What we’ve just witnessed was probably the wildest, most intense and exciting free agency period we’ve ever seen – maybe in the history of the NBA. There was such a large number of significant moving parts that the NBA was completely flipped on its head.
The era of the superteam is over for now. While there will always be a favorite to win the next championship (which appears to be the Clippers at the moment), there’s no hands-down lock at this point, like we all thought the Warriors to be at this time last year. Both conferences are somewhat open and the fresh scent of change is in the air.
With so many moving pieces, it’s important to get a firm grasp on what has occurred and what to expect with so many fantasy studs having changed teams. Let’s dive into part 1 and take a look at the big shake-ups in the Eastern Conference.
So… Can You Play Kanter? How Does Kemba Fit?
While Kemba Walker may be on a different team, he should still be the go-to option on his new offense. With that being said, the burden on his shoulders shrunk immensely when he joined the Celtics. He has a coach he can rely on and other young guys who can make plays without him.
Walker’s fantasy stock will likely fall a bit. Still a decent pick in the 2nd round, his Points could drop with his Usage Rate but there exists a scenario where his efficiency stats and possibly even his Assists see a boost.
The idea of Kemba was probably as a semi-close Kyrie replica with a better locker room presence. It’s really the frontcourt that will see the biggest change next year.
Enes Kanter just recently turned 27 and is still just on the cusp of his prime. After showing some improvement on the defensive end in the playoffs, his stock rose a bit. He’ll have an obvious opportunity to start and play big minutes in Boston next year. His competition for those minutes will be newly-re-signed Daniel Theis and second-year big Robert Williams. There does exist a scenario where all three of these gentlemen see decent minutes and none of them clearly pull ahead of the pack. While Williams has the highest fantasy ceiling of these guys, and would likely provide the most Blocks given equal time, it’s Kanter that I expect to continue to provide the biggest fantasy upside for this season. Don’t be surprised if he wiggles his way back into the top 100.
▲ Stock Up: Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Enes Kanter
▼ Stock Down:
Brooklyn Steals New York
It’s the dawn of a new day in Brooklyn. After picking up Kyrie and Durant, this well-run organization is no longer the red-headed stepchild in the Big Apple. The addition of this star duo – and Durant’s BFF, DeAndre Jordan – affects everyone on the team. Caris Levert’s near-term upside could be limited. Spencer Dinwiddie will take even more of a backseat driver role than he did when Russell was in town. The fantasy hope for Taurean Prince has dwindled even more. Of course, most of this doesn’t take place until KD gets healthy.
One situation that will be sticky immediately is that of Jordan and up-and-coming big man Jarrett Allen. Ten years the elder of Allen, DJ has kept himself in the top 70 by quietly improving his FT%. However, with fresher legs and all the upside, the 21-year old Allen should be the better fantasy bet, although I could see a scenario where these guys nullify each other and neither cracks the top 70 next season.
▲ Stock Up:
▼ Stock Down: Jarrett Allen, DeAndre Jordan
Return of the Crying Jordan
Jeez, Hornets fan(s?), where do I begin?
Lack of stud power was a theme in Buzz City before, but the loss of Kemba takes it to a whole new level. Who will be the top fantasy producer of this team in 2019-20? Terry Rozier? Miles Bridges? Malik Monk? Maybe even rookie PJ Washington?
Many will consider this to be Rozier’s team now. While he may have never finished an entire season inside the top 100, he will have the ball in his hands a ton. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an even worse FG% than the .388 he posted last season, but with more minutes comes more counting stats. I may not believe in his ability to be a top 40 fantasy option but just from sheer volume, Rozier’s counting stats could vault him into the top 75-ish range.
Devonte’ Graham should see a lot of backup PG minutes and, while he doesn’t have top 75 upside, he could be a safe pick in the later rounds of the cavernous deep leagues.
Another potential score-first PG option is 2017 lottery pick Malik Monk. After seeing much hype in the 2018 preseason, the 21-year old disappointed again in his sophomore campaign, finishing just inside the top 300. He could be a risk-reward option in those deep leagues as well.
