The Toronto Raptors are no longer In-Vince-able. The team rid itself of the only superstar in its history when it traded Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two future No. 1 picks. And the Raptors may not be done rebuilding.
The team is reportedly shopping Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall to Miami for Eddie Jones. While that remains a rumor, let's discuss the fantasy ramifications of the changes we already know to be true:
Vince Carter to New Jersey:
Carter is on the IL with a strained left Achilles tendon, but he's expected back within a week or two. In other words, he'll be in a Nets uniform by the New Year. Carter was in the midst of the worst season of his NBA career prior to the injury, averaging career lows in points (15.8), assists (3.0), rebounds (3.3), field-goal percentage (.411) and free-throw percentage (.694). In most eight- or nine-category roto leagues, he's been a detriment more than a benefit.
If anything, a simple change of scenery might be enough to shake Carter out of the doldrums. But, in New Jersey, it could be bigger than just that. One only need look at Richard Jefferson to understand the profound affect playing with Jason Kidd can have on a player's fantasy bottom line. Take a look at what Jefferson has done this season, with and without Kidd:
Jefferson improved in six of eight key fantasy basketball categories since Kidd's return. The most noticeable boost comes in field goal percentage. Jefferson had been a near-.500 shooter coming into the season, but sunk to a .415 clip while Kidd rehabbed his knee. Kidd's ability to distribute the ball and set his teammates up for easier buckets is the main reason Jefferson has returned to his previously solid field goal rate.
Carter should enjoy a similar affect on his game. Toronto has never had a franchise-type point guard. For most of Carter's career, the offensive-minded Alvin Williams has manned the point. Only once during Carter's tenure has a Raptor player averaged six assists or more. In '00-'01, Mark Jackson led the team with 9.2 assists. Jackson, like Kidd, was a master at finding the open man and hitting that man in stride. Playing with Jackson, Carter averaged career bests in points (27.6) and treys (2.2). And the rest of his numbers were near career marks.
The Nets hope that adding Carter will convince Kidd to step back from his previous trade requests. Come January, when Kidd, Jefferson and Carter are healthy and running the court together, this will be a team to be reckoned with in the East. With Kidd leading the break, watch for both Carter and Jefferson to push 20 points a night with a palatable field goal percentage to go with.
Now is a good time to trade for Carter if you can get him at the reduced price he'd fallen to when he hit the IL. In the past week prior to this deal, I've seen Carter go in one-for-one deals for the likes of Drew Gooden, Tony Parker, Jeff McInnis and Keith Van Horn. Those trades represent bargains now for those that acquired Carter.
Don't expect fantasy help from anyone on New Jersey outside the big three. But keep an eye on Brian Scalabrine as a potential sleeper. With the defections of the two Williams and Mourning, Scalabrine will log more time at power forward. He played 44 minutes there on Friday night, hitting for 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams to the Toronto Raptors:
Life without Carter hasn't been kind to the Raptors from a reality standpoint, as the team is just 1-4 in the five games sans Carter. But from a fantasy viewpoint, a couple players have excelled with the increased focus they are now receiving. In particular, point guard Rafer Alston is averaging 17.4 points, 6.8 assists, 2.2 steals and 2.4 treys without Carter. Each of those numbers eclipse his season average, with the points representing a three-point improvement.
Power forward Chris Bosh is hitting at 14 points, 9 boards, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals without Carter. Again, each of those is an improvement on his season average. As it is unlikely that the acquisitions of the two Williams and Mourning will change the Raptors current team dynamic, both Alston and Bosh should be looked at as fantasy upgrades. Mourning, in fact, isn't expected to take a physical for Toronto. And Toronto knew full well when Mourning was included in the deal that it was doubtful he'd ever play for them. Mourning has lobbied from the beginning of the season to be traded to a contender. It is likely that Toronto will look to buyout Mourning and send him on his way as a free agent.
Eric Williams averaged 20 points in the three games prior to being dealt. The Nets had Jefferson playing shooting guard, opening up 40 minutes a night for Williams at the small forward. But Williams won't see that kind of action in Toronto, where Donyell Marshall and Morris Peterson handle small forward duties. Marshall has struggled this season, but he's been one of fantasy's more underrated players the past few years. At any rate, his talent and veteran experience require that he continue to get his 25-30 minutes a night. That being the case, it's hard to see Williams getting much more than 25 minutes himself, which makes him a fantasy afterthought.
As previously mentioned, a potential deal with Miami that would send Marshall and Rose to South Florida for Eddie Jones would mean more playing time for Marshall and Williams. Until then, though, they'll have only marginal fantasy value.