- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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I feel like Carmelo Anthony just gave me permission to start the rest of my life.
I mean, I was asked to write this column back in November. At one point, it got to be more than 10,000 words long. At its height, it could have made a decent young adult novel. But now the drama's over, I got this back down to a digestible size, and I get to find out about a whole lot of things I missed (for instance, my wife is apparently expecting a child in early April).
And while it's not quite the lollapalooza that was originally on the table back around Thanksgiving, still, with 12 players swapping uniforms, Monday night's swap meet still stands as one of the biggest in NBA history. Of course, the dealing isn't even done; the aftershocks of this deal will probably be reverberating across multiple NBA lineups right up to the trade deadline on Thursday.
I'd like to point out that there are some psychological fantasy ramifications as well. I've long believed that there's a trickle-down in fantasy when the NBA "gets busy," so to speak. So this should be a fun next few days to finally get some big deals done. Because if your leagues are like any of mine, trade activity has been a little sluggish, as we've all been waiting for one rather large shoe to drop in the Mile High City.
After months of rumor-mongering (next time this happens, can someone at ESPN please develop an app?), the trade breaks down as such: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman go to the New York Knicks; while Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a first-rounder and two second-rounders go to the Denver Nuggets; and Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry head for parts north, aka the Minnesota Timberwolves.
So for fantasy purposes, we're basically talking Carmelo, Billups and Brewer for Gallinari, Chandler, Felton and Mozgov and don't forget Randolph to Minnesota.
New York Knicks
First off, let's look at the new-look Knicks or what's left of them.
This is the rare NBA trade that hurts almost everyone's fantasy value. Congrats to James Dolan for instantaneously kneecapping thousands of fantasy seasons around the globe (and you too, Isiah).
Let's start with whom it doesn't hurt.
You Anthony owners should be fine. His outlook is probably not as rosy (numberswise) as it would have been if he had gone to the New Jersey Nets, which would have been tantamount to an Iverson-in-Turkey situation. Instead, Anthony will have to split No. 1-offensive-option status with the already well-established Stoudemire. The good news is that Anthony's going to a high-paced D'Antoni system, so his touches should fall in line with his averages in Denver (29.1 usage rate).
I, like many other NBA observers, retain some reservations on how Anthony will fit in with the Knicks' offense. Anthony has historically been one of the more inefficient superstars around. Ball motion tends to stop when the basketball is placed in his hands. But in time, Anthony -- and his special ability to generate his own shot -- should put up elite production. Ultimately, 27 to 29 points per game isn't out of the question, it's just a matter of how much time Anthony will require to adjust (not to mention D'Antoni needing time to recalibrate a decimated roster) post-blockbuster.
With the increased pace, some of Anthony's other numbers should get a small bump. Anthony has always been a deceptively effective rebounder, so it says here he might be able to climb into the 7.5-rebound range in the final portion of the season.
The lineup I've listed above is the prospective "big" Knicks lineup. We don't know if this trade suddenly means Turiaf will start snaring 30 minutes per game. There will certainly be an opportunity to go small, with Amare at center, and perhaps Carmelo at power forward. Don't bank on it, but it's possible this lineup -- with Brewer/Walker/Williams at the 3 -- could get the upper hand as the season unfolds. And in that lineup, Anthony's rebounding totals could edge up toward 8.0 per game.
Now let's talk about what's left.
Billups has been on the rise as of late, and his seasonal averages (16.5 points, 5.3 assists, 2.1 3s), should see a slight boost in the Knicks' system. If his minutes can stay in the 35-per-game range down the stretch, he could be a big factor in the fantasy playoffs, especially since the Knicks are liable to be fighting for a playoff spot down to the final week of the regular season.
Fields could also see an expanded role thanks to his now being a relative veteran in D'Antoni's lineup. He put up two mini-monster lines before All-Star Weekend (25 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, 5 3-pointers and 3 steals in two games), and could emerge as a third option on offense.
To me, Brewer could be a wild card. I've been waiting for years on Brewer, a hyper-athletic swingman known for his defense and his streaky shooting, to emerge as a bona fide fantasy factor. Plug him into the Knicks' system with around 25 to 28 minutes per game (MPG), and you could have a sneaky little source of 3s and steals.
Douglas possesses some fantasy potential, but at best he's going to be locked into a high-minute backup role behind Billups, probably along the lines of Ty Lawson's role in Denver.
