with weight issues and a questionable work ethic. Before the hip injury his season was disappointing. At this point, we’re left wondering if this is his last stand.

Darko Milicic – When the Grizzlies pursued Darko in the off season I thought this was finally going to be his year to break into a rotation and get some consistent burn. It hasn’t happened yet, and it may not ever happen. The only category Darko provides any value in is blocked shots and even that is compromised by his ineffectiveness everywhere else. With the talent that surrounded him in that draft, he may go down as the biggest bust of all-time.

Andrea Bargnani – The comparisons to Dirk made him a popular 5th round pick and many of his owners have long since pulled the plug on the second year pro. Although he will show signs of life now and again, nothing but his three ball is consistent and with the emergence of Jamario Moon, he often finds himself watching the action from the bench.

Vince Carter – If I was a GM in the league there’s NO WAY I would sign Vince Carter to anything but a one year deal, period. Have you seen him play this season? That package was mailed in as soon as the ink was dry on the extension. Goodnight nurse!

The Chicago Bulls – Take your pick between Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng or Ben Wallace. While none of the above were god awful individually, none have lived up to the hype after last season. The “Baby Bulls” were picked to be the toast of the East this year in a lot of circles, and instead have looked like a broken group from the jump.

“Step Your Game up”

These guys are making the 2007-2008 season a stage for their breakthrough performance.
Rudy Gay – Think the Rockets are still feeling the Shane Battier and Stromile Swift for Rudy Gay deal? Gay looks like a superstar in the making while Stro has been Stro, and Battier wasn’t enough to get them out of the first round.

Chris Kaman – As fantasy owners, we tend to have short memories. Kaman had a terrific year in 2005-2006 but struggled last season. Consequently, his stock fell coming into this season. With Elton Brand out for the year, his value should have been obvious, but draft after draft he continued to slide into the later rounds. He’s taken full advantage of his opportunity and has emerged into a legit #1 center.

Mike Dunleavy – When Nelly included Dunleavy in the trade with Indiana last season it was widely believed he was simply dumping a bad contract on the Pacers. This season, Dunleavy has been the most consistent guy on that roster. He scores, knocks down threes, is shooting at a much improved clip, and seems to have figured the NBA thing out, finally. Maybe Larry Bird is rubbing off on him, who knows.

Hedo Turkoglu – Rashard Lewis was supposed to limit Turkoglu’s already minimal value in Orlando. Instead Turk is having a career year and knocking down game winners with the confidence of an all-star. Not bad for an average 11th round draft pick. While it wont be enough to make the weekend trip to the NO, he’s an all-star in fantasy circles, most def.

David West – I saw him play at Xavier a number of times and he was no where close to the player he’s become. In a loaded Western conference he wont make the all-star team but he, along with Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler, are going take the Hornets deep into the post season.
Waiver Wire Steals It’s been a relatively slow year on the wire, but this bunch has provided value for quick triggered owners.

Jose Calderon – He would be listed in the “come up” section but I put him here to add emphasis. A player with Calderon’s talent, shouldn’t have been on waivers in the first place, but T.J. Ford looked to have a kung-fu grip on the starting PG job in Toronto and he slipped through a lot of drafts. He’s been quite simply amazing since Ford’s injury and was more than serviceable prior to. As it stands right now, he’s a top 25 fantasy stud. Spain stand the fluck up!

The Sacramento Kings – With Mike Bibby out until recently and Ron Artest bouncing in and out of the lineup, the season is Sacramento looked to be lost. Enter Beno Udrih, John Salmons, and Francisco Garcia who provided owners in the know with plenty of big games while keeping the Kings respectable out West. These guys performed so well the Kings will likely discount tags on Bibby and Artest to keep their young core active and bring in draft picks or expiring deals.

Jamario Moon – Tell me this guy isn’t a poor mans Scottie Pippen! He even runs and dunks like Pip used to. Moon has delighted owners with an all around game and a nice stroke inside 17 feet. He’s not a stud in any category, but the balance he provides is great to get off the wire.

Brendan Haywood – The artist formerly known as Brenda has been very respectful this season minus a few experiments with Andray Blatche at the 5. Even though he’s cooled a bit since his hot start, he’s still blocking shots at a nice clip, scoring a bit and hitting the boards. For a waiver wire center, that’s more than enough.