Well, we’re a few days into free agency and we’re still waiting for the big dominoes to fall. Carmelo Anthony met with the Lakers and Knicks on Thursday, and the sense is he can make a decision this weekend. Some highlights include Mitch Kupchak walking Melo to his car and Kobe meeting personally with him. Fun!
We’re still waiting on LeBron James and he’s expected to take the weekend to spend some time with his family. In other words, Melo will probably be making his decision first. Meanwhile, we’ll be stuck listening to fake Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.
Let's just get right into it and take a look at some of the done deals and rumors swirling around. We’ll try to stick with ones that have implications/changes compared to last season.
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Kyle Lowry staying up north
The Raptors got their man on Wednesday night. Kyle Lowry agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal with the Raptors after getting interest from the Heat and Rockets.
This is your classic case of players busting out in a contract year and Lowry’s 2013-14 is one of the better examples. In his first eight years in the NBA, Lowry had career earnings of $28.8 million, so he’s making 3.3 times more money in the next four years of his contract compared to the first eight.
It was a career-high fest last season for Lowry with averages of 17.9 points, 4.7 boards, 7.4 dimes, 2.4 triples and 4.0 free throw makes. Those stats brought him to first-round value in standard leagues with his 79 outings. While I believe his stats are for real and he should be able to put up a similar 18-5-7 line with a couple treys per game, the 79 games is a tall order to duplicate. I’d look to grab him in the 20-28 range.
In what may be my least favorite move of the summer, the Kings signed Darren Collison to a three-year, $15 million deal. This likely brings an end to the Pizza Guy era in Sacramento, which is easily the best group of commercials from the NBA last season.
The move is a terrible fit for the Kings for several reasons. Collison hasn’t really been able to facilitate an offense like many other point guards. Even in his 35 starts last year, DC only averaged 5.3 assists per game, and was at just 2.7 on the season as a whole. He only had 5.2 assist opportunities per game which translated to only 5.6 points created off assists per game. That’s not a bad ratio, but the Clippers were first in offensive efficiency last season and Collison’s assist percentage was less than half of Chris Paul’s.
The Kings are expected to Collison the starter and that spells trouble. Ever since he stepped up for an injured Chris Paul during DC’s rookie season back in 2009-10, he has been a disappointment as a starter. Last season, he even lost his starting job to a guy like Mike James with the Mavericks, and things didn't work out well in Indiana either. The Kings were already last in assists per game last year and they’re shaping up to repeat. Collison probably will play more like a shooting guard with the lack of handling the ball, which isn’t such a bad thing for guys like Knicks guard Jose Calderon.
While it’s a bad move in reality, it’s a great move for Collison’s fantasy value. He has been a very effective player with percentages and he should be able to set a career-high in 3-pointers. A fair expectation would be a PG2-type guy and he’s a decent target in the middle rounds of drafts.
Apparently, the chances of Pau Gasol heading to OKC are real. The Thunder don’t have much money to commit to Pau with the three massive contracts of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, so the former All-Star will have to take a huge pay cut. Things were such a mess in Los Angeles, Gasol may very well take a one- or two-year deal as a mid-level exception.
So how much of a pay cut would it be? Well, Gasol made $19.3 million last season and the first-year of a possible MLE would be $5.3 million. Yep, $14.0 million is a doozy. A move to OKC would put a huge dent in his fantasy value and would also hurt Serge Ibaka. Perhaps even Russell Westbrook because of Gasol’s ability to pass. We’ll check back on this one soon.
The Josh Smith trade rumors have been picking up steam and it was just a matter of time. Stan Van Gundy’s offense just isn’t going to work with Josh Smith and Greg Monroe at the forward spots, but it would work with Monroe and a 3-point threat at small forward.
For basically the entire time SVG ran the Magic, they relied heavily on triples and shots at the rim. With the Pistons, he'll have Andre Drummond who attempted 86.7 percent of his shots at the rim last season while Greg Monroe led the NBA in shots at the rim in 2012-13, so they would certainly have part of that equation under control.
We’ll see what happens, but the rumors make a lot of sense. We’ll revisit this when either Monroe or Smith are out of Motown.
