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Knicks - Believe the Hype

As Shannon McKeown rightly pointed out this week, it's more than fair to look at the Knicks' current hot streak with a healthy amount of skepticism. New York has won 11 of 12 games and is 14-8 overall. But they've beaten just two winning teams: the Bulls without Carlos Boozer and the Hornets without David West.

A much tougher stretch of schedule, starting with this Sunday's game against the Celtics, will give us a much better idea as to whether or not this team is anything more than a seven/eight seed in the Eastern Conference.

But from a fantasy perspective... these guys are legit.

It all starts with Amar'e Stoudemire. All the people who claimed STAT wouldn't be the same player without Steve Nash owe the big guy an apology -- Stoudemire has scored 30-plus in six straight games -- one shy of a Knick team record that has stood since 1962 -- and is third in the league in scoring. He's also rebounding well (9.1 rpg), and generating assists and blocks at a rate well above his career averages.

Raymond Felton had a little trouble developing on-court chemistry with Stoudemire at first, but he's been outstanding of late, consistently in the 20-point/10-assist neighborhood, with three-point shooting comparable to his career-best numbers. Wilson Chandler is averaging career-bests in just about every category, and has suddenly become a very effective shot-blocker (1.7 bpg). Rookie Landry Fields is an outstanding rebounder from the backcourt, and though Danilo Gallinari hasn't taken the huge leap forward some were expecting, his stats are very much in line with last year's, and he's got plenty of time to improve.

Toney Douglas has been inconsistent, but I'm still high on him -- he's been hampered by a couple of minor injuries. I'm buying low on him as an excellent source of steals.

In deeper leagues, Ronny Turiaf (blocks) and Shawne Williams (threes) are worth a look.

Think I'm giving these guys too much credit for stats accumulated against some of the league's worst teams? That's more than fair... but consider this:

  • The Knicks are going to play their pace no matter who they're facing. If you want to beat these guys, you'd better out-score 'em.
  • D'Antoni's core five/six players have been playing heavy minutes even though they've played lots of back-to-backs so far. The schedule is getting tougher, but they'll have more time between games over the next few weeks; that means Stoudemire, Felton and the rest will continue to play heavy minutes.
  • It has also become abundantly clear that Anthony Randolph and Timofey Mozgov simply aren't ready to play big minutes for this team right now. That's another indication that the current six/seven man rotation will continue to play heavy minutes.
I might stash Randolph on the bench in a very deep league; some Knick beat writers are convinced he'll get a shot later in the season, but the team really wants to see him making better decisions with the ball and moving better without it.

I'm also keeping an eye on Kelenna Azubuike's progress... it may take him a little while to work his way back into game shape after missing a full year, but his game seems very well-suited to the Knicks' system. My guess is he becomes a part of the rotation -- possibly cutting into Landry Fields' numbers -- well before Randolph or Mozgov become major contributors.


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