Andrew Wiggins among players bolstered by new coaches

Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins should see an uptick in production this season under new coach Tom Thibodeau. Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

For the NBA, it was the Summer of Inflation.

Propelled by an unprecedented amount inflated cap room to play with, the offseason was dominated by stories of market-redefining deals.

We had big-ticket transplants (Kevin Durant, Al Horford), veterans with new rotational responsibilities (Jeremy Lin, Timofey Mozgov) and young upside with upgraded roles (Harrison Barnes, Andrew Nicholson).

Lost in all the cap-raising commotion? The coaching carousel got spun pretty darn hard.

By the time the wheels stopped turning, we had 10 coaching changes.

Two were old faces in new places (Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan). Several coaches moved onto their second gig (Tom Thibodeau, Frank Vogel, Jeff Hornacek, Scott Brooks, Dave Joerger) and three assistants got the big bump up (Luke Walton, Kenny Atkinson, David Fizdale -- although Walton had logged some head-coaching mileage subbing for Steve Kerr last season).

Player movement is important in fantasy. But coaching changes can carry even more weight in the redistribution of statistical production.

With apologies to Chip Kelly, in reality, system does not trump talent. But in fantasy, a new system can result in massive swings in individual player value.

Some coaches turn up the pace (good). Some emphasize defense and "the little things" (bad). Some shorten rotations (good). Some prefer to spread around minutes in an attempt to find new combinations (very bad).

Then there's chemistry. Chemistry is a wispy commodity to quantify. But it can galvanize fantasy value.

Obviously, a new coach is brought in because something hasn't worked. It's easier to swap coaches than player personnel. So a new coach will be hired to improve the talent on hand. And sometimes that new voice will suddenly propel players to the next level.

Because we have so many new changes to discuss, I'm going to pick one player per team whose fortunes have been boosted by a head-coaching change. Let's spin the wheel!


Eric Gordon, SG, Houston Rockets

Let's not bury the lead. Adding offensive guru and Hall of Fame pace inflator Mike D'Antoni to an already-potent offense is the single biggest fantasy coaching move of the season. Nothing else is going to come close.

There's a lot of hand-wringing in regard to Houston's teamwide defensive prospects under D'Antoni. Thankfully, in Fantasyland, we don't give a darn about teamwide defensive prospects. We care about amount of possessions. And no teams produce possessions at more alarming rates than D'Antoni's.

It's only preseason, but look at Houston's point totals: 131, 130, 123. 116, 125, 106. A lot of fantasy categories are going to be exploding along with those scores.

With D'Antoni, it all starts with the point guard. Obscure point guards (Kendall Marshall) become fantasy stalwarts. Linsantities are created. Very good-to-great floor generals suddenly become statistical phenomena.

And sometimes, D'Antoni just proclaims somebody his point guard. And when that guard happens to be James Harden, it has a seismic statistical ripple effect up and down the roster.

While it's fun to feel your jaw drop when contemplating Harden's numerical prospects, I want to highlight Gordon for a beat. Agreed, Gordon has an equally jaw-dropping injury history. But last I checked, Patrick Beverley isn't exactly looking like Iron Man. Houston's backcourt doesn't have a ton of depth.

Beverley's latest injury translates into a golden, possibly career-resuscitating opportunity for Gordon. He gets to open the season as the starting shooting guard alongside Harden. Harden is going to command DEFCON 1-types of defensive panic, which will create gobs of open looks for a 3-point shooter such as Gordon.

Gordon is still only 27 years old. If Gordon can stay on the court for 65 to 70 games and log 29 to 32 minutes per game, he'll hit 2.5 to 3.0 3-pointers a night. He could score in the range of 17 to 18 points per game.

And Houston's inflated pace will help in the other volume spots. Gordon's steals, rebounds and assists could all approach his 2012 levels.

Gordon is a big injury risk. But he has been a near-endgame selection in most drafts. Sliding down that far makes Gordon a risk well worth taking.


Jeremy Lin, PG, Brooklyn Nets

The elements are combining for a throwback to the vintage Linsanity of yesteryear. New Nets coach Kenny Atkinson is more of your classic "out of the box" hire. He doesn't have a ton of NBA coaching experience.

But he is a D'Antoni acolyte. And that's more than enough for us.

More importantly, Atkinson was an assistant on the 2011-12 Knicks staff that gave us Linsanity in the first place. In case you forgot, Lin was an undrafted Ivy League point guard that Atkinson helped D'Antoni temporarily transform into a fantasy superstar.

Now, Lin and Atkinson are reunited in a low-expectation, large-market situation in Brooklyn. After a nice comeback turn for Lin in Charlotte, the stage is perfectly set for a turn-back-the-clock campaign. The fact that Brooklyn's preseason pace approached 106 points portends a return to the Player Rater top 30.


JaMychal Green, PF, Memphis Grizzlies

Over the past two months of the 2015-16 season, Green made the most of his opportunity in an injury-riddled Memphis rotation. New coach David Fizdale has decided to keep Green as a starter. He's also promised to up Memphis' historically prodding pace. Both factors combine to make Green an immediate double-double threat.

