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Fantasy Basketball impact of every major NBA offseason move

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By Nick Whalen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Sticking with the theme of the upcoming 2020-21 season, the NBA offseason was a condensed sprint that featured no shortage of trades and free agency acquisitions — all sandwiched around the long-delayed NBA Draft.

With training camps set to open, the dust is almost fully settled on a transaction period that saw some contenders load up with others playing things more conservatively. After capturing the title in the Orlando bubble, the Los Angeles Lakers are the prohibitive favorites again in 2021, but the league is thought to be relatively wide open, especially given the unique obstacles all 30 teams will face.

As a result, the vast majority of the league’s franchises are in win-now mode, even if the definition of “win” may vary from team to team. Whether it means contending for a title or vying for the final playoff spot, the NBA’s relative parity resulted in an offseason marked by competitive negotiations.

From the Bucks adding Jrue Holiday to the Hornets signing Gordon Hayward to the Hawks signing, well, everyone, the race for the title — and the 16 postseason spots — promises to be as competitive as ever in 2020-21.

Now, it’s time to break down what the biggest moves of the offseason mean for fantasy managers in 2020-21:

Milwaukee Bucks

Notable moves:

  • Traded for Jrue Holiday: While the Bucks’ offseason would’ve been a home run had the Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade gone through, there’s no doubt that Milwaukee upgraded at point guard. Holiday may only be a one-time All-Star, but he’s played the last seven seasons in the ultra-competitive West, where he’s been tasked with defending the opponents’ best guard and/or win on a nightly basis. Milwaukee will expect the same defensive intensity, but Holiday won’t have to do the heavy lifting offensively, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton installed as the clear No. 1 and No. 2 options. Holiday has been a top-25 player in nine-category leagues (per game value) in each of the last two seasons. His scoring numbers could decrease, but Holiday could still finish as a top-30 player, especially if he can bounce back from a sub-33-percent three-point shooting campaign.

  • Signed Bobby Portis: The Portis addition was met with mixed reviews in the wake of the Bogdanovic deal crumbling, but I like the move for Milwaukee. The Bucks are buying low on Portis, who’s been in some horrendous fantasy situations through his first four years in the NBA. Portis won’t exactly have the keys to the kingdom, but the Bucks are in desperate need of scoring and rebounding off the bench, and Portis brings just that. No one should be rushing out to grab Portis, but he may be worth a late-round flyer after finishing 113th in nine-category leagues a season ago.

  • Signed Bryn Forbes: Forbes is essentially a three-point specialist, and that’s exactly what the Bucks will ask him to do. Fantasy-wise, his profile is obviously quite limited, but if the minutes are there, Forbes could have some stretches where he’ll be a decent streaming option for managers in need of threes.

Charlotte Hornets

Notable fantasy moves:

  • Signed-and-traded for Gordon Hayward: Did the Hornets overpay for a player whose best days may be behind him? Probably. But for a franchise in desperate need of a talent influx, adding Hayward is worth the risk. From a fantasy perspective, Hayward is in a dramatically better situation than the one he left behind in Boston. The Hornets have a pair of relatively high-usage guards in Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham (plus rookie LaMelo Ball), but Hayward’s pedigree will likely install him as the primary option. It remains to be seen whether Hayward will ever be able to return to peak form, but he’ll be positioned for his best fantasy season since leaving Utah in 2017.

  • Drafted LaMelo Ball: The Hornets capitalized by taking the best player available at No. 3, but it may not be the best fit for Ball’s fantasy value. Long-term, he remains one of the top prospects in the class, but unless he’s able to supplant Graham or Rozier, Ball may have trouble garnering the minutes necessary to return value as a rookie. If he ends up earning a major role, Ball should be an above-average assists and rebounds contributor, but he’ll likely struggle from an efficiency standpoint.

Atlanta Hawks

Notable fantasy moves:

  • Signed Danilo Gallinari: A top-70 player in nine of the last 10 seasons, Gallinari will likely take a step back in 2020-21. The Hawks have already clarified that the veteran will come off the bench, and while he figures to maintain a steady role, he’ll have a hard time reaching the nearly 31 minutes per game he’s averaged over the past three seasons.

  • Signed Kris Dunn: One of the best defensive guards in the league, Dunn finished inside the top 100 last season on a per-game basis for the third straight season. The issue is Dunn has missed significant time in each of those years. He should be positioned for a sizable bench role, but the former top-five pick remains a major injury risk.

