Offseason Player Movement: Fantasy Impact
By Adam Madison, TalentedMrRoto.comBack to top
Outside of the draft, the free agent period every summer is the best chance for an NBA team to vastly improve both in the short-term and the long-term. Every year a couple of teams will overpay for certain players, but some of the under-the-radar signings will end up paying dividends towards a playoff berth or even a championship.
For us, the best fantasy value is found when a solid contributor is rewarded with a new contract and the chance to log heavy minutes on his new team. They may seem incognito as of now, but when your 20/20 hindsight looks back, you’ll end up kicking yourself on what you missed. To keep you up to date here’s the low-down on player movement this off-season.
[Note: Analysis will be updated as deals become official.]
Free Agent Signees:
Old Team: Washington Wizards
New Team: New York Knicks
Just when you think the Knicks are done signing players, they pull another one out of their hat. Using up their Mid-Level Exception, Isiah Thomas gets one of his favorite players to coach, and Jeffries serves to muddle up the New York situation even more. Jeffries has a solid chance at starting, simply because Thomas loves him so much, and his defense will serve well on a team that did not play much of it last year. This leaves Quentin Richardson as the odd man out if Jeffries does start, as now he’s fighting with Jamal Crawford, Steve Francis, Nate Robinson, and Jalen Rose for playing time. It’s hard to have any sustained faith in any swingman on the Knicks, because there are two or three other big-name players who are fighting for the same playing time. Jeffries himself is a fantasy non-factor because he has such a limited offensive game, but this further dampens the fantasy outlook for much of the Knicks roster.
Old Team: Orlando Magic
New Team: Washington Wizards
DeShawn Stevenson will help replace the departed Jared Jeffries, though it’s undetermined whether he’ll start or not. Antonio Daniels and Caron Butler will take playing time away from Stevenson, and considering Stevenson couldn’t make much of an impact last year in Orlando despite getting 32-plus minutes per game, it’s safe to say Stevenson has zero fantasy value.
Old Team: Philadelphia 76ers
New Team: Sacramento Kings
Many a fantasy owner were hoping Salmons could go to a team with an obvious hole at shooting guard, Salmons getting significant minutes in the process and becoming pretty valuable, but Sacramento is not that situation. Salmons can play three positions – point guard, shooting guard, and small forward – in a pinch, but Mike Bibby and Ron Artest cut off point guard and small forward quite convincingly. That leaves shooting guard, but the problem is Salmons’ best-case situation is a battle to start with Kevin Martin. Martin improved his field goal percentage (48%) by nearly ten full points and added close to 17 percentage points to his three-point percentage (36.9%). Considering Martin’s only 23, three years younger than Salmons, is the incumbent, and his shooting prowess is a better fit for the Princeton offense, he has to be considered the favorite to start. Worse, Francisco Garcia put in a solid rookie year, his outstanding defense adding a lot to Sacramento’s bench, and he plays both shooting guard and small forward. It’s going to be tough for Salmons to get much more than 20 minutes per game, putting him in the same situation he was in Philly: waiting for an injury.
Old Team: Indiana Pacers
New Team: Toronto Raptors
Strictly a depth signing, Jones is a solid bench player, but he’s likely behind Morris Peterson and Anthony Parker at shooting guard in Toronto, and he’s too short (6-2) to play small forward. In the past two years in Indiana he got a lot of minutes, 27-29 per game, and he didn’t make much of a fantasy impact besides the occasional value for a couple of weeks. In Toronto he should see even less time, so if anything his signing means less minutes for those ahead of him on the depth chart rather than value for himself.
Old Team: Memphis Grizzlies
New Team: New Orleans Hornets
It looks as if Jackson is going to finally get a chance to start, something he’s longed for his whole career. Jackson has been good in limited starts throughout his career, but it will be interesting to see if his sparkplug ways can be as effective in 30-plus minutes night in and night out. Jackson is more of a scoring point guard slash combo shooting guard, similar to a poor man’s Chauncey Billups, and his field goal percentage has declined three consecutive years. If he can bring it back up to the 44%-ish levels of just a couple of years ago, he becomes a superb roto player, the type of guy who contributes all over the board – especially in threes – while keeping his turnovers low. If not, he becomes a fantasy bench player worth starting every now and then. Playing with the aforementioned Chris Paul – yes folks, he’s really that good – should significantly help his cause.
Old Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
New Team: Phoenix Suns
Banks fits in perfectly with the Suns’ system because he’s one of the quickest guards in the league and he can nail open threes. As a result, like many players who play with Steve Nash in Phoenix, expect an increase in field goal percentage– it should stay at his Minnesota levels – and both more threes made and a higher three-point percentage. As Nash’s backup, Banks won’t see a ton of playing time, meaning his value is only in deeper leagues. This signing really hints towards two things, though. One, they plan on playing Nash a little less – maybe 31-33 minutes per game instead of 34-36. Secondly, they see Leandro Barbosa as playing almost exclusively at shooting guard, meaning Barbosa’s minutes will almost assuredly decrease. This is a better real-life move than fantasy move for Banks, but it’s hard to fault him – the Suns look loaded right about now.
Old Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
New Team: Detroit Pistons
Detroit was one of the best offensive teams in the league last season, but for one reason or another – maybe they just wore down – they slumped later in the season. Murray’s reputation has exceeded his production ever since 2003, when he subbed in for Ray Allen for a month and lit up the fantasy world. Murray was extremely unimpressive in 28 games with Cleveland, and while he should be a good back-up to Richard Hamilton, it’s hard to see him having any fantasy impact. Hamilton has averaged 79 games in his four years with Detroit, and he averaged 35.3 minutes last season – there’s simply not going to be an opportunity for Murray to play. Detroit will have to win on the strength of its offense next year, and Murray fits into that philosophy, but he’s better for Detroit than he is for you.
Old Team: Chicago Bulls
New Team: Washington Wizards
The last thing the Bulls need is another power forward, so Songaila, free to lend his services elsewhere, quickly latched on with Washington. Where Songaila fits in with Washington is a little unknown – as of now he seems set to come off the bench behind Antawn Jamison, but one could easily imagine Caron Butler at shooting guard, Jamison at small forward, and Songaila at power forward. Songaila is a very nice addition to Washington because he’s a big man who can shoot the jump shot, has experience in a Princeton-like offense due to his time in Sacramento, and was a good defender last year with Chicago. Songaila won’t have fantasy value unless an injury strikes, but he’s good enough to pick up if such a situation occurs and adds a lot of real-life value for Washington.
Old Team: San Antonio Spurs
New Team: Detroit Pistons
Assuming the Pistons do not sign or trade for another center who will challenge him for the starting job, Mohammed will be a solid third or fourth center who does not hurt you in any particular category. Mohammed will be 29 by the start of the season, so there’s not a lot in terms of upside, but shooting about 50% from the field, threatening for a double-double every night and averaging close to a steal and block per game has its value. Mohammed is no Ben Wallace, but he also will not be asked to be. He is a solid contributor who will likely be underrated and a good late-round buy.
Anthony ParkerPosted on July 14, 2006, at 9:45 a.m.
Old Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv
New Team: Toronto Raptors
Considered by many to be the best European player, Parker led his Tel Aviv team to its third championship game in as many seasons, winning two of them but losing to CSKA Moscow (the team Andrei Kirilenko once played for) by four points. I have to admit I knew nothing about Parker, so I did some research and found out his statistics in the Euroleague. He was very efficient, shooting 55.9% from the field, 36.5% from three, and 78.6% from the line without turning it over too often (2.4 times per game). On the downside, he only averaged 14.8 points per game, probably indicating he’s not very explosive – European leagues have a notorious reputation for not playing much defense – and he is definitely not a three-point shooter, averaging just 0.76 three-pointers per game (and international basketball has a three-point line three feet closer to the basket). Parker passed effectively enough, averaging 3.7 assists, rebounded very well, grabbing 6.8 per game, and averaged an impressive 1.6 steals per game. The problem is this sounds familiar – remember Sarunas Jasikevicius? – so one must err on the side of caution. Parker flamed out of the NBA – he was a former first-rounder, taken 21st overall by the Nets and traded to the Sixers – and growing pains should be expected. A downgrade in all those statistics should be expected, and Parker will likely come off the bench for the Raptors to boot, leaving zero chance for Parker to duplicate the 35 minutes per game he saw for Meccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague. Indeed, Parker’s impact may come in the form of a negative externality – minutes he receives won’t be enough to make him fantasy relevant, meaning he’s essentially stealing minutes from other players that could use those extra minutes to become valuable.
Old Team: Detroit Pistons
New Team: Chicago Bulls
In a gigantic blow to their Central Division rivals, the Bulls landed the best free agent on the market. They minimized their risk by signing the soon-to-be-32-year-old Wallace to just a four year deal and the already impressive defense of the Bulls is going to be downright scary. When you sign someone of Wallace’s caliber and for this amount of money, you know you’re going to let them come in and do what they do best, and as a result he should continue to be the Ben Wallace you’ve known and come to love. Blocks, boards and great steal numbers for a big man.
Old Team: Phoenix Suns
New Team: Los Angeles Clippers
The magical potion of Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns allowed Thomas to cash in with the Clippers, and if Thomas can show even half of his impressive playoff performance he will be worth something. Thomas will essentially be asked to provide what Vladimir Radmanovic gave the Clippers last year, and Thomas can do that. Thomas may be many things, but one thing you can count on him for is shooting: He has shot over 40% from beyond the arc each of the last three seasons. Thomas is a mediocre rebounder, but he at least chips in for the category. With a solid field goal percentage and moderate rebound and point totals, Thomas does enough outside of pouring in the threes to be a solid late round value pick in fantasy leagues. Playing with Sam Cassell and Elton Brand is not quite the same as the run-n-gun Phoenix system, but it’s not a bad alternative either.
Old Team: Los Angeles Clippers
New Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Radmanovic has long been on the fantasy radar, and now that he has cashed in as a free agent he should finally have a consistent starting role and top his career high of 30.1 minutes. If you’re targeting Radmanovic, it’s for one category: three-pointers. The career 38.2% shooter from behind the arc loves to hoist the long bombs – over 48% of his shot attempts for his career have come from beyond. The good thing is Radmanovic was acquired to do what he does best -- score -- and playing with Kobe Bryant should increase his field goal percentage to at least the 44-45% range. The numbers he put up while on the Clippers should see slight increases while he likely adds a couple of points in field goal percentage.
Old Team: Indiana Pacers
New Team: New Orleans Hornets
New Orleans really is a superb situation for Stojakovic, as he gets to play with the best point guard he’s ever had the luck of playing with (sorry, Mike Bibby, it’s Chris Paul) and the opportunity to be the number one scoring option without being the “man.” Stojakovic should even better his impressive Indiana numbers, namely in field goal percentage, and he’s a top three fantasy small forward now. Paul himself should up his already impressive assist totals as a result.
Old Team: New Orleans Hornets
New Team: Atlanta Hawks
In what amounts to a coup, the Hawks acquire a productive unselfish point guard with solid defense for a relatively low price. Claxton should get 35-plus minutes and should unquestionably be the starter. Claxton turns into fantasy heaven as a result, mainly because he contributes so significantly in steals, one of the rarest categories on draft day. For his career Claxton averages 1.5 steals per game in 25.8 minutes, and with heavy starting minutes he can make a run at the NBA lead in steals. Claxton’s biggest downside is that he has limited range – he is not a good three-point shooter and as a result rarely shoots from beyond the arc. In leagues that count turnovers, though, Claxton is even more underrated – he gets a solid amount of assists while keeping his turnovers low. Surrounded by a young team full of finishers, Claxton has significant upside in assists.
Old Team: Toronto Raptors
New Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
James landed in a great place to attempt to carry over his career year of last year. He is in a similar situation: superb unselfish power forward who draws most of the attention, an inconsistent supporting cast, and a need for James to shoulder a lot of the scoring load. It’s doubtful he fully repeats last year – it’s hard to see him getting 37 minutes per game again or shooting over 44 percent from beyond the arc – but at the very least you can count on him for threes and points with decent assist numbers. James’ steals plummeted last year – just .9 in the aforementioned 37 minutes per game – but if he can improve his steals to even his career rate of .9 in 27 minutes he can help mitigate the inevitable loss of some of his stats.
Posted on August 11, 2006, at 9:50 a.m.
The Deal: Milwaukee Bucks acquire Ruben Patterson from the Denver Nuggets for Joe Smith.
The Bucks had little depth behind Bobby Simmons and didn’t make it a secret that they were looking for more help. Patterson fits that need off the bench as an energy guy with good defense. The Bucks also traded away their second big man this summer in Joe Smith, reinforcing their belief in Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut, making this great news for their fantasy prospects. The Nuggets are rather deep at power forward even before Joe Smith, considering Kenyon Martin, Nene, and Eduardo Najera are all able forwards, but there’s no such thing as too much depth when you have injury risks. Nene is coming off serious knee surgery, Martin has chronic knee problems, and Marcus Camby has topped 70 games just once in his career, so chances are Smith is going to see rather significant playing time at some point in the year. This is really good news for J.R. Smith, though, as it means it’s one less body he has to fight for minutes with. Denver obviously wants him to succeed and is willing to clear a body in order for Smith to get the minutes necessary to do so. Smith rises on draft boards as a result, while no other player really sees much of a change.
The second summer deal between the two teams, Dallas acquires a plus back-up point guard who makes less than three million in each of the next two years. With Johnson on the roster, that makes three potential point guards, along with the re-signed Jason Terry and Devin Harris. Harris is a pure point guard, while Terry can play both point and the two-guard position. Therefore, the acquisition of Johnson points to Terry playing a bit more shooting guard this season. Terry actually flourished playing shooting guard, and he doesn’t get a lot of assists to begin with, so it may be a blessing in disguise for Terry. Dallas may know exactly what it's doing in acquiring Johnson. This deal has very little fantasy impact – Johnson’s value decreases while the other three never had any value – but Dallas essentially improved their guard depth for a couple of spare parts.
Just when you think Joel Przybilla can finally get 30-plus minutes again and be a huge fantasy factor, another big man appears to compete for minutes with him. The Blazers now have two players who can play center besides Przybilla – Magloire and Raef LaFrentz. This essentially erases any breakout potential for Pzybilla, as he’ll be hard pressed to top the 24.9 minutes he got last year. Effective enough anyway – he shot nearly 55% from the field, grabbed seven boards and got over two blocks per game – it’s just disappointing. Magloire’s going to an even more crowded front court situation than Milwaukee, so it’s looking like 25 minutes off the bench is the best he’s going to be able to do. As a result, his value is effectively killed. .
The less-publicized trade of Steve Blake has more fantasy impact than the acquisition of Magloire. It’s not set in stone, but Jarrett Jack by default becomes the starting point guard. The transition to point guard will be a bit difficult, though – Jack mostly played shooting guard last year and is more of an offensive-minded guard rather than a distributor. Dan Dickau can play the point but likely won’t enter the year as the starter, only being inserted if Jack trips up. The more intriguing option would be playing Brandon Roy at point, an option that’s been floated around as sort of an experiment by some. Roy’s the type of big (6-6, 210) point guard a lot of teams like, but the problem is he didn’t play much point in college. But Martell Webster is supposed to be the long-term answer at shooting guard, and even though Webster got as much playing time at small forward as shooting guard, as of now Darius Miles is unquestionably the starter there, with the high-upside Travis Outlaw behind him. That means if Roy is to get a lot of playing time as the roster is currently constructed, it would be at point. It will be one of the more interesting situations when training camp rolls around.
Milwaukee made no secret of its desire to move Magloire, determined to let Andrew Bogut have free reign. Bogut was forced to play the majority of his minutes at power forward last year due to the presence of Magloire; not only should Bogut comfortably top 30 minutes per game next year, but he should be more effective overall playing his natural position. Approaching a double-double with about a block-and-a-half per game and, as an extra bonus, upwards of three assists per game as the center should be easily achievable for the 21-year-old.
The Bulls already have too many guards, and even though Smith oozes upside and would give them the scoring kick they need, they decided to ship him off for… well, not much. If Eisley sees significant time next season, Chicago’s season will have gone horribly wrong.
Denver has to feel pretty good taking a low-risk chance on a high-talented player. If everything goes right, Smith finally solves their need for long-range shooting – Smith shot 37.1% from beyond the arc last season. Smith has much to work on – he turns it over too much and has been rather immature in his two years in the league. Yet, there’s a great bet he becomes at least a solid pro and an NBA starter. It’s likely too much to ask Smith to be consistent next year, as he’ll have to split time with Earl Boykins and Ruben Patterson at shooting guard, but 25 or so minutes per game next year should be well-within reach. It should be a growing year for Smith, and as such he likely shouldn’t be directly on your fantasy radar, though his obvious talent makes him worth watching.
With the signing of Ben Wallace, the Bulls added a bigger, better, more expensive version of Chandler. As a result Chandler, long-rumored to being on the trade block, was shipped to the new-look Hornets for veteran center P.J. Brown and shooting guard J.R. Smith, who was firmly ensconced in coach Byron Scott’s doghouse. Brown is expected to start at power forward for the Bulls, and will likely repeat the fantasy value he had last year. Smith is full of potential but still a bit raw and immature at times; he will come off the bench behind Ben Gordon.
Chandler immediately gets a significant fantasy boost – the Hornets didn’t trade for him just to sit him on the bench. Chandler will start at center and contribute significantly in rebounds and blocks. If he can stay healthy he should be assured of 30-plus minutes per game, making him one of the best centers in terms of rebounds and blocks. Think of him as a poor man’s Ben Wallace.
This is a very interesting deal for Utah in more ways than one. In the short-term, it is a very smart deal – Utah knows they can contend now as they have probably the best frontcourt in the business, but what was really lacking was dependable bench play. Fisher gives them championship experience, the ability to play the two besides backing up Deron Williams at the point, energy and passion to set an example for coach Jerry Sloan’s philosophy, and insurance behind Williams in case of injury. Fisher is worth a late-round pick, as he’s consistently proven throughout his career that even without a lot of minutes he can produce at a moderate rate in threes, steals, assists, and points. The interesting part is that Utah is now on the hook for six long-term contracts – Williams for the next three years; Matt Harpring, Carlos Boozer, Fisher and Mehmet Okur for the next four years; and Andrei Kirilenko for the next five years. This means that although Utah is obviously committed to going deep in the playoffs – and they are surely lined up to do so if you ask me – what you see is what you get.
For Golden State, this trade serves two valuable purposes: saving about $20 million total over the next four years and the ability to get Monta Ellis some serious minutes behind Baron Davis – and when his inevitable yearly injuries strike, a starting gig. Ellis is the big winner in this trade, and as the 2nd rounder posted a positive rookie year, he is now definitely in Golden State’s long-term plans. Ellis is a quick player with a combo guard type of mentality, and though he’s raw, he’s also just 20. Fantasy-wise, he needs a little work – like virtually any guard in the league, he needs a consistent jump shot to become a real threat, and his turnover rate really needs some improvement. Those factors aside, if you combine expected improvement with what Ellis already does well – steals and three-pointers – you can envision a Bobby Jackson type of year in a best case scenario next year. That makes him well-worth a fantasy pick and sure to be very valuable at some point during the year.
One of those rare big-for-small trades, and neither player involved should have their fantasy value dramatically affected by the deal. Acquiring Ford takes on a certain amount of risk – not necessarily just his back, which he supposedly has as much chance of injuring as any other athlete’s back – but his size and shot, or lack thereof. On the bright side, there are signs Ford’s jump shot is improving, as he did shoot 33.7% from beyond the arc, significantly better than the 23.8% mark of his rookie year, and he shot a more-than-respectable 45.4% from the field after the All-Star break. Ford’s assists rose and his turnovers decreased in the second half despite less minutes, which is quite impressive in itself, and he’s an above-average rebounder (4.3 per game) for a point guard his size (6’0, 165 pounds). On the downside it’s hard to see his assists increase on the Raptors, as in Milwaukee he was fortunate enough to play with very good perimeter players such as Michael Redd and Bobby Simmons. Morris Peterson is a nice outside shooter, but he’s a poor man’s Redd at best. If Ford can shoot about 45% next year and chip in close to a three per game while maintaining his other rate stats, he will become a truly great fantasy player.
Villanueva’s contract likely had much to do with the trade – he makes a total of $8.9 million the next three seasons while Ford is eligible for restricted free agency next year – but Villanueva is an intriguing basketball prospect as well. In a fantastic rookie year, Villanueva showed the potential of a Rasheed Wallace type of player and improved dramatically as the year wore on. In over 35 minutes per game after the All-Star break, Villanueva averaged 14.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.1 three-pointers, .8 steals, and .8 blocks while shooting 43.3% from the field. In Milwaukee he should get 33 to 35 minutes per game, and with his potential for at least one three-pointer, block, and steal per game coming out of the power forward slot, Villanueva’s going to have a lot of fans come draft day.
The Rockets obviously feel their window of opportunity is now, and their acquisition of Battier puts them in a great position to capitalize on the talents of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Houston’s weakest position by far is shooting guard, and now they can shift McGrady to shooting guard while Battier slots in at small forward. Battier should get all the minutes he can handle, possibly even topping last year’s 35.1 minutes per game, and he should also top a three-pointer per game due to the open looks he’ll see as a result of Yao and T-Mac double-teams. Battier is consistently a top-50 player in rotisserie leagues who too often slips in drafts. In Houston he has the tools around him to have the best fantasy year of his career, and his consistent durability – he’s missed 14 games in his entire career – gives Battier more value than you would initially think.
Gay definitely has the potential to be a star in this league, a freak athlete who can score and pass, but it’s hard to see him having much value in his rookie year. Swift, the player whom everyone seems to fall in love with, myself included, once again should make the rounds of more sleeper lists. The difference is that, in his second go-around with Memphis, he should finally live up to it. With Pau Gasol moving to center, Swift should have no problem logging starter’s minutes at power forward for Memphis, and considering his miserable season in Houston last year will depress his value, he should be one of the best values available.
Let’s be blunt and call this what this is: A cash dump. Daniels will make nearly $27 million dollars in the next four years, while Croshere makes $7.3 million this upcoming season and is then a free agent. Dallas has a Josh Howard extension to dole out next year and a Devin Harris extension after that, and Daniels has repeatedly fallen in and out of favor with team management and constantly battled injuries, so as a result he was the one to go. Croshere will come off the bench in Dallas as a 7th or 8th man, and as such has zero fantasy value. Daniels is the real intriguing piece; he’s in line for a ton of minutes in Indiana, especially since Indiana chose to let Peja Stojakovic take his services elsewhere. One shouldn’t get overly excited in terms of Daniels’ potential – something could go wrong and he may not get as many minutes as anticipated, as Danny Granger, Stephen Jackson, and Fred Jones will all see extensive playing time, but Daniels is the kind of solid all-around fantasy performer owners long for. While he won’t provide threes, Daniels mitigates that loss by posting an impressive field goal percentage – over 48% in two of his three years in the league – and is an able passer who provides many steals. Last year, in 29 games as a starter, averaging 36.7 minutes per game, he averaged 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals, and shot 47.9% from the field. That’s the kind of upside Daniels has in Indiana.
Posted on July 12, 2006, at 12:36 p.m.
The main fantasy value from this deal comes in the form of Theo Ratliff. Ratliff, free from the time share at center with Joel Przybilla, can return to the shot-blocking monster he was in the past. Ratliff is the definition of a one-trick pony – even if he does not top 30 minutes per game he is a safe bet for two-and-a-half blocks per game. It remains to be seen where Telfair fits in Boston’s plans – Delonte West was more than a capable point guard last year, and it’s hard to imagine Telfair seeing over 30 minutes per game. Given the minutes, Telfair would be a very good source for steals and a solid source for assists, similar to T.J. Ford.
Dickau will likely have limited fantasy value in Portland – Brandon Roy, Jarrett Jack, and Steve Blake all can play some point guard. LaFrentz will likely come off the bench behind Przybilla, and is worth a late-round flyer as he is a center who can block some shots and shoot threes, a rare and intriguing combination.
Adam Madison is a FSWA Award nominated fantasy expert for www.TalentedMrRoto.com, a site featuring free articles, stats, analysis, draft kits, news and an amazing message board for all fantasy sports. The site has gotten 34 nominations from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, more than double any other site. Email him at Adam@talentedmrroto.com.
The views expressed by TheTalentedMrRoto.com represent only the views of the writers; they do not represent the views of the NBA or any NBA team.