Williams and Walker have also flashed fantasy potential in the past, but by default, anyone playing for D'Antoni flashes fantasy potential. The Knicks wiil probably tinker with their rotation through the end of the regular season, so keep an eye on anyone who could snag the 25 or so minutes required to land on the fantasy radar.
As far as the Nuggets go, there is a brief disclaimer: It's obvious they are not done dealing. The most recent rumors have them pivoting and shipping at least Gallinari to the Nets for additional picks. So what's to follow here will contain some medium-sized conjecture, starting with the projected new-look Nuggets lineup:
It's easy to see why Coach George Karl was pushing for the Knicks' version of the Anthony deal. The players acquired still give the Nuggets a reasonable chance at competing for a playoff spot.
If the Nuggets decide to unleash the wrecking ball during the next three days, no one is safe. It'd be hard to believe there would be a single "untouchable" player on the roster. But for the fans of the team (and for George Karl's sake), I hope that isn't the case.
Even without a go-to star, this is still a roster that could make a playoff push. I could easily see the remaining Nuggets going into circle-the-wagons mode and playing some inspired basketball down the stretch.
Remember, this was a team that had played in a decidedly distracted manner all season due to the MeloDrama. If they decide to keep most of the roster intact, there's no reason to think the Nuggets make a hard turn and head south. And with more than 30 wins already, it's not as if tanking makes a ton of sense at this stage.
But a trade or two will most likely happen.
Let's start at point guard. If Denver hangs on to Felton, we could see a mild time-share evolve at the position. Ty Lawson's been playing in Karl's system for two seasons, and could easily be Denver's starter of the future. Even if Felton sticks, Lawson should be in line for 20 to 25 minutes per game. If Felton is dealt, Lawson instantly becomes a fantasy factor.
As it stands, shooting guard is the most jammed position in the Nuggets' lineup. It was crowded to begin with between Arron Afflalo and the mercurial J.R. Smith. Now comes along the very productive Wilson Chandler; it would appear something/someone would have to give.
Now, let's talk usage rate. Carmelo has a sky-high usage rate of 29.1, good for fifth in the NBA. That's a lot of touches to redistribute. Anthony has long been criticized as a ball-movement stopper; he gets the ball, he's going to shoot it or maybe pass it back to the point guard. Now, the Nuggets have no "go-to" guy (or "alpha dog," to use Simmons-speak). Things are about to get a lot more democratic in Denver.
I think of all the new Nuggets, Gallinari potentially has the most to gain. The Nuggets are going to need offense, and Gallinari's going to be the closest thing they'll have to a No. 1 option. I could easily envision Gallinari ramping up into the 20-point-per-game range, playing alongside some Nuggets who are used to deferring an offense. Now, the Nuggets might turn around and ship Gallinari out (hello, New Jersey?), in which case Chandler could actually better the numbers he put up with the Knicks.
But until another trade happens, I'm afraid it could be tough for Chandler to regain his pre-All-Star form. It's going to depend on how Karl takes to Chandler's versatility. When deployed effectively, Chandler can make an impact in two or three different roster spots. He could even see some time at power forward before season's end.
If Nene and/or Mozgov gets dealt, the other will retain or gain value as the only true center left on the roster. But until that happens, assume Nene retains his value, while Mozgov remains a fantasy afterthought.
One final question: Does all of this wheeling and dealing have a liberating effect on Anthony Randolph's fantasy prospects? The short answer is probably "no." The Wolves are a rotational nightmare to begin with, and Randolph will join a crowded frontcourt rotation that already includes Kevin Love, Darko Milicic and Anthony Tolliver.
As we've been hearing for the past couple seasons ad infinitum, Randolph has a lot of upside. I think we'd all be relieved to see him get an opportunity in Kurt Rambis' rotation, just to see once and for all if the scouts were on target. It just remains to be seen whether Randolph will play his way into the 25-30 MPG it would require for him to become a steady fantasy contributor.
One last note: With Corey Brewer a Knick, it should free up some additional time for Wesley Johnson, who becomes a potential late-season rookie fantasy impact player. The upside is there; with some minutes, Johnson could help out some squads in the playoffs in need of 3s and steals.
That's a wrap for now, but stay tuned, as I'm sure more moves are in the offing that will require more instantaneous and massively specious conjecture. Until then, make some deals of your own!
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
John Cregan breaks down the 3-team trade, which alters the values of many fantasy-worthy players.