Sunday, January 20, 2008

Down Goes Marbury, Up Goes The Value Of Several Knicks

Stephon Marbury will be out indefinitely after electing to have knee surgery performed in season. My educated guess is that we won't see Steph in a Knicks jersey again this season and there is a good chance his run in New York may be over altogether. An offseason trade (his contract expires at the end of next season) or the more likely scenario of a buyout are good possibilities.

Interestingly enough, what makes the Knicks stink in real life - a roster consisting of players with individual talent, devoid of any semblance of chemistry - is the same thing that gives them several viable fantasy basketball options.  

Let's take a look at the Knicks roster and gauge the ripple effect Marbury's absence will have on the value of the team's three most fantasy relevant players. While were here, let's look at the two guys most hurt by the arrival of Zach Randolph this season. To add to the fun, the players are ranked in terms of their current and future fantasy value.

Guys Helped By Marbury's Absence

1. Jamal Crawford

Didn't see that coming huh. I have long been considered a Crawford apologist but up until this very moment, I wasn't crazy enough to call him the Knicks' top fantasy option. Crawford has been quietly enjoying a solid fantasy season averaging nearly 20 points and 5 assists a game.  I have long contested that it was Marbury's domineering playing style that has held the more unselfish Crawford back. Sharing a backcourt with Marbury is like sharing a pie with Andy Reid, you know you won't be satisfied. With Steph gone Crawford becomes the Knicks' top scoring option and will handle more responsibilities at the point. I see him further developing his all-around game with second half averages of 23 points and 6 assists not out of the question. Buy low on Crawford now and don't worry about playing time, at 41 minutes a night, he is third in the NBA.

2. Zach Randolph

Randolph is a perennial fantasy stalwart at the power forward position, as he has averaged around 20-10 for the last 4 years now. After a career season in 2006-07 where he more or less dominated the Portland offense, Randolph has regressed a bit in New York. Poor on court chemistry with Eddy Curry and Isiah's insistence on playing them together has forced Zach to shoot more rather than pound on the block. The two bigs both require room to operate on the low block and Thomas' vision of a high-low game with Randolph playing more on the perimeter has failed due to his below average passing skills and vision. Lately, Zeke has come around and splits the bigs up for a majority of the game which has allowed Randolph to reel off a few big games. With Marbury gone, that means more touches for Zach inside and with Isiah seemingly favoring him over Curry, he should see extended playing time. Randolph is still averaging nearly 17-10 on the season and his scoring output should rise going forward.

3. Nate Robinson

Two weeks ago, I urged FSE readers to add Nate to their roster, citing his increasing playing time and stellar play in those minutes. The only caveat I threw in regarding Nate's value was the pending return of Steph, which could take minutes away from Nate at the point guard position. Well, now that Marbury is officially out of the equation, Nate will certainly be seeing around 30 minutes a night and should continue putting up around 16 points, his average over the last two weeks. Beyond scoring, what has surprised even me has been his solid play at the point guard position. Nate is averaging over 5 assists a game with an Assist/Turnover ratio of 4.5, which is really good by any standard. Throw in 2 three pointers along with a few steals and you have a guy that will be a worthy contributor going into fantasy basketball's stretch run.

Guys Hurt By The Arrival Of Randolph.

4. Eddy Curry

Eddy Curry has certainly been a disappointment this season, posting lower numbers across the board from scoring to FG %. However, he has come on a bit in the month of January since Isiah split him up with Randolph, becoming more effective down low with the added spacing. He is averaging 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds this month in roughly 30 minutes of play and his FG% is back up to the 2006-07 range of 58%. Don't expect many defensive stats from Curry, but he is currently a serviceable backup fantasy center.

5. David Lee
Outside of maybe Eddy Curry, no one has been hurt more by the acquisition of Zach Randolph than David Lee. Lee flourished in a defined 6th man role last season, posting a double-double (10.7 points & 10.4 rebounds) on the season while putting up solid percentages across the board - 60% from the field and 81.5% from the free throw line. The chemistry problems between Randolph and Curry have made David Lee the buffer power forward, as he has been used to split the bigs up. He has alternated between starting and coming off the bench and the end result has been inconsistent playing time (actually down from 30 minutes last year to 26 minutes) and naturally poorer numbers across the board. Lee is not averaging double digits in either points or rebounds this season and his FG% has dipped down into the low 50s. While I love what David Lee offers in real life, I feel his fantasy stock has been overrated this season given the logjam at the forward position in New York. A deadline trade of either Curry or Randolph would immediately increase Lee's value.

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