Green's production beyond points and rebounds tends to arrive in fit and starts. But he's a proven steals generator, and he did post some multiblock games late last season.


Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers

Luke Walton's regime is going to invite constant Warriors comparisons. And while that's not fair (and frankly, delusional), we do need to pay attention to how a small-ball approach could boost Randle's fantasy value.

Double-doubles are a given. But Randle needs to develop production in one or two of the other volume categories to warrant more than a late-round pick. Walton's system should help speed that development.

Steals and blocked shots are the two obvious areas of potential improvement. But don't sleep on Randle's assists potential. He averaged 1.6 per year in a Kobe vacuum. That amount of dimes for a 4 in that remote-usage outpost underscores potential.

You're going to hear Lakers exceptionalists start comping Draymond Green. Let's not get carried away. But Randle could chip in two to three assists per night, a nice commodity for a post player.


Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

Tom Thibodeau is known as a fantasy killjoy. He's the kind of guy who preaches and emphasizes the qualities (defense, intangibles, winning) that deflate fantasy value.

Thibodeau's arrival into a lot of NBA situations would be a cause for fantasy depression. Not so when it comes to the Timberwolves. A team screaming with young upside needs a taskmaster. And no player needs Thibodeau more than Wiggins.

Karl-Anthony Towns has already arrived. Heck, he arrived before Veterans Day 2015. But despite his 20 PPG average, Wiggins has yet to truly arrive. For all his physical gifts, Wiggins has lacked for intensity -- the very quality Thibodeau backs up by the truckload.

For Wiggins to take the next step -- in fantasy and reality -- he has to become a more reliable 3-point shooter. The midrange development is nice, but it doesn't really help us, outside of some extra volume in the points department. If Thibodeau can help Wiggins get to one 3-pointer per game, that will be huge for Wiggins' fantasy potential.

Beyond that, I'm anticipating a boost in the hustle numbers -- specifically, rebounds. If Wiggins can crack 4.0 rebounds, his steals and blocks will climb accordingly.


Otto Porter Jr., SF, Washington Wizards

Scott Brooks excels at player development, which makes him an ideal match for the underrated, somewhat understated Porter.

Porter is sort of a Wiggins lite. Unlike Wiggins, Porter already excels in multiple categories. He just lacks the aggression and volume required to take him into the Player Rater top 50. There's another level here waiting to surface.

Brooks seems to be using the fast-rising specter of Kelly Oubre Jr. to prod Porter. Hopefully, it's just a prod and not a looming timeshare.


Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Orlando Magic

How does Frank Vogel deploy Gordon and his cornucopia of multicategorical upside? Early returns point toward Gordon being used more on the wing. The idea of Gordon playing alongside Serge Ibaka sparks all kinds of fantasy-forward projecting.

Gordon quietly displayed his across-the-board potential after All-Star Weekend 2016. He didn't quite produce the dazzle of a Kristaps Porzingis, but overall, he was in that neighborhood (and more efficient), closing out with April averages of 14 points, 7.0 repounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers.

In Indiana, Vogel was instrumental in getting the most out of Paul George. Gordon has George-type upside. He just needs more playing time. Whether or not Gordon gets the minutes required to develop a genuine breakout is up to his new coach.


Darren Collison, PG, Sacramento Kings

New Kings coach Dave Joerger was fired in Memphis. It wasn't very fair, given Joerger's Herculean efforts in holding together a winning season in the face of multiple season-ending injuries.

His reward? To hold it together as the new face of one of the NBA's most dysfunctional teams. Last season, the Kings employed the eminently combustible Rajon Rondo at the point. Rondo delivered a comeback season, then he decamped for the new-look, somewhat-older Chicago Bulls.

The new coach should help smooth things out for Collison, who essayed a fine 2014-15 fantasy season (16.1 points, 5.6 assists, 1.2 3-pointeres) before losing his starting gig to Rondo. Collison has had problems of his own this preseason and will miss the first eight games. But once he returns, Joerger should be able to pilot Collison (and his high efficiency) into the top 50 (maybe top 40) overall.


Courtney Lee, SG, New York Knicks

In the past, Lee has held decent fantasy value over stretches of seasons. But he has never quite broken through to the point where he would represent more than bench filler. He has been the guy that gets you 1 to 1.5 3-pointers and steals with decent percentages.

But I have a feeling Lee could up his production under Jeff Hornacek. He's in line to start and doesn't have a lot of competition at shooting guard. Hornacek's system is very fantasy friendly. (Just look at some of Phoenix's past fantasy numbers.)

Lee isn't a sexy tout. He's not a hot take. But he's not going to disappoint you in the 12th round. And he might just have a career year.


Monta Ellis, SG, Indiana Pacers

Ellis posted an injury-marred, underwhelming 2015-16. Entering his age 31 season, the formerly high-volume Ellis looks to be trending down.

But Ellis is going very, very late in drafts. Nate McMillan is the kind of veteran coach Ellis should respond to. And contrary to McMillan's track record, Indiana promises to up its pace.

I'm trying really, really hard here to avoid ending this column with a pun. I'll just inform you that Ellis historically excels in up-tempo situations and is motivated and leave it at that.