What to make of pre-draft deals?
It's difficult to determine which aspect of the draft is most exciting: the picks themselves or the trades that shake up the makeup of the fantasy landscape. A few key transactions happened before the draft, although no major blockbusters were announced during it. Still, the league looks drastically different than it did a few days ago, and the dominoes will continue to tumble. Because many deals are sure to follow, much of this is speculative, but given the ubiquity of Twitter and other sources of immediate satisfaction, here's my best guess as to how the current rosters will be affected in a fantasy sense:
Spurs acquire Richard Jefferson from the Bucks for Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas
This is essentially Richard Jefferson for nothing, although that doesn't mean that it won't have dramatic fantasy implications for the Bucks. They still have big decisions to make with Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions; both are restricted free agents. The Bucks secured some talent on draft night by snagging the enigmatic Brandon Jennings. As for the Spurs, we can still pencil Tim Duncan in for 20 and 10, and Tony Parker's scoring might suffer a bit with Jefferson around, but not enough to really impact his value.
Manu Ginobili: Manu has never been paired with a wing player as offensively talented as Jefferson, and if the Spurs' new big four all can be on the court at the same time, Ginobili's scoring might suffer. He'll likely average close to last season's disappointing mark of 15.5 points per game instead of returning to his career high of 19.5 from 2007-2008, but the rest of his stats should trend toward the numbers of his better days.
Roger Mason: The Spurs will need him less this season as he'll rarely be leaned upon to be the primary perimeter scorer as he was for stints last season, especially if Ginobili can stay healthy for his typical 70-ish games instead of last season's 44. Mason's a 3-point specialist in fantasy, but those totals will go down, and he and Michael Finley (who started 76 games last season not gonna happen) take a hit in value.
Michael Redd: With Jefferson out of the way, Redd will carry the majority of the perimeter scoring load for the Bucks. If he's healthy, look for him to creep much closer to his 2006-07 marks of 26.7 points, 3.7 assists, 2.2 3s and 1.2 steals and 82.9 percent free throw shooting on nearly eight attempts per game, and reward the player who drafts him. It's impossible to discuss Redd's prospects without using the phrase "if he's healthy" since he's missed 90 games in the past three seasons, but he's surely high risk/high reward.
Charlie Villanueva: Assuming the Bucks re-sign him, Villanueva will be heavily relied upon and continue his ascent into the realm of fantasy darlings with his 3s, steals and blocks arsenal. He ranked 62nd on the Player Rater in '08-09, and if Villanueva is on a team without Richard Jefferson, Scott Skiles will have no choice but to play him like crazy. If he's in a position to get minutes with the Bucks or any other team, he's near the top of my draft-day wish list, and could easily enter the top 50.
Joe Alexander: He and newly drafted Brandon Jennings are the future for the Bucks, a tandem filled with talent but surrounded by question marks. Alexander will get a chance to prove himself this season, and should see a huge spike in minutes considering the subtraction of Jefferson's 36 minutes per game. Alexander has the 3s/steals/blocks combination that we love so much in a fantasy player, and is an intriguing sleeper whose value clearly increases as the Bucks appear ready to give him a shot.
Warriors acquire Acie Law and Speedy Claxton from the Hawks for Jamal Crawford
On draft night, the Hawks softened the blow of ending the Acie Law experiment before it really began by selecting Wake Forest's Jeff Teague to develop as their point guard of the future. I'm keeping an eye on Teague, who has the tools to provide steals, 3s, scoring, assists and good percentages when he gets minutes and is ready. Law became even more irrelevant when the Warriors selected Stephen Curry with the No. 7 pick. Neither he nor Monta Ellis is a traditional point guard, but they are different types of scorers and should complement each other well down the road.
Mike Bibby: If he is around, Crawford's presence ensures that Bibby will get fewer minutes and shots, and have a shorter leash, all bad things for a scoring-minded point guard. He'll likely wind up somewhere else as a starter, and once again be among the top 50 fantasy players (he was 45th on the Player Rater last season), so this is probably a TBD.
Flip Murray: He was on the fantasy bubble last season, averaging 12.2 points, 1.1 3s and 1.1 steals in nearly 25 minutes per game, but having Crawford around will make it hard for him to match that output. The bubble has popped for Flip.
Stephen Jackson: This won't impact Jackson's game much, as he'll continue to log huge minutes for offensive mastermind Don Nelson. What will affect all of the Warriors most is what happens next, and if the rumored trade of Andris Biedrins, Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli for Amare Stoudemire comes to fruition, it's a whole different ballgame. Jackson will still score (career-high 20.7 points per game last season, although in just 59 games), dish and provide steals, 3s and free throw percentage with terrible turnover totals. His boards could slip closer to four per game if he slides back to shooting guard, but Jackson's value remains consistent.
Kelenna Azubuike: He was a sneaky-efficient fantasy player last season, and will likely compete with Stephen Curry for minutes off the bench behind Ellis and Jackson. With Crawford's 36 minutes off the books, there will be minutes to be had, although Azubuike's prospects to break out looked much better before Curry landed on the Warriors. I love his potential, so if he's in line for around 30 minutes again when the dust settles, he should take another step forward.