Two decent Dynasty Forward options exist on this roster. Miles Bridges finished inside the top 200 in about 21 minutes per game his rookie season. He has the tools to be a decent fantasy option, and I expect him to take another step forward this coming season with plenty more minutes. Just how big that step will be is still up in the air. His per-36 minute numbers were within triple-1 territory. Maybe with a higher usage rate, he’ll become a reliable top 100 play.
Rookie PJ Washington is an interesting case in Charlotte. He was a sleeper of mine going into the draft but some of that excitement faded when the Hornets selected him. I think he would have been a much more palatable option had there been a certain star PG still running the show but now that that’s off the table, he slipped in my rookie rankings a bit. While he doesn’t have a key strength to push him into stardom, I believe Washington can be a kind of jack-of-all-trades that can help you in several categories.
I also wanted to take a second to discuss Cody Martin – a player who most are down on simply because of who was left on the board when he was selected by Charlotte in the draft. For a taller Forward-type, Martin can dribble, pass, and has shown he has the ability to knock down 3’s when he’s not asked to create a ton. That last part is key because there’s not a lot of creators to help him out at this point. For now, he’s just a stash. But there’s a chance he becomes a fine roleplayer and deeper-league fantasy option down the road.
▲ Stock Up: Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk
▼ Stock Down:
Cavs Get a Facelift
I like the head coach hiring of John Beilein here. I expect him to be smarter about the frontcourt rotation and play Larry Nance Jr correctly – increasing his value.
Beilein also appreciates spacing, which is important in today’s game. That’s where rookies Darius Garland and Dylan Windler come in. In addition to teammates Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, and maybe Collin Sexton (if he continues to show that deep-range development), these two rooks could possibly help Cleveland actually become a somewhat fun team to watch next season. I expect to see some two-PG lineups where every key piece on this team gets an opportunity to contribute.
Garland will be selected within the top 7 picks of your rookie drafts, but Windler is a guy you can probably get for a nice value in the later parts of the first round (unless he keeps showing his worth in Summer League). I wouldn’t be surprised if both Garland and Windler were on the fantasy radar by the close of next season.
▲ Stock Up: Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr
▼ Stock Down: Tristan Thompson
Attack of the TJ’s in Indiana
After snagging Malcolm Brogdon in restricted free agency, re-signing G League stud Edmond Sumner, picking up Jeremy Lamb, and signing TJ McConnell, the Pacers will have one hell of a backcourt rotation to sort out. Plus, their franchise player, Victor Oladipo, will be returning from injury. All of this could spell doom for what I thought was going to be a breakout sophomore campaign for Aaron Holiday. One or two of those guys will have to essentially slide into the Small Forward spot. Sumner is the tallest of the bunch at 6’6 with Lamb and Brogdon trailing close behind at 6’5. I could see one of them playing that tiny forward spot that Etwaun Moore played in New Orleans. Houston has recently shown how effective a lineup of all Guards and Wings can be.
There’s one problem.
Indiana also has a clogged frontcourt with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and promising rookie Goga Bitadze all grasping at minutes. It’s been stated that Sabonis will have to get comfortable playing Power Forward. Turner will start and play the majority of Center minutes while Bitadze will take a backseat and soak up the remaining time. Even with three contributors rotating in the frontcourt, there’s a chance McMillan squeezes enough value out of all of them to put them on the fantasy map.
I’m thinking – or maybe just hoping – that Holiday will inevitably get more playing time. He’s been a stash candidate of mine since he was drafted last year. I believe in his future. Unfortunately, it could be another year of waiting for his breakout. I do believe there’s a way that all of Oladipo, Lamb, Brogdon, Holiday, and Sumner can be fantasy values (to varying degrees). Newly-acquired TJ Warren will see a lot of the available Small Forward minutes, but can also be the backup PF behind Sabonis. Outside of Warren, we’ll likely see a lot of three-Guard lineups in Indiana, making this a potentially fun team to add to your League Pass watch list.
▲ Stock Up: TJ Warren, Malcolm Brogdon
▼ Stock Down: TJ McConnell, maybe Domantas Sabonis
The Dolan Strikes Back
Remember when Knicks governor (ha) James Dolan promised two max-level stars in free agency after trading the face of their franchise? Remember when he said they wouldn’t settle for second-rate free agents if they missed out on the big fish? Do you also remember that they signed Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington, and Taj Gibson? Never forget.
