As we head into August, now is a perfect time to take a look back at the free agency period for the upcoming 2014-15 NBA season.
While there is one big name yet to sign (Eric Bledsoe), a few less-intriguing options still on the market (Michael Beasley, Andray Blatche, Kent Bazemore, Jordan Crawford), and another who’s unsure whether he’ll play or retire (Ray Allen), most of the fantasy basketball world knows where guys will be playing this season. Of course, that still doesn’t include the possibility of Kevin Love finding a new home by the end of the summer, but that could be the subject of an entirely different article.
There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that Love will land in Cleveland, which will make them a huge force in the Eastern Conference — and in the entire NBA.
Even though Love hasn’t yet purchased real estate on the shores of Lake Erie, getting LeBron James — who is the best player in the NBA (apologies to Kevin Durant) — to return to his home state, already makes the Cavaliers the winners of the NBA free agency sweepstakes.
Other than signing Bron’s buddies Mike Miller and James Jones, the Cavs didn’t do a whole lot else, but teaming King James with Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao — and inevitably Love — will make them a favorite in the East, and a force for fantasy owners.
Speaking of the “three” position, here are a couple more small forwards who changed cities, as well some other signings/trades and how they shake out for fantasy purposes (Note: I am only including players who switched teams):
Luol Deng, Heat: Miami lost LeBron and tried to “replace” him with Deng. Heat “fans” (the same ones that leave American Airlines Arena early during losses) are gonna be pretty pissed when this team hits the floor next season. Deng was a shell off his former self during his 40 games with Cleveland after being traded from Chicago. He averaged just 14.3 points and 5.1 boards while shooting 41.7 percent from the floor, but a lot of that could be attributed to a nagging Achilles injury that he dealt with all season long.
In Miami, he will likely be the third, and sometimes second option (during the two games a week when Dwyane Wade sits out), but the Heat lack very little scoring beyond himself, Wade and Chris Bosh. The opportunities will be there and he could be a steal in the mid- to late-rounds of fantasy drafts.
Trevor Ariza, Rockets: The Rockets failed miserably this off-season. They planned an all-out assault to sign Chris Bosh, but he spurned them to remain in Miami. They lost Chandler Parsons to Dallas (and received some not-so-nice words from Parsons in return). They traded Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik (to the Lakers and Pelicans, respectively) to free of cap space in order to acquire Bosh, and when they swung and missed on him, they were left with Isaiah Canaan and Ish Smith as backup point guards and Joey Dorsey as their second-string center — seriously. Don’t worry, Rockets fans, Daryl Morey brought in Jeff Adrien to man the front court. A Rockets team that finished fourth in the West and went into the summer looking to improve on that, somehow managed to get much, much worse.
Ariza should help steady the ship, though. The 10-year vet had his best season last year, averaging 14.4 points with 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steals, and 2.3 treys per game. Also, after missing 67 games over the prior two seasons, he stayed relatively healthy in 2013-14, playing in 77 games for the Wizards. The former UCLA Bruin brings a unique blend of scoring and defense to the court, helping fantasy owners in many categories.
Of course, we’ve seen production like this from Trevor Ariza before — the last time he played for the Rockets — and his numbers proceeded to plummet each year up until last season. Was last year’s performance fueled by a potential payday in free agency? Maybe. He was a bargain last year, even going undrafted in many leagues, and don’t get me wrong, he should do well in the Rockets’ fast-paced offense, but his draft-day price may be a little too steep for me this time around. Save your bucks and grab someone with a more consistent track record rather than splurge on Ariza.
Pau Gasol, Bulls: His scoring will likely decrease, but expect his field goal percentage (48%), which was the second-worst of his career, to rise without the burden of being the sole offensive threat, which he was forced to do for the Kobe-less Lakers last year. He’s a top 10 power forward.
Omer Asik, Pelicans: Asik was relegated to the bench all season until Dwight Howard got hurt and they needed him to play big minutes. What did he do with that extra playing time? Over the final 10 games of the season, the native of Turkey grabbed 14.2 rebounds and “chipped in” 10.8 points. He’ll again have a backup role to both Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, but should get enough minutes (and won’t be in Kevin McHale’s in New Orleans) to be an adequate third or fourth center on your fantasy team.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Mavericks: He never found a role in NOLA, but has a chance to really garner some minutes as the direct backup to Chandler Parsons at small forward. He’s waiver material, but has proved he can put up stats in bunches.
