Howard, Butler get fresh starts
Mavericks/Wizards deal means opportunity for some, problems for others
Writing as the only Bullets/Wizards fan I know (and by now, perhaps the only one left), this is one of those difficult times when one must divorce oneself from great personal hurt in the pursuit of professional fantasy analysis.
There was once a time, before Gilbert Arenas' knee collided into several hundred pounds of flying Gerald Wallace, when the Wizards offered one of the most fantasy-friendly lineups in the NBA. But that is all over now.
To recap, this is what's happened so far: Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson were traded to Dallas for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and what we refer to in fantasy circles as "flotsam" (sorry, Quinton Ross). There are probably more moves to come, but let's look at the fantasy ramifications as they stand.
For myriad reasons (missing Eddie Jordan, not adjusting in Flip Saunders' system, being questioned by authorities over teammates' gun possession allegations), this was shaping up as a lost season for Caron Butler. Once one of the more efficient swingmen in fantasy, Butler's player efficiency rating has dropped from 18.84 in 2008-09 to 13.78 this campaign.
There were late signs of life in Butler's tenure in D.C. His past two games (31 and 23 points, obviously a muted cry for help) were a striking return to form. Butler now gets to build on that momentum by becoming the No. 2 scoring option on a contending team, playing alongside one of the best point guards of all time (as opposed to, say, Earl Boykins).
Butler owners should not believe his production is going to suddenly revert to 2006-08 levels. As opposed to the Wizards of years past, the Mavs are strictly a middle-of-the-road offensive team. Post-Arenas, Butler was offensive option 1B in D.C., but in Dallas, Butler will defer to an unquestioned superstar in Dirk Nowitzki. Look for a numerical uptick, but more in the neighborhood of 19.5 points, 1.5 steals and 6.5 rebounds per night.
If I owned Butler, I'd really be hoping for him to rebound in his two less-heralded statistical strengths: 3-pointers and assists. Butler's ability to distribute was traditionally his most underrated asset, and maybe the change in offensive system will reawaken that area of his game. And from behind the arc, Butler (26 percent this season) simply has nowhere to go but up.
If I owned Haywood, I would deal him immediately. I loved Haywood as a No. 2 fantasy center before the trade, and he could be the long-term answer at the position in Dallas (after the Mavericks deal Erick Dampier this summer), but as of this writing, he's in a timeshare. Haywood's numbers will likely drop to Kendrick Perkins territory, around 8 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per night.
Shawn Marion's numbers should also take a hit. He'll end up getting some of Gooden's minutes, but he's going to lose out on some offensive stats (the precious few he had left).
Josh Howard has gone from waiver-wire material to bona fide second-half sleeper. By the end of this week, Howard could be the No. 1 scoring option in Washington. Of course, he could also tweak an ankle, knee, wrist or elbow getting off the plane at Dulles, but it's unquestionable that Howard's fantasy value has almost doubled overnight.
If Howard is healthy -- a big "if" -- he's good for 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, a 3-pointer and a steal per night. Don't discount the chance that Howard should be as motivated as he's been in years. He's a head case, and there's a chance his play goes even further south, but there's also a chance the change in scenery and the fact he's playing for a new contract just might inspire his box scores down the stretch.
If Gooden's contract gets bought out, another short-term winner in Washington could be Andray Blatche. I'm tired of discussing Blatche's potential, but again, he could end up seeing 30-32 minutes per game by the end of February, which would make him worth picking up in deep leagues.
And don't sleep on Mike Miller. His reluctance to shoot has plagued fantasy owners for the past two seasons, but Miller is going to have to start shooting, if only for the sake of preventing Nick Young from shooting.
By the end of the week, the new Big Three in D.C. could very well be Josh Howard, Mike Miller and Randy Foye. This is possible because I am lighting every candle in the house as a vigil for poor Antawn Jamison, who deserves to be dealt to a contender.
So, if you're keeping score, here's the Wizards' trade history over the past nine months: a No. 5 pick that should have been Stephen Curry, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas, DeShawn Stevenson, Darius Songaila, Oleksiy Pecherov and cash for Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross.
And cash? Really?
Help me, Ted Leonsis & you're my only hope.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.