Fantasy Fallout: Kaboom

Brandon Funston
Yahoo! SportsFebruary 25, 2005

Call it the calm before the storm. What was looking like a relatively uneventful NBA trading deadline turned into a torrential downpour of last-minute deals.

It started with Sacramento trading Chris Webber to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. On Thursday, more big names – Baron Davis, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, Keith Van Horn – were sent packing.

With the deadline officially past, let's take a look at the aftermath from a fantasy perspective:

Deal: Golden State gets Baron Davis; New Orleans gets Speedy Claxton, Dale Davis
When healthy, Davis is an All-Star, and arguably one of the top three or four fantasy point guards in the league. This season, back and ankle problems have limited him to just 18 games, but he returned from an eight-game layoff on Wednesday night to play 19 minutes in a loss to Seattle.

Assuming he'll be able to stay in the lineup for Golden State, there is no reason to expect Davis to see a noticeable change in his typical 20-point, 7-assist stat line. The Warriors score more than New Orleans, and they also have a better contributing cast, led by Jason Richardson. Overall, this trade should be viewed as a positive for Davis, if only because he's a West Coast guy, and clearly wasn't enamored with New Orleans. A change of attitude should help Davis re-establish himself as one of the game's elite players.

On the flip side, point guard Dan Dickau should continue to see big minutes for the Hornets, something that was threatened by the return of Davis. He should also be able to retain the 34-minute-a-night average that he's seen in February, along with the associated 15 points, five assists, two treys and one steal a night.

In other words, he's still a viable fantasy performer. I assume that Claxton, Dickau and rookie shooting guard J.R. Smith will form a rotation that would see a combination of two of them on the court nearly all the time. Claxton has been hot of late, averaging 17 points and eight assists in his past five games. It's conceivable that Claxton could continue to hit on numbers close to that in New Orleans, but he could also lose some time as the Hornets commit more to their future in Dickau and Smith.

Smith seems like the biggest winner. Without a franchise player anymore, the Hornets can turn and face their future head on, which means handing Smith steady playing time. The Hornets already had started to turn him loose prior to this deal, and he's responded with averages of 18.9 points, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.1 treys in his past seven games. Smith has deep range and can jump out of the gym but, as someone coming straight of high school, he'll be prone to inconsistency and the fatigue that comes from hitting the metaphorical rookie wall. Fantasy owners in need of points and three-point shooting should take a flyer on him given his upside. Deal: Boston gets Antoine Walker; Atlanta gets Gary Payton, Tom Gugliotta, Michael Stewart
From a fantasy standpoint, it's hard to imagine Gary Payton landing in a better place than Atlanta. The Hawks were starting Tyronn Lue at the point, and it's hard to make a case that he's anything more than a backup-caliber NBA player.

Beyond that, the team was running with Tony Delk and Royal Ivey when Lue needed a blow. In other words, slap a Mr. Yuck sticker on this entire point guard rotation.

The current future of the Hawks is with Al Harrington and rookie Josh Smith. But the present reality is that Gary Payton will likely see upwards of 38 minutes a night. And without a true go-to guy on the roster, Payton is free to resume his improvisational playground style that he displayed so fascinatingly in his years in Seattle. Fantasy owners should expect to see Payton's 12-point, 6-assist average jump to the neighborhood of 15-16 points and seven assists.

Of course, part of me wonders if Payton will refuse to report to Atlanta and retire. Stay tuned.

Walker should have the comfort factor in his favor as he returns to Boston, where he spent his first seven NBA seasons. With Atlanta, Walker was getting his traditional 20 points, nine rebounds and nearly two treys per night. But, likely because of a lack of supporting cast, his assists (3.7) were below the 5.0 range he had hit upon in the previous four seasons.

Back in Beantown, expect Walker's assist total to improve playing alongside Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis. Boston is the current leader in the Atlantic Division, so this is a move that the Celtics feel will help them retain their lead. That means they brought Walker back into the fold with the intention of giving Pierce someone to help shoulder the load. Pierce's scoring average has dropped roughly 3-4 points after Walker's departure. Fantasy owners hope that Walker's return can return Pierce's scoring north of 25 points a night.

Payton's exit means Marcus Banks may wind up staring at point for the Celtics. But his youth and propensity for turnovers makes me wonder if GM Danny Ainge has designs of running Walker at the point-forward.

Another option at the point is rookie Delonte West, who scored 17 points on Wednesday night. But it is hard to imagine that the team will head into the playoffs starting a point guard that has, to this point, averaged less than 14 minutes per game. If Walker assumes a point-forward role, count on those five assists a night (if not more), not to mention a couple treys per game. If Banks or West gets the starting nod, give them a fantasy 10-day contract and hope for the best.

Deal: Dallas gets Keith Van Horn; Milwaukee gets Calvin Booth, Alan Henderson
It's hard to get excited about this deal from a fantasy standpoint. Milwaukee was moving Van Horn's contract, so it was willing to take non-factors Booth and Henderson. Van Horn has struggled through ankle tendonitis and has averaged less than 20 minutes a game for the past two months with the Bucks.

If Dallas feels he's healthy enough, they could bump Van Horn's minutes up by playing him at power forward alongside Dirk Nowitzki at center. Or they could use him as Nowitzki's main backup at power forward. But Van Horn's production, save the first month of the season, hasn't been fantasy worthy, so it's tough to imagine him making a greater impact with a Dallas team that runs much deeper in talent than Milwaukee.

I would advise fantasy owners to view this situation from the outside. If Van Horn looks like he is playing with a new lease on life in his first game or two in Dallas, be quick to make a move for him. It's an unlikely scenario, but possible.