Despite falling short in their bid to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, last year should be considered a success for the Knicks. Their 54 wins were the most they’ve had since they went to the 1994 NBA Finals, and they proved to the rest of the league that they are once again an elite team.
When a team accomplishes those things, it usually means their players are producing on the court, which of course directly translates to fantasy basketball. The Knicks had many fantasy stars last year, none being bigger than reigning NBA scoring champ, Carmelo Anthony, whose 28.7 points-per-game edged out previous title holder, Kevin Durant.
The following is a breakdown of each Knicks’ players’ fantasy value and their projected expectations.
(All recommendations suggest fantasy leagues of 12 teams or greater)
The Big Apples:
(Knicks players worth drafting in the first 10 rounds of your draft)
Carmelo Anthony, SF: Anthony is the most accomplished fantasy player on the Knicks roster, and should be treated accordingly. Not only is he the Knicks’ best player, but he led the league in scoring last year, and did so by setting a career-high in three pointers made per game (2.3) and shooting 83% from the free-throw line, the second highest percentage of his 10-year career.
He averaged 6.9 rebounds-per-game last year, but coach Mike Woodson’s desire to play him at power forward in some of his smaller lineups could help him increase those totals this season. In addition to the five-game suspension J.R. Smith has already been levied, he may also be slow to return from off-season knee surgery, meaning Anthony will have to pick up even more of the scoring slack. Melo clocks in as a top-10 pick in almost all draft formats.
J.R. Smith, SG/SF: It was quite a newsworthy off-season for Smith – none of which was actually related to being on the court. Immediately after he signed a four-year, $25 million deal with the Knicks, he underwent knee surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear, and was then suspended for five games by the league for testing positive for a banned substance, most likely marijuana.
Although he’s yet to get in a full practice, last year’s Sixth Man of the Year Award winner will still be a fantasy commodity. In his ninth season, Smith averaged 18.1 points, 1.3 steals, 1.9 three pointers and finished with 5.3 rebounds, which was tied for fourth among shooting guards.
His wide array of stats and his ability to go on scoring binges (22.0 PPG in March/April) makes him a nice draft pick in the middle rounds. If Anthony were to ever have to miss time, Smith would reap the benefits. Even though he’s a “sixth man”, he plays starters’ minutes (33.5 MPG) and should be drafted accordingly. He should be a fifth or sixth-round draft pick in most leagues depending on your team’s needs.
Tyson Chandler, C: Chandler is the heart and soul of the Knicks team, but he won’t have that same role on your fantasy team. Since coming to New York, the bearded center has endeared himself to fans with his hustle and all-out enthusiasm for the game. He won the Defensive Player of the Year Award the season prior last, but his 31-year-old body started to break down toward the end of last year. His health remains a question mark heading into 2013-14, after knee, neck and back injuries forced him to miss 16 of the Knicks’ final 20 games last season.
The plan was to add some depth to the frontcourt so they could rest him more, but that didn’t work out as planned. Look for Chandler to continue to log 30+ minutes, put up great field goal percentages (63.8% last year) and double-digit rebounds, but his ceiling is low. Last season he managed to top 20 points in a game only four times and he shot just under 70 percent from the free-throw line.
His block totals (1.1 per game) aren’t anything close to what you’d want from a starting center on your fantasy team, either. Chandler will sneak into the first ten rounds of your drafts, but other centers like Spencer Hawes, Enes Kanter and Amir Johnson have more upside and should be taken before him.