Today's edition of 'The Numbers Game' dives into the muddy waters created by Carmelo Anthony's shutdown before examining the prospects of some conspicuous trade targets.
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Carmelo Anthony predictably called it quits for the season on Wednesday, as his ailing knee will require surgery and there's no reason to delay with New York holding the league's worst record at 10-43. His absence leaves a massive hole in the Knicks' offense which can be measured in shot attempts -- almost 19% of the Knicks' total field goal attempts came from Melo and he accounts for 25% of their total free throw attempts, and that's despite the fact that he's missed 13 games. His usage rate is a gaudy 32.4% and it's worth examining who might pick up the slack.
The short answer is that nobody can replace Melo's production. After Carmelo, the Knicks' highest-usage player is Andrea Bargnani, who can't stay healthy and has played a total of 53 minutes this season. He's followed by Tim Hardaway Jr., who is the most likely player to take on a huge offensive burden in Melo's absence. He's worth a look if you need scoring and 3-pointers but has too many flaws to recommend in most fantasy leagues -- he's shooting 38.5% from the field with barely any rebounds (2.0), assists (1.7), steals (0.3) or blocks (0.2), which makes him a poorer version of Arron Afflalo.
After THJ on the usage-rate list we find J.R. Smith, Amare Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, none of whom are still on the team. Next up are Lance Thomas, Jason Smith, Langston Galloway, Travis Wear, Cleanthony Early and Cole Aldrich. Jason Smith is the most appealing option out of that group, which isn't saying much. Over the past dozen games he's averaging 10.7 points (48% FGs, 80% FTs), 0.5 triples, 5.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.8 blocks, good enough to squeak into the top-100 for 8-cat and 9-cat value.
Langston Galloway is also worth owning as he should assume an even bigger role in Melo's absence, whether or not New York trades Jose Calderon. Galloway isn't a pure PG and his assist rate of 19.1% ranks 101st among qualified players, tied with Alexey Shved and just behind David West and David Lee. Neither is Galloway a reliable scoring guard, as he's posting a lousy 47.0 True Shooting percentage and is just 32.8% from downtown. His ability to contribute in points, 3s, rebounds, assists and steals make him a viable 12-team player but don't expect any miracles. To Galloway's credit he's the only Knicks player with a positive 'net rating' -- while he's on the court NY has a 104.8 offensive rating and a 104.4 defensive rating. When he's off the court the Knicks' net rating plummets from +0.4 all the way down to -20.1.
Lance Thomas has been nowhere near standard-league value despite averaging 25.1 minutes over the past dozen games. He's averaging 9.8 points on decent percentages during that span and his scoring should rise with Melo out, but his rebound rate of 7.5% is comically low and he's averaging just 5.5 boards on a per-36-minute basis this season (with NYK and OKC). With minimal defensive stats and no 3-point range to support his value, he's better as a cheap DFS option than a guy to own in 12-team leagues.
Cleanthony Early has just enough upside to warrant attention in standard leagues, as he could conceivably help owners in points, 3-pointers, rebounds and steals if given enough playing time. The Knicks have every reason to develop Early as their lost season draws to a close, but I'd leave him on the waiver wire in most leagues. His 35.5% shooting is bad enough, but when you add his 50.0% FT shooting he becomes unpalatable in 8-cat and 9-cat formats. Keep an eye on him but don't expect reliable ROS production.
Travis Wear is an interesting speculative pickup in deep leagues but most owners can watch him from a safe distance. Consider, for example, his lackluster per-36-minute averages of 11.7 points on 42.8% shooting, 0.7 threes, 5.0 boards, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks. Those numbers wouldn't help in standard leagues, even if by some miracle he did average 36 minutes.
Jose Calderon, meanwhile, ranks 13th for season-long usage at just 15.8%. Owners should be hoping that he's traded away from the miasma at Madison Square Garden. This is unrelentingly bleak and I wish there were more positive angles to explore in the post-Melo environment, but there aren’t. The league’s worst team just lost its best player, and this is the result.
The Nuggets are expected to shake up their roster before the deadline and both Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler are likely targets in trade talks. Both are productive veterans with reasonable contracts, which makes them attractive to contending teams -- Afflalo has a final-year $7.5 million player option for 2015-16, while Chandler's $7.2 million salary for next season is partially guaranteed for $2 million.
Afflalo's offense relies heavily on catch-and-shoots, which is how he gets 41.4% of his attempts, while another 34.4% come on pullups. He has a mere 72 layup attempts this season, barely more than his 71 combined turnaround jumpers and fadeaway jumpers. Pretty much all of his shots are jump shots (432 attempts) and a whopping 87.5% of his makes come off teammate assists. This isn't a player who creates his own shots, so any trade destination would ideally land him on a team with selfless and proficient ball-movement, a la the Spurs. Afflalo's lack of defensive stats (0.6 steals, 0.1 blocks) gives him precious little margin for error and he'd need to find an ideal offensive situation to maintain his current top-150 valuation. The Blazers have been most-often linked to Afflalo, which presents a more blatant threat to his value as he'd be stuck in a value-stifling reserve role behind Wesley Matthews. The Kings reportedly may be interested in Afflalo, though I haven't heard a convincing reason why they would be.
