- Guy Lake
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There were moves aplenty leading up to and during this year's NBA draft. I, for one, thank the league for the amount of activity. Without it, I wouldn't have much to write about. There is only so much fantasy hay one can make out of trades involving cash considerations. C.C. might help out the real GMs across the land but not so much fantasy GMs.
I expect more trades to follow the ones here, and the projections below need to be taken with a grain of salt. As of now, this is how I see things and how I break down the winners and losers among the players in each deal. I am leaving aside the rookies to concentrate on the veterans. My colleague Brian McKitish will be looking at the prospective top rookies from the draft.
I agree with John Hollinger's take on this trade; both sides appear to benefit. Each team needed to make moves. O'Neal and the Pacers were like a married couple that stayed together until the kids graduated from high school. Well, the diplomas have been issued. The point guard situation in Toronto was threatening to get poisonous, plus the team was soft in the middle. The result of the trade is the Raptors add some needed toughness inside and the Pacers get a point guard who can run as well as some serious cap relief after next season. Let's see how this breaks down for us fantasy players.
Jose Calderon: He now is among the top fantasy point guards in the league. I have him ranked as the No. 7 point guard, just after Chauncey Billups. With five more minutes of playing time -- a reasonable, even conservative, projection -- Calderon would average 35 minutes, 13 points, 1.1 3-pointers, 9.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals. These are good numbers made even more attractive by Calderon's glorious percentages. The only other point guard to shoot better than 50 percent from the field and 90 percent from the line last season was a fellow named Steve Nash. Considering he will be passing to O'Neal instead of Andre Bargnani (more on him later), 10 assists per game looks very reachable for Calderon. How much faith do I have in this kid? If I were forced to choose between Jason Kidd and Calderon as my point guard, I would take Calderon every time.
Jermaine O'Neal: We very well could be looking at this upcoming season's Brad Miller in terms of fantasy draft-day value. O'Neal, like Miller two seasons ago, suffered through injury and consequent poor play this past season, putting up some of the worst numbers of his career. This is going to turn off a lot of owners in drafts for next season. Look, I can't promise you that O'Neal is going to transform himself into an iron man, but you can bet he will be highly motivated. We have seen this before. Players like Baron Davis and Vince Carter have been accused of malingering only to join new teams and find new life. O'Neal will be just 30 when the season starts; there is some game in him yet. He will be asked to do the heavy lifting down low and will immediately improve the Raptors' interior defense. With an offseason of dedicated training, I expect to see a healthier, more motivated O'Neal. While 82 games is unrealistic (he never has played the full schedule), something close to 69 games like he played in 2006-07 would return excellent value if he were taken in the sixth round or later.
T.J. Ford: When a player's role is well defined, he often plays better. We can agree that Ford's role in Toronto was in flux last season. He began the season as the starter, got injured, returned as the backup, groused about it and became the starter again, albeit in a serious timeshare. It was not a great season for Ford, although his per-minute production said the talent was there. With an increase in minutes in Indiana, he should have across-the-board improvement from last season. Assuming a minimum of 30 minutes per game, Ford projects to average 15.4 points, 0.4 3-pointers, 7.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals. If you can get these numbers in the sixth or seventh round, you will be very pleased. The Pacers are looking to run more next season, so these scoring and assist projections could be low. Of course, Ford is an injury risk, but I really like his value next season as a second point guard.
Jamaal Tinsley: It is unclear how much longer Tinsley will be in Indiana. For all we know, he might be packing already. I am not high on his value whether he stays or goes. Tinsley has proved he is skilled in two areas: passing the ball and getting injured. Last season, he averaged 8.4 assists but suited up for only 39 games. With Ford and Jarrett Jack (acquired from the Blazers in another draft-day trade) coming on board, the writing is on the wall for Tinsley. Assuming someone is looking for an oft-injured, poor-shooting point guard, Tinsley will land somewhere but most likely as a backup. He has gone from a player who was a decent end-of-the-draft option in mid-sized leagues to free-agent fodder. Avoid him if you can.
