"The Warriors" is a cult classic movie from 1979 based on Sol Yurick's novel of the same name. The premise is one gang in New York City must take on a contingent of other gangs in a fight for survival and vindication. In the NBA, the Kevin Durant-infused Warriors are now best equipped for battle amongst the league's basketball squads. Durant's decision to head to the Bay and join his former nemeses understandably sent shockwaves throughout the league.
The move also shakes up the fantasy basketball climate like no other move we've witnessed before, as our own Joe Kaiser succinctly details in his deft breakdown of Durant's decision, "never before has one move impacted so many top-20 caliber fantasy talents quite like this one." The fantasy ramifications of Durant's massive move are, well, colossal, but we must also pay attention to the litany of other notable transactions of the past week in the NBA. In this piece, we'll focus on the fantasy fallout of several significant transactions across the league's landscape during this multibillion dollar free-agency period.
We order these moves in some semblance of significance, yet the core intention is to canvass this very busy week in the league with an eye on implications for fantasy basketball value.
Just days after Kevin Durant's decision to head west for the Warriors, we are now faced with the concept of Dwyane Wade heading back to his hometown in the Midwest, as reports suggest he's bound for the Bulls on a new contract.
As for Wade's fit with the new-look Bulls, ESPN's Kevin Pelton provides insightful analysis on his eroding efficiency, as he notes Wade, "still uses a high percentage of his team's plays (31.6 percent last year, which ranked fifth in the league) but does so inefficiently. Wade's .517 true shooting percentage ranked 11th among the 12 players with usage rates of 30 percent or greater, ahead of only Kobe Bryant (.469)."
While Wade is still a gifted slasher - he was 19th in the NBA in drives per game last season - he made just seven 3-pointers in 44 attempts for a career-low 15.9 percent from beyond the arc. Given Wade's dependence on having the ball in his hands to create his offense, this shift is admittedly troubling for his statistical stock. The narrative of Wade returning to his hometown is interesting; yet the on-court cohesion already seems confusing for a trio of guards who do their best work with the ball, with little off-ball acumen in their respective games.
Chicago already acquired Rajon Rondo this offseason, a player who was second in the league only to the Wizards' John Wall in touches per game. Incumbent All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler ranked in the top 40 in touches per game last season. Which is to say, Rondo is a particularly ball-dominant point guard and both Butler and Wade produce off the dribble and are at their respective best in the shot creation phase of the game.
We haven't even mentioned any durability or availability issues for a high-mileage guard with a long injury history entering his 14th professional campaign. In a league driven by superstars and brand identity, Wade will likely still draw interest in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts this fall despite these obvious concerns. Wade was 10th on the Player Rater last season among shooting guards, with most of his positive impact coming from strong assist and point production -- two categories likely to suffer given his new peers.
I netted a good deal of Wade shares last season given the continuity of his high-volume role in Miami, but this season, I'll likely avoid investing given real concerns over efficiency and durability combined with increased competition for touches in Chicago.
Horford immediately boosts Boston's prospects for going deeper into the Eastern Conference playoffs, according to ESPN's Kevin Pelton. As for his fantasy stock, it's difficult to ascend much higher than rating second among center-eligible players and 17th overall on the Player Rater, as he did last season. In fact, Horford was the lone center in the top 50 of the Player Rater's standard deviation model to post positive production in each of the eight categories the index measures. A rare blend of shooting efficiency and defensive prowess affords Horford rare value and balance as a fantasy asset.
It is helpful to consider that Horford could set a career high in shooting volume on a Boston team desperate for improved post scoring (the Celtics ranked 21st in points in the post last season), as he's likely to rise above 15 field goal attempts per game for the first time as a pro. Three-point production could also swell or at the least sustain at Horford's career-high 3.1 attempts per game last season, in the space-and-pace-friendly scheme in Boston (Celtics were third in the league in pace and 11th in 3-point attempts last year).
