The NBA's version of Super Friends have joined forces in South Beach and permanently altered the face of the NBA, not to mention the first round of fantasy hoops drafts. If you're such a fantasy hoops junkie that you're keeping up on things in mid-July, then you know that fantasy titles aren't won in the first round. They're claimed in the middle and later rounds by knowing the sleepers from the busts. So while the casual fan and also-rans in your fantasy hoops leagues are still droning on and on about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, let's get a leg up on the competition and discuss the effect that trades and signings have had on less-newsworthy players.
Raymond Felton, PG, New York Knicks
It's really a miracle that Felton survived his tenure under Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown. Felton likes to play freely and use his physical skills to beat opponents, while Brown likes ball control, set plays and mistake-free performances. To his credit, Felton accepted the coaching this past season. While his minutes and overall production were down due to the system, he posted a career-best .459 field goal percentage (he hovered around 40 percent his first four campaigns).
Now he'll handle the point for a team that runs-and-guns under coach Mike D'Antoni and has plenty of players who can finish his passes (e.g., Amare Stoudemire, Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler). Fantasy leaguers should remember when he teased us with a tantalizing second half of his rookie campaign: 16.7 ppg, 7.6 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.0 3s. His final nine games looked like this: 17.2 ppg, 9.8 apg, 2.0 spg, 1.3 3s. There's no sense in directly comparing Felton with Steve Nash, but Felton will be playing Nash's position in an offense focused on the same player (Stoudemire) and constructed by the same coach (D'Antoni) that Nash had at his fantasy peak with the Phoenix Suns. That means the opportunity to be a successful fantasy point guard is there for Felton. In fact, if he can harness the restraint and fundamentals that Brown taught him in Charlotte and turn them loose in the freedom of D'Antoni's offense, he could be the top point-guard sleeper this fall.
Al Jefferson, C/PF, Utah Jazz
After Carlos Boozer inked with the Chicago Bulls, the Jazz gave up a couple of first-round draft picks to have Jefferson fill the frontcourt void. Escaping the ever-losing Minnesota Timberwolves for the always-competitive Jazz may be the best thing Jefferson could have hoped for. Having better teammates and a more reliable system under coach Jerry Sloan should help his game, in general. With less pressure on him to do everything, it may also help him stay healthy, which has been his Achilles' heel (pun intended). Keep in mind that he's just 25 years old, so he could well shake off his proneness to injury as he enters his physical prime on a good team. He should be a shoo-in for 20 points, 10-plus rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Jefferson's arrival could spell trouble for Paul Millsap or Mehmet Okur, because one of them will have to come off the bench. Starting Jefferson at center, Millsap at power forward and bringing Okur in as the sixth man makes the most sense to me, but we'll have to wait to see what Sloan says as the season nears.
Raja Bell, SG, Jazz
People's ears still perk up when they hear Bell's name because he averaged 14.7 ppg and 2.6 3-pointers for a couple of years with the Phoenix Suns. But that fantasy value was a product of their system and something he'll never duplicate again. In Utah, he'll be a defensive stopper, which is a bit of a misnomer in fantasy parlance, because he's averaged only 0.7 steals per game during his career. Consider him only in very deep leagues for his triples.
Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas Mavericks
No offense to Erick Dampier, but the Mavs have been searching for a serviceable center for a long time -- or at least since they gave up trying to convince themselves that Shawn Bradley fit that description. Now they have two of them in Brendan Haywood and Chandler. Haywood is slated to start, so Chandler shouldn't have much of any value on draft day. Still, if he's healthy and Haywood goes down, he could be a rebounding machine. Just remember that he won't give you much of anything else.
Al Harrington, PF, Denver Nuggets
If Kenyon Martin, Nene and Chris Andersen weren't all so prone to injury, I wouldn't even pay attention to Harrington with his new squad. Assuming they're all healthy when the season begins, Harrington will have a tough time getting enough touches to make a big fantasy impact. More likely, Harrington will be a productive fantasy option (via scoring, rebounding and hitting some triples) for a few weeks at a time when injuries open up a full load of minutes.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Timberwolves
In fantasy and reality, I've never understood the fascination with Ridnour. Then again, I don't understand the fascination the Wolves have with point guards. So in some twisted way, I guess the marriage of Ridnour to the Wolves does make some bizarre sense. With PGs Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions on the roster (and Ricky Rubio overseas), Ridnour will have a tough time finding any fantasy value. At least he has Darko Milicic to pass to now.
Mike Miller, SF/SG, Miami Heat
Miller joining the Heat makes perfect sense for both sides: The Heat get a ball-handling 3-point shooter and Miller gets a chance to win some titles as a role player. Unfortunately, the move officially ends Miller's days as a quality fantasy option. He should get enough assists and 3s as a reserve to help in deep leagues, though.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C, Heat
The Heat signed Ilgauskas only for depth in the frontcourt. With LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh hitting most of their shots and crashing the boards, there won't be enough minutes or rebounds left to make Ilgauskas relevant in fantasy this season. It was nice of LeBron to bring Big Z along for the ride, though.
Josh Childress, SF/SG, Suns
The former Atlanta Hawk spent the past two seasons in Greece and has found a great spot to end up. He has a fluid game and can score, board and play D, so he'll fit in well with the Suns. While he'll have great percentages and decent rebounds for a swingman, he won't knock down a lot of 3s, and he will likely be limited to a reserve role with the Suns. That means he should have some value, but with limited upside.
Hedo Turkoglu, SF, Suns
Care to guess how many times Hedo has shot 42 percent or better during the past seven seasons? Twice: 45.4 percent in 2005-06 and 45.6 percent in 2007-08 with the Orlando Magic. So it shouldn't be a big surprise that he shot just 41 percent during his disastrous one-season stint with the Toronto Raptors. He must be grinning ear-to-ear knowing that he's going to ball with Steve Nash this season, though. Turkoglu will benefit from getting the ball from Nash at the right time in the right place. So expect him reach that 45-percent mark again this season while scoring 15-plus ppg and at least a couple of 3s per game. However, playing alongside dish-master Nash surely will decrease Turkoglu's assist production.
Leandro Barbosa, SG, Raptors
Barbosa's fantasy value may be resurrected with the Raptors, assuming he starts. Remember that during the 2006-07 campaign he averaged 18.1 ppg, 4.0 apg. 1.2 spg and 2.4 3s. Since the Raptors don't have Steve Nash handling the point (or even Chris Bosh to help out in the post), those numbers should remain career-bests for Barbosa. However, he's fully capable of averaging 16.0 points, 2.5 assists and 2.0 3-pointers, which is enough production to help most fantasy teams.
Shaun Livingston, PG, Bobcats
D.J. Augustin and Livingston will battle to replace Felton as the Bobcats' starting point guard. Either could be a sleeper with a full set of starter's minutes. It's safe to say that Livingston surprised everyone by averaging 15.5 ppg, 6.3 apg and 3.6 rpg while shooting 62.7 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the charity stripe in eight April games. Only time will tell if his torn-up knee can handle the long-term rigors of a full NBA season. If it can, you'll want to keep a close eye on the former fourth-overall pick.
Erick Dampier, C, Bobcats
The Bobs wanted Dampier's expiring contract, not his game, so they likely will release him. Depending on where he lands, he could still put up his usual seven boards, six points and one-plus blocks.
Wesley Matthews, SG, Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers lured Matthews away from the Jazz, but unfortunately for his fantasy value, he's one of several swingmen in Portland along with Brandon Roy, Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum. Matthews can play D and knock down 3s, so he's worth keeping an eye on if he can lock up quality minutes -- but there's the rub with so much competition for playing time.