Princeton-less Offence, Knicks Defence and the Week Ahead

Lesson #2: Knicks have the league’s best record and best DE-fence

Since Mike D’Antoni arrived in New York, the Knicks have been perceived as a strong offensive group and weak defensive group. If you haven’t already, it is time to change your perception of the Knicks. The shift to defence started last offseason with the acquisition of Tyson Chandler, who had an immediate impact under the basket but also with organization and leadership. It expanded when Mike Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni and they actually the closed out 2011-12 as one of the league’s better defences. This transition must have been behind Chris Sheridan’s outside the box prediction of Mike Woodson as coach of the year.

Their emphasis on defence continued with the acquisitions of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Ronnie Brewer to guard the perimeter. Kidd is no longer quick enough to guard the point but he is still an able defender against two’s and a great rebounder for his position. Brewer, always a defensive force, really matured as the wing stopper on Chicago’s second unit — by far the best defensive unit in the NBA last season.

The coup de grace though was the injury to Amar’e Stoudemire and the resultant shift of Carmelo Anthony to the four, where he goes from defensive liability to a strength. In one fell swoop, the Knicks replaced their two worst defenders with significant upgrades.

There are two major impacts for fantasy. The first is that you can no longer stream against the Knicks like you used to. In fact, you should be trying to avoid them. The second is that Stoudemire will likely return to a bench role, significantly hurting whatever fantasy value he had left. In fact, I think it’s time to consider dropping him for Brewer who is averaging 10.5pts-7reb-1.25stl so far this season.

Lesson #3: The difference is on the bench

Aside from the success of the Knicks and the struggles of the Lakers, probably the two most surprising outcomes so far this season have been the slow start of the Indiana Pacers and the fast start of the under-manned Minnesota Timberwolves. Both teams played last night in a spirited contest with, perhaps predictably, the Wolves winning on a final second Chase Budinger lay-up.

The two teams are interesting contrasts because they both suffered a significant injury to their best player and their success (or lack thereof) can be traced to the bench. Last night was symptomatic, as the Wolves’ bench outscored the Pacers 48 to 25 and if you consider that Sam Young and Derrick Williams would ordinarily be on the bench, it was a much worse 63 to 25.

For the Pacers, their issues are primarily on the offensive end. Paul George, instead of breaking out like many predicted, has taken a step back. He is shooting only .392% with a staggering 3.8 TO per game. I expressed my concern about George two weeks ago after the pre-season and there are few signs that he is about to turn it around. Fortunately for his fantasy owners, he is still contributing on the defensive end with 8.7reb-1.3stl-1.3blk.

But more significantly, the new additions to the bench have all flopped. Gerald Green isn’t scoring (.345 FG%), Ian Mahinmi isn’t doing much at all except foul (he has twice as many fouls as he does field goals) and D.J. Augustin is shooting a putrid .160% almost exclusively from 3 and has now failed to score in back-to-back games. Augustin was recently dropped in a league of mine where 280 players are rostered and despite a need for his skills, I don’t really want to add him based on his six games so far this year.

The Wolves on the other hand are playing 10 deep and seeing a different player(s) step up every night. To illustrate how much of a team effort it has been, the Wolves are 29th out of 30 in both leading scorer (Nikola Pekovic at 13.8) and minute leader (Andrei Kirilenko at 31.2). Of course, this is bad news in fantasy as Kirilenko is the only Wolve in the top 130 on Yahoo!’s player ranker and that is before Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio take 75 minutes off the table. The one player I’ve got my eye on though is Alexey Shved, who is getting better with every game and is now outplaying Brandon Roy. I have already floated expressions of interest in deep leagues where I do not already own him while his value is still low.

Lesson #4: The injuries keep coming

Last week we covered: Eric Gordon, Danny Granger – now out 3 months, Hedo Turkoglu and Brandon Rush. This week we will cover: Steve NashAndrew Bogut, Jason Richardson, Shawn Marion and Gerald Henderson.

Nash has a very small fracture of his fibula. His return date has been anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. Latest word is that he will miss all of next week. His replacement has been Steve Blake, who as a long established low percentage shooter with no other skills is not rosterable even in the deepest of formats. More interestingly, as noted on the previous page, is that Darius Morris saw a huge spike in minutes with the new coach. He may be helpful in deep leagues if he replaces Blake as the primary back-up PG since Nash’s minutes will always be limited.

The Warriors decision to shut down Bogut is not a surprise. It was clear that he was not ready to play and was noticeably hobbling in the minutes he did get. The provisional timeframe was 7 to 10 days but it won’t surprise if he is out for longer. Without him, the Warriors have been primarily using Carl Landry as the PF and shifting David Lee to C. Landry is an undersized PF who can score and rebound but does little else. With 30 minutes a night, he can average 15 and 8. Festus Ezeli will get another chance as the nominal starter but is unlikely to be fantasy relevant. Without Bogut, the Warriors are easy pickings for opposing bigs.

Jason Richardson hurt is ankle on November 4 and is day-to-day after missing all of last week. Dorrell Wright, arguably a better player in real life and fantasy, is starting in his place. The real loser here though is Nick Young, who has failed to take advantage of the opportunity (7 for 32 since Richardson went down) and will likely see himself further down a crowded depth chart when Richardson returns.

Shawn Marion sprained his MCL and is expected to miss 3 to 4 weeks. Starting in his place is rookie Jae Crowder who was already benefitting from Dirk Nowitzki‘s absence. Crowder is averaging 20 minutes a night and has been nice source of 3′s though he is the most likely to lose minutes if Mavericks ever get healthy as veterans Vince Carter and Brendan Wright have been even better.

Gerald Henderson has mild foot sprain and is expected to miss 2 to 4 weeks. Their second round pick, Jeffery Taylor, got the first start, but the real effect is increased minutes for their point guard duo of Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker making both startable in all fantasy formats.

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