The main question facing New York as it entered its annual media day was if Carmelo Anthony would be able to fully participate with the team in training camp.
The former scoring champion underwent knee surgery immediately following the All-Star game, missing the final 42 games of the regular season after playing through the injury for much of the season.
Even while he was hurt, Anthony managed to post 24.2 points and 6.6 rebounds a night as he still spent 35.7 minutes on the floor each game.
Anthony has been fully cleared to participate in training camp, although the Knicks will closely monitor his progress through practice.
If New York has any chance of eradicating the memory of the worst season in franchise history, it needs the eight-time All-Star to be fully healthy.
The Knicks experienced the worst season in their 69 seasons of existence, winning just 17 games while ranking last in the league with a scoring average of 91.9 points per game and ranking 28th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency.
The team trotted out 19 different players trying to fill the void left by Anthony, but trying to replicate one of the most potent offensive players of his generation proved to be impossible.
Anthony has continually been able to create effective looks at the basket, often out of isolation situations.
The 31-year-old forward has faced questions about his elite status on social media, and instead of trying to argue with fans, the solution for Anthony is to produce on the court.
30. Thabo Sefolosha– Atlanta Hawks
A strange set of circumstances surrounded Sefolosha’s exit from the 2015 NBA playoffs. The 6-foot-5 forward suffered a fractured tibia and ligament damage following an altercation with police officers in New York. The issue has yet to be resolved, but Sefolosha has been cleared to participate in training camp for Atlanta. Last season, Sefolosha served as the defensive specialist for the Hawks off the bench, but will now be relied upon to replace some of the productivity lost by DeMarre Carroll in free agency.
29. Mike Dunleavy Jr.– Chicago Bulls
Outside of his long range shooting, Dunleavy provides little fantasy value, plus the Bulls may look to carve out more minutes for Doug McDermott, another long range specialist. Dunleavy is expected to miss approximately 10 weeks with a back injury, but McDermott failed to play his way back into the rotation during his rookie season. Last season, Dunleavy started in each of his 63 appearances for Chicago, as he averaged 9.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in just under 30 minutes per game.
28. Quincy Pondexter– New Orleans Pelicans
The move from Memphis to New Orleans at the trade deadline proved to be extremely beneficial for Pondexter. In his 45 appearances with the Pelicans, he knocked down 43.3 percent of his attempts from 3-point range while averaging 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. In an effort to remain on the floor, Pondexter intentionally skipped MRI’s and played through pain in his knee last season, but is expected to be fully healthy now.
27. Marcus Morris– Detroit Pistons
The Pistons unexpectedly acquired Morris this summer as Phoenix began unloading contracts to try and land LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency. Only the selection Stanley Johnson many bump him from the starting lineup as soon as opening night. Johnson dominated the Orlando Summer League and provides an immediate upside, while Morris 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while splitting time at small forward with the Suns.
26. Al-Farouq Aminu– Portland Trail Blazers
Aminu started just three times with the Mavericks last season, but his defensive abilities prompted Portland to sign him to a four-year, $30 million contract. The starting small forward position was handed over to him, as the team unexpectedly cleaned house, removing five of the top six performers from last season. The Trail Blazers are expecting Aminu to produce much more than the 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds he averaged last season.
25. Bojan Bogdanovic– Brooklyn Nets
Fantasy owners found out Bogdanovic was a viable option late in the season. Following in the All-Star break, the 6-foot-7 forward shot 51.3 percent from the field, converted 42.9 percent of his attempts from 3-point range as he averaged 11.6 points per game. Brooklyn can start Bogdanovic at either small forward or shooting guard, his versatility is an asset both on the court for the Nets and fantasy owners alike.
24. P.J. Tucker– Phoenix Suns
Nearly every statistical category dropped for Tucker during his third season with the Suns. Tucker’s averages of 9.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 34.5 percent shooting from 3-point range all dropped from the previous season, but with the logjam at the small forward position starting to clear up, Tucker’s productivity could bounce back, even though a former teammate claimed he should have been the starter last season.
23. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist– Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets didn’t waste any time in offering an extension for Kidd-Gilchrist. Instead of going through a lengthy negotiating session, the second overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft inked a four-year, $52 million deal, but his play hasn’t translated into fantasy productivity. Last season, even though he spent 1,587 minutes on the floor, he failed to launch a single shot from 3-point range as he totaled 68 steals and blocks combined last year.
