Shaquille O'Neal's time may be setting with the Suns, but it's one of the Diesel's Phoenix teammates who looks to be the biggest available prize as the NBA's trade deadline nears.
Amare Stoudemire has been rumored to be on his way out of the desert, with at least a half-dozen teams showing interest. Stoudemire's fantasy numbers are down across the board this season (from 25.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last year to 21, 8.1 and 1.1 currently), but he's still one the best players available prior to Thursday's deadline.
"Phoenix has apparently decided to rip up the team and has made everyone available except Steve Nash," said Jerry Sullivan, Buffalo News senior sports columnist and noted NBA follower. "Stoudemire is a proven 20-10 guy, [and] though he is a soft defensive player, he could give some contender an extra weapon inside."
Stoudemire is ninth on espn.com's fantasy player ratings, making him one of only two guys in the top 25 who stand a reasonable chance to be moved (the next would be New Jersey's Vince Carter, who's ranked 25th).
Leaving a point guard like Nash doesn't normally lead to better offensive numbers, but Stoudemire should benefit with a fresh start in an offense that makes him the centerpiece.
Complicating matters, however, is his contract. He's due more than $16 million next season, after which he can opt out, so any trade will be predicated on a team working out a long-term extension before moving forward.
As for Shaq, his points per game and free-throw percentage, 17.3 and .619, respectively, are up substantially from his 28-game stint with the Suns last season after coming over from Miami. I wouldn't expect him to match that production if he's moved.
While O'Neal and Stoudemire are almost universally owned, there are a few players flying under the fantasy radar who could be valuable additions after the trade deadline has passed.
In Charlotte, rookie point guard D.J. Augustin's play has put Raymond Felton on the trade block. Should Felton move on, sprint to pick up Augustin, who has averaged 20.0 points, 6.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 3.3 three-pointers in seven starts this season.
In Toronto, the deadline deal has already been made, as Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon were sent to Miami on Friday for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.
With O'Neal out of the picture and All-Star Chris Bosh nursing a knee injury, the biggest fantasy beneficiary for the Raptors should be former No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani. In 36 starts this season, Bargnani has averaged 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.7 three-pointers.
And here's one more guy who could benefit from a change in scenery, courtesy of Sullivan: Clippers forward Marcus Camby.
"He's an intriguing player, an elite shot blocker and a team guy," Sullivan said of Camby, whose 2.37 blocks per game ranks second in the league.
Odom's big night
A tip of the cap to one of the Fantasy Fix blog readers. Earlier this week, I had mentioned the big game Lamar Odom had a week ago for the Los Angeles Lakers in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The reader astutely pointed out that Odom typically plays well when Kobe Bryant is either injured or sick (as was the case against the Cavs).
The same reader also offered up this fantasy sleeper: Philadelphia forward Marresse Speights. The rookie from Florida has shined since Elton Brand was lost for the season with a shoulder injury.
Prior to Wednesday's game against the Grizzlies, Speights averaged 10.9 points on 55.2 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks when Brand was out of the lineup. The Sixers are 13-2 when Speights plays 20 or more minutes a game.