It's hard to imagine a team's overall fantasy outlook changing as dramatically as the Lakers' has in the last 10 days.
In the last installment of Waiver Wire, I noted that Mike Brown's club already seemed to be abandoning the Princeton offense - the system they'd installed to take advantage of Steve Nash's abilities. After Brown's sudden dismissal, rumors swirled that the Lakers would be bringing back Phil Jackson for a third go-round. That made Nash's outlook even murkier. Point guards have never exactly thrived in Jackson's triangle offense.
I'm guessing Nash owners stopped worrying when the Lakers spurned Jax and instead hired Mike D'Antoni.
What does D'Antoni's arrival mean for the Lakers? A couple of educated guesses:
The offense will run through Nash. We'll see a heavy dose of the pick-and-roll game, with Nash setting up Dwight Howard. (Scary thought: Howard has been one of the most effective pick-and-roll finishers in the league for years, and that was when he was paired with Jameer Nelson.)
Kobe Bryant will continue to get his. Bryant is also very effective in the pick and roll, D'Antoni's bread-and-butter play, and he'll likely continue to get a liberal helping of isolation opportunities.
Pau Gasol might be great in D'Antoni's system. With his size and skill set, Gasol could rebound from his poor start and become a much better version of Boris Diaw as a Phoenix Sun. But he's still better suited to play center, and he won't have that opportunity with Howard on the team. I expect to hear Gasol's name in a lot of trade talks over the next few months.
Aside from Nash, the players that could benefit the most from D'Antoni's arrival are Metta World Peace and Jodie Meeks. The artist formerly known as Ron Artest should thrive as a sort of "stretch four" in D'Antoni's system - think Shawn Marion. And Meeks will give the second unit a much-needed three-point threat to stretch defenses and create space. Both are available in most Yahoo! leagues - World Peace is 34-percent owned and Meeks just 7-percent owned. They look like excellent buy-low opportunities.
Another reason to buy: D'Antoni's rotations typically only go about seven or eight players deep. The players that do win roles will probably play more minutes than second-stringers on another team.
I have no doubt that D'Antoni will get the Lakers offense moving in the right direction. But does the hire give this team a better shot at another title? Hard to say. They're going to have a hard time defending top point guards, and they'll have to face several (Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook) to get out of the West.
The Knicks are still undefeated, and every one of their wins has come against a team that made the playoffs last season. It seems safe to say they're for real.
They won Thursday in San Antonio, overcoming a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit and Carmelo Anthony's poor shooting.
Anthony has been thriving as the Knicks' full-time power forward, but last night's game showed a potential downside to playing the four. The Spurs used bigger, stronger players on Anthony for much of the game - DeJuan Blair, for one - in an attempt to out-muscle the Knicks' star scorer. For the most part, it worked. Anthony shot just 3-of-12 from the floor, 0-of-2 from three. However, in another encouraging sign of his growth as a player, Anthony made big contributions elsewhere, pulling down 12 boards and handing out three assists.
Raymond Felton (90-percent owned) is thriving in his role as the starting point guard. He's scored 20 or more points in the Knicks' last two games and is logging major minutes despite the presence of Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni. The point guard rotation may become a bit more jumbled when Iman Shumpert (ACL) returns, but that's months away. Until then, it seems Kidd will be used primarily at the two, and Felton should get 35-ish minutes per game on a consistent basis.
Rajon Rondo missed Thursday's game with a sore ankle, and his absence showed just how thin the Celtics are at the point. Doc Rivers started Leandro Barbosa in Rondo's place, and tried to use Jeff Green to initiate the offense. The results were . . . less than impressive. Green managed just one assist to four turnovers as a "point forward."
Rondo should be back shortly. His ankle injury is a day-to-day thing. But if he were to miss significant time, the C's would be in big trouble.
Picks for the Week
All percent-owned stats are from Yahoo! Your league's mileage may vary.
Kemba Walker (84%) - Walker looks a lot more like the UConn version of himself in his second year as a pro. His scoring is up, turnovers are down, and confidence seems to be improving.
Jose Calderon (71%) - Kyle Lowry will be sidelined for another couple of weeks with a bone bruise in his foot.
Jason Richardson (59%) - He's a bit of a specialist at this stage of his career, but Richardson has hit three 3-pointers in both of his games since returning from an ankle injury.
Jason Kidd (57%) - Kidd has played 30-plus minutes in the Knicks' last two games. That may not last - Ronnie Brewer's sore knee was a contributing factor - but he's a very safe start for the time being.
Carl Landry (59%) - Andrew Bogut's surgically-repaired ankle still isn't right. He's having injections in the joint now that he hopes will reduce the swelling. Festus Ezeli is theoretically the backup, but it appears Mark Jackson would rather use a smaller frontcourt featuring David Lee and Landry while Bogut is on the mend. Given Bogut's injury history, that could be a while.
Luke Ridnour (53%) - Ridnour has been picking up the slack for J.J. Barea (foot) and Brandon Roy (knee). As much as I'm rooting for Roy's comeback, it is far from assured. It might make sense to handcuff Ridnour to Roy much the same way you'd treat running backs in an NFL league.
Andre Miller (46%) - George Karl's deep and somewhat-unpredictable rotation limits the usefulness of many Nuggets, but Miller has been getting consistent minutes and producing.
MarShon Brooks (6%) - Brooks didn't play much in his first game back from injury, but he figures to be a double-digit scorer off the bench for Brooklyn once he's completely healthy.
Linas Kleiza (3%) - Landry Fields is out indefinitely after having surgery on his right elbow. Dominic McGuire (0%) has been moved into the starting lineup for now, but McGuire's offensive potential is remarkably similar to his current percent-owned number. Kleiza will get more minutes and has a lot more potential.
Kyle Singler (2%) - Singler got his first NBA start on Wednesday with Rodney Stuckey sidelined due to illness. If the Pistons ever decide to start Singler, he's shown he could be a contributor in scoring, three-pointers, and the odd other random stat.
This column will be published later in the week for the rest of the season, to better serve leagues with weekend waiver deadlines. As always, post a comment or hit me on Twitter (@charliezegers) if you have any questions.