22. Luol Deng– Miami Heat
Miami boasts incredible depth at every position on the floor, leading to interchangeable pieces on the team. When Justise Winslow slipped to the Heat with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the team expected him to become the starting small forward at some point. Deng still provided plenty of productivity last season, as he posted 14 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, but may forfeit a huge chunk of his minutes to the rookie out of Duke.
21. Tony Allen– Memphis Grizzlies
Even though he is widely considered one of the most imposing perimeter defenders in the league, Allen never averaged more than 2.0 steals per game until his 11th season in the league. Allen has posted 100 or more steals four times in his career and last season had a rounded out game. In his 63 appearances, Allen averaged 8.6 points on 49.5 percent shooting from the field, along with 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
20. Nick Young– Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers haven’t figured out their rotation yet, but Young’s long range shooting should be enough to land a stable place among the core group of players. During his second season in Los Angeles, Young knocked down two shots from 3-point range a game, and even though injuries limited him to just 42 games, he still managed to rank third on the team with 82 conversions from beyond the arc.
19. Otto Porter Jr.– Washington Wizards
The emergence of Porter in the playoffs restored Washington’s faith in the small forward. The third overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft failed to start a single contest in the post season, but he still spent over 33 minutes a night on the floor. During the playoff run, Porter connected on 37.5 percent of his attempts from 3-point range as he averaged 10 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
18. Evan Turner– Boston Celtics
Few players selected in the final rounds of fantasy can provide as much versatility as Turner. In his firsts season with Boston, the former Ohio State star posted three triple-doubles while averaging 9.5 points, 5.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. If Turner can bump up his field goal percentage, he can be an absolute steal with the 140th pick, where he is currently going on average in Yahoo! fantasy mock drafts.
17. Harrison Barnes– Golden State Warriors
A $64 million offer wasn’t enough for Golden State to land Barnes on a contract extension this summer. The proposed $16 million annually wasn’t enough to convince a vital piece of the Warriors championship run last season, even though he posted just 10.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. By becoming a potent long range shooter — connecting on 40.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc last season — Barnes believes he can command more in an open market.
16. Paul Pierce– Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are still considering starting Wesley Johnson at the small forward position, but there is little doubt Pierce will get the majority of minutes even if he is relegated to a sixth man role. Pierce has evolved into the ideal stretch four, more than capable to connecting from 3-point range at any time. The scoring and rebounding numbers have steadily declined, but Pierce is is still worth a late round flier.
15. Danilo Gallinari– Denver Nuggets
Gallinari managed to increase his scoring average each month during the 2014-15 season. Following the All-Star break, the 6-foot-10 forward averaged 18.6, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game, making him one of the most vital performers in the fantasy basketball playoffs. Even with his extraordinary second half performance, he is still being taken on average late in the ninth round of Yahoo! fantasy drafts.
14. Chandler Parsons– Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks have been seeking a player capable of facilitating the offense for years and the hope remains Parsons can thrive as a passer. During his time with the Rockets, the former Florida star averaged 3.3 assists per game, but in his debut season with Dallas, that figure slipped to 2.4 assists per game. For Parsons to maximize his fantasy value, he needs to increase his activity as a play maker for the team.
13. DeMarre Carroll– Toronto Raptors
The free agent frenzy of 2015 was sparked by the four-year, $60 million contract Carroll signed hours after the league’s moratorium on activity ended. As the league places a special emphasis on players capable of being lockdown defenders on the perimeter and viable long range shooting options, Carroll became the the definition of the role, as he is capable of guarding four positions on the floor and sank a career-high 39.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
12. Robert Covington– Philadelphia 76ers
Nearly half of the 299 made shots from Covington came from beyond the arc. In his second season, the undrafted free agent made 167 shots from 3-point range, the 10th most among all players in the NBA. Philadelphia added a legitimate post presence, a move that will create additional open opportunities from Covington on the perimeter and his long range shooting is reliable enough to warrant a mid-round draft selection.
11. Andrew Wiggins– Minnesota Timberwolves
The numbers Wiggins posted following the All-Star break are promising enough that he is being taken on average 20 spots higher in Yahoo! fantasy drafts than he was initially projected. Wiggins posted 20 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, resulting in a jump from 82nd to 61st in mock drafts. The only concern was his inability to convert from 3-point range during the second half of the season, as he made just 5-of-31 attempts from beyond the arc.
