Free Agency Fantasy Fallout

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The NBA offseason is unmatched when it comes to entertainment and drama. As if free agency isn’t exciting enough on it’s own, this year we got to see a Dejounte Murray blockbuster as the appetizer followed by Kevin Durant’s trade request that has the entire NBA scrambling to see if they can get their hands on one of the best players of the past two decades. But you’re most likely here to talk fantasy basketball, so let’s break down the biggest winners and losers of the opening 48 hours. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!

Fantasy Winners:

Jalen Brunson: Did the Knicks overpay for Brunson? Almost certainly. But that was the going rate for a potential top-15 point guard in the NBA for a team that has struggled to recruit high level talent for two decades despite being in one of the largest markets in the country. Brunson will immediately have the keys to this offense and it’s worth mentioning what he was capable of doing in Dallas when Luka Dončić was not on the floor – Brunson had a per-36 line of 22.1 points, 7.4 dimes, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.2 triples (over a 1,200 minute sample size). His ADP will jump up several rounds on his new team.

Nicolas Claxton: Signed to a 2-year, $20M extension, Claxton will have the best opportunity of his career with the Nets about to tear down their roster with Kevin Durant on the move and Kyrie Irving likely to be traded too. Claxton has struggled with consistency and isn’t exactly known for his durability, but the fantasy upside is certainly intriguing with a per-36 line of 15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 dimes, 0.9 steals and 1.9 blocks on 67% from the field and 58% from the line. He’s shaping up to be a sleeper pick for punt-FT% builds.

John Wall: After securing a buyout from the Rockets, Wall signed a two-year deal with the Clippers for just the MLE ($13.2M). Now 31 years old, Wall is coming off a year-long vacation but has been staying in excellent shape. He still has a lot to offer and most recently put up 20.6 points, 6.9 dimes, 1.1 steals and 2.0 triples in 40 appearances for the Rockets in 2020-21. And now he’s joining what looks to be one of the most stacked teams in the NBA where he will have open lanes to drive and dish. With what should be an affordable ADP, Wall looks poised for a massive resurgence, particularly in punt builds (poor FG% on high volume, average FT shooter and high turnovers).

Isaiah Hartenstein: There was mutual interest between Hartenstein and the Clippers for a reunion, but L.A. was priced out of the running when a handful of teams came calling. The Knicks landed him on a 2-year, $16M deal, and that looks to be a bargain based on what he showed last season when he was a top-50 fantasy player in the final 10 games with 11.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists(!), 1.2 blocks and 0.9 steals in 23.6 minutes. A timeshare with Mitchell Robinson may be on the table, but 24 minutes of Hartenstein is enough for him to do serious damage.

BONUS: As for Mitchell Robinson, I don’t think his value changes much as his foul rate makes it likely that his minutes stick around the 24-26 minute range anyways.

Damian Jones: No one is talking about Jones but to me he’s probably the most underrated signing of free agency so far. He slipped under the radar because no one can be paid to watch the Kings, but he feasted late in the season with 16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.9 dimes, 0.8 steals and 1.5 blocks in 28.9 minutes over the final 10 games. Anthony Davis cries whenever he has to play center, so it’s likely that Jones is able to carve out a really nice role in the frontcourt. One of the best athletes in the NBA, Jones’ basketball IQ is catching up and he’s also shown the ability to step out and hit jumpers. This was a terrific signing for the Lakers and it catapults him into sleeper territory for fantasy.

Gary Payton II: The Warriors had no realistic shot of keeping Payton II after emerging as perhaps the best on-ball perimeter defender in the NBA. I love the fit in Portland, as Payton’s defense should offset the weaknesses on that end with Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons not exactly strong in that regard. Payton should see ample playing time in Portland and has the highest steal rate in the NBA at 2.8 steals per 36, and that alone makes him standard-league relevant right away.

Bradley Beal: The Wizards had to pay $251M to keep their franchise player, but that’s good news for his fantasy value as he remains the No. 1 option as opposed to joining forces with a contender. Beal is primed for a massive bounce-back season after undergoing surgery on his wrist, as he shot just 30% from beyond the arc last season, well below his career mark of 37%. An improved supporting cast and a healthy Kristaps Porzingis will make life easier for him as well.