The Kings' are reportedly trying to package Nik Stauskas in any deal, but I can't envision Stauskas emerging with fantasy value this year no matter where he lands. His lack of supporting stats is glaring, and even extrapolated to 36 minutes per game he'd be averaging a mere 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks. That major issue is compounded by his 32.8% shooting, including just 26.1% from downtown, so that even an increased offensive role might be a bad thing. Think twice before grabbing him even if he’s traded into a seemingly beneficial situation.
Wilson Chandler's trade prospects are no better than Afflalo's. He's been a late-round value in 32 minutes per game for Denver and is unlikely to exceed his current 20.4% usage rate no matter where he lands. The Blazers may have interest in making him a backup behind Nicolas Batum, which would be a death-knell for Chandler's value, but his role would likely shrink on any contending team whether or not he's thrust into a reserve role. He's worth holding onto through the deadline, but owners should be ready to pounce on more attractive ROS prospects.
Enes Kanter is scoring 63.1% of his points in the paint this season, with just more than half of those buckets coming off a teammate's assist. His usage rate of 25.2% is quite impressive but he's extremely inefficient more than a few feet away from the hoop -- within the restricted area he's shooting 64.2%, but outside of it he's a combined 96-of-286 (33.6%). It's no surprise, then, that he's a miserable 30.7 % on his jump shots this year (74-of-241). It remains to be seen if Kanter will be traded, but he and the Jazz are "far apart" on extension talks and he already asked to be traded. The sticking point is Utah's willingness to let him go for less than a productive player and a draft pick, as they can still match any offer for him in restricted free agency this summer. It would behoove him to join a pass-first point guard capable of creating easy opportunities around the rim, but any destination should benefit him as he'd be a lock to average more than his current 27.1 minutes per game.
The Celtics have been suspiciously quiet in the lead-up to the deadline. Tayshaun Prince will almost certainly be bought out after the deadline and I’d be surprised if the Celtics aren’t working hard to unload Brandon Bass and/or Marcus Thornton. Still, the contracts of both Bass ($6.9 million) and Thornton ($8.6 million) expire this summer which makes it less likely the Celts will give up much of value (i.e. picks) to entice another team to take them. Gerald Wallace’s terrible contract continues for one more season, as he’ll earn $10.1 million in 2015-16, and no team in the league would even consider going near him.
Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) details the Goran Dragic trade talk in his Trade Deadline Primer, which also touches on Afflalo, Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Jordan Hill, Reggie Jackson, Greg Monroe, Kevin Martin and Larry Sanders. Be sure to read that as well as Mike Gallagher's (@MikeSGallagher) latest 'Use it or Lose it' column, where he weighs in on Dragic, Brook Lopez, Enes Kanter and others.
I'll conclude with a preview of next week's column, which digs through each team's defensive strengths and weaknesses to find the most appetizing matchups on both a team and individual level. These play types come from Synergy Sports, which has merged into NBA.com, and they give otherwise unattainable insight despite occasional concerns about consistency and accuracy.
For example, the Pelicans emerge as the worst defensive team against 'cuts', a play-type they face on 7.1% of their defensive possessions. Derrick Favors leads the NBA with 216 points off cuts through his first 49 games. He's followed by Tim Duncan, Marcin Gortat, DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler and Mason Plumlee, and all but four of the top-50 scorers off cuts are true PF/Cs (the exceptions are Tobias Harris, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler and Tony Allen). Cuts typically account for a small portion of NBA offenses, but this insight gives a slight advantage to Favors or Chandler when they're up against the Pelicans.
I mentioned in the intro that New Orleans is the worst team against cuts, as gauged by points per possession. Most cutters finish at or near the rim so it's not surprising that the Pelicans also rank 3rd in field goals allowed within five feet of the hoop -- they're giving up 19.1 buckets from that range per game, exceeded only by the Suns (19.2) and Timberwolves (19.7).
There are also nine players who rely on cuts for at least one-third of their offensive possessions, all of whom are low-end big men. Jeff Ayres leads the way with a whopping 43.2% of his offensive possessions coming off cuts, though he’s not currently part of the Spurs’ rotation. He's followed by Chris Andersen, Mitch McGary, Brandan Wright, John Henson, Omer Asik, Greg Smith, Tarik Black and Jerome Jordan. If you're in a DFS league and trying to decide between Henson and another cheap option at center, Henson may not look as appealing if he's matched up with the Warriors, Thunder or Suns (all of whom are stingy vs. cuts).
If such play-specific data interests you, be sure to check back next Wednesday for the full breakdown including transition plays, post-ups, etc. In the meantime you can send me any questions or interesting findings on Twitter @Knaus_RW.