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.
In Part 1 of this Fantasy Stock Watch duet, we discussed the free agency fantasy implications of the Eastern Conference. Can you guess what we’ll be covering here in Part 2?
While the Eastern Conference is at least no longer the “Least-ern Conference,” the talent pool and competitiveness there still gets trumped by the wild, wild West. Let’s jump in and take a look at potential risers and fallers in the conference that will potentially have up to 14 teams hoping to get a shot at the playoffs next season.
Dallas Rubs In Their Talent… and Their Sunscreen
I can’t wait to see what Rick Carlisle can do with this revamped squad.
The re-signing of Kristaps Porzingis will catch the headlines but the re-signing of Maxi Kleber should not be understated. Kleber finished top 10 in block rate while also displaying floor-spacing capabilities. His on-court value doesn’t stop there but between he, Porzingis, and fellow newly re-signed big man Dwight Powell all in-tow, a breakout season is likely not in store for either of these 27-year olds. However, maintaining their demeanor of capable, end-of-roster fantasy assets with upside for even better outcomes is certainly in play – especially if this is primarily a three-man rotation with Boban strictly playing limited minutes against bigger, traditional Centers. Plus, Porzingis’ injury history and potential rest days could give a boost to Kleber and Powell at various points throughout the season.
The Mavs also brought in Guards Seth Curry and Delon Wright – both of whom I believe can play off of Luka Doncic in one way or another. Unfortunately, this probably won’t be the season my guy Jalen Brunson breaks into the top 100, but both Wright and Curry should have solid seasons. Wright has always had a very nice fantasy arsenal but never really got the on-court opportunity. That could change this year but, with Luka as the primary ball-handler, it could be tough to show his full fantasy potential. I wouldn’t be shocked if he landed around the top 100 though.
I especially like the idea of Curry playing next to Luka. I wouldn’t count on him climbing back up to the 80th-ranked fantasy player that he was two seasons ago, but with the potential Doncic-Porzingis screen game getting him open looks, Seth could nail enough 3’s to be worth owning in most leagues if he can provide solid efficiency stats.
The addition of more perimeter players who work decently with ball-handler Luka is not a great sign for Tim Hardaway Jr, who isn’t the greatest fit. Maybe coming off the bench can salvage some of his fantasy value but I wouldn’t be thrilled about drafting him in any league outside of the deepest ones – and only if he fell far enough to be considered a value pick.
We won’t spend too much time on this Nuggets roster. After this young squad found success, they made the solid decision to run it back – but with one underrated addition.
One of the deepest teams in the league just got a little deeper after trading for OKC’s king of hustle, Jerami Grant. While Grant will be a terrific real-life, polar opposite-type partner for Jokic, his fantasy value might take a small hit. After skyrocketing into the top 75 in his fifth season, he’ll be fighting for minutes with fellow top 100 veteran PF, Paul Millsap. Both of these guys have a high chance of finishing the year a little lower on the rankings than the previous season.
Another topic I’ll take a stab at for a quick second is the assumption that Gary Harris will undoubtedly get back to his former, top 40 self. I’m not sold. With the amount of depth Denver has in their Guard/Wing rotation, Harris could potentially be on a tight leash. I’m not saying that I’m certain he won’t get back up to that early-round echelon. I’m just saying the situation is a bit murkier than people let on.
Oh yeah, and heaven forbid we ever see Michael Porter Jr play basketball again. Goodness gracious, what a travesty.
▼ Stock Down: Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap
Warriors Make Something (Weird) Out of Nothing
Instead of letting Durant walk for nothing, Bob Myers decided to take on 23-year old breakout Guard, D’Angelo Russell. The goal is likely to flip him again when the time is right. At first glance, you might think Russell’s value takes a hit while playing second fiddle to Curry. However, D-Lo’s usage might not fall much considering he might be the only creator on this team not named Steph Curry entering the 2019-20 season. Plus, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson really doesn’t like playing his guys more than 30 minutes per game (Russell saw 30.2 last season). On this shallow Golden State roster, Russell might actually see a new career high in minutes strictly out of necessity.
The addition of Russell shouldn’t negatively impact the value of revered vets Steph Curry and Draymond Green. In fact, the departure of Durant could prove to affect their fantasy stocks in the opposite manner. Both could see a bump in Usage and, in turn, fantasy value.
When Green isn’t playing Center in some sort of lesser, Durant-and-Iggy-less Death Lineup, it’ll likely be Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein splitting minutes in the paint. While it’s difficult to currently get a grasp on who the better fantasy value would be between those two, neither will be the greatest option in shallower formats. If I had to take one, it would probably be Looney as he has the experience with this team already and some of the important advanced analytics like him a little more.