Orlando disappearing act
The Magic couldn’t find a suitor for Jameer Nelson and it led to the team waiving him this week. The move saves the Magic six million bucks and they’re now going to have one of the younger rosters in the NBA. This move comes on the heels of the Magic dealing away Arron Afflalo to the Nuggets, so they’re clearly joining up with the 76ers in the National Tanking Association. Plus, they also let E’Twaun Moore go and are not expected to bring him back.
That means their starting backcourt will be composed of rookie Elfrid Payton and sophomore Victor Oladipo. Payton becomes a huge winner for playing time and the Magic are unlikely to add another point guard who will play more than 24 minutes per game. Payton’s offense is a long way from being NBA-ready and he doesn’t have a jumper, so it would be better for him to just keep his shots down. In other words, he will probably only be a two-category guy. Payton should get his steals and dimes while also adding some a few blocks and boards to go with it. However, he’s really probably going to be a detriment to field goal and free throw percentages. Payton was a beast on two-point shots last year at 54.1 percent, but you’d think the larger bodies will keep his shots at the rim down a bit. The rookie also shot just 61.1 percent in his three years at Louisiana-Lafayette.
His game is going to be a little different than Michael Carter-Williams, but that’s a fair precedent to set for his fantasy value. He is worth a look in the early-late rounds. Oladipo will also have to improve on his scoring and turnovers, but he does have upside for putting up multiple-category lines. He’s a decent target in the middle rounds, especially with how the Magic should up their tempo and get into the top 10 for pace this upcoming season.
Smart with Bradley
The Celtics had a couple developments over the past week. They didn’t waste any time on Avery Bradley, locking him up for a four-year, $32 million deal. Obviously they’re really high on him and didn’t even wait for a team to make him an offer sheet as a restricted free agent.
We all saw Bradley break out in his age-23 season, averaging 14.9 points, 3.8 boards, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.3 triples on 43.8 percent from the field. He grew as a well-rounded scorer and the Celtics keeping him at shooting guard really helped him. He should be a late-middle round target with a decent ceiling now that he's making treys.
Marcus Smart is going to play both guard positions at summer league. At worst, he’s a late-round pick in re-draft leagues and he would be a solid late-mid round guy with Rondo on another roster.
Pistons don't act Meeks
The Pistons may have overpaid a bit with their three-year, $19 million agreement with Jodie Meeks. We all knew that Stan Van Gundy was going to be after a shooter, so they likely had their hearts set on Meeks.
There is really no way they’ll be bringing back Rodney Stuckey which should mean Meeks is set for at least minutes in the mid-20s. Meeks was basically in a perfect situation last year with the Lakers unable to keep players on the court, finishing with averages of 15.7 points, 2.5 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.1 triples. He was turning in early-round value when he was clicking, so there will be nice upside with his new team.
It’s possible he can make 2.0 triples per game with the Pistons, which would give him a floor of top-75 value. If the Pistons don’t add another shooter, look for Meeks to be the catch-and-shoot guy. Although, he’s not great off screens, which is something he’ll need to work on in the offseason.
This story may finally be coming to a climax. The Bulls have been expected to waive Carlos Boozer for almost a year now and they are almost ready to get his money off the books. They’re still holding out hope that they can get a sign-and-trade deal, but any possible trade partner knows the Bulls have no leverage. In other words, teams will try to get Nikola Mirotic, another young player or a draft pick to help the Bulls out.
Taj Gibson should be a middle-round guy at worst and he could become a top-50 player, as well. We’ll have to see what else they do in order to gauge the value of guys like Doug McDermott.
Nerlens Noel is all set for summer league. We should get an extended look at him and see how his knee looks. He’d have to play really well to make it into the first six rounds of fantasy drafts. I’d say he’s like an eighth-rounder right now.
Marcin Gortat re-signed with the Wizards and he should be a high-end C2 in fantasy next year. He really looked great in the postseason.
Luol Deng could wind up with the Clippers in a sign-and-trade deal. I want nothing to do with him next season in fantasy.
The Pacers are trying to trade for Rajon Rondo or Goran Dragic. Good luck with that.
C.J. Miles signed with the Pacers and will come off the bench. Cool.
The Magic signed Ben Gordon to a two-year deal. Also cool.