The period of free agency continues to shape the fantasy basketball-scape with fresh meat on terrible teams and players signing with contenders to be relegated to bench duty. With baseball in full swing and the NFL getting half of the ESPN air time no matter what time of year it is, a lot of NBA moves have been made under the radar. Look for every division to get a team-by-team breakdown and some early fantasy thoughts on the new faces in new places:
Wait Why Did We Fire George Karl Again?: Randy Foye, J.J. Hickson, Nate Robinson, Darrell Arthur, Kevin Murphy
Easily the biggest change to this team was the firing of George Karl, which leads to a lot of uncertainness with how the team will play going forward. I do like that Randy Foye will get a starting job at the 2 and be a huge ThrAGNOF scorer, hitting a career-high 2.2 3’s a game last year and should have plenty of shots in Denver. Hickson and Javale McGee will probably split time down the middle at center, on one hand you have a steady, if underwhelming guy (read his Boards-n-Blocks breakdown here) then as inconsistent a player as there is in Shaqtin-a-Fool workhorse McGee. I know a factor in the decision to fire Karl was his reluctancy to play McGee so he’ll probably get a few more minutes, but I don’t think that’ll translate into a huge fantasy boost that many drafters will be hoping for; I see him getting reached on too early in drafts. Hickson is exactly the same kind of consistent player that Kosta Koufos gave them last year. My least favorite NBA player Nate Robinson goes to yet another team to be yet another bench guy, and Arthur and Miller are depth guys, even though Arthur has shown he can be useful in the past. I still don’t think he gets much run with Timofey Mozgov returning as well. Overall, I think this will be one of the most disappointing teams this season after their run last year.
On the flip side of a bleak outlook for the Nugs, I love the Wolves to make a run this season, especially if Kevin Love can finally stay healthy for a full season. It obviously all starts with Ricky Rubio and Love, but I really like the acquisition of Kevin Martin who will be slept on too much in drafts this year. His minutes should go back up to 30+ a game, the scoring back up to 17-18 with 2 3’s a night and 89-90% free throw shooting. After a somewhat disappointing and inconsistent year being the sixth man in OKC – where let’s be honest, people were hoping for a James Harden level impact and that was just unfair – think fantasy players will pass on him too many times. He’s not a multi-cat guy, but for a late round shooter with good percentages, he should be available late. ThrAGNOF! I liked Corey Brewer a lot last year in Denver as a streaming guy, and think he could be decent in Minnesota as well as the 6/7 man with Alexey Shved. I’m not drafting either, but they will probably be waiver-wire whores with every team putting em in their slots at some point or another throughout the season. With the re-signing of Chase Budinger, it shows the Wolves aren’t 100% ready to give Shabazz a lot of run early, so I won’t be reaching for him in any drafts. Rookie Gorgui Deng looks like he’ll get a shot to be Nikola Pekovic‘s backup, and has great upside for an off-the-radar guy early in the season to nab you a couple blocks on stream nights in deeper leagues. I like the make-up of this team, it all rides on Rubio and Love’s health, but if they can stay on the court I think this could be a playoff team.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook The Key?: Stevan Adams, Andre Roberson, Ryan Gomes, Szymon Szewczyk
Listen, obviously Kevin Durant is the better overall player, but I love Russell Westbrook and we all saw how this team collapsed without him. Heading into 2013-14, the Thunder haven’t had to make many changes, with the majority of their acquisitions from the Draft. Big 7-footer Stevan Adams from New Zealand is a project at center, but he can’t be much worse than Hasheem Thabeet, so I think will get a few minutes here and there, but not in any fantasy-worthy capacity. Gomes has shown he can score back in his days with the Timberwolves, but again, nothing fantasy worthy. All your Thunder are ready to be the quality players they were last year, although there will be a few extra stats to be passed around with Kevin Martin departing, but nothing consistent.
While I’ve always thought the Blazers would be better than they were last year, and as much as I think they could contend for the postseason this year, I just don’t think they’ve done enough to get them over the hump. Obviously Damian Lillard is the man, but bringing in Williams means they’re ready to try and tone him down from 38+ minutes a night. I don’t expect it to hurt his numbers too much, but Williams will get his minutes – sure Mo-Will can play some at the 2 and run with Lillard – but still think they’ve got to get Lillard closer to 35-36 minutes a game. As much as this pains me, Robin Lopez might actually be somewhat useful as one of your last picks. He’s gonna start at center, and while he’s absolutely worthless on defense and at, well, running, he’ll get a few points, boards and blocks. I kinda like C.J. McCollum as an under-the-radar rookie contributor, I won’t be drafting him since Wesley Matthews is still the sure-fire starting SG, but McCollum is a good shooter and could have some hot-hand kind of games. Thomas Robinson – ugh, teeming with potential and I thought would have a big impact in Houston last year, but he looked awful and got very few minutes. He’s still a project. The rest of these guys are just filler, but I’m keeping Allen Crabbe on my radar should there be various injuries. I know he’s way down there on the depth chart and may not even necessarily making the opening night roster, but he could be a decent fill-in here and there in my opinion after seeing him play at Cal, but again – only if a lot of Blazers get hurt.
As I’ve written about earlier this season, I’m all-in on Trey Burke this year. I think they’re ready to give him the keys to the offense, and with the departures of both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, this is going to become a more guard-oriented team. Burke can shoot, drive, kick, and get to the line and shoot a solid FT%. With the aforementioned big men leaving town, I like both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter as well, that will probably be slept on a bit too long. Favors offers tremendous upside, especially swatting. Alec Burks is also set to start at the 2 and have some late-round value for an awesomely named Burke-Burks backcourt. Past this new look starting line-up, the Jazz brought in filler with none of those guys too interesting to me. Then again, Biedrins shooting free throws is always interesting… Although it’s not as bad as this poor kid, “I’m not sure what that was! Good lord.” I think this will be a fun team, and I think Burke will be a solid reach in my drafts in the 5th round.