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo– Milwaukee Bucks
The complete game of Antetokounmpo is perfectly suited for fantasy basketball. The 20-year-old is capable of playing every position on the floor, is an efficient shooter from the field while posting 73 steals and 85 blocks last season. Antetokounmpo showed significant growth in scoring, rebounding and free throw attempts during his sophomore campaign. The Bucks are anticipating a significant leap in the Eastern Conference standings with Antetokounmpo as the catalyst.
9. Tobias Harris– Orlando Magic
Harris has mastered the art of high volume scoring. Orlando rewarded him with a four-year, $64 million contract extension this summer after he thrived as a 3-point shooter from the corner and was nearly unstoppable in the paint. Harris converted 68.7 percent of his attempts at the rim and the right corner became a staple of his game. The hefty contract comes with elevated expectations and if Harris can restore his offensive rebounding numbers to just a season ago, it could provide a huge lift for the Magic.
8. Trevor Ariza– Houston Rockets
The case for Ariza is simple, he plays a lot of minutes for a team that constantly pushes the ball up the court. The results were elite production as a 3-point shooter (he converted 194 times from beyond the arc) and in steals (152, fourth most in the NBA) while he played 2,930 minutes, the third most in the league. Ariza was one of 29 players to play in all 82 regular season games last season.
7. Rudy Gay– Sacramento Kings
It took nine seasons, but Gay finally evolved into a facilitator of the offense. The 6-foot-8 forward dished out a career-high 250 assists as he posted 21.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and a steal per game. The move to Sacramento has enabled Gay to play the best basketball of his career, in his 123 appearances with the Kings he has averaged 20.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
6. Gordon Hayward– Utah Jazz
There isn’t an aspect of the game where Hayward fails to make a significant impact for Utah. The 6-foot-8 forward led the team in points and steals while ranking second in 3-point field goals and assists. As he enters his sixth season in the NBA, Hayward is the most likely candidate to break though as a first time All-Star, as he was one of just eight players to appear in at least 30 games while averaging at least 19 points, four rebounds and four assists per game. Each of the other seven players on the list were selected to the All-Star team.
5. Paul George– Indiana Pacers
Indiana has completely reshaped its roster and George is expected to spend a significant portion of his time at the power forward position, a move he isn’t thrilled to play. George has played just six games since breaking his leg in Las Vegas and he struggled mightily in his return, averaging just 8.8 points on 36.7 percent shooting from the field. If George is able to return to his pre-injury production, his fantasy value will greatly outperform the 23rd selection he is being selected with in Yahoo! mock drafts.
4. Carmelo Anthony– New York Knicks
A team in need of scoring productivity should target Anthony either late in the first round, or he is a steal in the second round. Anthony has averaged at least 20 points per game in each of his 12 seasons in the NBA. Since joining the Knicks, Anthony has become an elite 3-point shooter, connecting on an average of 1.9 times per game while shooting 37.9 percent from beyond the arc, and the team sorely missed his long range shooting once he underwent season-ending knee surgery last year.
3. Kawhi Leonard– San Antonio Spurs
The Defensive Player of the Year selection was more than justified. Every night Leonard managed to pester the opposition in a way no other player in the league could, as he was held without a steal just five times last season. The 15th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft posted at least three steals in 29 of his 64 appearances last season. Along with his unbelievable defensive abilities, Leonard is a phenomenal rebounder, leading all small forwards with 7.2 per game.
2. Kevin Durant– Oklahoma City Thunder
The only reason Durant ranks second on the list of small forwards is because of some lingering doubts surrounding his foot. The former MVP needed three surgical procedures to correct a Jones fracture he suffered during the 2013-14 season. Durant has averaged at least 25 points per game each of the past seven seasons, his efficient shooting from all over the court along with his impressive rebounding and steal numbers makes him an elite fantasy option.
1. LeBron James– Cleveland Cavaliers
As James enters his second season back in Cleveland, the growing familiarity with his teammates could lead to additional assists, a startling fact considering he averaged 7.4 assists per game last season. James is easily the most complete player in the league, capable of scoring in bulk, while remaining efficient from the field. Any night a triple-double is within his reach, and additional rest opportunities could lead to the best season of his career.