The NBA season may only be 72 games this season, but it’s still going to be a long and grueling slugfest regardless. The players we consider locks for value now will be the drops of tomorrow, and the undrafted players will suddenly become league-winners overnight.
But how does that happen?
Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. Lineup shifts are a real thing too as people slide into and out of minutes. A lot of that is hard to predict but likely trade candidates, on the other hand, are less difficult to forecast.
Nothing is set in stone, but there are teams that very clearly have nothing to play for but the future, and they have veterans sitting on their team clogging up the paths to playing time for younger or more talented players. How can knowing this help you? One of two ways. A young player primed for a bigger role is an excellent end of draft candidate or at the very least someone to add to your watch list. A veteran moving into a better (or worse) situation may affect where you draft them (or if you draft them at all).
Let’s take a closer look at those situations and who stands to benefit. Presented in order of most fantasy implications to least.
The Reason: Okay, let’s get this one out of the way right now. It looks like James Harden is surely on the move, and it’s just a matter of when. He’s come off his firm stance that he only wanted to be traded to Brooklyn, and that list of potential landing spots seems to grow daily. Either way, it’s hard to imagine he finishes the year in Houston, whether he starts the season there or not.
The Fallout: Where to begin? It will likely take a full team effort to suck up Harden’s insane 36.3% usage. Before Russell Westbrook got there, his usage was in the 40s. The biggest winners will likely be John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Christian Wood who stand to be on the roster playing an integral part in the Rockets game plan no matter who else is on the roster.
John Wall‘s ADP is on the rise and it currently sits at 61.6 on the Yahoo! platform. After getting a good look at him in the first preseason game, it seems he’s going to outperform that ADP and potentially be a big steal. I’m not sure I’d burn a top 4 pick on him, but the 5th round seems like a decent spot to “reach” for him with the hopes that the player the Rockets get back in a Harden deal doesn’t steal too much usage from him.
DeMarcus Cousins is 100% worth a late flier, and he should be someone absolutely on your radar if he’s still sitting there in the 11th round and later. He also looked good in the first Rockets preseason game, but injury concerns and rest days are a thing so I wouldn’t get too excited. Christian Wood also projects to be ahead of him on the depth chart and hasn’t played with the team yet. Wood’s ADP on Yahoo! right now is 48.1, which seems like a fair price to pay for someone with his massive upside.
For Harden himself, let’s be clear: His value is safe on any team he’s going to. He’ll be a first round value for sure, but the drama and the potential he’s going to play dozens of uncomfortable games for a Rockets team in turmoil definitely makes me pause before taking him number one overall. It’s possible he takes that energy and puts up insane numbers, but the uncertainty is enough for me to come off him at number one in favor of guys like Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Reason: The Detroit Pistons aren’t going to be very good and they just drafted Killian Hayes, who coach Dwane Casey is already high on. Derrick Rose is also on an expiring deal. The main reason he’s likely to be moved is to free up time for Hayes, but he also played very well last season and it wouldn’t be surprising if he has a lot of competitive teams clamoring for his services and his cap-friendly contract.
The Fallout: This one is obvious for the Pistons as it makes Killian Hayes a solid late round flier as long as you plan to stash him until Rose gets dealt. This also makes Delon Wright‘s value relatively safe. Both of these guys had rough outings but are nice targets in the later rounds for the potential roles for both.
But what does this mean for Derrick Rose? It makes him a bit of a risky selection since he could be dealt to a contender (hello Lakers) where he’ll be a fourth option at best. His scoring will be drastically reduced, but he’ll still be a nice source of dimes. Targeting Rose isn’t really advisable but a last round selection makes sense if you’re in need of points and assists. His lack of three-point shooting always deflates his value.
The Reason: See above re: the Pistons sucking. Blake Griffin has a player option for next year and he’s looked sharp in his first preseason game so far. Blake is 31 years old (holy crap, how did that happen?), so you’d have to figure that his one goal over the next few years is to compete for a title. He’ll look to prove he has enough left in the tank to help a team that needs scoring from the forward positions.
The Fallout: One of my favorite deep league targets is Sekou Doumbouya. If the Pistons find a trade partner for Blake, Sekou projects to get a lot of minutes. He’s a bit of a project, but if he can improve from last season, he has the potential to be a multi-cat glue guy like P.J. Washington in Charlotte, which is worth a roster spot near the end of your bench. He also has the potential to really take off for a team that has a need for someone to step up.
