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Thursday, August 5, 2004
Fantasy Spin: Crawford to Knicks

by Graham Hays
ESPN Fantasy Edge

The deal: Jamal Crawford and Jerome Williams for Frank Williams, Dikembe Mutombo, Othella Harrington and Cezary Trybanski.

What he lacked in the element of surprise, New York GM Isiah Thomas more than made up for with dogged determination. Finally getting his man in Crawford, Thomas has set the stage for guards to run the show at Madison Square Garden this season.

But is Crawford ready for the starring role he so desperately craved in Chicago, and will there be enough shots to go around?

New York Spin
Jamal Crawford
New York Knicks
80 17.3 3.5 5.1 1.4 2.1
Jamal Crawford: Fantasy owners now have a choice to make, because barring injury, there are no more excuses for Crawford. Long on fantasy potential during his tenure with the Bulls, Crawford never appeared to get the keys to the car from Chicago coaches or management. From Jay Williams to Kirk Hinrich, he was always locked in a battle for offensive supremacy. And while he'll still have plenty of company in the backcourt at Madison Square Garden, this time in the form of Stephon Marbury, Crawford isn't coming to the Big Apple as a spare part.

The guard with a 39.7 career field goal percentage and 11.7 scoring average is likely to be a second- or third-round fantasy pick, so sleeper status goes out the window. Will Crawford be a boom or bust on Broadway? Scoring 50 points in a game isn't a guarantee of anything, just ask Willie Burton, but Crawford's 50-point game against the Raptors last April is evidence of why people get so excited about him. Just as he did the previous season, Crawford finished 2003-04 with a bang, averaging 20.7 points, 2.9 3-pointers and 4.3 assists in April. The problem is that Crawford's best fantasy runs are often the result of improved quantity instead of quality. Give him 20 shots a game and he'll average 20 points a game, but he's going to hover around 40-percent shooting no matter what role he plays. That's a major fantasy negative, considering even Marbury averaged just 16.6 shots per game last season. Playing with Marbury frees Crawford to play more shooting guard, but diminishing assists hurt his overall fantasy value.

Crawford will play a central, perhaps co-starring, role with the Knicks, but as long as the team relies almost exclusively on a trio of guards that also includes Marbury and Allan Houston, they won't produce enough statistical diversity to make all three fantasy contributors. Even if he averages a few more points this season, he's unlikely to exceed last season's overall fantasy contribution. But that won't be reflected in his hefty price on draft day.

Jerome Williams: The good news is Williams goes to a team that needs all the interior help it can get, at least until they acquire Erick Dampier. The bad news is Williams isn't going to suddenly blossom as an offensive threat at 31. At his best, with 30-plus minutes a night, Williams can make a minimal fantasy impact with rebounds and steals. But as long as the Knicks have Kurt Thomas, Mike Sweetney and potentially Dampier, he won't get the necessary minutes.

Others: Can Houston play forward? Assuming he stays with the team, Houston is either going to be a very expensive sixth man or a very out-of-position forward. The unfortunate part is that Houston was having one of his best 3-point seasons before getting hurt last year. But with knees that still aren't close to 100 percent and so much company in the backcourt, he's inching towards Reggie Miller territory. And not the good Miller, either. ... The trade also hurts Marbury's potential value, as he's now unlikely to better last season's field goal attempts and may lose some assists to Crawford. ... Losing so many bodies, if not major contributors, up front should allow Mike Sweetney to get more minutes. He isn't going to be a big block or steals guy, so he needs to prove he can post the rebounding numbers of a young Danny Fortson if he wants to make a fantasy impact.

Chicago Spin
Frank Williams
Chicago Bulls
56 3.9 0.9 2.2 0.5 0.3
It's not a good sign when the first thing a general manager talks about is the "financial relief" a trade provided. But the Bulls did get some bodies to go with the cap room, and fantasy owners can't completely ignore them.

Frank Williams: Things move quickly in New York, but when did the point guard of the future become yesterday's news? Williams enjoyed a brief fantasy fling last season as Isiah Thomas' chosen point guard. Then the Knicks traded for Marbury. Then they traded for Crawford. And now Williams is back in the state of Illinois. He's also staring up at a backcourt of Hinrich and Ben Gordon, and possibly Luol Deng. And even if Gordon and Deng struggle making the transition to the NBA, it's tough to imagine the Bulls getting far with an undersized backcourt of Hinrich and Williams. During his best days last season, Williams averaged 12.0 points, 5.7 assists and 1.3 steals in a six-game stretch. He did that in just 23 minutes a game, a mark he could easily match off Chicago's bench, but that's not enough to earn him a place on most fantasy rosters. Williams ought to top the list of guys to watch in the event of an injury to a starter, but he shouldn't come off the board in your draft.

Dikembe Mutombo: Much of Chicago was destroyed in a fire in 1871, but Dikembe Mutombo has an ironclad alibi. All right, it only seems like the NBA's Methuselah has been around forever, but is there anything left in Mutombo's fantasy tank? It didn't look like it for much of last season, when Mutombo averaged just 5.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the Knicks. But consider that Mutombo averaged 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in the 15 games in which he played at least 30 minutes. Those are numbers any fantasy owner would love to get out of a center, especially one available in the late rounds of a draft. So is Mutombo capable of playing that many minutes on a more regular basis, and will the Bulls find out? Given Tyson Chandler's injury history and unproven depth on the frontline, the latter may be easier to answer than the former. Mutombo may well be finished as a fantasy threat, but blocks are gold, and Mutombo is worth a shot in the last round or two.

Othella Harrington: Harrington has never averaged more than 6.9 rebounds, 0.7 blocks or 0.5 steals in a season. So no matter what you think of his offensive potential (and some of us don't think it's much), he faces a long road to reach fantasy usefulness. If Harrington gets 35 minutes a night, he might dance on the fringes of fantasy rosters. He won't get 35 minutes a night in Chicago's frontcourt.

Cezary Trybanski: Moving to his fourth team, Trybanski is now averaging 25.3 minutes per organization. He's young and has some shot-blocking ability, but Trybanski is strictly a wait-and-see fantasy guy. And even then, you don't need to keep too close an eye on him.

Others: The stage is set for Gordon to challenge former teammates Emeka Okafor as fantasy's most valuable rookie. There isn't much standing in the way of Gordon getting 35 minutes a night for Chicago.