In the lead-up to the February 6, 2020 NBA trade deadline, there was a flurry of activity. Reports of a quiet deadline were greatly exaggerated. Below, I take a look at two of the biggest deals and break down how the new environments might affect the fantasy production of the players involved. So much of team and player success is about fit. How are roles assigned? Can a player fulfill his adequately? Would he be better suited for something different? How do the surrounding pieces in a lineup accentuate the strengths or weaknesses of any individual player? Not all of this information is necessary to make sound fantasy decisions, but it can certainly help. I won’t be doing any in-depth trade analysis or draft pick tracking. I’m strictly focused on how each of the key players will fit in their new environment.
4-Team, 12 Player Mega-Deal Involving The Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, and Denver Nuggets: Denver receives Shabazz Napier, Keita Bates-Diop, Noah Vonleh, and Gerald Green. Atlanta receives Clint Capela and Nene Hilario. Minnesota receives Evan Turner, Jared Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez. Houston receives Robert Covington and Jordan Bell.
The Rockets got their man. Daryl Morey was known to be in pursuit of Robert Covington for about a month now. Morey’s magic wins out again—though it did help that his former right hand was the primary trade partner. What does this mean for Covington’s rest of season fantasy outlook? It is good, friends. Very good.
Covington got his start playing for the Rockets G league affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, launching threes ad infinitum in Morey’s basketball innovation lab. With Capela gone and Covington in his place, the Rockets have committed to playing five perimeter players for the majority of every game the rest of this season. Covington should get the best three-point looks of his career, spotting up around James Harden and Russel Westbrook rim attacks. I would expect Covington to take the most threes of his career as well. His career high for three-pointers attempted a game is 7.2. He’s currently attempting 6.5 threes a game. Covington attempted 7 threes against the Lakers on February 6, his first game in a Rockets uniform.
The Rockets won that game, silencing the doubters at least for a moment. Here’s what Covington’s first night in a Rockets uniform looked like from a statistical perspective: 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-7 3FG), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 3 turnovers. Covington’s defense and rebounding are of premium importance on this roster. With no center on the floor, it’s going to fall on PJ Tucker and Robert Covington to rebound like bigs. Russ will continue to get his rebounds, but he can’t get them all. Covington will primarily play the power forward position, but he may also get some time at center in the right matchup, once again increasing his opportunity to get rebounds and blocks.
With this trade, the Rockets will return to their switch everything system on defense. They will shade off of non-shooters, mucking up driving and passing lanes. They will help PJ Tucker out by doubling in the post and looking to get deflections and steals. They employ two suspect defenders who like to gamble for steals in Russell Westbrook and James Harden. They’ll be conducting a chaotic ballet on defense, looking for every opportunity to get possession of the ball and quickly get out in transition. This is the system Robert Covington has just walked into. This is the system Robert Covington will be an integral part of. Robert Covington has never averaged less than a steal a game in any season in the NBA and his career high for steals a game is 2.3. (I’m ignoring his 2013-14 season when he only played in seven games.) As the saying goes, “You better get while the gettin is good.” Well the gettin is going to be good for the rest of the season for Mr. Roco.
The Hawks clearly believe Collins best position is at power forward, evidenced by them trading for Clint Capela, but Collins may still play some small-ball center in all-offense lineups for the Hawks. Clint Capela is injured and it’s unclear when he’ll return to action, likely not until after the All-Star break. When he does return he’ll be in prime position to put up gaudy stat-lines for the Hawks.
Unlike the Rockets, who have moved away from the pick-and-roll, preferring to let James Harden and Russel Westbrook attack in isolation with a spread floor; the Hawks run the third-most pick-and-rolls in the league behind the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. Capela will once again be catching lobs from one of the game’s best passers in Trae Young. He should feast as a roll-man in the pick-and-roll. Capela fills another need for the Hawks—rebounding. The Hawks are 27th in the league in Defensive Rebounding Percentage, according to NBA.com. Collins, who has played center at times this season isn’t an overwhelming rebounder, neither are the Hawks wing players. Their point guard is undersized. Capela makes a ton of sense for the Hawks. He should be a defensive improvement over the revolving door of Alex Len, Bruno Fernando, and Damian Jones. Rebounding is the last piece to a successful defensive possession, so he can help the defense in that way as well. He’s one of the best vertical spacers in the game and he has always been willing to play his role with intensity and without complaint. The only question is his fit with John Collins.
Collins is a power forward, at least on the defensive end. His defensive and rebounding issues make it so. But as we’ve seen in his first two years in the league, he’s a quality pick-and-roll partner for Trae Young in his own right. He can play above the rim and provide the same sort of vertical spacing that Capela does. I would argue that’s his best skill on the offensive end. When they play together however, he’ll be asked to play more like a perimeter player. He’ll be asked to space the floor, attack closeouts, make quick decisions, and generally maintain the advantage the Hawks have created, either with a drive, a shot, or a pass.
Collins can already do things Capela can’t. Collins is a career 35 percent from three. He’s shooting 35.8 percent this season on 3.7 attempts a game, after shooting 34.8 percent on 2.6 attempts a game. He’s not Davis Bertans, but it looks like Collins should be at least a league average shooter for the entirety of his career. If Collins can knock down his threes at a 36 percent clip or higher on about 4 to 6 attempts, the Hawks are going to be really scary. Right now the Hawks are an average offense with Trae Young on the floor, but if Collins continues to improve, they could be a top five offense in the league. Collins is young, athletic, and versatile; his skills should continue to develop. For now, Capela is out and Dedmon is back on the squad, which is great news for Young and Collins since Dedmon is a more natural pairing next to Collins. Dedmon can protect the rim on defense and space the floor on offense allowing Collins to do what he does best, rim-run on offense and defend power forwards on defense. Collins fantasy outlook is exceedingly good while Capela is out and should still remain high once he returns.
Skal Labissiere is an interesting prospect. He may never play enough or stay healthy consistently enough to be fantasy relevant, but he looked to be developing a solid mid-range game this season. In 567 minutes this season, Labissiere shot 58.2 percent on all of his two-point shots and, most notably for us, shot 61.5 percent from 10-16 feet and 50 percent from 16 feet to the three-point line. That midrange feels real to me.
With so many bigs and the Hawks seemingly in a hurry to make the playoffs, it will be difficult for Labissiere to get consistent minutes, but Damian Jones could be moved this summer or simply not tendered an offer, making him an unrestricted free-agent. Skal could work himself into consistent back-up power forward minutes. If Labissiere can get back on the court this season, I would closely monitor his progress.
It’s unlikely Dedmon will ever be able to reproduce the numbers he put up last season when he averaged 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1,1 steals, and 1,1 blocks, while shooting 49 percent from the field, 38.2 percent from three, and 81.4 percent from the line, but he’ll be the most obvious Capela back-up. And while Capela is out, he’s likely to start. If you’re in 14-team or deeper league, he’ll likely have a role at some point this season and next.
Warriors Get: Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins has been able to put up respectable totals by being on bad teams that had no other choice but to allow him to embrace his inefficient ball-dominant style of play. He has a 28 percent usage rate this season, second highest of his career. That usage rate might hold for the rest of this year. It may even rise as long as Steph Curry remains out, but it should drop next season when both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry are fully healthy. Wiggins outlook for this season is bright and he should be able to continue as he has so far this season. The Warriors are worse than the Wolves and, until Steph Curry comes back, Wiggins is the best offensive player on the team. People have been quick to compare Wiggins to Harrison Barnes in terms of their fits in the Golden State machine. That’s not an exciting archetype, however—a low-usage spot-up threat, who might get some opportunity to isolate in the second-unit. Barnes never averaged more than 11.7 points while with the Warriors and his highest usage rate was 15.9 percent. Without additional ball-handling wings, maybe Wiggins can settle into a 18-22 percent usage rate next season. Still, that means Wiggins won’t get the same amount of playmaking opportunities he’s received this season. It’s probably reasonable to expect a drop in points, similar to when Wiggins played alongside Jimmy Butler in Minnesota. He averaged 17.7 points in 2017-18 playing alongside Butler. Wiggins will have to significantly improve his efficiency in order to maintain his current value next season.
They received Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Juan Hernangomez from the Nuggets in the four-team deal. The Timberwolves also received Evan Turner from Atlanta in that same four-team deal. Turner and the Wolves are already in talks to execute a buyout for him.
D’Angelo Russell is sort of a known quantity at this point. He should be an extremely high usage player the rest of this season and into the future. He can score, pass, and grab a few rebounds. He’s shooting 34.7 percent from three for 3.6 makes a game this season. The issues with Russell are the lack of defensive stats and the turnovers. This season, Russell is averaging 23.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.9 steals, and 3.1 turnovers. Russell already had a 32.1 percent usage rate this season, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see it go up a tick in Minnesota. If it does, I’d expect to see his assists and turnovers rise slightly. His athletic limitations and inability to consistently get to the free-throw line mean his field goal percentage will always be below average. Russell has never shot better than 43 percent from the field in his career.
Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez are the second and third most important acquisitions of the trade season for the Wolves. They obviously wanted to pair Russell with his good buddy Towns, but they smartly targeted Beasley and Hernangomez as well. Both former Nuggets are restricted free agents and it would have been tough for Denver to retain them. The scuttlebutt is that there will be a few teams with interest in Beasley this summer. As a result, the Wolves will likely give Beasley every opportunity to succeed. The Wolves have to figure out just how good he is and how valuable his production is to winning before they decide to pay him this summer. I suspect there will be less league-wide interest in Hernangomez, but the same thing applies. The Wolves have to see what they have in both players.
If you believe in Beasley, you’re hoping he can recreate his production from last season, when he averaged 11.3 points per game, shot 40.2 percent from three, and 47.4 percent from the field. Was last year an outlier, or a baseline for Beasley when given enough opportunity? He’s well off that pace this season—averaging 7.9 points, shooting 36 percent from three, and 38.9 percent from the field. He’s probably not going to save his field goal percentage this season, but he should score more and cash more threes in Minnesota. The extra playing time might also allow him to average a steal a game. Beasley will likely be a 12 team player the rest of the season.
Juancho seems destined for a life of low-usage fantasy irrelevance, but playing on a tanking team orbiting a Karl-Anthony Towns/D’Angelo Russel pick-and-roll seems like his best chance to show he can be more than that archetype suggests. Best case scenario for Juancho is that he becomes viable in 14-team leagues.
Omari Spellman is a solid stretch four in the real NBA. He’s shooting 43 percent from three on 2.2 attempts a game this season. He will surprise you with a thunderous putback dunk every now and then. He seems like a good guy. I hope he gets minutes in Minnesota. Until we see more, he’s not a fantasy option in anything but the deepest of leagues. That said, the Wolves do want to shoot a lot of threes and there aren’t a ton of versatile forwards on this roster. He may be a viable 14-team league player by the end of this season.