You probably don’t need to draft Sekou in normal leagues, but he’s someone to keep on your watch list and run out to grab as soon as the opportunity rises. Blake isn’t a solid target for the long run, similar to Rose above, but in the short run he’s going to put up some very decent stats on a bad team.
The Reason: Andre Drummond unsurprisingly picked up his player option in the realm of $29M for the season. That makes him a top 30 player with an expiring deal on a team that projects to be pretty bad. Kevin Love is the only other proven player on the roster that has a high level of skill, and it’s possible he’s moved too but less likely because of a massive contract.
The Fallout: The Cavaliers are Collin Sexton‘s team until further notice. And rightly so as he looks like a promising breakout candidate. He’s off the board usually around the 6th round these days, and that seems about right for the potential he has a breakout season. The backup centers in Cleveland right now are JaVale McGee and Thon Maker, but neither of those guys is all that appealing. Sexton will see increased usage with Drummond out of town.
Andre Drummond will be a safe third or fourth round pick in most leagues and no matter where he winds up, he’ll put up boards, points, blocks, and steals in bunches. He’s best utilized in a lineup that punts free throw percentage, as he gets there a fair amount and only shoots 46.1% for his career, which is why he falls so low.
The Reason: Gorgui Dieng is 30 years old, on an expiring contract, and directly in the way of a young, developing player on a young, developing team. The Grizzlies look like they’ll be solid in a year or two, but Dieng doesn’t project to be a large part of that success. Odds are that he’ll be off the roster this season via trade or during the next offseason where he’ll look to latch onto a team to be a solid bench contributor.
The Fallout: The reason this makes so much sense to me is that Brandon Clarke would then be slotted into a more solidified bench role. Jonas Valanciunas is locked up long term, and Brandon Clarke will have a role to start the season as Jaren Jackson Jr. recovers from injury. When JJJ comes back though, it would behoove the Grizzlies to start JJJ and JV, then slot Clarke into essentially all the backup big minutes, sliding JJJ to the center position (which is feasible as he stands 6’11” and blocked 1.6 shots per game last season). Brandon Clarke is currently sitting at an ADP of 94.6, which is a super solid spot to get him if he slides that low. I’d suggest reaching for him in the 7th or 8th rounds though, depending on your competition. His value is safe and can only go up.
As for Dieng, he’s not worth rostering in any league. He might be worth streaming for blocks if he finds himself playing due to injuries (hello COVID) or something, but for the most part there are a plethora of other players that are more deserving of that end of roster spot on your team.
The Reason: The talk of P.J. Washington at center is real and James Borrego has already confirmed it’s going to happen “a lot” with Miles Bridges sliding in at the four spot in a killer small-ball lineup that should be a lot of fun to watch. Cody Zeller only managed 23.1 minutes per game last season and he’ll likely see even less this season. Add to that the fact that he’s on an expiring deal and is trade fodder. The Hornets are going young, and they’ll be fun to watch for years to come.
The Fallout: As noted above, P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges stand to benefit the most from this move, and even if Zeller doesn’t get outright traded, the rhetoric coming out of Charlotte is such that he may just find himself riding the pine for entire games. Bridges is currently sitting at an ADP of 139.5, which makes sense since his role is still a bit uncertain. Taking a flier on him in the last round is a great play though just to see how it plays out. If the talk is more than talk, it will prove to be a really great choice for your team. PJ has an ADP of 118.9 which I think is kind of low, but Bridges presents the bigger upside play.
Cody Zeller shouldn’t be drafted, anywhere, in standard formats. In a deep league, he might be a source of points, field goal percentage, and rebounds.
The Reason: Julius Randle is a talented player, but New York is in love with Obi Toppin already after one preseason game. I’ve been high on the young man too and wished my Chicago Bulls would have drafted him, but the arrival of Obi makes Randle kind of… redundant. They fill a similar space on the floor as scoring forwards, and the Knicks are basically in rebuild mode at the moment. Randle has a non-guaranteed contract next season, which makes him an attractive trade piece.
The Fallout: Obi Toppin will take over the void left by Randle in a theoretical trade. This also tangentially helps out struggling big man Mitchell Robinson, since it frees up some of the front court logjam and would allow coach Thibs to potentially start Nerlens Noel at the power forward spot, or at least give him some minutes there alongside Mitch Rob. Toppin is 100% worth a late round flier, as is Noel. As for Mitch Rob, you can view him as a risky early middle round target with massive upside that has yet to be realized.
