Fantasy basketball: Impact of free agency moves & key trades

For fantasy basketball managers, analyzing the offseason is one of the best ways to get a leg up on the competition.

Tyrese Haliburton dribbling

Tyrese Haliburton will likely be asked to carry a massive load this season.

It was a quiet summer in terms of star free agents changing teams. Still, there was no shortage of trades that significantly altered the league’s landscape heading into 2022-23. For fantasy basketball managers, analyzing the offseason is one of the best ways to get a leg up on the competition. And since few rookies make an immediate impact, player movement via free agency and trades is generally the most important aspect of the offseason.

Dejounte Murray, Atlanta Hawks

Murray figures to take a step back given that he’ll share the backcourt with a ball-dominant, pick-and-roll maestro in Trae Young. However, when Young is on the bench, Murray should be the primary offensive creator. Murray’s scoring and assist numbers may be due for a dip, but having less responsibility offensively could enable him to focus more on the defensive end, which is how he first made a name for himself in the league. Ultimately, Murray remains a good bet to stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis and should still be strongly considered even in the early rounds of most drafts.

Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics

Brogdon missed 90 games across his three seasons with the Pacers, and he joins a stacked Celtics team that boasts an absurd amount of depth. It won’t be surprising if Brogdon is available beyond the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts. Though a reduction in playing time is all but inevitable, Brogdon might have more luck staying healthy now that he won’t be relied upon as heavily as he was in Indiana.

Christian Wood & Spencer Dinwiddie, Dallas Mavericks

Wood projects as a superb pick-and-pop threat alongside Luka Doncic. In recent years, Wood put up good stats on bad teams. This will be his first opportunity to show that he can contribute positively to a contender. Although Dallas has several capable big men, such as Maxi Kleber and JaVale McGee, Wood is the only Maverick with the upside, potential and complementary skillset to be Doncic’s offensive sidekick. 

Following the departure of Jalen Brunson, Spencer Dinwiddie is also likely due for an increased role compared to last season. Doncic typically operates with the ball in his hands, and Dinwiddie is a streaky perimeter shooter, so the fit might not be perfect. Nevertheless, when Doncic rests, Dinwiddie will get plenty of on-ball reps offensively and may prove worthy of a mid-round pick, depending on the fantasy format.

Bruce Brown & Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Denver Nuggets

One of the surest ways for role players to improve their fantasy stock is to play alongside Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic. Brown is coming off his best season, having made notable progress as a perimeter shooter, plus he’s a fantastic cutter off the ball. Expect another mini-leap from him in 2022-23. Meanwhile, Caldwell-Pope has long been a solid 3-and-D player. Fantasy managers should seriously consider Brown and Caldwell-Pope in the later rounds.

Donte DiVincenzo, Golden State Warriors

DiVincenzo is fairly inconsistent when it comes to shooting. However, he projects as a quality fit in Golden State’s offensive system thanks to his passing and ball-handling acumen. Moreover, he’s not afraid to get after it defensively. Fantasy managers in deep leagues might consider drafting DiVincenzo in the final rounds.

Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets

With Houston trading Christian Wood to Dallas, Sengun should put up impressive counting stats. Fantasy managers who had high hopes for Sengun last season should try to forgive and forget because he could be in for an exceptional sophomore season. In my opinion, he shouldn’t be available beyond the middle rounds of most drafts.

Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers

Haliburton had already earned the keys to Indiana’s car offensively. However, with Malcolm Brogdon no longer on the team, Haliburton will probably be asked to carry a massive load. Based on that alone, Haliburton could be worth targeting in drafts as early as the second round.

John Wall, LA Clippers

Wall has missed two of the last three seasons and appeared in only 40 games in 2020-21. He’ll compete with fellow veteran point guard Reggie Jackson for minutes. If both players stay healthy, it could be an even split in terms of playing time, though Jackson averaged 31.2 minutes across 75 games in 2021-22 and is perhaps a slightly safer pick. Nevertheless, the fact that Wall has found his way to a contending team in dire need of playmaking bodes well for his odds of re-establishing fantasy relevance. Managers could do a lot worse than taking a shot on Wall in the later rounds of drafts.