  • Signed Bogdan Bogdanovic: Bogdanovic nearly ended up in Milwaukee, but he instead landed on what’s suddenly one of the deepest rosters in the East. Playing alongside Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela, and a host of young wings, Bogdanovic may have a difficult time elevating his production. Bogdanovic is in a much better basketball situation, but fantasy-wise, the move from Sacramento to Atlanta is a downgrade.

Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic
The much-talked-about move for Bogdan Bogdanovic isn't exactly a great one for his fantasy value. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Los Angeles Clippers

Notable fantasy moves:

  • Traded for Luke Kennard: The Clippers turning Landry Shamet and Rodney McGruder into Kennard on draft night was one of the best low-key value deals of the offseason. Kennard was probably under-qualified to be the second option in Detroit, but he’ll be overqualified as a likely bench piece in Los Angeles. With a much better roster around him, Kennard’s fantasy ceiling isn’t as high, but he’s still worth a look in the later rounds.

  • Signed Serge Ibaka: The Clips still have Ivica Zubac in place, but Ibaka will presumably take over the starting job. Even if the two split time relatively evenly, Ibaka should see a slight uptick in value after spending most of last season in a bench role. In terms of per-game value, Ibaka has finished each of the last two seasons ranked between 73rd and 88th overall.

Los Angeles Lakers

Notable fantasy moves:

  • Traded for Dennis Schroder: Schroder is a significant upgrade for one of the worst benches in the league last season. He should fill a similar role to the one he held in Oklahoma City last season, but he may not have as much free rein on the offensive end, depending on how often he shares the floor with LeBron James.

  • Signed Montrezl Harrell: The jury is still out on whether Harrell can be on the floor in high-leverage situations, but the Lakers will cross that bridge when they get to it. For the regular season, Harrell is a massive get for the Lakers, who can play him at power forward or as a small-ball center. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year should benefit greatly from playing alongside Anthony Davis and, especially, James. Harrell could return to shooting 60-plus-percent from the field after dipping below that threshold for the first time in his career last season (58.0% FG).

  • Re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: The unsung hero of the Lakers’ title run, Caldwell-Pope was rewarded with a new, three-year contract. He was too inconsistent to hold much fantasy value last season, but if Caldwell-Pope can shoot the three effectively and climb over 1.0 steal per game, he could be a streaming candidate.

  • Signed Marc Gasol: Gasol’s best days are behind him, but the Lakers have a need at center after parting ways with both Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee this offseason. Even so, Gasol ranked a career-worst 120th overall last season, and he’s unlikely to match the 26.4 minutes per game he averaged in Toronto.

Detroit Pistons

Notable fantasy moves:

  • Signed Jerami Grant: One of the biggest splash signings in free agency, Grant capitalized on a strong postseason run and now finds himself as perhaps the second option in Detroit. We’ll see if he’s capable of raising his game to that level, but Grant figures to be among the year’s top breakout candidates, especially if the Pistons move on from Blake Griffin at some point.

  • Signed Mason Plumlee: Detroit added three new centers in Plumlee, Jahlil Okafor, and rookie Isaiah Stewart. On paper, Plumlee can be penciled in as the starter, so his fantasy value should rise after he averaged a career-low 17.3 minutes per game in Denver last season. The question is whether Plumlee will play enough minutes to climb back into the top-120 for the first time since 2016-17.

  • Traded for Delon Wright: Wright was a major disappointment in Dallas, but Detroit is a good spot for the Utah product to rehab his value. Wright could end up starting at the two-guard spot on opening night.

Golden State Warriors

Notable fantasy moves:

  • Drafted James Wiseman: When the Warriors opted not to trade the No. 2 pick, they did what most expected and took Wiseman. The seven-footer out of Memphis projects to start right away, and he’s on the shortlist of rookies worth a later-round fantasy selection. If Wiseman can hold down a 25-to-30-minutes-per-night role, he should be a reliable source of efficient scoring, rebounds, and blocks.

  • Traded for Kelly Oubre: Shortly after losing Klay Thompson to a torn Achilles, the Warriors pivoted and absorbed Oubre into their $17.2 million trade exception. The versatile forward is coming off of his best individual season, and he’ll have a chance to emerge as the Warriors’ second scoring option behind Stephen Curry. Oubre averaged a career-high 34.5 minutes per game in Phoenix last season, and he’ll again be counted on for big minutes on a top-heavy Golden State roster.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Notable fantasy moves:

  • Traded for Ricky Rubio: After detours in Utah and Phoenix, Rubio returns to Minnesota, where he spent the first six years of his career. With D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and rookie Anthony Edwards all in the mix, acquiring Rubio was more luxury than need, but the 30-year-old figures to return to his role as the starting point guard. Considering the high-usage depth around him, though, Rubio will have a difficult time maintaining last season’s top-50 finish. The more likely outcome is Rubio finishing somewhere between his 2017-18 (60th overall) and 2018-19 (86th) rankings.