Horford was the seventh center-eligible player off the board on average in ESPN drafts last fall, going 46th overall in the player pool. Our way-too-early rankings for next season were conducted before free agency, but have Horford slated 31st overall. I'll be looking for Horford in the third round of drafts this fall, slightly ahead of where the pack might rank him.
These moves could prove fun for fantasy purposes, as Anderson's 3-point driven value -- he was fifth among power forwards on the Player Rater in such production last season -- could inflate in Houston. The Rockets have averaged the most 3-point attempts per game over the past two years, thus a return to the range of seven shots per game from beyond the arc could buoy increased scoring production for the stretch-4. For those seeking 3-point support from an out-of-position resource, Anderson is a valuable commodity.
As for Gordon, he's similar to Washington's' Beal in that he could turn a profit for investors if he can merely stay on the court, as durability issues have limited him to no more than 64 games in a season since his rookie campaign back in 2008-2009. That said, we saw Marcus Thornton produce viable fantasy numbers at times last year in Houston, meaning Gordon can at least be a DFS star when healthy.
While we're still not certain if Tim Duncan will retire from the NBA this summer, it's clear the team had interest in bolstering post scoring and passing with the acquisition of Gasol. Even in the twilight of his career, Gasol neared career-bests in assists, blocks and boards in Chicago last season en route to a top-25 finish on the Player Rater. The shift to San Antonio can only be viewed as a negative for Gasol's fantasy prospects, however, as fewer minutes, shots and real usage overlap with LaMarcus Aldridge curb the statistical enthusiasm. This isn't to say Gasol can't provide value to fantasy investors, but the price will need to be right given expected deflations in offensive opportunities for the Spurs.
Howard sort of is what he is, which is really great analysis, I know. Yet the point is, we get elite field goal shooting and respectable block and board rates from Howard but crippling free throw production and anemic offensive output has relegated him to the middle rounds in fantasy (appropriately ranked 76th overall in Tom Carpenter's early rankings). The shift to Atlanta likely signals an increase in field goal output, but uptick in opportunity is offset by age and legitimate durability concerns. If anything, I'd place an increased premium on the already-elite Paul Millsap, as he could consume more offensive volume in the wake of Horford's departure.
With Durant joining the Warriors, Barnes lands in Dallas on a max deal. Using Chandler Parsons' 2014-15 season as a template, we can expect spikes in minutes and shooting opportunities for Barnes to the tune of 33 minutes per game with a significant uptick in 3-point output (Parsons shot 5.3 3-pointers per game that year compared to Barnes' 3.2 last season for Golden State). I'm somewhat of a skeptic regarding Barnes' ability to become a significant fantasy asset for next season on an increasingly deep Dallas roster, but it's undeniable that we'll witness increased opportunity for the North Carolina product with this move.
Chandler Parsons to the Memphis Grizzlies
It's a strange comparison, but I feel the same way about Parsons' stock as I do with his former teammate Howard's, in that his best fantasy seasons, which happened during his heydey in Houston, are likely over. The Grizzlies' scheme is likely to still prove slow-paced given their roster construction (Memphis ranked 27th in pace last season), while improved 3-point freedom isn't a given, either (Griz ranked 26th in 3-point attempts). It's a significant signing for a team that hasn't traditionally courted big free-agent assets, but Parsons' fantasy stock can be considered the same as his past two seasons in Dallas...which is to say, he's a middling wing option I'll likely avoid in drafts in favor of names like Evan Fournier or Ryan Anderson. I view the Lakers' Luol Deng in a similar regard, in that his best fantasy efforts are in the past and his current game doesn't lend itself impressively to fantasy value, as Los Angeles most needed his veteran composure in what will be a young locker room.
It got so bad in South Philly last season that the Sixers asked me to play point guard. It wasn't that bad, but it's safe to say even Bayless and Rodriguez represent significant upgrades on the positional depth chart.
According to Synergy Sports, Bayless posted an effective field goal rate of 67 percent on catch-and shoot jump shots in the half court this past season - a measure which ranked in the top three percent in the league and a vast improvement on his 41 percent clip on such shots in 2014-15. Bayless isn't a traditional point guard in that he averaged just three assists per game for the Bucks over the past two seasons. He did, however, sink nearly two 3-pointers per game last season with nearly a steal per contest, rates that could prove worthy in deeper fantasy formats, as he should net steady minutes for Philly this year. Consider this combo guard a streaming asset in 10-team leagues, and a fun DFS commodity when his minutes spike.
As for Rodriguez, he's a former first-round pick for the Phoenix Suns with four years of NBA experience to his name. Rodriguez has spent the past six years playing the point for Real Madrid in Liga ACB. Rodriguez is likely past his athletic prime at 30, but remains a deft passer (9.1 assists per 36 minutes for Real Madrid last year) and skilled shooter (40.9 from 3-point range over past three seasons). Brett Brown has afforded his point guards, from Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten and Ish Smith, rare freedom to drive and shoot, so there could be some value found from these otherwise nominal moves for Philly.
Stars staying put
We witnessed a good deal of player retention with the significant cap spike affording many teams the ability to spend big on incumbent talents. DeMar DeRozan resigned with the Raptors after another All-Star season that saw him shoot his best clip from the field in six seasons, tally career-best numbers from beyond the arc and finish third in the league in free throw attempts per game. Finishing fifth on the Player Rater last season among shooting guards, there is reliable cost certainty with DeRozan returning to a familiar system that caters to his drive-heavy skill set.
Drummond, Batum and Conley figure to net similar roles and production patterns to their 2015-16 efforts. Beal delivers some upside and intrigue if he can stay on the floor after this rich payday, so baked-in durability concerns might offer a window for profit for those willing to take the inherent availability risks.
Fournier thrived last season with increased minutes and offensive exposure. With Victor Oladipo making the shift to Oklahoma City -- which Kaiser also covers in his Durant breakdown -- Fournier has a very real opportunity to play more than 33 minutes and loft over 14 shots as a max-contract asset for Orlando. Consider me a believer in this rising wing, as Fournier is still just 23 years old and already a foundational asset on a team with a talented young coach in Frank Vogel.
Meanwhile, Whiteside is the player of this group with the most upward trajectory as a fantasy asset. Whiteside already rated 14th overall on the Player Rater last season thanks to league-best production in blocks and invaluable contributions in field goal efficiency, ranking behind only the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan in this regard. Whiteside is already regarded as a high-end asset in our early set of rankings, while more minutes and shots could only feed the fantasy beast he proved to be last year. If you can net Whiteside in third round, there is major production profit to enjoy.
Jeremy Lin could deliver value as a high-usage point guard on a Brooklyn roster that invites him to prove ball-dominant this coming season. I like to source a few of these high-usage point guards on bad teams when possible, with Lin set as a leading candidate for soft production this season. ... Rajon Rondo won't match his amazing raw numbers from last season's stint with George Karl's breakneck system in Sacramento, but he can still provide value as a specialist in assists and steals as the ball-dominant distributor for Chicago. Just make sure to significantly deflate our projections for Rondo in a new system, as he doesn't provide any help in scoring or 3-point production, which have become hallmarks of the position. ... I like the value Zaza Pachulia could produce as the rare big man in Golden State. While the team will surely run small lineups often, Pachulia is a proven low-post banger who set career-bests in rebounds and free throw production last season. ... Similarly, look for Ian Mahinmi to thrive in rebounds and blocks with the Wizards, as he and Pachulia make for cheap center options heading into the new campaign. ... A late-round investment in Evan Turner should prove harmless, but I doubt we see him with the ball in his hands as much in Portland as he had in Boston given the team's established tandem of backcourt stars. ... For sneaky late-round gems, consider E'Twaun Moore of the Pelicans and Gerald Henderson of the 76ers, as they could earn heavy minutes on their respective rosters. Minutes, after all, are the coin of the realm when seeking out value in fantasy basketball.