The Rockets were originally left out of this article. But how can I justify that now that they’ve made such an earth-shattering move?
I don’t think the acquisition of Westbrook significantly impacts many players on this roster besides himself. While I may think he takes a small step back – conceding the reins to Harden – I doubt it’s anything worth dropping him too far about. After proving he can retain value while ceding power to another superstar already, I don’t expect Russ to fall outside the top 50.
I’ve heard arguments that Harden’s value will drop a bit due to the nature of Westbrook’s game. I’ve also heard the argument that Harden’s value could potentially improve now that he’s playing with a Guard who can actually penetrate and collapse the defense, leaving the Beard a bit more open at times. While I honestly don’t expect his value to change much, I would lean toward that latter idea. Assuming Mike D’Antoni staggers the playing time of their new star duo, the values of both will remain largely untouched.
Fun fact: All of Westbrook’s OKC teammates had a better Net Rating with him on the court than without him except for Nerlens Noel, who usually played next to another ball-handler anyway.
The ClipShow Takes LA
It’s no secret that the Clippers have been a better-run organization than the Lakers for some time now. But that never meant anything if they weren’t able to hang a banner. Maybe they will now.
Adding superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to a roster that won 48 games seems special. It put them over the top and made them actual favorites for next season.
Just leaving one of the deepest teams of the 2018-19 season, Kawhi’s value should remain constant. Paul George, on the other hand, is coming from a pretty shallow team in OKC. The depth of the Clippers could push him out of the top 3, where he finished last season. With that being said, he should still at least hold early-2nd round-type value, assuming his health holds up.
With stars in-tow, Lou Williams can take more of a backseat approach. I expect him to play basically the same role he’s always played – a great 6th man. This time, he’ll have less weight on his shoulders with more firepower surrounding him. His value might drop just a bit.
While Mo Harkless’ fantasy value comes predominantly from the defensive side, his value could take a hit as well. He won’t need to guard the opposing team’s best wing player as often on this Clippers squad packed with top-notch wing defenders.
LAC’s options in the frontcourt are Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac, Jamychal Green, and rookie Mfiondu Kabengele.
Harrell should get a lot of playing time at Center this season with Zubac backing him up. ‘Trez was a standard league guy, finishing last season as the 72nd overall player. However, he finds himself in the “stock down” section because much of his fantasy value came via an unusually high usage rate for a guy like him. Now with two superstars in town, Harrell will struggle to find a usage rate anywhere near the 24.9 he saw last season.
Green will likely see most of his minutes as the backup PF, and some limited run protecting the paint. His value could take a small hit, but he’ll still be worthy of a roster spot in deeper leagues.
As the only non-rookie (worth playing) on this team standing over 6’9, Zubac could see a significant bump in minutes against certain competition – particularly now that Boban and Gortat are gone. I don’t expect that Jerry West is paying the 7’1 youngster $28 million to warm the pine. While he might not break into the shallow-league scene, he’s a decent potential top 150 candidate to hold in Dynasty leagues.
Possibly the best rim-protector on this team is rookie big man Mfiondu Kabengele. Posting per-40 minute college stats of 2.8 Blocks, 11 Rebounds, and 24.5 Points, Kabengele has solid potential to contribute in the traditional big man stats. Additionally, unlike traditional big men, the 6’10 Florida State product shot 36.9% from three (albeit on 1.8 attempts per game) and a solid 76.1% from the charity stripe. This guy has fantastic future fantasy potential. The question is whether or not he’ll get the minutes to prove it. He’s worth a stash in deep Dynasty leagues; just don’t expect much from him in his rookie season on the championship-chasing roster.
▲ Stock Up: Ivica Zubac
▼ Stock Down: Lou Williams, Mo Harkless, Montrezl Harrell
Lakers Get Top-Heavy
After waiting on new arch-nemesis Kawhi Leonard to make his decision, the Lakers watched as all the quality free agents signed with other teams. They did make a few solid moves though.
Danny Green was a crucial signing after missing on Kawhi. His fantasy stock is on the rise.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was another important retention for this team. His spacing will be quite invaluable for this Lakers squad, but his usage rate might fall even further than the 18.7 he posted last year. KCP should get well over 20 minutes per game just for his spacing alone. Unfortunately, he might drop completely out standard league consideration.
