July 09, 2010
And you thought the Celtics' big three was a big three? LeBron James'(notes) decision to sign with the Heat and play alongside Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes) has re-shaped the NBA and the fantasy landscape. Let's deal with just the fantasy impact - in other words, save the bandwidth here and not talk about how ridiculous you might be thinking James and/or Dan Gilbert acted over the past 24 hours.
The immediate fallout here is that Kevin Durant(notes) is now your undisputed top pick in fantasy. In short, the reason is because the top of this leaderboard will look different in 2010-11. To expand on that a bit, it's because the volume of touches (otherwise know as usage) will inevitably go down for James, Wade, and Bosh as they attempt to share a single basketball. For supporting evidence, you need to look no further than how joining forces changed Kevin Garnett(notes), Paul Pierce(notes), and Ray Allen's(notes) numbers. From 2006-07 to 2007-08, Pierce's usage fell from 30.7 to 24.8, Allen's fell from 29.5 to 21.6, and KG's fell from 27.4 to 25.5, and their combined scoring averages fell by 18 points (from 73.8 to 55.8). One thing working in James, Wade, and Bosh's favor is that the quality of their opportunities with the basketball should improve and lead to better efficiency, just as it did for the Celtics' trio, so the drop-off in fantasy impact may not actually be titanic.
The Heat have reportedly traded Michael Beasley(notes) and added Mike Miller(notes) to the mix, and will have only minimum contracts to offer to fill out the rest of their roster. What remains to be seen is how exactly they do go about rounding up "role" players, and how the rest of the league reacts to this triumvirate of talent. Make no mistake - we've entered unprecedented territory in terms of high-usage players [all-time leaders] in their primes sharing the same roster. How exactly this will play out has yet to be seen, but there is no way for them to continue their current rates, period. For that reason, Durant is the clear choice at the top of fantasy drafts. He was already pushing James in terms of impact in 2009-10, particularly in roto leagues, and there is no reason to expect anything but a continued progression of skills. I'll be updating the Big Board in the coming days, and there's a good chance I'll have Chris Paul(notes) ahead of James and Wade for the same reasons, as well. As for Bosh, I'm having a hard time seeing how why we should expect his 2010-11 season to be much better than David West's(notes) or Al Horford's.(notes) I encourage you to disagree or agree with me in the comments, as always, as long as you provide some supporting evidence to go along with your opinion.
Mo Williams(notes) and Antawn Jamison(notes) get serious upgrades for the Cavs, as they become the only real offensive threats on the roster. Cleveland doesn't have much cap flexibility this season, so their depth chart probably won't change significantly before the season starts. LeBron's usage should also trickle down to players like Anderson Varejao(notes), Jamario Moon(notes), Delonte West(notes), and Anthony Parker(notes). The Raptors move forward with Andrea Bargnani(notes), Hedo Turkoglu(notes), and Jose Calderon(notes) as their main sources of offense, and there is cautious optimism that they can put a tumultuous off-season behind them and come together in 2010-11. Roles at shooting guard and power forward aren't likely to be decided until after camp opens.
Taking a look at some of the other off-season moves thus far:
• Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) signs with the Knicks; David Lee(notes) is signed-and-traded to the Warriors for Anthony Randolph(notes), Kelenna Azubuike(notes), and Ronny Turiaf(notes) - I fail to see how Amar'e Stoudemire is going to be a (real-life) upgrade for the Knicks, given how productive Lee was last season and how Stoudemire's production usually comes via spoon-feeds by an elite point guard. Maybe it's just me. Lee's production should remain very solid for the Warriors and I'm not ready to drop him much out of the first round, but he won't be without solid competition for boards (Andris Biedrins(notes)) and touches (Stephen Curry(notes), Monta Ellis(notes)). As for Amar'e, the fact that Toney Douglas(notes) is slated to run the point for the Knicks is cause for concern, even if calling the Knicks' system "fantasy-friendly" is a massive understatement. He'll be good, but I'm not going to upgrade him simply because of his uniform.
Randolph makes for a fine post-hype player now that he's in New York - although we're likely to see the hype machine fire back up, depending on how Mike D'Antoni decides on roles. Azubuike and Turiaf are solid pros and should find some opportunities for production. I was actually surprised that Ellis didn't come to New York in the deal, given that their grand plans to land an elite perimeter talent via free agency did not come to fruition.
• Carlos Boozer(notes) signs with the Bulls - In a perfect world, Boozer is a solid complement to Joakim Noah(notes), gives the Bulls some legit offense in the block, and is also a solid passer out of the post. In the real world, Bulls fans should be concerned that Boozer will be lacking for motivation to maintain his health and/or a high level of play now that he has his money. Anyone that drafts Boozer should consider Taj Gibson(notes) as a later-round handcuff. Oh yeah, and rumor has it there is some guy named Paul Millsap(notes) in Utah who might be pretty good with starters' minutes.
• Joe Johnson(notes) re-signs with the Hawks - I was both surprised and disappointed here, as the team's playoff failure (Johnson's, in particular) seemed to set the stage for his departure. I would have loved to see Josh Smith(notes) and Al Horford absorb his usage, but alas it's not to be.
• Channing Frye(notes) re-signs with the Suns - Frye should be heavily-targeted in 2010-11, as he'll be a starter at his natural position (PF) and could very easily pace the league in threes made. He was fourth this past season (172) in 27 minutes per game, both numbers that he'll be expected to build on.
• Drew Gooden(notes) signs with the Bucks - Something of a downer because I have no doubts that Ersan Ilyasova(notes) can be a productive (and more consistent) NBA player, but this is also likely to be the team hedging its bets in backing up Andrew Bogut(notes), who is still on the road to recovery from his horrific elbow injury. Factor in the trade for Corey Maggette(notes), and the Bucks suddenly have a very crowded depth chart.
• Travis Outlaw(notes) signs with the Nets - It's a large-ish sum of guaranteed money ($35M) for something of an uproven player, but he's young and certainly has produced when he's been on the court. His per-36s over the past three seasons include 17 points, 1.2 threes, 5.8 boards, 0.9 steals, and 1 block. With that said, it would have been nice to see him get a shot at a starting role, as he'll be behind Terrence Williams(notes) at small forward.
• Amir Johnson(notes) re-signs with the Raptors - Johnson should get a shot at the starting power forward spot in Toronto [depth chart], but he'll have to stay on the court to deserve fantasy consideration. Eye-catching career per-36s that include 11.1 points, 9.9 boards, 1 steal, and 2.4 blocks absolutely have to be tempered with a whopping 6.5 fouls. He's still only 23 years old, so at worst he'll likely be a late-round flyer once we get to drafting.
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