We are now almost a quarter of the way through the NBA season and one of the biggest surprises in the league has to be the success of the New York Knickerbockers. Many pundits, myself included, expected them to do well, but their early season achievements have definitely exceeded expectations.
With a bunch of new additions to the personnel and the promising notion of 82 games under Mike Woodson’s defensive tutelage, things were looking up in the Big Apple, but I don’t think anyone planned on them having the best record in the Eastern Conference (as of Dec. 8).
Success in the win column almost always comes with good statistics from its players. In the case of Fantasy Basketball, if you have owned many of the Knicks players, chances are you’re reaping the benefits. While there a few slight “Fantasy disappointments”, most of the guys playing their home games at Madison Square Garden have been blowing up the stat sheet.
Carmelo Anthony: Many thought his otherworldly 2.9 3-pointers made per game during the 2012 London Olympics was solely based on the competition, but his success Across the Pond has translated to the NBA this season. He is now making a career-high 2.4 3’s per game, a full trey per game more than his previous best in the 2010-11 season with Denver and New York.
Even with the uptick in shots made as well as shots taken, his percentages haven’t suffered, as he is also shooting at an all-time high of 44 percent from 3-point land. He is back to his old scoring ways and now sits at third in the NBA in PPG, only trailing Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. While his scoring may take a slight hit when Amar’e Stoudemire comes back from his season-long absence, other parts of his game, like his rebounding, may improve.
Raymond Felton: GM Glen Grunwald is looking like a genius right now. In a controversial move this summer, the Knicks’ front office man decided it was in the best interest of the team to not match the offer sheet the Houston Rockets had made for sensation Jeremy Lin. This move was followed by lots of skepticism.
I was one of the supporters of this move, but the proof still had to lie on the court. Well truth be told. Raymond Felton was brought over from Portland in a sign-and-trade to help alleviate the loss of “Linsanity” and he has done a remarkable job running the point for this team. His best year came when he was a one-and-done in New York in 2010-11 and he is doing it again for them this time around. He has provided the Knicks backcourt with solid leadership and relatively mistake-free basketball. The Knicks are better with him than with Lin.
For the all the doubters let’s compare this year’s key statistics (both have averaged 33 min/g):
Felton : 15.2 PPG, 6.9 AST, 42% FG, 2.2 TO/G
Lin: 10.5 PPG, 6.4 AST, 38% FG, 2.8 TO/G
His FG% has always been something to be desired, but still remains consistent. The 68 percent free throw shooting is obviously something his owners can’t be happy with, but he is making up for it with a career high 1.8 3’s per game. Continue to ride this guy as Stoudemire’s return will only increase his assists.
Tyson Chandler: The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has not slowed down one bit, but his offense had been the big surprise of the season so far. He has always been a FG% machine, but this year’s 77 percent shooting clip is that of the record books. He finished the month of November shooting 70.9 percent, the second time in his career he had topped 70% while taking at least 75 shots. Only one other player in NBA history has accomplished that- Wilt Chamberlain (who did it 7 times). His points per game and FT% are also on pace for career highs. While his blocks and rebounds are down from last season, he is another Knick that will benefit in specific categories once Stoudemire hits the court again.
J.R. Smith: While dubbed a “sixth man”, albeit his 33 min/per, he has arguably contributed the most to this team’s success so far. He has come off the bench to spark their second unit, chipping in stats in every offensive and defensive category. Fantasy owners can live with the 41 percent shooting as long as he continues to deliver in all the other relevant categories. He is a roto league dream averaging 13.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 3’s per game. Shooting 88% from the charity stripe is a nice bonus as well.
Jason Kidd: Seemingly resurrected from the dead, the former Cal standout is having himself a rebirth year. Woodson has been playing him primarily at shooting guard and that has seemed to fit their offense perfectly. He has lived and died by the 3 this year. He is shooting over 50 percent on the year from long range which has translated to 1.8 3’s made per game.
On the other end of the spectrum he has only attempted 12, yes 12, 2-point field goals the ENTIRE season. Because of such a disparity his overall scoring is capped, but for all-around statistics you can do way worse on the waiver wire (47% owned ESPN, 57% Yahoo!). His role as a shooting guard has made his assists take a nose dive, but 3.2 per game is still a nice asset to have for a plug-in guy and his 3.2 boards are very nice for a guard. He’s also fifth in the league in steals (2.1/game) and shooting 94% from the free throw line. Grab this guy now, as an injury to any of the other Knicks backcourt guys could free up a ton of minutes for him.
Rasheed Wallace: Averaging 7 points, 4 rebounds and a 3 per game. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t played in two years. And he’s already gotten his first ejection!
Steve Novak: Doing what Stevie does best, hitting the 3-ball. He got off to a slow start hitting only 14 of them in his first 8 games, but had poured it on of late, draining 26 long balls in the last 9 games. He’ll get you nothing in terms of other categories, but can single-handedly win you the 3-pointers category in any given week. Snag him off the waiver wire now and you can “Discount Double-Check” him off your Christmas list. (24% owned ESPN, 23% Yahoo!)
Marcus Camby: He has to be one of the lone disappointments for the Knicks so far. Drafted by many Fantasy owners as a sure-fire double-digit rebound guy, he has only played in 6 games so far. He had fallen out of the rotation for Coach Woodson and is now dealing with plantar fasciitis, an injury that is very difficult to fully recover from mid-season.