The Lakers also gave new contracts to PG’s Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, and Alex Caruso. However, with Lebron officially running point, it’s tough to envision any of those three cracking the standard league threshold.
The Lakers’ frontcourt will also be frustrating. With three fantasy options who work best at Center (AD, Boogie, & McGee), they’ll all affect one another’s fantasy value.
Davis will play a lot of PF, leaving just the backup minutes – and some weird-looking SF minutes – for Kyle Kuzma.
If AD does indeed stick to mostly PF, a lot of Center minutes will be split between Boogie and Javale McGee. I expect the Lakers’ best lineup will include Davis at Center though (with Lebron, KCP, Danny Green, and Kuzma as the other four), which means there will be fewer available minutes for Boogie and McGee. Both are negatively affected by this. There exists a scenario where they both remain in the top 100, but I wouldn’t count on that. It will likely be Cousins who gets the majority of those minutes, if not for anything but name brand alone. Javale probably slips the most here.
On a quick, non-fantasy-related note: if the Lakers plan to improve their roster, they’ll likely have to look to the buyout market. The way their salaries are structured, Danny Green is the only player (besides Lebron & AD) making over $10 million this year. In order to trade for an impact player on a non-rookie contract, they’d have to package about five players together. I’ve learned not to doubt GM Lebron over the years, but this team will have some work to do if they want to add another banner to their large collection.
Woof. GM James Jones has taken a lot of flack this offseason. While I understand the logic for some of their moves, I don’t necessarily agree with them. I think they had to pay a relatively hefty price to remove Josh Jackson from their books, but apparently no one would take Okobo or a couple other non-Melton options. The reason Phoenix wanted to ditch Jackson’s contract in the first place (other than his off-court issues) was to make enough room to sign their prize free agent, Ricky Rubio, who will assuredly see all of his minutes at the PG spot, shattering our dreams of Point Booker. With the ball potentially in his hands a bit more, a small spike in dimes could bump Rubio closer the top 100 again.
Tyler Johnson will presumably get most backup Guard minutes in the rotation (unless rookie PG Ty Jerome really proves his worth, which is a distinct possibility in my opinion). But with a bit more competition in this backcourt, TyJo will almost assuredly fall off the map, leaving him as an option for only the deeper leagues.
The Suns also acquired Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky – neither of which am I touching outside of the deepest of leagues. They’ll battle it out for remaining backup minutes behind DeAndre Ayton.
I’m on the fence when it comes to Dario Saric. I could see him receiving plenty of PF minutes but I’m not sold on the fit between he and Ayton. However, a fantasy finish better than where he ranked last year (175) is a decent bet.
It’s a pain to get a hold of this Wing situation. With that being said, I’m buying Mikal Bridges next year. I don’t love the fact that he’ll be fighting for minutes with Kelly Oubre and rookie Cameron Johnson, but with a pass-first PG, other shooters surrounding him, and his Steals upside, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Mikal finish around the top 75 next season.
Oubre was on the rise down the stretch last season. Josh Jackson and TJ Warren are gone. Bridges and 11th-overall pick Cam Johnson will get some kind of rotation spot but there’s a chance Oubre starts the season the 2019-20 season where he left off – as a top 40-ish asset. Time will tell if that strong fantasy finish was a fluke or the real deal. I’d consider taking him anywhere outside the 4th round of standard drafts.
▲ Stock Up: Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric
▼ Stock Down: Tyler Johnson
Portland Turns to the Whiteside
As a team who, in recent years past, has thrived on the idea of continuity – maybe to a fault – Neil Olshey and the Blazers took a bit of a plunge this offseason. After initially losing Aminu and trading away Harkless, questions were raised about how this team would be able to defend opposing Forwards. Receiving Bazemore and re-signing Hood were fine moves to bolster backcourt depth. They also acquired Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver, who can play those Forward spots. In addition, they traded for Hassan Whiteside in a bold move. None of those guys answer the initial defensive questions but do give Portland some depth. Maybe the thought is that with both Nurkic (when he returns from injury) and Whiteside playing the Stotts drop back Center roll, the rim would be protected.
But what about opposing Forwards on the Wings? That question has yet to be answered but things have really been shaken up here from a fantasy perspective. The only sure fantasy constant will be Damian Lillard, who just signed a huge extension that will see him making over $50 million when he’s in his mid-thirties. Other than that, nothing is really concrete for fantasy purposes in Portland.