Andrea Bargnani: The good news is Il Mago won't have to back up Nesterovic any longer, which can't be good for anyone's ego, let alone that of a former No. 1 pick. The bad news is he will be backing up O'Neal. Bargnani's minutes are going to be limited in the frontcourt, at least until O'Neal goes down in a heap of gauze and mercurochrome. Bargnani isn't going to disappear -- O'Neal will get hurt and Chris Bosh can't go 40 minutes a game -- but he is going to have to show much more aggression, especially on the glass and on defense, if he is going to play significant minutes. He will get his opportunities, but it is doubtful he will make the most of them.
Chris Bosh: Don't panic, and don't try to track me down to tell me I am disrespecting your favorite player. I am not suggesting Bosh is going to plunge into mediocrity. Hardly. He is too good for that. Nonetheless, bringing O'Neal on board does create some redundancy between center and power forward. Both are athletic big men who prefer to face up rather than toil down low. Both are good rebounders, although O'Neal is a far superior shot-blocker. I can see Bosh taking slight hits in scoring, rebounding and blocks (never a strength to begin with). Further, with Bosh committed to the Olympics, I am guessing he will get some rest, especially early in the season, to keep him fresher for the stretch run. Expect fewer minutes next season. He averaged 36 minutes per game last season; look for around 35 next year.
Rod Thorn insists he really thinks Yi Jianlian is going to be a great player in the Dirk Nowtizki mold. Thorn insists this is about playing for this coming season and not for two years down the road when the Nets will have cap room and Jay-Z's powers of persuasion to lure LeBron to the team. Fine. The deal almost certainly leaves the Nets in worse shape as a team, but I think a few players will benefit for fantasy purposes. The Bucks, on the other hand, really are playing for this coming season. With Jefferson on board, they have capable scorers at every starting position, and with Scott Skiles as coach, the defense has to get better.
Vince Carter: Richard Jefferson and his 22.6 points per game are gone, and someone has to fill the scoring void. As much as I would like to share Mr. Thorn's opinion on Yi, I think the team is going to need to look elsewhere for that missing offense. Carter is the most obvious and capable option. Last season, he was hampered by a lingering ankle injury. This coming season, assuming a clean bill of health, he will be the main focus on offense. While he averaged a pedestrian (for him) 21.5 points per game last season, I am convinced we will see Carter back in the 24-to-25 range. It wasn't as if his shooting was off last season. He shot 45.6 percent from the field, better than either of his previous two seasons in New Jersey. What declined were his field-goal attempts (19.5 in 2006-07 to 16.9 in 2007-08) and his free-throw attempts (7.0 to 5.6) per game. As the first (and possibly second) option on offense, his attempts will jump next season. I really like his value in the late second/early third rounds of drafts next season.
Devin Harris: The second player to pick up the scoring slack left by Jefferson's departure will be Harris. Looking at the remaining players on the team, no one else suggests himself as a viable option. Harris showed improvement in his scoring (plus-1.0 points per game), 3-pointers made (plus-0.6) and passing (plus-1.2 assists) upon moving to New Jersey in last season's trade. There is little reason to think his scoring won't continue to climb with more shot attempts. Harris could be close to making a step into the top 10 point guards next season. I won't bet against him.
Charlie Villanueva: No one else on the Bucks stands to benefit more from Yi's departure. Villanueva and Yi killed each other's value last season while playing in a timeshare. Charlie now will be the man at the four. He has been a tantalizing if frustrating player to own the past two seasons. He posted a solid second half last season, averaging 15.1 points, 1.0 3-pointers, 7.7 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.6 blocks in 30.3 minutes per game. These are good numbers that will rise if he secures more minutes. Unless more deals go down -- and this is a real possibility, with rumors about Michael Redd and Mo Williams floating out there -- the Bucks will be very thin at power forward, so Villanueva will see a lot of playing time. So, as things stand now, I love Villanueva as a late-round value in next season's drafts.
Mo Williams/Ramon Sessions: This one is tricky because it is unclear how the minutes will be divvied up at the point and whether both players will be on the team. Regardless, the starting point guard will be looking at four teammates -- Redd, Jefferson, Villanueva and Andrew Bogut -- who will score from the mid-teens to the low 20s. We saw what Sessions was able to do last season, averaging 11.3 assists per game in 10 April games. And that was with Desmond Mason playing the three, and he is nowhere near the scorer Jefferson is. The Bucks' scoring should improve next season, and the players making the passes will benefit.
Richard Jefferson: After all the praise for Jefferson, how can I list him as a loser? For the same reason I like the assists to increase for the Bucks' point guards: There are so many scorers on this team. Last season, Jefferson averaged a career-high 22.6 points per game with Nenad Krstic MIA and Carter hobbled for the first four months. Jefferson picked up his scoring because he had to. On the Bucks, there are plenty of scorers to spread around the points. Jefferson will slip back to 18 to 19 points per game. Scott Skiles will emphasize defense (and Jefferson will immediately become the team's best perimeter defender) rather than a Suns-style offense.
Michael Redd: Redd is going to lose some value for the same reason as Jefferson. There won't be enough shots to go around for him to maintain his mid-20s scoring of the past few seasons. Look for Redd to average a little more than 20 points per game. He still will be good for close to two 3-pointers a game and an excellent percentage from the line, but don't draft him expecting third-round production. Bogut has emerged as a legitimate scorer, Villanueva can score in bunches and Jefferson will need his looks as well. Like I said, it's a feast for point guards but a smaller helping for Redd, who doesn't do enough besides shoot and score to offset this decrease.
Sean Williams: The Nets' frontcourt is looking a bit crowded at this point. Yi will play the majority of minutes at the four, and the Nets added Brook Lopez at center and Ryan Anderson at power forward as well. The Nets still have Williams, Krstic and Josh Boone, all three of whom can play power forward or center, though Williams is the least suited for this role. I think Lopez wins the lion's share of minutes at center with Boone as his primary backup and Krstic after him. This leaves Williams sharing the four-spot with Yi, Krstic and, to a lesser extent, Anderson. I love Williams' shot-blocking but I can't see him getting the minutes he needs to help most fantasy teams in this category. Indeed all of the incumbent Nets big men -- Krstic, Boone, and Williams -- will lose value with the trade and draft picks. I am not convinced Yi is a winner in this deal as he has to show he can handle playing power forward with consistency and stave off the competition on his own team.
I had read that Kevin McHale really liked Kevin Love in the predraft workouts. Well, he got his man and some more. Mike Miller was a very nice throw-in for the Wolves and provides another deep threat for the team. The Grizzlies add another potential star in O.J. Mayo to pair with the emerging Rudy Gay. The rest of the players involved in the trade have little importance to fantasy.
Mike Miller: His ability to stretch the floor is going to keep Miller on the court for the Timberwolves. He should step in as the starting shooting guard (or possibly small forward) and immediately become the best long-range shooter on the club. With defenses forced to honor his outside shooting, things will open up inside for both Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Miller should be the No. 2 scoring option for the Wolves and put up similar or better scoring numbers next season than he did last season, when he was the third option for much of the season. I like Miller to approach his numbers from 2006-07, when he averaged 18.5 points and 2.9 3-pointers per game.
Rudy Gay: Looking at the Grizzlies' potential starting lineup for next season --Darko Milicic, Hakim Warrick, Gay, O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley -- it is pretty obvious where the points are going to have to come from. If Gay stepped up his game last season, he will have to do so even more next season. Yes, Mayo looks NBA ready and can score in a variety of ways, but no one else looks capable of putting up more than 12 points per game next season. Gay's shooting percentage likely will take a hit, but his scoring should rise into the mid-20s per game and his made 3-pointers to more than two per game. Bump him up your cheat sheets accordingly.
Rashad McCants and/or Ryan Gomes: It all depends on where the Wolves decide to start Miller. If he starts at shooting guard (as I suspect he will), McCants will lose minutes. Gomes could be the other victim, but he is a better defender than Miller. Plus, his inside-outside game seems to be a better complement between the Love-Jefferson tandem down low and Miller and Foye on the perimeter. Miller has the potential to take shots away from both players.
Marko Jaric: There is a thicket of guards in Memphis with Mayo, Conley, Kyle Lowry, Buckner and Javaris Crittenton. Adding Jaric and Buckner to the mix only confuses matters further. Mayo's playing time is assured, because the Grizzlies made this move to bring some excitement to a moribund franchise. Jaric will back him up along with Buckner. Conley and Lowry will split point guard duties, with Crittenton likely getting scraps. Sharing a back-up role kills Jaric's value and even in deep leagues, the only place he would be selected. He now is consigned to the waiver wire. Expect more trades involving Memphis, which is weak up front and overmanned at the guard spots.
Guy Lake is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Guy.Fantasy@gmail.com.
22hEthan Sherwood Strauss