2019-20 fantasy hoops points ranks: NBA free agency shuffles early rounds

Epic usage hogs Russell Westbrook and James Harden are back together again as teammates. How much of a hit will their fantasy values take in Houston? EPA/LARRY W. SMITH

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The NBA just went through one of the most out-of-control free-agency periods in league history. The Finals MVPs from four of the past five championships changed teams, and the fifth of those Finals MVPs got a new superstar teammate to play with for the Lakers.

Not to be outdone, the reigning Finals MVP got the 2019 No. 3 MVP vote-getter to join him with the Clippers. The league MVP from three seasons ago got traded to the team with the MVP from two seasons ago, and there are now at least eight Western Conference teams that believe that they could win the conference next season.

Meanwhile, under the radar, the Las Vegas Summer League is wrapping up, which gave us a chance to see the first professional experience for many of the upcoming rookies for this season. Let's take a look at how the rankings have changed now that some of the dust is settling.

Anthony Davis was the most productive player, per game, of any player in the NBA last season when healthy and playing full-time minutes. He has joined LeBron James on the Lakers, and with the signings of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers now field three-fifths of the starting lineup from the 2017-18 New Orleans Pelicans. Davis should still post huge volume, but LeBron's presence may limit him just enough for him to slide slightly in the rankings.

James Harden went first overall in a 14-team points mock draft that I did on Wednesday, just hours before the news that Russell Westbrook was joining him in Houston. Westbrook had gone fourth in that same draft, while Chris Paul had slid to me in the middle of the fourth round. After the trade, both Harden and Westbrook had their value reduced in points leagues because there's no way that both of them can continue their historically ball-dominant ways from the same team.

Meanwhile, Paul's value could go up if he were, against all expectations, to stay and actually play for the Thunder. With that still an unknown, plus the vagaries of age and Paul's injury history, he makes a volatile and risky player to project for the season. Give him a small upgrade with the assumption that his new system won't be so wrapped around one of his teammates.

Paul George just had the best season of his career playing next to Westbrook but enters this season with a slightly worse fantasy outlook. The Clippers are a deep team with plenty of scoring talent, which could limit George's touches and production.

Kawhi Leonard also joined the Clippers, but via his championship in Toronto, Leonard just got validation that his maintenance schedule can pay huge dividends. Look for Leonard to miss games this season as he deems fit, perhaps as many as the 22 he missed last season. Though his talent and production warrant a higher ranking, the risk of sitting and his deep new team cause Leonard to slide a bit.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons just received new teammates, with Josh Richardson and Al Horford replacing JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler in the starting unit. Horford's presence gives the 76ers another strong center option, and after the way that Embiid wore down last season, it would appear that he's set for more rest this season.

Simmons, on the other hand, may deserve an upgrade because none of the new 76ers will handle the ball and run the offense nearly as much as Butler used to. Simmons still needs to develop his jumper, but he should have more chances to accumulate assists and possibly rebounds this season with the new-look 76ers.

Kyrie Irving joined Kevin Durant in Brooklyn this offseason, but with Durant expected to miss most or all of the season with his Achilles injury, Irving should be the man. But, like PG with the Clippers, Irving finds himself in a great real-life situation that could somewhat limit his fantasy upside. The Nets are another deep team with talent across the board, and Kyrie should be on his relative best behavior this season after all the bad press he got on his way out of Boston.

Kemba Walker's numbers last season were very similar to those of Irving, the man he's replacing in Boston. However, presumably Walker will take a relative step back in volume, as Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown all look to have bigger scoring roles this season.

Butler looks to return to the 24/6/6-type numbers that he posted with the Bulls, and in the second half of his season with the Timberwolves, up from the 18/5/4 that he averaged with the 76ers last season. His new role with the Heat comes with a solid move up the rankings.

The Knicks just can't stop signing power forwards this offseason, but Julius Randle is clearly the most talented of them and the best player on the team right now. He is trying out for a spot as a building block of the future this season and should put up big numbers in his inaugural season in the Big Apple.

Hassan Whiteside was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, which could actually help him in the short term but ultimately relegates him to a backup role when Jusuf Nurkic gets healthy.

Pascal Siakam is the reigning Most Improved Player in the NBA, and with Kawhi now back home in LA, it appears that Siakam is the new King in the North. His numbers could take another leap this season.

Mike Conley joins a much better real-life situation with the Jazz, but the presence of Donovan Mitchell could very well eat into his volume this season.

Klay Thompson (torn ACL) and KD (torn Achilles) suffered major injuries late in the season. Both could very well sit out the entire season, but if you're in a league with an IR and/or deep bench, it could be worth it to stash them just in case.

Victor Oladipo is still projected to be out until around the end of December/early January, which obviously impacts his ranking. A top-three-rounder when healthy, the question marks caused him to slide into the mid-late rounds.

Jonas Valanciunas averaged 19.9 PPG (54.5 FG%, 76.9 FT%), 10.7 RPG, 2.2 APG and 1.6 BPG in his 19 games with the Grizzlies last season, earning himself a new contract. He has health and role question marks coming into this season, but if he can replicate these numbers for a season, he'd be worth even more of an upgrade than he got in these rankings.

As I mentioned immediately after the draft lottery, historic players with similar characteristics to Zion Williamson (e.g., Charles Barkley and Blake Griffin) had their college numbers translate pretty faithfully from college to the pros. For Zion, this led to projections of 22.5 PPG (56.0 FG percentage, 68.0 FT percentage), 8.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG and 0.8 3PG.

After watching Zion in the summer league, even in his brief appearance, these numbers look very reasonable. Zion's one half of summer league play came against the New York Knicks, whose team contained several NBA veterans likely to be in their actual rotation. Zion began the game apparently working on his face-up skills while being defended by Kevin Knox and looked uncomfortable from the perimeter. However, after a few minutes, he got aggressive and on three quick possessions he:

  • Drove baseline on Knox for a dunk

  • Cut into the paint, used his arm to hold Knox at bay, received an easy entry pass at the rim and dunked

  • Snatched the ball out of Knox's hand in the backcourt, causing Knox to fall, then stepped over/past him to easily dunk

Knox was visibly taller and longer than Zion, but the strength difference was breathtakingly in Zion's favor. After that sequence, the Knicks put center Mitchell Robinson on Zion, and he fared no better. Zion easily beat him off the dribble at will, and Robinson was forced to foul and send Zion to the line consistently to prevent more easy dunks. This formula (taking advantage of mismatches for a barrage of dunks and free throws) helped Giannis Antetokounmpo win the NBA MVP award, made Zion the college player of the year, and looks as though it should make him a top-20 fantasy player right away.