  • Drafted Anthony Edwards: No one is mistaking the Timberwolves for a great team, but Edwards has more talent around him than the typical No. 1 overall pick. Fitting in alongside Russell would’ve been challenging enough, but adding Rubio and retaining Beasley makes Edwards’ path to fantasy relevance even more challenging. The Georgia product could push Beasley for a starting spot, but his short-term fantasy upside is relatively low.

  • Re-signed Malik Beasley: Beasley had a great run in Minnesota after coming over from Denver — 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 3.5 made threes, 42.6% 3PT in 14 games — but he returns to a much different team. With Karl-Anthony Towns and Russell both healthy, Beasley is the Wolves’ third option, with Rubio and Edwards not too far behind. Beasley is still in a much better position than where he began last season buried on the Nuggets’ depth chart, but don’t expect him to seamlessly pick up where he left off in mid-March.

Philadelphia 76ers

Notable fantasy moves:

  • Traded for Danny Green: Philly may have bought low on Danny Green, but that was part of the price of getting off of the Al Horford contract. Green will battle for a starting gig, but he’s essentially just a threes and steals contributor at this point. Last season, Green shot just 36.7 percent from deep — down from 45.5 percent in 2018-19 as a member of the Raptors.

  • Traded for Seth Curry: Curry was a great fit in Dallas, but he’s an even better fit for the Sixers, who struggled to replace J.J. Redick last season. One of the league’s premier marksmen, Curry’s fantasy profile is fairly limited, but he ranked inside the top 140 in total value last season.

Other notable fantasy moves across the league

Houston Rockets: Signed Christian Wood

Wood enters a combustible situation in Houston, which remains in a stalemate with its two superstars. Whether James Harden and Russell Westbrook remain on the roster or not, taking a chance on Wood is a sensible move for a franchise in need of an influx of young talent. Wood hasn’t proven much at the NBA level, but he’ll have a chance to be a high-level fantasy contributor as the replacement for Robert Covington. Over his final 22 games last season, Wood averaged 19.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.8 steals/blocks and 1.4 made threes (40.3% 3PT) in just 29.7 minutes.

Toronto Raptors: Re-signed Fred VanVleet

VanVleet first broke out during the 2018-19 campaign, but his fantasy breakout occurred last season. Entering the year with a career-best rank of 140 overall, VanVleet finished 30th overall in nine-category leagues (per game value). With the exception of Ibaka and Gasol, the Raptors’ core remains intact, but VanVleet could take another (slight) step forward if this is the year Kyle Lowry finally begins to decline.

Phoenix Suns: Traded for Chris Paul

Upgrading from Rubio to Paul should be enough to push the Suns into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Fantasy-wise, Paul is positioned for a similar season to his 2019-20 campaign, though he’ll have a better player next to him in Devin Booker, who could cut into his playmaking duties. The most likely scenario is Paul and Booker each slightly diminish the other’s value, but both players remain borderline-elite fantasy commodities. For Paul, the much bigger question mark is his ability to stay healthy during a condensed season. Paul sat out only two games a year ago, but prior to that, he’d missed 24, 24, and 21 games over the previous three seasons.

Portland Trail Blazers: Traded for Robert Covington

Covington fills a major hole on the wing for Portland, where he’ll reprise his usual role as one of the more well-rounded non-stars in fantasy basketball. The hope is Covington can return to shooting the three at a 36-to-38-percent clip after dropping down to 33.5 percent a year ago.

Sacramento Kings: Signed Hassan Whiteside + drafted Tyrese Haliburton

Projecting Hassan Whiteside from year-to-year is always a difficult task, and this season is shaping up to be no different. The Kings are perennially unpredictable, and at this stage, it’s unclear how Whiteside and Richaun Holmes will split minutes at center. Even if Whiteside wins the job, he’s unlikely to approach the 30.0 minutes per game he averaged in Portland last season.

The Kings were one of the winners on draft night, capitalizing on Haliburton tumbling all the way down to the 12th pick. For now, he’ll slot in as the third guard behind De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, but Haliburton is in a good position to work his way onto the fantasy radar. Haliburton has one of the highest floors of any player in the 2020 class. Based on his collegiate production, he projects to have a well-rounded fantasy profile.

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