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Monday, January 5, 2004
Updated: March 12, 10:00 AM ET
Fantasy Spin: Marbury to Knicks

by Graham Hays
ESPN Fantasy Games

The deal: Phoenix sends Stephon Marbury, Anfernee Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski to New York for Antonio McDyess, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Maciej Lampe and other considerations.

Antonio McDyess
Power Forward
Phoenix Suns

Gaining Steam
Antonio McDyess: Who knew fantasy owners would one day pine for the seemingly mediocre numbers McDyess posted in his first stint with Phoenix? But 15.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 1.7 bpg -- his averages from the 1997-98 season -- would mark his first meaningful fantasy contribution in nearly three seasons. Reaching even those modest goals depends largely on playing time, but the outlook isn't bad. At the very least, McDyess should immediately see more regular minutes than he saw in New York. Even when Amare Stoudemire returns, the Suns would be wise to give the bulk of their frontcourt minutes to the trio of McDyess, Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, leaving Jahidi White, Scott Williams and Jake Voskuhl on the bench as much as possible. McDyess may not return to stardom in Phoenix, but he should return to usefulness.

Leandro Barbosa: The run of productive fantasy rookies may not be at an end. Though Barbosa has played more than 10 minutes just five times all season, he has as much fantasy upside as any player on the reshaped rosters in Phoenix and New York. That's because the Brazilian may get a chance to earn heavy minutes at point guard for the Suns. Considering he's already displayed good fantasy potential in 3-pointers and steals during very limited action, getting the minutes needed to average six or seven assists could make him a key addition. There are no guarantees he'll play ahead of Howard Eisley and/or Charlie Ward, but the potential upside makes it worth giving him an audition on your roster.

Kurt Thomas: Averaging 33.2 minutes per game this season, Thomas has topped 30 minutes just four times in his last 14 appearances. Not surprisingly, it hasn't been a very productive fantasy stretch for Thomas -- 10.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg. With McDyess taking his 20-plus minutes to Phoenix and no big bodies coming back in return, Thomas should regain his status as a double-double threat capable of throwing in a few blocks.

Dikembe Mutombo: Taking McDyess out of the frontcourt equation opens minutes for Thomas at power forward, minutes that won't have to come at center. Mutombo has played 85 minutes in New York's last two games, and 16 blocked shots suggest he's ready for more regular action.

Stephon Marbury
Point Guard
New York Knicks

Middle Ground
Stephon Marbury: Talk all you want about the slow pace of play in the Eastern Conference, but Marbury showed plenty of ability to put points on the board during his last tour of duty near the Big Apple, averaging better than 23 points a game in parts of three seasons with the Nets. In fact, for all the hoopla about getting out of New Jersey and developing a more mature game in Phoenix, Marbury's numbers have remained about as consistent as any players in the game. In each of the past six seasons, he's averaged between 20.4 and 23.9 points, 7.6 and 8.9 assists and 3.1 and 3.5 rebounds. And after you're done talking about coming home, playing for Isiah and all those intangibles, odds are those are exactly the kind of numbers he'll post for the Knicks.

Shawn Marion: Marion didn't hit his fantasy stride this season until Amare Stoudemire's injury opened up more shots. The good news is McDyess isn't likely to take as many shots as Marbury, leaving more for Marion when Stoudemire returns. The bad news is someone has to get him the ball, and he's already shooting a career-worst 43.6 percent from the floor. Odds are his rebound numbers will slip in the crowded frontcourt, but Marion does enough in steals, blocks and 3-pointers to make up for it.

Joe Johnson: The good news is removing Anfernee Hardaway from the equation solidifies Johnson's minutes, even when Stoudemire returns and the rotation shifts. The bad news is that even with 36.9 minutes a night this season, Johnson isn't making much of a fantasy impact. The uncertainty at point could lead to an upswing in Johnson's assists, but he's unlikely to ever be anything more than a fantasy reserve.

Howard Eisley: It's doubtful Eisley can seize fantasy prominence for himself, but he might just find himself the last one standing at point guard in Phoenix. If the Suns dump Ward, and if Barbosa struggles with a heavier workload, Eisley could find himself starting or at least playing the majority of minutes. And as he proved last season in New York, 30 minutes a night could equal a minimum of 10 points, five assists, two 3-pointers and a steal.

Charlie Ward: While he could be a fantasy sleeper feeding assists to Marion, McDyess and Stoudemire, Ward needs to be in Phoenix for that to happen. And with rumors circulating that the Suns will simply buy out his contract and send him on his way, now is not the time to take a gamble on the veteran point guard.

Losing Value
Frank Williams: From Isiah Thomas' golden child to an afterthought with a sore groin, Williams is experiencing a New Year's hangover for the ages. Williams got fantasy owners excited by averaging 16.7 points, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.0 3-pointers in a three-game stretch, after Thomas pushed coach Don Chaney to play him ahead of Ward and Eisley. But he's not going to see much time at point -- Marbury averaged 41.6 minutes per game in Phoenix -- and Houston and Hardaway block his path to minutes alongside Marbury. For now, he's worthless in fantasy leagues.

Anfernee Hardaway: If Hardaway couldn't beat out Johnson in Phoenix, what chance does he have to steal minutes from Houston and his $100 million contract? Hardaway has shown enough this season to prove he could be a fantasy role player in points, assists and rebounds if given 30-plus minutes on a regular basis, but it's tough to see that happening in New York. Houston's sore knee didn't keep him from playing 43 minutes against the Nets on Sunday, and he's averaging 38.1 minutes per game this season. At 20-to-25 minutes a night, Hardaway won't be anything more than a fantasy tease.