For Randle, it’s going to really depend on his landing spot. He’s going to put up points, but he’s struggled to produce consistent fantasy value. Let someone else deal with him, but if he’s sitting there in the final round and you need points, he’s an okay target.
LaMarcus Aldridge and/or DeMar DeRozan
The Reason: The San Antonio Spurs seem to be standing at a crossroads currently. It’s always tough to call anything they do a “rebuild” since Pop gets the team to compete no matter who is on the roster. Still, they have a mixture of promising young talent and aging veterans that really doesn’t make much sense to stick with for the entirety of the season. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are both quality players, but their presence takes away minutes that could be spent on the development of younger players. Both guys are on expiring contracts and have yet to be extended.
The Fallout: If both guys go, that opens up a lot of usage for promising young forwards Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson. Both of those guys would be worth a hard look, but both can be safely ignored for now. Trey Lyles could see an uptick in minutes as well at the power forward position, but he’s probably safe to ignore even if he does get the starting gig.
LMA’s value is safe no matter where he ends up. He has an ADP of 52.4 in Yahoo! leagues right now, which is pretty low for what he brings to the table. DeRozan has a similar ADP of 50.2 and will also easily surpass that, no matter where he ends up. Feel free to target either guy in the 4th round or later, depending on your team’s needs.
The Reason: See above about the situation with the Spurs. Patty Mills has been a solid veteran for a while now, and he’s a nice DFS streaming option whenever he’s given big minutes. In his career, per 36 minutes, he’s averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.9 three-pointers per game. Those are eye popping numbers, and he could realistically be a starting point guard on half the teams in the NBA. He’s on an expiring deal and he’s in the way of getting some young players minutes.
The Fallout: The Spurs and head coach Gregg Popovich are very open-minded when it comes to the guard rotation. It’s already been openly stated that Derrick White will play more alongside Dejounte Murray in a two-PG lineup, so a Patty Mills trade won’t really affect those two. Murray is going 66.6 in Yahoo! leagues currently and Derrick White is going 85.8. That’s a little low for White as both players should go somewhere in the 6th or 7th rounds.
However, moving Patty could open up more time for Lonnie Walker and maybe even Keldon Johnson as well. Both players have seen most of their time at the small forward position, but that could change if there are shooting guard minutes available as Murray and White are staggered a bit more after a theoretical Patty Mills trade. All three of these players (Mills, Johnson, and Walker) can be safely ignored in your draft, but all three should be added to your watch list just in case the situation changes via trade. If Patty ends up in a favorable position, he’ll be a great consistent contributor. Walker would be the preferred target of the other two, but it’s more of a wait-and-see type of situation.
The Reason: My Bullies are projecting to be just about the same team as they were last season, which is disheartening. Otto Porter Jr.‘s contract is an eyesore for a guy who played 29 games in a Bulls uniform. It’s probably time for the Bulls to cut ties and wish him luck on his journey while shedding a massive $28M contract. Porter has still looked decent when he has played, but his value isn’t very high at the moment due to the injury history. The Bulls will probably play him a boatload up until the trade deadline to showcase him.
The Fallout: Rookie Patrick Williams has already generated buzz in Bulls camp and he looked pretty poised for a rookie in Chicago’s first preseason game. He projects as the likely starter in the second half of the season if the Bulls or tanking, and for sure if OPJ is dealt before the deadline. There are some questions about his ability to produce on the offensive end, but he could be elite on the defensive side of the ball with his length and athleticism at the swing spot. In a kind of “dark horse” scenario, Chandler Hutchison could also get the nod, but it feels like he’s on his last legs with the organization.
As for OPJ, he’ll probably remain a solid late mid-round guy with contributions across the board. He’s good and worthy of a starting spot, but there’s not a lot of upside. You can target him in the 10th or 11th rounds if you want, and he’ll likely exceed that by a few rounds if he can stay healthy. That’s a big if, though.
The Reason: There’s nothing wrong with Mike Conley, but he’s making a metric shit-ton of money. He’s still a decent player with plenty left in the tank (14.4 points and 4.4 assists per game), but he hasn’t looked like the same player since his heel surgery more than a year ago. His massive deal is expiring, so simply offloading the veteran to free up cap space isn’t really out of the question. The Jazz still have championship hopes (realistic or not) and could look to surround Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert with some more solid talent.
The Fallout: Donovan Mitchell played more point guard last year than any year prior, and a Conley trade bodes well for Jordan Clarkson. If the Jazz simply look to offload Conley’s massive contract and add another solid veteran forward, Mitchell can easily slide into that point guard spot, where the Jazz have succeeded in the past, and Jordan Clarkson could be looking at some serious PT. Clarkson is worth a late round flier, and will still produce value even if the team stands pat. He’s an upside stash that will still give you end of draft value, so he’s one of my favorite picks towards the 9th round or later.
Sadly, I think Mike Conley’s best days are past him. He’s 33 years old and only has a few good years left. Rostering Mike Conley isn’t super advisable in any setting as there are just tons of better options. He’ll be worth a stream if he gets hot, but that’s about it.
The Reason: See above about the Magic’s lost season, but Markelle Fultz is less likely to move than Fournier. Still, he’s on an expiring deal and he’s directly in the way of getting rookie Cole Anthony into the game. If the Magic like what they see in the youngster, moving Fultz while his value is the highest it has been in years makes a lot of sense, as it will likely net them a pick or a solid veteran, and they can accelerate Cole’s growth by getting him into the game.
The Fallout: As mentioned above, Cole Anthony stands to benefit directly from this theoretical trade. Michael Carter-Williams would likely slide into the same reserve role he played last season and would be worth a stream whenever Cole misses time. There are better options, but taking a late flier on Cole Anthony would be okay if you’re keen on him. He’s probably safe to leave on the waiver wire and just keep on your watch list unless you’re playing with a bunch of people from Orlando.
The Reason: This season projects to be a bit of a lost season for the Orlando Magic as Jonathan Isaac will be sidelined all season recovering from a torn ACL. Evan Fournier is 28 years old and, as Zach Harper of The Athletic reported, he’s “trying to find his way to a team like the Clippers, Suns or Nuggets.” It makes a lot of sense for him and it makes sense from a financial standpoint as well as Fournier is on an expiring deal. I fully believe he’s going to be traded as long as the Magic can get a pick or a young, promising player in return.
The Fallout: Terrence Ross is on a long-term deal and he’s a talented player who would be a fine stand in for Fournier. Having both on the roster is a little redundant, so the move makes sense for that reason as well. Ross already sees 27 minutes per game, but a small bump of a few minutes could put him firmly in late mid round territory. He’s worthy of a selection at the end of all fantasy drafts even if the situation stays the same. This solidifies him as a target in the 10th round or later.
As for Fournier, he barely cracked the top 100 last season in 9-cat settings. A trade to an actual contender will surely see his usage slip being the 4th or 5th option on a team or. It’s possible he maintains his top 100 status, but there’s not a lot of upside. He’s a fine selection as the middle rounds come to an end, but you might be cutting ties if he lands in a situation that isn’t super great for him.
The Reason: Victor Oladipo is on an expiring deal and he had a supremely sub par year last season in the 19 games he played. He also only managed 36 games in the 2018-19 season, earning him the “injury-prone” tag. It just feels like it’s time for Indiana to move on as they have plenty of solid pieces behind Oladipo.
The Fallout: Jeremy Lamb is a forgotten man, but he’s coming back from his ACL tear in mid-January and before his injury he averaged 12.4 points per game on 45.1% shooting. The Holiday brothers Aaron Holiday and Justin Holiday (take your pick) have also had some hot runs with the Pacers. None of these guys are super appealing as a draft target, but they should absolutely be scooped up if Dipo is traded.
As for Oladipo, he has an ADP of 77.9 in Yahoo! leagues, which seems like a fair price. It’s possible he has a bounce back season, but it’s not promising. In the 8th round or later though, the gamble makes sense for most owners.
The Reason: Trevor Ariza is a 16-year NBA veteran on a team that has nothing but draft picks. He doesn’t belong and hasn’t even joined the team yet.
The Fallout: Not much, honestly. Darius Bazley should be the starting swingman and he’s a very high upside pick you should be targeting towards the end of your draft. He’s played well in spurts, but he hasn’t put it together consistently yet, so reaching for him can’t be recommended. Ariza will continue to be a streaming option for three pointers.