The Knicks land one big prize, but questions remain
The Knicks made the first big splash in this summer's free-agent market, agreeing to terms with Amare Stoudemire on a five-year, $99.7 million deal. As with any big signing there are plenty of fantasy implications to consider, so let's take a look at how the deal affects both the Knicks and Suns. Keep in mind that with plenty of cap space to play with, the Knicks are probably not done wheeling and dealing this offseason, and much can change between now and the start of the season.
Impact in New York
Amare Stoudemire, C/PF -- I must admit, as a Stoudemire owner in one of my keeper leagues, I wasn't all that excited about the prospects of him leaving Steve Nash and the Suns this summer. But if Amare was going to walk, fantasy owners couldn't have hand picked a better spot for him to land than New York. He's trading one fantasy friendly situation with the Suns for another with the Knicks, making it almost a wash for his fantasy value. I say "almost" because I do have some worries about the Knicks' current point guard situation. Toney Douglas and Chris Duhon aren't exactly Steve Nash. So if anything this might be a slight down tick for Amare, but not by much now that he's reunited with Mike D'Antoni in New York.
David Lee, PF/C -- News of the Amare signing almost guarantees that Lee, an unrestricted free agent, won't be coming back to New York, which can only be bad news for his fantasy prospects. With the exception of a few destinations (Golden State, Phoenix), Lee will have a hard time finding a system where he can put up 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds like he did in 2009-10 for the Knicks. The same can be said if he happens to stay with the Knicks. Playing alongside Stoudemire would sap much of his fantasy value, though he'd still be a solid double-double threat on any given night. I'm thinking 15/10 would be a reasonable expectation, which is still very nice, but a big dropoff in production nonetheless.
Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF -- My gut reaction to the Amare signing was to move Gallinari up a few spots in the rankings. Despite the fact Lee put up 20.2 points per game last season, Amare is clearly the more talented offensive player. He commands more attention on the offensive end, that's for sure. With opponents needing to focus more of their energy on Stoudemire in the paint, Gallinari could find even more open looks from downtown. Granted, Lee is a much better passer than Stoudemire, so the difference could be smaller than we think.
Impact in Phoenix
Of course much will depend on where the Suns go from here in their offseason plans. Are they finished after re-signing Channing Frye and adding Hakim Warrick into the mix or do they still have some tricks up their sleeve? Only time will tell. In the meantime:
Jason Richardson, SG -- As of right now, Richardson is looking like a big winner in the wake of Stoudemire's departure. It took him half a season to get warmed up, but J-Rich dominated in the second half in 2009-10, going for 17.8 points, 5.3 boards, 0.8 steals and 2.5 3-pointers after the All-Star break before going off with 19.8 points, 5.4 boards, 1.1 steals and 3.0 3-pointers in 16 playoff games. It became abundantly clear that he developed a strong rapport with Nash throughout their playoff run, and with Stoudemire out of town, the Suns will look for J-Rich to supply some additional offensive firepower in 2010-11.
Steve Nash, PG -- Stoudemire has missed plenty of games throughout his career, so we have quite a bit of history to draw on when considering the impact his departure will have on Nash. In the second half of 2008-09, Nash scored 18.7 points with 9.6 assists per game while Amare sat out with an eye injury. In 2005-06, he posted the best scoring average of his career with 18.8 points per game and 10.5 assists while Amare recovered from a knee injury. History tells us that Nash without Amare is still a valuable fantasy commodity, but we need to be aware that he will look to score more and dish slightly less unless the Suns find another viable offensive star to replace Stoudemire.
Robin Lopez, C -- Lopez was already shaping up to be somewhat of a sleeper heading into the season, and now that Stoudemire is gone we can expect him to show up on more than just a few sleeper lists as fantasy drafts roll around. After averaging 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 24.5 minutes in 31 starts last year, Lopez could see 30-plus minutes for the first time in his career if the Suns don't acquire another big man this offseason. Increased minutes and opportunities are typically the underlying characteristics of a sleeper/breakout player, and Lopez could prove to be a nice surprise for the Suns and fantasy owners in 2010-11.
Channing Frye, PF/C -- He can be a bit streaky at times, but a reported five-year, $30-million contract says that the Suns liked what they saw out of Frye last season. The Suns are losing a ton of offensive production in Stoudemire's 23.1 points per game, which makes nearly every player in Phoenix a winner in the fantasy game. Fyre will be no different, and we can expect him to either duplicate or better his 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 3-pointers in 27.0 minutes per game last season.
Hakim Warrick, PF -- Some will expect Warrick to be a sleeper in the now slim Suns frontcourt, but keep in mind that he's been in favorable situations before (in both Memphis and Milwaukee) and failed to capitalize on the opportunity. With that said, I don't think Warrick will be much more than a waiver-wire-pickup candidate this season.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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