Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Tony Allen

Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis GrizzliesThe 37-18 Memphis Grizzlies have won seven games in a row and currently sit 4th overall in the Western Conference.

On January 30th GM Chris Wallace traded top scorer Rudy Gay to Toronto in a 3-way deal. Many Griz fans were upset and confused by the move. They wondered who would step up and help fill the void of Gay’s lost production. One player who has increased his scoring and rebounding in Gay’s absence is 9th-year SG Tony Allen.

Hoopsheads know that Allen is a lockdown defender with elite athleticism. Every night he is assigned to guard the opposing squad’s best offensive 1, 2 or 3. Last year Allen was named to the 2012 NBA All-Defensive First Team for his proven ability to secure the perimeter with his long arms, quick feet and active hands.

Allen has played in and started 52 of the Grizzlies’ 55 games thus far. In their 10 contests in February, the Oklahoma State product has averaged 11.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.4 apg and 1.7 spg in 29.7 mpg while shooting 58% from the field. Allen has season-highs of 19 points, 9 boards (2X), 6 dimes, 4 steals (2X) and 3 blocks.

With two-thirds of the regular season in the books, many Fantasy GMs are looking to add or trade for a solid bench player who can step up and start when called upon. Tony Allen rolls with a talented, tested, veteran group, so he has limited opportunities to get the big stats. However, Allen is a hustle player who consistently contributes to the box score on both ends of the court.

Gameday Dish: Knicks vs. Grizzlies

Gasol-Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe New York Knicks come to The Bluff City to take on the Grizzlies tonight at The FedExForum. The guys from Gotham are riding high on a four-game winning streak, while the Memphis squad has been singing the blues of late.

Memphis had a tremendous run heading into the playoffs in 2011 and pounded their opponents on the boards, but they’ve had difficulty picking up where they left off due to injuries. Just prior to the late start of this shortened season the Griz lost 6’9” backup C/PF Darrell Arthur, who tore his Achilles tendon during practice. And they’ve been without their key big guy 12th-year PF 6’9” Zach Randolph since he injured his knee in the fourth game.

Randolph led the Grizzlies in both scoring and rebounding last year. Without Z-Bo’s interior toughness and at times prolific scoring and board work, Coach Lionel Hollins needs his other big men, especially 4th-year 7’1” C Marc Gasol, to step up their production, execution and intensity. This is especially important tonight with the Knicks boasting what many basketball brains consider the top frontcourt in the 30-team league. With 10th-year 6’11” 6X-All Star PF Amar’e Stoudemire, 9th-year 6’8’ 4X-All Star SF Carmelo Anthony and the new addition of 11th-year 7’1” shot-blocking C Tyson Chandler, coach Mike D’Antoni’s frontline is formidable at both ends of the court.

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty ImagesNew York last played yesterday, which may bode well for Memphis. The Knicks beat a Philadelphia team that was on a six-game winning streak 85-79. Carmelo Anthony had 27 points and 9 boards; Amar’e Stoudemire scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds; and Tyson Chandler led both teams with 13 boards in the victorious effort at MSG.

Tonight’s contest is the second of a four-game home stand for the Grizzlies, who were an impressive 30-11 at home last year. They played and lost on Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95, their third loss in a row. After the Knicks, the Griz host New Orleans and then Chicago, so a win tonight could be just the answer to get Rudy Gay and company over their early season struggles. On the flip side, an ‘L’ to the men from MSG will leave the Grizzlies searching for answers.

Memphis’ backcourt trio of PG Mike Conley, SG O.J. Mayo and SG/defensive stopper Tony Allen will be matched up against the Knicks young one and two. 2nd-year SG Landry Fields and rookie combo guard Iman Shumpert have handled much of New York’s backcourt burden along with 3rd-year PG Toney Douglas. So while most of the attention will be paid to the Knicks front three triumvirate, the battles at the guard positions may ultimately decide this game.

Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and I will bring you the first matchup of tonight’s doubleheader on TNT when the Memphis Grizzlies host the New York Knicks at 8:00 PM EST.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Tony Allen

If you’re looking to make a move this week set your sights on Boston Celtics’ guard Tony Allen.  Starting for Paul Pierce, Allen, who himself missed six weeks recovering from ankle surgery, contributed 16 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes during his first start of the season against the Magic on Friday. He followed up with an equally impressive performance on Sunday against the Clippers, earning ten points, ten rebounds, four assists and four steals in 40 minutes.

Coach Doc Rivers confirmed that Pierce, who underwent knee surgery on the 23rd due to an infection, will not return for the next two away games; and even Saturday’s home game is uncertain.  Who knows?  If Allen makes a significant impact, Doc may continue to give him more minutes down the stretch to allow Pierce some needed rest.