Reports surfaced of the team loving what they’re seeing from soon-to-be second-year player Anfernee Simons. Does he cut into McCollum’s time – particularly on-ball? I think he might, which hurts McCollum’s fantasy value a bit. If you can acquire Simons in your fantasy league at a reasonable value, I’d jump at the opportunity. In concert with that notion, I’m fading on McCollum a bit. Before last season, Terry Stotts stated that he didn’t want McCollum handling the ball quite as much. It showed. The soon-to-be 28-year old saw his Assists take a slight dip. That, in addition to his FT% also dropping just a hair, pushed CJ down to a 60th overall fantasy finish after being in the top 50 over the previous three years – including a top 30 finish just two seasons ago. Simons seems to be on the rise while McCollum’s star is regrettably shooting in the opposite direction.
In the front court, a healthy Nurkic should certainly be the starter. Unfortunately, it’s rumored that we possibly won’t see a Nurkic comeback until as late as February, making him incredibly frustrating as a draft candidate. That’s where Whiteside comes in. After consistently falling down in the fantasy ranks each of the last consecutive three years, maybe starting in a new city for the first half of next season with an elite PG can help the 30-year old (yeah) Whiteside find his groove. I’d say he’s a safe bet for top 100 production with upside to reach the top 75 again, until Nurkic returns. But just how much does Whiteside eat into his playing time when Nurkic does return? Both will likely take a step back when they’re splitting court minutes. Although Nurkic is the superior player, that won’t be a great situation to be a part of when the fantasy playoffs roll around.
We’ve talked all this time about Portland’s frontcourt without seeing me mention one of my breakout candidates for next season – Zach Collins. With a lack of options after the departure of Aminu and Harkless, Collins will likely be one of the primary PF options for this Blazers team. His fantasy stock would take a tremendous leap if he saw more Center minutes, but either way, I love the Blocks-&-3’s upside of the 21-year old Collins. He should feast, and finally become standard league relevant.
Lastly, Mario Hezonja could see a bump in value as one of the very few Forward options on this roster. Just how much of a bump is a huge question mark at this point but he’ll be nowhere near the standard league radar.
Momma, we made it. The city of New Orleans is ripe with excitement over basketball for once. Not the Saints. Not Mardi Gras. Not a random Thursday night where the gang is stoked to go out drinking and “accidentally” walks to the more fun end of Bourbon Street. Basketball. The Pelicans are flying high due to smart decisions made by David Griffin and Gayle Benson. No, New Orleans didn’t score a star free agent. But you know what? They also didn’t grossly overpay for a marginally rotational player either.
Joining this new and fun young Pelicans group via free agency will be shooter extraordinaire JJ Redick and underrated big man Derrick Favors.
We’ll start in the frontcourt. With Zion presumably locking up Power Forward minutes, Favors will likely get a ton of minutes at Center. Favors has finished the last two seasons at rank 75 and 88 playing behind Rudy Gobert and seeing some PF minutes. But we could potentially see a throwback Favors (he was a relatively consistent top 50 option just a small handful of years ago). No longer playing behind the Stifle Tower, the newly-turned 28-year old will be a solid fantasy draft target in Alvin Gentry’s uptempo scheme.
Fun fact: Favors was the only player last season to finish in the top 7 in both Offensive and Defensive Rating. Now, he’ll get his time to shine as a potential top 60 fantasy option, playing significantly more minutes than the 23 per game he got last year.
Jaxson Hayes was never going to be the immediate answer under the rim. While he should get some run his rookie season – and dominating in summer league – he probably won’t be a reliable standard-sized redraft league play. He’ll battle with Jahlil Okafor for those backup minutes. Hayes remains but a high-upside stash at this point, but one thing that gets slept on is his underrated touch. He’s not a clumsy, plodding big man like his reputation might make you think. His FT% in college (74%) provides hope for more in his future.
Favors, Holiday, and Zion are the virtual locks to start. That leaves two available spots but several options to fill them. One of Lonzo, Ingram, and Redick will have to come off the pine next to Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Josh Hart. There’s a strong chance that Lonzo starts next to Holiday in the back court because Gentry has never loved starting Jrue at the Point. Whether or not the other starting spot goes to Redick or Ingram might be largely insignificant for fantasy purposes. Both will get big minutes – enough minutes to be fantasy-relevant (assuming Ingram continues his development). But in the closing seconds of a close game, Redick’s excellent spacing and veteran leadership might just trump Ingram’s lack thereof. With a somewhat packed rotation, Hart and Alexander-Walker might be fighting for scraps. NAW could potentially run some cleanup Point (he showed his abilities to run the show as one of the best stories of Summer League, averaging 24.2 Points, 4.7 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 2.7 Steals, and 3.2 Three’s in his four appearances), which would open up playing time for both himself and Hart, but at the moment, neither looks like a great Redraft league play.