Bobby Portis: I would guess that Portis could’ve gotten a larger contract elsewhere, but the Bucks aren’t complaining as they re-sign him for $49M for four years. With Brook Lopez on the decline, I would imagine Portis gets the bulk of the center minutes this season and it helps that he’s a legitimate 3-point shooter these days to open the floor for Giannis – he shot 47% in 2020-21 from deep and 39% last season. He should have similar fantasy success in 2022-23 after posting 5th-round value in 9-cat, but I think you can grab him several rounds later.

JaVale McGee- The 34-year-old veteran isn’t capable of big workloads at this point in his career, but a 20-minute role could be on the table with the Mavs giving him $20M over three years. In just 15.8 minutes per game last season, McGee managed 9.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.

Marvin Bagley- Bagley somehow got $37M over three years to remain in Detroit, but I’ll give the front office a pass because they were otherwise very impressive this offseason. The Pistons recently moved Jerami Grant to Portland which makes Bagley the starting PF by default. I still have zero interest in drafting him in category leagues for the lack of defense.

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Fantasy Losers:

Chris Boucher: This was one of the most frustrating signings of the first 48 hours. Everyone knows about Boucher’s per-minute upside, but he’s staying put in Toronto with a head coach that hardly utilizes him. In fact, it’s pretty easy to imagine Nick Nurse violently throwing things around in his office after hearing what his front office did. Some nights he’ll play 20+ minutes with a gem of a fantasy line, and sometimes he’ll play five minutes and get benched for Precious Achiuwa. Minutes will be even harder to come by this season, as the Raptors brought in Otto Porter Jr. and rookie Christian Koloko in addition to re-signing Thaddeus Young.

Mo Bamba: I was surprised to see Bamba return to the Magic on a 2-year, $21M deal but it’s not something I’m a fan of from a fantasy perspective. Orlando’s frontcourt is very crowded these days and now they’re adding Paolo Banchero to the equation. Plus, the Magic seem more committed to Wendell Carter Jr. for the long haul, so you’d think WCJ starts at center with Paolo at the four. That may leave the possibility for minutes in the low 20s for Bamba which is enough for standard-league value because of his elite block rate and trickle of 3s, but we can’t expect the same production we saw in 2021-22.

Andre Drummond: A two-year deal for $6.6M is a solid grab for the Bulls, as Drummond has plenty left in the tank at age 28. It’s a terrible move for his fantasy value though, as he’ll be left to devour the scraps behind Nikola Vučević. That may leave Drummond with only 15-18 minutes, making him a fringe standard-league option only if you’re desperate for rebounds, FG% and blocks.

Victor Oladipo: Now 30 years old, Oladipo was probably hoping for a stronger market after showing some life at the end of the season. Instead he’ll return to Miami where he will most likely be used as the 7th or 8th rotation piece with Tyler Herro looking to make the jump into the starting lineup. Oladipo needs a ton of usage to offset his declining shooting percentages and steal rate, and I don’t see that happening in Miami.

Otto Porter Jr.: We don’t know the specifics of Porter’s two-year deal with the Raptors yet, but it’s far from an ideal landing spot for his fantasy appeal. He was outstanding with the Warriors last season on a per-minute basis, but you have to wonder if Toronto will follow the same load management plan on back-to-back given his injury history. I just don’t see him playing a big role with OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam occupying the forward spots.

Anfernee Simons: After breaking out late in 2021-22 in the absence of Damian Lillard, Simons secured a 4-year extension worth $100M. The bad news is that the Blazers are significantly deeper this season, and with a healthy Dame in front of him, he’ll have to show that he can coexist with Dame to live up to the hype that his late-season explosion will generate.

Lu Dort: I can already tell you what will happen with Dort. He’s going to feast for the first three months with high shot volume and plenty of points and 3s, but he’ll tank your FG% and will later be shut down with a fake injury after the All-Star break as the Thunder go all in on a tank for Victor Wembanyama. There is zero chance I draft a single player from the Thunder in fantasy, no matter how exciting some of those youngsters are. I’m sorry in advance, Pokusevski.

Malik Monk: Initially, I thought Monk would be a fantasy winner when he landed with the Kings. However, the Kings have since traded for Kevin Huerter, meaning he’ll have to settle for the 4th guard spot behind De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell and Huerter.

Tyus Jones: The veteran point guard apparently had a strong market around the NBA but he opted to return to Memphis as Ja Morant’s backup. There is a bit more upside here than we saw last season with De’Anthony Melton gone, but a move away from Memphis was the only way for him to be a standard-league pick in fantasy.

Kyle Anderson: Slo-Mo is a sneaky good fantasy contributor when the minutes are there, but he’s heading to Minnesota where he’s likely to be a key cog in the second unit with the Wolves very high on Jaden McDaniels.

BONUS CONTENT: I figured I’d give you my immediate thoughts on the trades we saw, though I’m sure they are the first of many more.

Utah Jazz traded Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves for Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Walker Kessler, Leandro Bolmaro five first-round picks.

Thoughts: Five first rounders for Gobert is a massive price tag for a 30-year-old center on a hefty contract, not to mention the Jazz also get the promising Vanderbilt with this move. Gobert’s fantasy value is unlikely to change on his new team, and I think the same is true for Karl-Anthony Towns since he prefers to play away from the rim anyways (maybe we see a dip in boards and blocks, but he could offset it with more 3s and better efficiency).

Kessler is a big winner here as this move catapults him onto the standard-league radar as a rookie. He may start right away, but the Jazz are certainly not done making moves. As for Vanderbilt, he was a sleeper of mine last season and proceeded to post 6th-round total value in 9-cat. Assuming the Jazz go with a rebuild, Vanderbilt will be one of their most important pieces and can put up some impressive numbers in steals, boards and FG%. He’s a sneaky playmaker too so let’s see if the Jazz utilize that.

Indiana Pacers traded Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics for Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan and a 2023 first-round pick.

Thoughts: We all the know the story with Brogdon. He’s a two-way guard who can go out and get you 20 points and flirt with double-digit dimes. However, the dude simply cannot stay on the floor, and now he’ll have to share the ball with Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The good news is that his ADP should be very affordable since every fantasy manager on the planet put him on their do-not-draft list.

As for the Indiana side, keep a close eye on Nesmith. He’s an elite shooter from deep and I don’t think he was given a fair chance in Boston.

New York Knicks sent Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, two future second-round picks and cash to the Detroit Pistons.

Thoughts: This was a salary-dumping move for New York, clearing the way for them to sign Jalen Brunson. The Pistons said they have plans for Burks and Noel, but they have to say that and I fully expect them to dump them at the deadline in February. I’m not going near either veteran.

San Antonio Spurs traded Dejounte Murray to the Hawks for Danilo Gallinari, three first-round draft picks and a draft swap.

Thoughts: This was an absolute bargain for the Hawks after the season that Murray just had when he was triple-doubling for fun. The Spurs made this trade to later avoid paying Murray a heaping pile of cash, and it’s no secret that they are all-in for Victor Wembanyama. I initially had Murray as a late first-round pick, but I think this trade moves him down a round and maybe two with Trae Young being so ball dominant.

Tre Jones should have the edge over Josh Primo for the starting PG job in San Antonio and becomes an intriguing sleeper with this news, while Devin Vassell’s upside could be through the roof. We do have to worry about the tanking shenanigans late in the season though for all the core Spurs.

Denver Nuggets to trade Monte Morris and Will Barton to the Washington Wizards for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith.

Thoughts: I really liked this move for the Nuggets. KCP is an upgrade over Will Barton after the season he just had, and the Nuggets are able to trim some salary while opening the door for Bones Hyland to soak up Monte Morris’ backup PG minutes. Morris may start in Washington, but he’s just not a great fantasy option like we saw last season. I think KCP ends up with the most fantasy value among the players discussed with Bones close behind.

Atlanta Hawks traded Kevin Huerter to the Kings for Justin Holiday, Mo Harkless and a future first round pick.

Thoughts: Huerter’s fantasy value was buried upon the Dejounte Murray trade, so this trade saves him as he should be the second or third guard in Sacramento as he battles Davion Mitchell. I have zero interest in him for fantasy though as he’s very empty outside of points, dimes and 3s.