For much of this season, the Knicks have been looking for a point guard to fill the void created when Chauncey Billups was amnestied to make room for Tyson Chandler. They've tried Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert. They signed Baron Davis, but thus far back injuries have prevented him from making his Knick debut. They've been mentioned in trade rumors involving the likes of Jose Calderon, Ramon Sessions and Jonny Flynn - despite the fact that their top-heavy payroll makes matching salaries next-to-impossible.
But now, it seems, they've found the answer in the least likely of places. Their own bench.
With the Knicks struggling and facing the third game of a back-to-back-to-back on Saturday night, Mike D'Antoni opted to give Jeremy Lin - a 2010 second-round pick out of Harvard who spent last season with Golden State - an extended look. Lin responded with a career-best 25-points, along with seven boards, five assists and two steals, despite spending much of the game matched up against all-star Deron Williams.
That performance earned Lin a shot in the starting lineup, Monday against the Jazz. The conditions were perfect for the regression to the mean many were predicting - the Knicks were playing without Amar'e Stoudemire (death in the family), and lost Carmelo Anthony to injury and Tyson Chandler to foul trouble early on. Instead, he stepped up to carry the team, scoring 28 points with eight assists in 45 (!) minutes of play. Lin did have eight turnovers in the game, but those can be explained partly by fatigue, and partly by the fact that he was running with the likes of Jared "hands of stone" Jeffries. If Stoudemire and Anthony had been available, or if Chandler had played more than 22 minutes, some of those turnovers would most likely have landed in the assist column.
Now, I don't want to be accused of irrational Knick-fan exuberance here... the "MVP" chants at Madison Square Garden last night were a little much. And I don't think Lin compares with other top point guards in terms of talent alone. But he's got a quick first step, excels in the pick-and-roll game, and is very good at finding teammates cutting to the basket. That makes him an excellent fit for Mike D'Antoni's offense. And as a bonus, he's better-than-advertised on the defensive end.
Lin is a must-add in just about any fantasy format, but you'll have to act fast. He's taken in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues and 48 percent in ESPN/NBA - but he was close to zero before the weekend.
Gallinari, Billups Injured
In the space of about an hour on Monday night, most of the principles in the Carmelo Anthony trade went down with injuries - some of them significant. 'Melo appeared to injure a groin muscle in the first quarter of the Knicks' win over Utah - that injury didn't appear serious, but he could miss Wednesday's game in Washington. Danilo Gallinari suffered a sprained ankle and chip fracture. And worst of all, Chauncey Billups may have ruptured his Achilles' tendon, an injury that could end his season and possibly his career.
The injuries could have a significant impact on the Clippers' and Nuggets' plans for this season.
Even before Billups' injury, the Clippers were reportedly chasing J.R. Smith, who should be eligible to return from China soon. Problem is, it is hard to see how they can offer Smith anything more than a veteran's minimum contract - other teams will be able to offer significantly more.
The Nuggets could theoretically replace Gallo with Wilson Chandler, who is also expected back from China within the next 4-6 weeks, depending on how well his team fares in the CBA playoffs.
There's a chance the Clippers and Nuggets could help each other. Los Angeles and Denver could work out a sign-and-trade deal that would send someone like Ryan Gomes to Denver in exchange for Smith. That would give the Nuggets a little more frontcourt depth, while the Clippers would add a scorer who could come off the bench at the two and three.
In the meantime, look for Randy Foye (6%/.7%) to get more playing time for the Clippers, while the Nuggets lean more heavily on Rudy Fernandez (20%/3.1%).
On Position Eligibility
I don't talk about position eligibility much in this space. For the most part, I don't think positions are that important in the biggest Fantasy NBA games; the sheer number of players that qualify at multiple spots more or less eliminates position scarcity.
But as I was struggling to fill roster spots last night, for a team that has lost Al Horford, Gallinari and Billups already, I was forced to re-consider. I'm trying to make up a fairly significant deficit in that league, so I'm trying to have as many roster spots filled with an active player every night. Having players with two and three-position eligibility makes that much easier, especially when one of them is Boris Diaw, who is eligible at both forward spots and center in Yahoo and ESPN leagues (76%/77%).
Is Diaw a great fantasy option? At this stage of his career, no, not really. But he's certainly better than a string of zeros from one roster spot.
Picks for the Week
The first set of picks is for players in standard leagues - guys who may be available in your average 10 team/15 player roster league. The second group is for owners in very deep leagues, and will be based more on speculation than actual numbers.
I'll give percent owned stats for both Yahoo! and ESPN/NBA.com leagues with each pick - first number is Yahoo, ESPN/NBA is second. If you play some other league/format, let me know in the comments and I'll do what I can to accommodate.
Landry Fields (57%/58.3%) - Fields has bounced back from an awful start and has been playing very well. He could be even more valuable in the short term if Anthony misses time due to that groin injury.
Vince Carter (46%/33.2%) - Carter has been playing very well since his return from a minor foot injury. He was held to four points in Saturday's game against the Cavs, but that was a matter of Rick Carlisle opting to play matchups and use Jason Terry more than usual.
Gordon Hayward (31%/20.7%) - Hayward has been maddeningly inconsistent in his NBA career to this point, but that could be changing. Tyrone Corbin has given the second-year swingman 30-plus minutes in six of seven games, and he's responded with double-figure scoring in six of those games. He'll be a lot more valuable if his three starts falling; he's riding a 1-8 slump from long range over his last four games.
Kyle Korver (20%/14.3%) - Taking on a larger role in the offense with Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton hurting.
Linas Kleiza (11%/10.5%) - Becoming a key scorer for the Raptors - he's scored 62 points in their last three games - 30 against the Wizards on Monday. But Dwayne Casey is going to be very careful with Kleiza's minutes; don't be surprised if he gets extra rest when the opportunity presents itself.
Trevor Booker (16%/7.2%) - Second-year forward out of Clemson has carved out a very nice role for himself in the Wizards' rotation, and has blocked at least two shots in each of his last five games.
Daequan Cook (1%/1.4%) - Thunder coach Scott Brooks likes using James Harden off the bench, so with Thabo Sefolosha sidelined, Cook is a temporary starter in OKC.
Jared Jeffries (1%/.1%) - Yes, fans at Madison Square Garden will continue to cringe whenever Jeffries takes a shot. But he is playing very well on defense and could be a good rebounds/steals/blocks play, especially with Carmelo Anthony sidelined and Amar'e Stoudemire's status uncertain.
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