Carlos Boozer, Lakers: Great situation for him to land in for fantasy owners and will be a solid grab later in drafts. There’s no reason why he can’t put up double-doubles on a nightly basis in LA.
Evan Turner, Celtics: Has failed to live up to his No. 2 overall draft status, but is still just 25. He won’t help your percentages, but averaged 5.0 boards per game last year — fourth overall for all shooting guard eligible players. Coach Brad Stevens should give him plenty of run.
Darren Collison, Kings: Flourished in a backup role with the Clippers last year and was rewarded for it by signing a three-year, $18M deal with Sacramento. Coach Mike Malone said he’ll be the Kings’ starter, which automatically gives him great upside in the later rounds of drafts. Collison will have even more value in leagues that count free throws made.
Anthony Morrow, Thunder: A very underrated signing by the Thunder. They needed a shooter, and got one in Morrow. The five-year vet has averaged 1.5 treys during his career and averaged 15.6 points and 1.9 threes in 29.2 minutes over the final 14 games with the Pelicans last year. He could be a valuable asset in roto leagues where you need three-point help.
Vince Carter, Grizzlies: The man known as Vinsanity keeps defying logic, scoring 11.9 points on 1.8 threes while grabbing 3.5 boards and dishing out 2.6 assists. He played in 81 games in his age 37 season. Expect a similar, if not bigger role in Memphis for a team in need of help beyond the arc.
Jose Calderon, Knicks: Calderon is as smooth as they come. He led the league in assist/turnover ratio last year, hit 82.5 percent of his free throws, drained 44.9 percent of his triples, and shot 45.6 percent from the field — numbers that could actually improve in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.
Chandler Parsons, Mavericks: Parsons goes from being the third wheel in Houston to being the second-and-a-half wheel in Dallas. That counts for something, right?
Trevor Booker, Jazz: Booker never really found a consistent role with the Wizards, but his 2013-14 per 36 numbers of 11.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks show he hasn’t been as limited of a player as his overall stats may suggest. He could find himself with a sizable opportunity as the direct backup to starting power forward Derrick Favors. Fantasy owners in deep leagues should keep him on their radar
Ed Davis, Lakers: Things can’t get any worse for Davis than they were in Memphis. He’ll get an opportunity to show what he can do in LA, despite having to compete in their deep frontcourt.
Ben Gordon, Magic: The former Sixth Man of the Year played just 14.7 minutes per game last season in Charlotte. The Magic didn’t pay him $9 million to sit on the bench. He can only go up from here.
Chris Kaman, Trail Blazers: Former Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni really screwed with Kaman’s playing time last year and it made for an inconsistent season for the 7-footer. Kaman averaged a respectable 10.4 points, 5.9 boards and 1.0 blocks in just 18.9 minutes for the Lakers, but in 13 starts, those numbers rose to a very nice 13.8, 8.5, and 1.5. Robin Lopez is the unquestioned starter in Portland, but Kaman has almost zero competition at the backup center spot. He’s very much on the radar in deeper leagues and ones that require starting two centers.
Rodney Stuckey, Pacers: Playing just about anywhere but Detroit would be sure to increase Stuckey’s fantasy value, but Indiana was an ideal spot to land for the 28-year-old. He won’t help you in the three-point department (0.4/game during career), but with Lance Stephenson signing in Charlotte, Stuckey is now the starter on a very good team. C.J. Miles could push him for minutes, but ultimately he won’t be much of a threat. Stuckey could average 14-16 points next season and will really give owners a boost in leagues that count free throw percentage and free throws made.
Jason Smith, Knicks: Samuel Dalembert and Cole Aldrich. Those are the players new Knicks’ center Jason Smith will vie for minutes with. Injuries have been a concern for Smith, but career per 36 numbers of 13.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks gives him lots of upside in deep leagues. His 76.3 percent shooting from the line is nice for a center as well. He’s not draftable, but should be a valuable commodity on waiver wires once Dalembert inevitable pisses of the coaches and front office in New York.