All jokes aside, the Knicks actually didn’t scream themselves too hard. Almost all of these new contracts are for only two years and have a team option in the second year, essentially making them one year contracts but giving the team flexibility to keep the player(s) if they’d like. I suppose that’s something, although 2020 free agency looks to be very light in the pants.
To be frank, it’s tough for me to make heads or tails of the fantasy outlook in New York at this point. I think the only sure bets are Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle – and the latter could still be in question due to the frontcourt depth here. For what it’s worth, I don’t foresee Randle’s value falling far off from the top 80 level it was last season. It’s Robinson that’s the true intrigue here. Finishing in the top 50 in only about 20 minutes per game as a rookie is nice. If he can quell his common rookie big man mistake of piling up fouls, he could be in for a much larger workload with Taj Gibson as his primary competition.
Dennis Smith Jr has yet to take that proverbial next step in the fantasy ranks while Elfrid Payton doesn’t appear to have much upside beyond the top 100-ish area we’ve seen in recent years passed.
There’s not much to love fantasy-wise on this Knicks roster.
▲ Stock Up: Mitchell Robinson
▼ Stock Down: Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Kevin Knox
Embiid & The Embiid-Stopper – Tag Team Champs
With Jimmy Butler wanting to change teams yet again, a door has opened for more usage on this young, competitive team. I don’t expect one player to get the majority of Jimmy’s usage, but rather a collective effort.
I expect the remaining main core of Embiid, Simmons, and Harris to all take on a heavier role. That doesn’t necessarily correlate to better fantasy value though. The addition of Al Horford could put a damper on the potential jump in value of all three of these guys. We all know what Horford is by now. He can almost do it all out there. Embiid has essentially already made it clear that he’ll be playing less next season. Horford will likely step into Embiid’d role when he’s off the court but could also step on Tobi’s toes a bit seeing as the idea of Tobi works well as the stretch-4 for this team. One thing is for sure though – Coach Brown will have to find better ways to use Simmons than just abandoning him in the dunker spot. Maybe these videos that keep surfacing of him drilling uncontested three’s will actually amount to something one of these days.
Josh Richardson is the other notable addition who Philly received via the Butler sign-and-trade. I don’t think J-Rich’s fantasy value increases much unless he really improves as a player. I wouldn’t completely rule that idea out though. Richardson will be turning 26 soon and approaching his prime years. Maybe Brett Brown can help Josh evolve his underrated game to the next level. However, with so much talent in Philly, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
I largely don’t expect the fantasy values of any of these guys to change in any significant manner outside of just pure development that comes each year for the younger guys.
I also wanted to take a quick second to speak on the addition of Raul Neto. I’ve always liked him as a deep league asset. He might just step into the TJ McConnell role and stay largely irrelevant. But he could also blossom into a nice backup ball-handler for this team with decent deep-league steal potential.
▲ Stock Up: ?
▼ Stock Down: Al Horford
The King in the North Flies South
The Raptors retained basically their entire squad except for the most essential piece. Kawhi’s departure leaves a crater in Toronto’s rotation.
One sleeper name that stands out here is OG Anunoby. While Anunoby struggled to grasp solid production last season, he’s a big, young (just turned 22) wing/forward with great triple-1 upside.
The Raptors also signed Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to a one-year deal – a guy who could also step into a small role behind Siakam to try and prove his worth again after a down year in Brooklyn.
Maybe the biggest winner of Kawhi’s exit is Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam. Still just 25 with tons of room to grow due to an unusual trajectory because of his late entrance into the sport of basketball, Siakam could continue to impress with even more inflated numbers now. I would preach a word of caution though because opposing teams will now be locking in on him defensively a lot more often now that the Dynasty Destroyer is wearing a different jersey.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Chris Boucher here. A G League standout with massive upside in the standard big man stats, Boucher has also displayed more range recently. If his 3-ball can prove to become anything close to a reliable skill of his, you’re going to wish you pulled the trigger on him.
▲ Stock Up: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, maybe Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
▼ Stock Down: