J-Rich headed to Phoenix

December, 11, 2008
Lots of big stories on Wednesday night, including Carmelo Anthony's 45-point outburst against the Timberwolves (an NBA record-tying 33 in the third quarter alone!), Al Harrington's 39 against the Nets and Alexis Ajinca's 12 against the Hornets (just kidding!), but from a fantasy perspective, there was nothing more significant than the trade between the Bobcats and the Suns.

Phoenix managed to acquire Jason Richardson, a major upgrade at shooting guard over Raja Bell, along with Jared Dudley and a 2010 second-round pick for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary. Fantasy-wise, as John Hollinger pointed out Wednesday night in his analysis of the deal, one can read this deal as a sign that the Suns are looking to implement more of the up-tempo game they've played with under the past few seasons.

Clearly, Richardson owners benefit most from this deal. Even if the Suns continue to play at an average pace (they are currently the 14th fastest-paced team out of 30), J-Rich is shooting 45.6 percent on 3-pointers already this season and has been playing on a team with no reliable post game (as Larry Brown so willingly pointed out post-trade). As far as I'm concerned, the sky is the limit in terms of how many 3s he can hit with Shaq, Amare and Steve Nash all looking for him on the perimeter. For those owners who were concerned that Larry Brown's slower-paced game would screw up J-Rich's numbers, Richardson will now be playing on a team that is already playing faster than the Bobcats did last season, and should start playing even faster with Richardson in the fold. He's the big winner.

On the other side, this trade has to be most about the acquisition of Boris Diaw. He's a perfect fit for Larry Brown because he's a pass-first guy who solidly defends his position. That might not sound all that exciting, but it should mean he'll get some minutes. On the one hand, Diaw has shown a disturbing decline in his assist rate over the past few years, to the point that it is coming dangerously close to his rate of turnovers. On the other hand, he has been so obviously out of sync that one has to wonder what will happen if he's in a position where he's playing a lot of minutes. He's still within his prime years and is only a few seasons removed from averaging over 13 points, six rebounds and six assists. To put it another way, there aren't a ton of big men out there who can net you five or six assists per game. Even after a major decline in his assist rate, he is still third in that category among power forwards, just ahead of Lamar Odom, for example. I'd be buying Diaw right now without hesitation in all formats.

Raja Bell is the other previously fantasy-worthy player affected by this deal, and I think it basically puts him to bed as a viable fantasy option. Charlotte is the fourth-slowest team in the league, and if its pace was slow enough to harm Richardson's value, it should absolutely kill Bell's. Yes, he has been hitting two 3s per game, but he has also shot 46.8 percent from downtown, and that number should fall drastically now that he doesn't have anyone to draw the defense significantly away from him. Beyond that, he's a worthless fantasy player. He's bad from the field, shoots just 76 percent from the line, and hardly gets any steals, rebounds or assists. I have no qualms with dropping him right away, but you might want to see how it pans out for a week first to be safe.

Jared Dudley could see an uptick in minutes, perhaps taking over Diaw's previous role in Phoenix. He's a good rebounder for his size, has some potential to defend multiple positions, and has made 3-of-8 3s so far this season, suggesting that he may have some potential as a long-range threat. Frankly, I don't see Matt Barnes or Grant Hill being able to match up with power forwards, so I'd look for Dudley -- along with rookie backup center Robin Lopez -- to take over most of Diaw's 24.5 minutes per game. He's not worth a prospective add yet, but keep an eye on him to see what he does with the extra run.

For the Bobcats, the loss of Richardson most likely means we'll see more of the D.J. Augustin/Raymond Felton backcourt combo, which is likely good for both players. Felton's minutes probably can't go up by too much  he was already playing 35.6 per game  but I'd expect Augustin to increase his average from 28.6 to up over 30. This means more points and more assists, a slight bump in fantasy value, but probably not much else.

Under the Boards

Matt Barnes, Suns: 25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and five 3-pointers at the Lakers.
Andre Iguodala, 76ers: 27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists versus Cleveland.
C.J. Watson, Warriors: 19 points (7-11 FG), 7 rebounds, 4 assists against the Bucks.
Steve Nash, Suns: 7 points (2-12 FG) against the Lakers.
Tony Parker, Spurs: 6 points (3-13 FG), 3 assists versus Atlanta.
Marvin Williams, Hawks: 4 points (1-6 FG), 4 rebounds at San Antonio.

To start things out, D.J. Augustin had 28 points, 7 assists, 4 steals and four 3s in a loss to the Hornets on Wednesday night, starting alongside Raymond Felton. This seems to be an issue of a hot-shooting night more than anything else. Felton couldn't hit a shot, the Hornets put the game away in the first half, and Augustin couldn't miss. I still think they both get a boost in value from the trade. … Troy Murphy had a 20-20 night (points and rebounds) to go along with six assists and four treys against the Raptors, but the Raptors won anyway. Not much to draw from this except that Murphy continues to be an excellent fantasy player in all formats as long as you don't need a big man who can block shots (he's got five blocks total since the start of November after blocking three shots on opening night). … Do I need to mention Carmelo's 45 again? Yes, I do. As I have said before, he's going to start blowing up. This game probably puts an end to his extended buy-low period, sadly. … Philly managed to stay within eight points of the Cavs, which is a major feat these days. As far as I'm concerned, the thing to notice here is that Andre Miller continued the pattern of point guards having reasonably good games against the Cavs. For the record, Lou Williams had a big game off the bench as well. If I'm the Cavs, this area is the one negative so far this season, and is something that could come back to get them depending on who they have to face in the playoffs (cough … Rondo … cough). … Robin Lopez did not produce at all filling in for Shaq for Phoenix against the Lakers, which is all the more reason why Jared Dudley has a chance to get some decent playing time. … Pau Gasol managed to abuse the Suns front line, and with Boris Diaw now gone, one gets the sense that big guys are going to pile up numbers against the Suns, especially on nights when Shaq is out. Keep that in mind as you set your lineups in the next couple of weeks. … Russell Westbrook's line against the Grizzlies: 15 points, six assists, two steals, 5-of-10 from the floor, zero turnovers. That's exactly the sort of line we want to see out of Westbrook right now, especially against weaker teams. … Finally, after a brief period of falling off in his rebounding numbers (after I said he could lead the league this year), Andris Biedrins seems to have picked it back up. He had 21 boards against the Thunder on Monday and 14 against the Bucks (a good rebounding team) Wednesday night.

Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.



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