Swap and Punishment: Fantasy Fallout
A monkey wrench has been thrown into the fantasy basketball player pool. First, a group of suspensions -- some significant and some not-so-significant. Then, the moment that has been coming for more than a week now -- the trade of Allen Iverson.
Following the Grapple in the Apple (so aptly coined by ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning), these suspensions were handed down from the Commissioner's office on Monday:
Minus a supsended scorer, the Nuggets promptly traded Andre Miller, Joe Smith and picks to the 76ers for Allen Iverson. Madness ensues. How does this activity affect your fantasy squad? What players will emerge? Who will take a hit to their fantasy value?
Allen Iverson was the show in Philadelphia. Period. He has been for several years. The offense was Allen Iverson, and the ball was owned by AI. He did distribute, and make no mistake that Allen Iverson made his teammates better, but the offense was built around and flowed through him. What will happen in Denver?
I like what happens to Iverson's value in Denver. He owns the ball, and I fully expect him to own the ball in Denver as well. As much as Carmelo will want the rock, AI is the point guard. Unless Anthony or George Karl pry the ball out of Iverson's cold, dead hands, he'll dominate the ball. It also helps that the Nuggets play an up-tempo transition offense. Even though Iverson will inevitably concede more than he is used to, he will still score, and I expect him to continue to approach the 30-point number. And considering he will be passing more in a high scoring offense will only help his assist totals. The steals may inevitably suffer, but overall I expect good things to come out of this move for Iverson.
I am not as excited about Carmelo Anthony's prospects. This was his team and the offense flowed through Carmelo. He also handled the ball more than you would expect for a small forward. Now, the ball will be in Iverson's hands and whether or not Carmelo gets his typical looks will be entirely up to the point guard. Also, Iverson gets to establish himself as the man for 14 games while Carmelo sits out his suspension. All the more difficult to try and get Iverson to switch his game.
Some people will try to tell you that this trade helps both players and you can expect much of the same in terms of scoring. It's simply not possible. Someone will suffer when it comes to scoring numbers, and the first person in line will be Anthony. Instead of 31 points per game, a more reasonable expectation going forward will be 24. His assist and rebounding totals, however, should take a slight bump as Iverson will demand the rock in scoring situations (more assists) and Iverson will hoist up plenty of errant shots (more offensive rebounds).
I expect the other "scorers" on the Nuggets (J.R. Smith principally and Earl Boykins and Marcus Camby to a lesser extent) to take a dip, understandably. Otherwise, the further effects of this deal will be light.
Until Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith return, however, there will be a couple of players who will get some additional time. If Monday night is any indication, Linas Kleiza and Yakhouba Diawara will be the biggest beneficiaries in terms of playing time while suspensions are being served, as both found themselves in the starting lineup. Diawara played 40 minutes and finished with eight points, three rebounds and two assists. He did take four three-point attempts and missed all three, but Diawara has been known to hoist a few threes in his day and will play the J.R. Smith role for the time being. If you need threes, he is an option. Otherwise, minimal value even with added minutes. In 31 minutes, Kleiza posted slightly better numbers with 10 points, six rebounds, an assist and two three-pointers. If he continues to get the minutes, I see Kleiza as a player who will average about nine points, five rebounds, three assists, a steal and an occasional three-pointer. Don't expect any blocks. Without Iverson, these players might have some short-term value. Now, it's limited.
Andre Miller was having a big year prior to this trade and should continue to have a big year in Philadelphia. The main question will be his adjustment. Miller will be running a new team with new teammates in a new offense. How he adjusts will affect his numbers and those around him. He and Andre Iguodala will be called on to carry the bulk of the scoring load, so I expect Miller's scoring to increase from the current 13.0 that he's averaging this season. Expect something closer to 17. Assists, on the other hand, will be harder to come by in a slower offense without an arsenal of weapons. Scoring up, assists down, value relatively the same -- depending on your needs.
The biggest beneficiary in Philadelphia will be Andre Iguodala. This deal paves the way for him to be "the man" in Philly. Iguodala was already a top 30-40 fantasy player this season according to NBA.com's FSPI, but taking on a larger role will send him into the top 20. On the 16th of December with the team in his control, Iguodala responded with 27 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Don't expect this type of scoring regularly from Iguodala, but close to 20 points is not out of the realm of possibility. The 30 points of scoring that Iverson once provided has to come from somewhere, and Iguodala is a start.
Where else will the points come from? Expect more scoring from Willie Green, Kyle Korver and Rodney Carney. Korver is already owned in most fantasy leagues, but Green and Carney are still largely under the radar. Green has come up big lately, scoring 18 points in a game most recently. Carney is a rookie with significant upside, but still limited opportunities. He was expected to take on a larger role with an Iverson-less roster, but has yet to make a dent in playing time during Iverson's absence. He has been battling an illness, so continue to keep an eye on his progress.
New York Knicks
Finally, we head to the Knicks for the final effects of the MSG suspensions. No significant effect in terms of players getting time that didn't otherwise get it. Jared Jeffries didn't play a game this season until December 1, Mardy Collins has had one game of more than 10 minutes, and Nate Robinson has been an inconsistent fantasy player this season. So how does their temporary disappearance affect your squad?
Actually, it can be a very good thing for the Knicks. This is a crowded roster searching for an identity, begging for a leader. Eddy Curry began to emerge recently, but their backcourt was a general mess. Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis have been having the worst seasons of their careers, and there has been no consistency out of the remaining guards on this roster who command minutes. It is difficult for any shooter to get into a groove when you need to share the rock and minutes, so this isn't a major surprise.
The fall-out? By clearing out the bench traffic, a leader appears to be emerging. Good things for Marbury, as shown Monday night when he scored 29 points with eight assists in an overtime win over the Jazz. Fewer players to rotate into the lineup, Marbury's confidence and performance soared. He was already showing some life following a 31-point performance the night of the MSG fracas, so it appears that he has received a much-needed boost. If the last two games are any indication, Marbury is ready to take shots again, combining for 44 shot attempts. During the month of November, he had eight games in which he failed to take double digit shots. Did you draft Marbury? Did you give up on him? Marbury isn't out of the woods yet, but the stars are beginning to align in favor of a revival.