Kendall Marshall, Bucks: Brandon Knight and Nate Wolters proved to be great assets for the Bucks last year, but that’s it in terms of point guards in Milwaukee. Marshall faded towards the end of the season in Mike D’Antoni’s lottery ticket lineups, but if his 11.9-point, 11.5-assist January with the Lakers is any indication, K-Butter could eventually carve out a role with the hapless Bucks.
Lance Stephenson, Hornets: The scoring should increase a bit with no Paul George to steal away shots in the backcourt, but most of his numbers should stay relatively the same. Coach Steve Clifford stresses defense first — just like Frank Vogel — so Stephenson should feel right at home in Charlotte.
Tyson Chandler, Mavericks: Expect the same consistent numbers from Tyson in Dallas. Double-digit boards with around 10 ppg and stellar field goal percentages should be in the bag for the former Defensive Player of the Year.
Caron Butler, Pistons: The former UConn Husky goes from being a role player in Milwaukee/OKC last year, to being a role player in Detroit this year. As long as Josh Smith is in town, Butler won’t get enough minutes to be fantasy-relevant. He does have the occasional massive outburst, but you never know when that’s gonna happen. He’s a streaming-type player on Mondays, Thursdays, etc.
Jordan Farmar, Clippers: Farmar showed flashes of above-averageness last year with the Lakers, although that was probably more likely due to the system he was in (sensing a theme, i.e. Kaman, Marshall?) than his prowess as a player. Nevertheless, Darren Collison is gone, and Farmar will switch Staples Center clubhouses to inherit the vacated backup point guard role behind starter Chris Paul. For reference, Collison averaged 8.7 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.2 rebounds in 19.7 minutes when coming off the bench for the Clippers last year.
Danny Granger, Heat: It’s unlikely Granger will ever be healthy enough to be a fantasy option again, but he should provide a little bit more for deep-league owners with the Heat than he did last year with the Pacers and Clippers (8.2 ppg). Think about 10-13 points with little else — and that’s being very generous.
Josh McRoberts, Heat: “McBob” was one of the more underrated big men in the game last year. His 4.3 assists were second among all power forwards and his 1.3 treys tied him for ninth. He’ll fill a similar role with Miami as he did in Charlotte, which means you’ll get the nice all-around stats, but will lack the huge games. Plus, even with the departure of LeBron James, McRoberts will have to compete with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng for shots, rather than just Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. He won’t win you many head-to-head matchups, but he’ll be a very good player in roto formats with his ability to contribute across the board.
Channing Frye, Magic: The four-year, $32 million deal the Magic handed to Channing Frye was easily one of, if not the most head-scratching move of the summer. Frye can drain threes just as good as any big man out there, but for a team trying to get younger and save cap space, this move completely shattered that belief. I’m not falling for the whole “he’s here to mentor” Aaron Gordon either. They could’ve lured in Rasheed Wallace with a lifetime supply of anger management videos and it would’ve saved them a lot of dough. Whichever way you wanna slice it, beyond Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris, Orlando’s frontcourt is pretty inexperienced, and Frye should be able to get near the 28.2 minutes he got last year in Phoenix, as well as put up similar numbers (11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 threes).
James Johnson, Raptors: The Grizzlies stole Johnson from the D-League last year and he rewarded them with 7.4 points, 3.2 boards, 2.1 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.1 blocks. As a “glue guy”, he’s a bigger asset in real life than he is in fantasy, but with 19 games of 2+ blocks in 2013-14, he’ll have some upside on the waiver wire if a guy like Patrick Patterson or Tyler Hansbrough were to go down with an injury.
C.J. Miles, Pacers: One of the more underrated three-point threats in the game, C.J. Miles can drain it with the best of them (3.0 treys per 36), but that’s about the extent of his value. His role won’t change much from what it was with the Cavs and he’s always a great guy to stream if you know one of their regular starting guards isn’t going to play.
Luke Ridnour, Magic: Ridnour will pretty much fill the Jameer Nelson spot on the Magic roster. He’ll have the occasional double-digit assist game, but he isn’t worth much in the fantasy world.
Paul Pierce, Wizards: After spending 15 seasons in Boston, Pierce will now have played for two different teams (Nets, Wizards) in the past two years. He will turn 37 in October, and his year’s of high-scoring dominance are behind him, but he should be a solid contributor for the Wiz. Fantasy owners should expect about the same returns stat-wise as he had last year in Brooklyn. There isn’t much competition at the small forward spot in D.C., but there are also more collective mouths to feed on offense.
Mo Williams, Timberwolves: This was a nice signing by the Wolves and Williams should provide a nice veteran presence behind Ricky Rubio. He averaged 9.7 points and 4.3 assists in 25 minutes during his lone season with the Blazers and will likely put up similar numbers in Minnesota. Due to his terrible shooting, Rubio had problems staying on the court in the fourth quarter of games last year, so this situation could deserve monitoring should the Spaniard have those issues again in 2014-15.
Jarrett Jack, Nets: After a fantastic 2012-13 campaign in which he averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists as a super-sub for the Warriors, Jarrett Jack became one of the biggest flops in ’13-14. The 30-year-old scored just 9.5 points for the Cavs — his second-lowest total since his rookie season — and was subsequently traded to Brooklyn in the off-season. Nets’ starting point guard Deron Williams has been equally disappointing in recent years, so Jack should get every opportunity to solidify himself as one of the top bench guards in the league.
Jameer Nelson, Mavericks: I put Nelson in the “neutral” column because I really think he is better than Raymond Felton. In reality, though, don’t expect much more from Jameer than the 12.1 points and 7.0 dimes he averaged last year, and that could drop substantially. Devin Harris is lurking as a very dependable backup guard and Monta Ellis will often run the offense as well.
Arron Afflalo, Nuggets: Afflalo is an annoying name to type. Eight out of 10 times I will type it too fast and leave out the first “L”. He’ll also be an annoying player to own in fantasy this year — that’s if you’re expecting anything even remotely close to the numbers he put up last year. Afflalo was the 14th-ranked small forward on ESPN’s player rater last season, thanks in part to his career-high in points (18.2), assists (3.4), free throws made (3.8) and three-pointers (1.8). He’ll now return to Denver, which will provide him less scoring opportunities than he had in Orlando. In his previous three seasons with the Nuggets (’09-12), Afflalo averaged just 11.9 points, and while he is a far better player now, he’ll have to compete with guys like Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Nate Robinson and Randy Foye for shots on the wing. Another red flag? Nugs front office has admitted to wanting to use Afflalo as somewhat of a mentor for rookie Gary Harris. That could work against him if the team is out of contention later in the season.
Aaron Brooks, Bulls: Brooks was phenomenal while filling in for Ty Lawson late last year, posting 13.9 points and 6.3 assists from from March 19 on, but he’s now with the Bulls, where he will back up Derrick Rose and even possibly Kirk Hinrich. He’s a better player than Hinrich, but coach Tom Thibodeau loves the begoggled one, which is not good for Brooks’ fantasy value. After all, there’s always that injury stigma with Rose, so you can never rule out Brooks sliding into a starting role if Rose were to once again don a suit and tie. Until then, though, he’s a non-factor.
Isaiah Thomas, Suns: Unless the Suns somehow fail to re-sign Eric Bledsoe, or they trade Goran Dragic, Thomas’ fantasy value takes a huge hit. I don’t care what the team says about using a three-guard system or whatever, simply put, he’s gonna get less minutes and far fewer opportunities than he did in Sacramento. Last season with the Kings, IT2 averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists in 34.7 minutes per game. Look for the minutes to drop down to around 28-30, and his scoring to be in the 15-point range with a few 30-point blowups to put on his resume when one of the other two guards sits out. Basically, he’ll be a little bit better than the 2012-13 version of himself, when he averaged 13.9 points and 4.0 assists in 26.9 minutes.
Jodie Meeks, Pistons: I like the signing of Meeks from the Pistons point of view, but it’s not a great one for fantasy purposes. But I suppose anyone leaving Mike D’Antoni’s system in LA is going to decline a bit. Meeks had an insanely good year, both offensively (15.7 points, 2.1 threes) and defensively (1.4 steals), and even though Stan Van Gundy’s system will be good for his beyond-the-arc capabilities, there are too many other guys that need their reps in Motor City. I mean, Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith combined to take 30.5 shots per game last season — that was 35 percent of the team’s total attempts per contest. Unless Meeks lands in your lap in the later rounds, he’s probably not going to be worth his bloated ADP.
DeJuan Blair, Wizards: Blair is a nice addition for the Wizards and their depth, but with Marcin Gortat, Nene, Drew Gooden, and Kevin Seraphin in the frontcourt, the former Pitt Panther will be hard-pressed to find significant court time.
Kris Humphries, Wizards: See Blair, DeJuan
Steve Blake, Trail Blazers: The Steve Blake Show in LA (9.5 points, 7.6 assists, 1.9 treys) was fun while it lasted, but we saw the real Blake after he was traded to Golden State (4.4 points, 3.6 assists). With Mo Williams no longer in Rip City, those numbers should be slightly better in the Pacific Northwest than they were in NorCal, but now he’ll just have the quickly-improving C.J. McCollum to contend with for backup duties behind Damian Lillard.
Spencer Hawes, Clippers: Signing Hawes was a great move for the Clip Joint, but it will not be good for his fantasy basketball owners. The 26-year-old enjoyed career highs in points (13.2), rebounds (8.3), assists (3.0), steals (0.6), blocks (1.2) and three-pointers (1.6) last season, but with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan commanding so much attention, it will be difficult for Hawes to match those totals from a season ago. He’ll still represent very good all-around value for a center — after all, how many centers can provide those kinds of three-point and block numbers — but he won’t finish anywhere close to the No. 7 center ranking he had on ESPN’s player rater in 2013-14.
D.J. Augustin, Pistons: It’s a shame that Augustin landed in Detroit because he was a real treat to watch last season in Chicago. After pretty much being left for dead, the Bulls took a chance on him — and he flourished — scoring 14.9 points (on 2.2 treys) and dropping 5.0 dimes in 61 games. With the Pistons, unfortunately, he’ll have to share minutes with Brandon Jennings, Will Bynum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks. The only hope here is that Jennings gets traded.
Shaun Livingston, Warriors: This became one of the true feel good stories in the NBA, and pretty much all of the sports world. In 2007, after tearing three of the four ligaments in his left knee, Shaun Livingston was told he may never play basketball again. He persevered, though, and last year had his best statistical season since that fateful ’06-07 campaign. He was a spark off the Nets bench, and with Deron Williams nursing injuries, he even started 54 games. With the move to Golden State, his numbers should drop off a little bit (unless Klay Thompson is traded), and he won’t be worth drafting in most fantasy leagues. Stephen Curry is always an injury risk, although he did play in 78 games last year, so Livingston is a must-add if the Warriors’ starting point guard were to be sidelined.
Brian Roberts, Hornets: Roberts had a chance to shine for the Pelicans when Jrue Holiday got hurt, but he really didn’t do much with the opportunity, averaging just 11.8 points and 3.9 assists while shooting a meager 42.6 percent over 41 starts. Yet, the Hornets still handed him a $5.5 million deal to back up Kemba Walker. Judging by his rather poor performance in a starting role last year, he doesn’t seem to be a palatable option even if he should have to fill in for Walker at any point.
Thabo Sefolosha, Hawks: There’s not much to see here on the fantasy front, as Thabo is more of a shutdown defensive guy who is assigned to guard the opposing teams’ top scorer. He may have actually gotten more playing time in OKC than he will in Atlanta.
Marvin Williams, Hornets: I can never understand why (maybe it’s his No. 2 overall draft status — from 2007!), but Marvin Williams somehow keeps landing jobs — and getting paid, too! The Hornets are just the latest team to fall into this trap, giving the former Tarheel $14 million over two years. He actually had his moments last year, but his fantasy value is more dim in Charlotte than it was in Utah. He’ll contend for minutes with Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jeffery Taylor at the small forward position — guys, who mind you, aren’t very good either.
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