We haven’t even mentioned Etwaun Moore who seems like an afterthought now. There could be a (small) trade market for him after he gave the Pels good minutes over the last couple seasons. He should be irrelevant in all but the deepest of leagues.
Speaking of guys who can shoot, David Griffin gave Darius Miller a sizable 2-year contract to presumably be a backup Small Forward. While his $14.25 million is a relatively large number for a player of his caliber, the second year isn’t fully guaranteed. Like Moore, Miller will be largely irrelevant in most leagues, barring any injury to players ahead of him in the depth chart.
One last thing – I’m giving Lonzo a slight stock-up nod because I feel as though his development will find its stride now that there’s a lot less pressure on his shoulders in NOLA. Plus, he has Zion, Favors, and Hayes to throw lobs to, as well as shooters like Redick and Hart (and maybe Alexander-Walker to a lesser extent) to pass out to now.
San Antonio’s young upside seems to have gotten a little deeper. Lonnie Walker has been a revelation in Summer League. Rookies Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic are certainly rough around the edges but have shown enough promise to believe in their ability to develop into something in this Spurs system. Derrick White had somewhat of a breakout season, finishing 88th overall in the last 3 months. The 26-year old Bryn Forbes is one of the few reliable shooters who will be considered for minutes on this squad. In addition to all that, Dejounte Murray had the San Antonio staff ranting and raving about him before a season-ending injury took him out of commission. Five of those six aforementioned players are Guards who will be hoping for playing time next season.
What does this mean?
It could be a sticky situation for one DeMar DeRozan. While I still believe DeRozan will finish the season as the Spurs’ leading scorer, the soon-to-be 30-year old will likely experience a slight drop-off in Usage, leading to a probable downtick in Points, Assists, and 3’s. His top 50 demeanor is certainly in question; I wouldn’t consider touching him in standard redraft leagues unless he fell to the latter parts of round 6 or beyond – and much later in Dynasty leagues.
All of this also leaves Patty Mills as an afterthought. He might not even be worth owning in 30-deep leagues by the end of the calendar year.
The frontcourt is a little more predictable. Rudy Gay and DeMarre Carroll, both of whom can – and will – also slide to the PF spot at times will probably play behind DeRozan and Aldridge. Their value (or lack thereof) was locked into place when Marcus Morris reneged on his commitment and spurned the team to join a less competitive one, where he’ll play less minutes for less guaranteed overall money. But playing similar backup positions does not fair well for their fantasy values. Basically, the necessity to find playing time for White, Murray, DeRozan, and at least one or two of Belinelli, Forbes, Walker, and Mills forces everyone to slide down in position… and value.
As the only competent players on this team who can play Center, Lamarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl should see a lot of run. Aldridge has been on record stating he doesn’t enjoy banging down low and would rather play PF, but this roster might not allow him to do so. The 23-year old Poeltl should be a reliable deep-league option in the coming season, and even has the potential to work his way into standard league lineups. I’m buying reasonable shares of him wherever I can.
Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert.
That’s a hot starting lineup.
Everyone not nicknamed the Stifle Tower here probably takes a dip in fantasy value. Conley’s Usage plummets next to Utah’s rising star, Donovan Mitchell.
Ingles and Bogdanovic are essentially a walking rendition of the pointing spider-man meme.
Yes, I do believe this team is a WCF contender but, after trading away Jae Crowder, they might struggle to defend those opposing star Forwards like Lebron and Kawhi. Defensive stalwart Royce O’Neale is still in town but his offensive weaknesses are too apparent to play him much in the playoffs.
Anyway, Conley and Mitchell’s minutes could potentially be staggered seeing that the backup ball-handlers for this team are Emmanuel Mudiay, the oft-injured Dante Exum, and Euro-Guard Nigel Williams-Goss. Who comes out on top there is anyone’s guess.
Jeff Green and the aforementioned Royce O’Neale are basically the only players who can play wing minutes they Utah has to come off the bench. If the buyout market is unkind to the Jazz, those two could be in for an upgrade in usage and playing time.
Lastly, besides Rudy Gobert, Coach Snyder has two options – Ed Davis and Summer League breakout, Tony Bradley. Snyder being a “prove it” type of coach leads me to believe the backup job will be Davis’ for now. However, if Bradley can muster up some semblance of what he managed to find success with at Summer League, he could find himself on the deep league fantasy radar.
▼ Stock Down: Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic