What to Make of 'Beardsanity'

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Beardsanity?

That's what the New York Knicks have been reduced to in the absence of their bespectacled power forward (Amare Stoudemire) and their Harvard-educated point guard (Jeremy Lin).

In fantasy sports, you usually don't have to look far to replace your wounded warriors. Where there's an injured player, there is always a teammate champing at the bit, ready to pick up his minutes.

It's a domino effect. Houston Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry (15.9 ppg, 7.2 apg) goes down with a bacterial infection in March, ushering in the Goran Dragic Era (20.4 ppg and 7.6 apg in his last five games) in Houston. Monta Ellis (21.9 ppg for Golden State) gets traded and suddenly Klay Thompson (16.2 ppg in last five) and Nate Robinson (17 points Sunday versus the Los Angeles Lakers) are fantasy options for the Warriors. This happens all the time.

So the question is, who picks up the fantasy pieces with Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin out for perhaps the remainder of the regular season?

Just like the Knicks' season, the answer is easy and complicated at the same time.

No, that's not Sacha Baron Cohen dressed up as "The Dictator," it's Baron Davis. We know Davis has an impressive basketball resume; he was a two-time All-Star with the Hornets earlier in the millennium and he has notched over 13,000 points throughout his 13-year NBA career. But can the bearded wonder still produce?

To quote the great David Puddy from Seinfeld, "All signs point to yes" ("high five!").

Lin can't be an easy act to follow, but Davis is certainly growing into his new role as the catalyst for New York's offense. In the four games since Lin and Stoudemire's injuries, Davis has collected 8.5 points per game to go along with 5.5 assists per game.

His high in that period of time is 13 points, so it doesn't appear that Davis will be able to replace Lin's scoring. Davis was horrendous with turnovers in his first game taking over for Lin (nine against the Milwaukee Bucks), but since then he's been much smoother (seven total in his past three games).

Davis's points and assist per game numbers put him roughly in the same category as guards like Devin Harris (owned in 88.2 percent of fantasy leagues), Jameer Nelson (88.8 percent owned), Greivis Vasquez (12.3 percent owned) and perhaps on the higher end, Ramon Sessions (99.6 percent).

Davis isn't a fantasy home run by any means, but there is still some value here. We're waiting for that big Rajon Rondo-esque assist game from Davis and given all the weapons at his disposal (Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Landry Fields, J.R. Smith), it should happen sooner or later.

Remember Carmelo Anthony? Yeah, he can still score a little bit.

Anthony's play has been pretty bipolar this season, but with Stoudemire and Lin both out, Melo has found his groove.

In mid-March, Anthony went seven games in a row without reaching the 20-point plateau, uncharted territory for a guy who used to put up almost 30 a night for Denver a couple years ago.

Stoudemire and Lin were both scratched from the lineup last Monday against Milwaukee. Since then, Anthony has made the NBA his personal arcade game, registering all kinds of high scores. He's averaging 27 points in four games post-Lin/Stoudemire, including a slick 36-point performance against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

That's no coincidence, folks. Now that the New York offense is Carmelo-centric again, Anthony is taking shots like it's his 21st birthday. In the seven-game slump he had earlier in the month, Anthony was heaving up just 13.4 shots per game. During his hot streak, he is averaging 18.3 shots per game.

Anthony is the ultimate volume scorer and his fantasy value hinges on this principle. You don't need a math degree to figure out that if you take more shots, you'll score more points. Now that Anthony doesn't have to share the ball with Lin and Stoudemire, he's living large and if he is on your fantasy team, so are you.

Stoudemire's absence has allowed Anthony to add another unexpected wrinkle to his game: rebounding. Instead of slotting an inexperienced big like Josh Harrellson (4.6 ppg) into the starting lineup, Mike Woodson has been using Anthony as an undersized (6-foot-8) power forward.

The move is paying off for Anthony's fantasy owners: he's collected 7.5 rebounds per game compared to his season average of just six per contest. The rebound boost propelled Anthony into last week's top 10 in fantasy points. After a three-month Jekyll and Hyde act, it looks like fantasy owners are finally seeing the Carmelo they paid for on draft day.

Mike Woodson has put a strong emphasis on defense since taking over as coach in mid-March and it's had a big impact on Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. Both players look totally recommitted on the defensive end of the court and it is reaping benefits not just for the Knicks, but for fantasy owners who are looking to load up on steals.

Only three players generated more thefts than Shumpert last week (10) and Smith was only one steal behind Shumpert with nine. Both Shumpert (147 minutes) and Smith (128 minutes) achieved this defensive success without playing as many minutes as the others on last week's list of steal leaders, including Gerald Wallace (150 minutes) and Al-Farouq Aminu (157).

With Lin and Stoudemire out long-term and especially given Shumpert's recent offensive success (17.8 ppg in his past four games), both players should see more and more minutes as the season rolls on, which will only add to their dominance in the steals department.

If you're playing in a rotisserie league and steals is a category, Shumpert and Smith are both worthy of a start. Shumpert has seen a 28.3 percent rise in fantasy ownership over the past week, so if he's still sitting on your waiver wire, act quickly.

The Knicks truly are a lesson in fantasy perseverance. If you weathered the storm and kept faith in Anthony, Davis, Shumpert and Smith throughout all of the injuries, coaching changes and streaky play, you are finally being rewarded.

Maybe Beardsanity isn't so bad after all.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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