Cavaliers acquire Shaquille O'Neal from the Suns for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic
Shaquille O'Neal: He underwent a statistical rebirth last season, averaging 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 0.7 steals and even 59 percent free throw shooting, his highest mark since 2002-2003, in 75 games. He will love playing with LeBron James and relish scripting the pregame celebrations, although everything will hinge upon how Shaq's body will handle another season. He turned 37 in March and almost certainly won't match the statistical output of last season, as the Cavs will do everything possible to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Heck, if I were them I'd pull a Roger Clemens and have him kick it until Valentine's Day, play 40 games and have a King Kong versus Godzilla series against Dwight Howard next year. In terms of fantasy, expecting 18 and 8 from Shaq for 75 games again is crazy, but he'll be effective when on the King's court.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas: Something tells me Shaq doesn't want to come off the bench, and regardless of how they manage the minutes, Z's stats are bound to fall significantly. He'll be on the fringes of fantasy relevance, and he was already seeing his stats decline. He's the clear loser in the deal, and could go undrafted in some leagues.
Much like the Warriors, the Suns' roster will likely be drastically different than it is now. Based on the current roster, though:
Steve Nash: He should improve upon his disappointing 2008-09 season, and with Shaq gone, so is the slow half-court offense. Nash will be back to running, and although he won't match his best days, he'll bounce back.
Robin Lopez: Lopez averaged 1.3 blocks per game in seven starts last season, and he has the potential to be a junior varsity version of his brother, the Nets' Brook Lopez. Robin is a winner in the deal, although he has a long way to go before scratching the surface of fantasy worthiness.
Wizards acquire Mike Miller and Randy Foye from the Timberwolves for No. 5 pick, Etan Thomas, Oleksiy Pecherov and Darius Songaila
The Wizards wanted vets to complement Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, and got them in Miller and Foye. If Ricky Rubio -- the player selected with that No. 5 pick -- fulfills lofty expectations and becomes the next great passing point guard, this trade will haunt the Wizards, who are in a strange win-now mode. The Wolves gutted their backcourt to make room for the future, and the future is Rubio. Or Jonny Flynn. Everybody's puzzled, as both project to be pure point guards, not combo guards who will be able to share the court for the next 10 years. Flynn might actually be more prepared to play now, but if both are on the roster, they'll hurt each other's value, making it difficult for either one of them to become a fantasy star as a rookie. More trades could be in the making.
Randy Foye: Foye took a step forward last season, averaging 16.3 points, 1.6 3s and a steal per game, while starting 61 games for Minnesota. Arenas will start when he's healthy, but Foye is no stranger to the sixth-man role, so I don't think his numbers will be impacted much. It will be hard for him to match 35 minutes per game off the bench, but he should be in the 30s since he can play both guard positions, and I think he'll continue to be a steady source of points, assists and 3s.
Gilbert Arenas: Forget the trade; for Arenas, his health is the sole determinant of his value.
Ricky Rubio: I like his assists and steals potential, and he should get enough minutes to put up dazzling performances sporadically. But this season will be a learning experience, and I don't see him averaging impressive numbers for 82 games. I also don't like guards who don't shoot 3s, and if he and Flynn are both there, I'm avoiding them both, although that decision has nothing to do with their long-term prospects.
Sebastian Telfair: I'm not a big fan, although he did manage to average one 3-pointer, one steal and 4.5 assists per game in 27 minutes last season and was owned in many deeper leagues. He's not exactly the veteran leader who will groom Rubio and Flynn, and I can't see him matching his statistical output of last season, when he started 43 contests. It's all about the future in Minnesota, and sadly for Telfair, it isn't 2003.
Rodney Carney: He finished the season strong, averaging 15.8 points, 2.4 3s and 0.8 steals in five April contests, and with Miller gone, it opens up minutes for both Carney and Corey Brewer. Brewer has been a disappointment, and Carney showed he can play in this league last season. Fantasy owners will love him for his 1.2 3s per game in just 17 minutes, mostly off the bench, last season. That number could be above two if he's starting or flirting with 30 minutes. He's the early winner in the trade, but something tells me the Wolves aren't finished dealing.
Nets trade Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson to the Magic in exchange for Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie.
Vince Carter: This deal eerily mirrors the trade of his former comrade Jefferson, in that a player who's used to being the top dog moves to a team filled with them. Much like Jefferson, Carter will see his scoring totals suffer, but he's a great passer who'll see more open looks and be more efficient. His shooting percentage should increase and his turnovers should decrease as he becomes a more balanced player but less dominant scorer who will be more focused on winning and less on stats.
Jameer Nelson: Carter provides another deadly weapon for the Magic to dish to, so Nelson should finally flirt with seven dimes per game. He could easily drop down to around 15 points per game with so many scorers around, but I'll take the job security, increased assists and everything else that comes along with the loss of Alston. Last season, Nelson averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 assists, 2.0 3s, 1.2 steals with fantastic percentages and low turnovers. His stats will shift a bit with Vince around, but give me 15-and-7 over 17-and-5 any day of the week in fantasy hoops.
Courtney Lee: I loved him in last year's draft, mostly for his poise, defense and NBA-readiness. Now I love him in fantasy because he had more 3s and steals than turnovers in his first season. The 23-year-old has an NBA Finals under his belt, and will likely start alongside Devin Harris and be expected to shoulder a sizable chunk of the perimeter scoring load. He could easily get 35 minutes per night, and his basement is 14 points, 1.5 3s and 1.5 steals. I think he'll be better, though, and could average 16 points with 1.8 3s and 1.8 steals per game. Lee wins in this deal, and will be a hot topic come draft day.
Rafer Alston: Devin Harris is still the man here, and Alston slides into a backup role that will surely hamper his numbers from last season, when he started 76 games between Houston and Orlando. A definite downgrade for Skip.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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