Saw this on my Twitter feed yesterday afternoon:
Kyle McKeown (@rotowirekylenba): I was in desperate need of a PF in a @YahooSportsNBA 12-team expert league. I picked up Amar'e, and now I feel like I need a shower.
My response: Fantasy basketball is not real basketball.
Now, Kyle is well aware of that, of course. He's my editor, and an excellent fantasy player who routinely smokes me in expert leagues. But even experienced players will occasionally forget about the very wide gap between fantasy value and actually on-court performance.
Stoudemire is actually a great example of this. If I was running an NBA team, I'd want no part of Stoudemire. He still has some scoring ability, but he's an absolute sieve on defense, giving back two baskets for every one he scores. And he's a particularly bad fit on the Knicks, as his presence on the floor forces Carmelo Anthony to play small forward, where he's a bit less effective.
But that's real basketball, where defense and fit and wins and losses all matter. Grade Stoudemire purely for his fantasy potential and the picture is very different. Consider: Mike Woodson has shortened his rotation and returned to a bigger lineup, featuring Stoudemire as a starter. He's also asking the Knicks to push the ball more, resulting in a faster pace of play. Those are big reasons why Stoudemire is averaging 20 points, seven boards and over 31 minutes in his last two games. Combine that with the fact that nine of New York's next ten opponents are under .500, and suddenly Amar'e - who is just 48 percent owned in Yahoo! Leagues - looks like a really good buy, especially as a short-term substitute what I'm sure is a very competitive league.
Assuming the Knicks continue to play this lineup and at this pace during this soft stretch of their schedule, several other Knicks could be good buys. Raymond Felton (61% owned) has been awful all season, but he's much better off playing at a quicker pace and running pick-and-roll with Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. He posted what was probably his best line of the season in a win over the T-Wolves on Wednesday, with 18 points (5-8 shooting, 2-4 from three), eight assists and four steals. And Tyson Chandler (85%) has been putting up very impressive numbers since the all-star break; he had 15 points and 14 rebounds in Wednesday's win.
And Tim Hardaway Jr. (15%) seems to be ahead of Iman Shumpert on the depth chart these days and is providing double-digit scoring and a couple of made threes per game on a pretty consistent basis.
Of course, those glimmers of hope are easy to miss when you're looking at a team that has just three wins since February 1.
Picks for the Week:
Eric Bledsoe (88%): The breakout player of this seas is due back from a bad knee sprain some time in the next week. He's expected to come off the bench initially.
Gerald Green (69%): Sure, he's a chucker (sorry… a "volume scorer" is the more polite term). And sure, he'll mix in the occasional awful game. But he's posted a new career-high in scoring twice in the last three weeks, and he's contributing in other categories.
Marcus Thornton (42%): Thornton has already become an important weapon off the bench for Brooklyn, and has scored 20-plus in two of their last three games. The Nets will likely look to rest key players a lot down the stretch, which should give Thornton plenty of opportunities to shine.
Andray Blatche (32%): Mason Plumlee has been starting, but Blatche is actually seeing the most benefit from Kevin Garnett's absence. He's averaging 14.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks over his last three games.
Matt Barnes (31%): Veteran wing has earned a very significant role in Doc Rivers' rotation, averaging over 30 minutes per game in his last four and shooting very well from long range.
Caron Butler (13%): Newly-acquired veteran Butler is making an immediate impact and picking up some of the minutes available due to Thabo Sefolosha's calf injury.
Mason Plumlee (1%): Plumee has been Jason Kidd's go-to starter when Kevin Garnett is unavailable. That's happening regularly of late, as KG has been fighting back spasms, and will probably continue to be a regular thing; the Nets will take every opportunity to rest Garnett before the playoffs.
C. J. McCollum (1%): Averaging just under 12 minutes per game since the break, but playing well enough that that number could increase down the stretch. Watch his minutes closely and be ready to submit a claim.
Pero Antic (3%): Finally back from a stress fracture in his ankle - should start cutting into Elton Brand's minutes before too long.
Perry Jones (1%): Starting in Thabo Sefolosha's (calf) place. Caron Butler (see above) is a better play, but Jones might be a sneaky source of blocks for a few weeks.