Thomas Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Bryant returns to the Lakers, the team that drafted him, after playing for the Wizards for the last four years. Even if Anthony Davis stays healthy for most of the campaign, Bryant could play heavy minutes alongside Davis, who prefers to play power forward as much as possible before the postseason. Los Angeles had several centers last year, none of which could be relied upon. If Bryant stays healthy—which he has struggled to do of late, appearing in a combined 37 games over the last two seasons—he could be a late-round (or undrafted) steal for fantasy purposes.

Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves

Gobert may grab fewer rebounds since he’ll be playing alongside another seven-footer in Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns could also see his boards decline. Nevertheless, Gobert leaves Utah, a team with minimal defensive talent but plenty of offensive firepower, for Minnesota, another squad that fits the same description. Based on how much the Timberwolves gave up to get Gobert, it’s safe to assume he’ll be heavily relied upon as the club aims to evolve into a title contender.

Jalen Brunson & Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks

Coming off a scintillating playoff performance, Brunson was handed a long-term contract by the Knicks. He’ll have to split playmaking duties with two fellow southpaws (Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett), but Brunson is set to enjoy a more prominent role in New York. Capable of operating on and off the ball, Brunson is the total package offensively. He’s a breakout candidate heading into 2022-23. 

And then there’s Hartenstein, who projects as Mitchell Robinson’s backup at center. Hartenstein has proven his ability to stuff the stat sheet despite modest minute totals. He should be an excellent source of counting stats across multiple categories, especially on nights when Robinson gets into foul trouble.

De’Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers

Coming off a year in which he managed career highs in scoring (10.8 PPG), rebounding (4.5 RPG), and minutes (22.7 MPG), Melton was among the most underrated additions of the offseason. Philadelphia’s backcourt was a mess defensively last season, but the arrival of Melton should go a long way toward changing that. Having shown that he’s a solid three-point shooter by sinking 38.8 percent of his 4.7 attempts per game across the last two campaigns, Melton will likely get his fair share of open looks playing off stars Joel Embiid and James Harden. Melton may solidify himself as the team’s fifth-most productive fantasy player behind Embiid, Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris. He brings enough to the table defensively to make that a feasible lineup.

Jerami Grant, Portland Trail Blazers

Grant won’t be a top offensive option anymore now that he’s suiting up for Portland instead of Detroit. Still, he might remain involved enough to avoid becoming a mere role player once again. The Trail Blazers haven’t had a wing on Grant’s level in years, and he’s likely to earn heavy minutes on a nightly basis.

Kevin Huerter, Sacramento Kings

Huerter is coming off a solid season in which he finished with career highs in field-goal percentage (45.4% FG) and 3-point percentage (38.9% 3PT). However, most of his other statistics have stagnated over the last few years, and the Hawks opted to move on from Huerter this offseason. 

The change of scenery might be best for Huerter. He was the beneficiary of lots of open looks created by Trae Young, but Huerter didn’t get to show what else he could do as an offensive creator, apart from the occasional glimpse. Huerter won’t suddenly have the ball in his hands all the time in Sacramento, but he’ll almost certainly be used in more creative ways than he was in Atlanta, such as dribble-hand-off scenarios with Domantas Sabonis.

Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs

Vassell saw a significant spike in minutes as a sophomore (27.3 MPG) and finished the year with per-36-minute averages of 16.2 points, 5.7 boards, 2.5 assists, 2.5 threes, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks. The offseason departure of Dejounte Murray means that Vassell will be thrust into a more meaningful role this year and could be worthy of a mid-round pick in drafts. In terms of breakout player candidates, Vassell is among the best bets.

Jarred Vanderbilt, Utah Jazz

It remains to be seen whether the Jazz will trade Donovan Mitchell this offseason. But for now, Vanderbilt, a relentless rebounder and defender, looks like he could be the big winner from a fantasy perspective. Already coming off a career year for the Timberwolves, he might end up playing 30-plus minutes per game.

Will Barton & Monte Morris, Washington Wizards

Barton is coming off a bounce-back season after struggling in 2020-21. Meanwhile, Morris took his game to new heights this past season, turning in career-high averages of 12.6 points, and 4.4 assists compared to 1.0 turnover, 3.0 boards, and 1.7 threes across 29.9 minutes per game as the full-time starting point guard. Both Morris and Barton may earn starting gigs. Moreover, Morris is among the league’s steadiest and most efficient playmakers. He should help ease the burden on Bradley Beal regarding ball handling, distributing, and orchestrating the offense. Those looking for reliability in the later rounds of drafts could do a lot worse than Morris or Barton.