For all of the drama surrounding the Knicks, it's encouraging to note that Carmelo Anthony leads the league in pull-up shooting this season, with 8.2 points per game on such shots. Anthony's game has been derided over the past several seasons due to the lack of his team's success, but advanced metrics suggest he's still among the league's elite individual scorers -- and might just be at the mercy of a misled franchise.
The Syracuse legend ranks fourth in the NBA, and first among forwards, in points per game on isolation plays. He's also No. 12 among forwards in catch-and-shoot scoring. Anthony has even been remarkably efficient, ranking sixth among forwards (averaging at least 20 minutes) with .386 points per touch. That's impressively in the neighborhood of Kevin Durant (.406) in this metric.
I haven't been a "Melo guy" over the years, but I suspect his fantasy stock is nearing its low point, what with the flurry of trade rumors and cryptic Phil Jackson tweets. We can develop fixed impressions of NBA stars that prove hard to shake, but we have to allow the numbers to augment that perception. I'm willing to admit my once sour impression of Anthony doesn't match his admirable production rates this season.
I still prefer Cleveland's Kevin Love to Anthony in both real and fantasy trade talks but have warmed to the idea of pursuing the Knicks' enigmatic star for my season-long fantasy teams. In addition to the numbers we just discussed, we might be able to leverage the uncertainty surrounding him heading towards the NBA trade deadline in our own negotiations. Offering multiple mid-tier assets to the Anthony owner in your league could make for a wise consolidation move as we enter the stretch run of the fantasy campaign.
Speaking of deadlines, trades in standard leagues must be executed by noon ET on Wednesday, Feb. 22. We endure six days without regular-season NBA action during the looming All-Star break, leaving us plenty of time to email, text, and call other managers to try and broker some trades. Remember, it's always helpful to track the rumor mill with an eye on the potential value created by player movement.
While it's not always realistic to acquire Anthony or other centerpiece talents, we can always capitalize on emerging value in the wake of blockbuster moves. When a high-usage star is dealt, the opportunity rates on his former team often splinter throughout the roster. Fantasy owners are then tasked with identifying the key beneficiaries of such transactions. As Bradford Doolittle noted in a recent breakdown of buy-low assets, speculatively targeting players like Jamal Murray or Mindaugas Kuzminskas could be huge, should real-life deals vault them into new roles.
Matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup). These are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their opponents' numbers in those categories and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the left lists the team's total number of games scheduled as well as home games, and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule.
In evaluating the upcoming divided two-week schedule (thanks to the All-Star game), we find only the Rockets, Knicks, and Bucks limited to three-game slates. We will want to avoid these teams when seeking streaming options, especially in leagues with transaction limits. Every other team plays at least four games over this stretch, with several teams enjoying five-game schedules.
We're identifying the Nuggets as an ideal roster for streaming, as they play five games -- including four at home -- with friendly matchups against soft defensive foes such as the Timberwolves, Kings, and Nets. The Warriors, unsurprisingly, earn the lone perfect rating for the upcoming slate thanks to inviting meetings with the Nets, Nuggets, and the suddenly inept Clippers. LA ranks last in points allowed per 100 possessions over the past ten games.
My favorite format for season-long fantasy hoops is a weekly head-to-head league. Rotisserie remains a compelling format for baseball's marathon season, but I find direct weekly competition ideal for basketball. But here's some potentially shocking news: there are only two more single weeks of fantasy competition left in ESPN leagues this season.
We face a two-week slate beginning on Monday due to the All-Star break, and the two fantasy playoff rounds are each multi-week formats. As we touched on above, the fantasy trade deadline is included in this looming two-week slate, so we need to be proactive in pursuing deals. For weekly leagues, consolidation deals chasing devalued assets can prove useful for opening up a few fluid roster spots for streaming purposes down the stretch.
Maximizing games played offers an added edge on the competition in the fantasy postseason. With that in mind, pursuing a higher volume of minutes and opportunities than your direct competition is the most effective strategy to use during these demanding 14-day windows. A useful resource in preparing for these multi-week slates is the schedule grid compiled by ESPN's Joe Kaiser.
One note emerges right away when looking at the grid. The Knicks are the lone team in the league with three consecutive four-game weeks to close out the season (not counting the abbreviated portion after April 10). The Clippers are the lone team playing five games the week of March 20, in the heart of the first week of the fantasy playoffs. If Chris Paul isn't back by then, loading up on widely-available players such as Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton could make all the difference.