It's an NBA trade deadline sports fans will remember for a long time, with Kyrie Irving moving to the Dallas Mavericks earlier in the week and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both dealt on Wednesday. Three future Hall of Famers on new teams. Wow!
André Snellings broke down the Irving-to-Dallas deal, so check that out if you haven't already, and here are Snellings and Eric Moody with more on Durant, Westbrook and the other trades leading up to Thursday's deadline.
Whose fantasy value is on the rise? Whose is diminished? Here's what the experts have to say.
The Suns get Durant
For the second time in half-a-week, we're in this space talking about the Nets giving up an All-NBA player for a package of productive younger players and draft picks. This time, the player the Nets traded is Durant, the former MVP and a consistent best-player-in-the-league candidate for over a decade. By trading away KD, the Nets have fully embraced the rebuild and move forward as a team trying to discover who they are.
They have also become a fantasy basketball goldmine, with players that could absolutely shake up the landscape in the last couple months of the season.
But, let's start with the biggest name in the deal. What will Durant look like in Phoenix, and what will it mean to the fantasy prospects on the Suns?
New projected Suns lineup:
When Durant is healthy enough to return, his tenure in Phoenix will likely resemble what he's been in Brooklyn for the past few seasons. Durant has grown used to playing next to other elite perimeter scorers, so there's not much fear that he and Booker should have any trouble co-existing. Especially in a lineup where Paul has stepped back into a lower-usage role, Craig is a role player, and Ayton is more finisher than creator.
Durant and Booker will take the bulk of the shots, and likely continue to produce right around their season averages. Durant could take a slight step back in scoring volume, but if anything his already legendary scoring efficiency could be helped playing with an excellent floor general like Paul against defenses that also have to account for Booker and Ayton. Booker is a similar story, and could see his scoring average drop slightly but at higher efficiencies and with more assist opportunities.
Paul's scoring volume has dropped every season since his 2019-20 campaign in Oklahoma City, and his current 13.6 PPG average represents a career-low. Ironically, his scoring average is so low that it's sustainable no matter who else is on the team. The question is whether the presence of Durant will allow Paul to return to his more typical scoring efficiencies.
CP3 shot 49.5 percent from the field from 2019-20 through 2021-22, but this season was down to 43.2 FG%, his worst since his rookie season. If Durant's presence gets Paul more open looks, it could actually increase Paul's scoring average. You'd certainly expect Durant's presence to help improve Paul's already strong 8.7 APG.
Ayton could be the Suns player that sees the biggest drop in his fantasy status with this move. Ayton was averaging a career-high 18.4 PPG this season, and had been particularly aggressive on offense of late with averages of 23.5 PPG on 16.9 FGA during his last eight games. But, when Durant and Booker are both healthy, they will dominate the shots for the Suns and push Ayton from a rising second option to more of a tertiary, supporting scorer role.
Ayton's rebounding is strong, but he doesn't provide a lot in the defensive stats category, so if his scoring drops it could push him from a definite fantasy hoops starter to more of a flex play.
New projected Nets lineup:
First, the Nets may not be done. They've already flipped Crowder to Milwaukee for five second-round picks. Plus, the Nets still have 30-something vets like Curry and Harris that were good fits as role players on a Nets squad that was hoping to contend, but that could also make more sense as trade pieces to other contenders.
Second, the Nets are now so full of promising and/or starting caliber players that its difficult to project their future lineup. Particularly at forward. O'Neale has been a strong 3-and-D starter for them all season, and Finney-Smith had been good in that role for the Mavericks. But, Bridges and Johnson are both younger and have more upside, so it would make sense for them to potentially get the nod.
And what about Simmons? On paper, he still has the talent, upside and contract to be their franchise player moving forward. But, can anyone truly project that he'll be that this season? The other element is that newcomers Bridges and Johnson can both stretch the floor, which fits next to rising center Claxton. Is it even ideal to play two non-shooters like Simmons and Claxton in the same starting lineup?
While these questions about deployment aren't clear, some storylines do seem to write themselves. Dinwiddie is the new lead guard and will have every opportunity to approach or even improve upon the 20.6 PPG and 6.8 APG he averaged with the Nets back in 2019-20. He had averaged 23.8 PPG and 5.7 APG in his last 11 outings with the Mavericks, several of which came with Luka Doncic out, and he should be comfortable running the Nets in a high-usage role.
But, all eyes will be on new fantasy hoops shooting star Cam Thomas.
Last week, when Kyrie made his trade request, I wrote that fantasy hoops managers should pick up Thomas (who was available in more than 99% of leagues at the time). I wrote that I was picking up Thomas that night, and in fact I did. I hope you did the same, because of course he's now dropped 40+ points in three straight games and has become one of the hottest pickups in the league.
It isn't fully clear how the Nets plan to deploy Thomas once they give the reigns to Dinwiddie, but I think the stage could be set to feature Thomas as the primary scoring option on the team next to Dinwiddie. None of the other Nets are high-usage guys, and in fact their frontcourt is comprised almost entirely of defense-first players that can either stretch the floor or finish at the rim but that don't create for themselves.
And, as I noted on Twitter on Tuesday, Thomas wasn't always comfortable as a primary ball-handler that had to create his own shot against prepared defenses, as the Suns stripped him relentlessly when he tried to drive in the second half of their game.
But, playing as the primary scorer in a pure shooting guard role next to Dinwiddie could fully unlock Thomas as a shooter while keeping defenses from keying on his ballhandling. This could be a best-of-both-worlds scenario for Dinwiddie and Thomas, who both have conservative top-50 fantasy hoops player upside if this plays out right.
No matter who starts, each of Bridges, Johnson, O'Neale, Finney-Smith, Simmons and Claxton have at least fantasy flex/streamer floors. Bridges and Claxton, in particular, project to be fantasy starters with the way they've been playing on a team that now will allow them to be finishers at whatever volume they're comfortable with. O'Neale and Finney-Smith are role players both in the NBA and in fantasy, but Johnson still has achievable upside with his ability to knock down shots.
All told, you're going to want to pay attention to the Nets moving forward. I hope you got Thomas for free, because his price has soared. Dinwiddie looks poised to be a star as well, and if you can trade for him at yesterday's prices, I'd advise you to do so. There are still big things going on in Brooklyn...but now it's more about fantasy hoops championships than Larry O'Brien trophies.
Lakers move Westbrook for shooting, depth
Trade rumors have swirled around Russell Westbrook all season and it finally came to fruition on Wednesday, when the Lakers traded the veteran guard to the Jazz and reacquired D'Angelo Russell from the Timberwolves in a three-team, eight player trade.
Westbrook is the second player to get traded four times after being recognized as an MVP, joining Bob McAdoo. Additionally, Los Angeles receives Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, while the Timberwolves get guards Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker and draft picks.
The Lakers' starting point guard has produced very little statistically this season, only averaging 10.1 PPG, the second fewest in the league. With this trade, the Lakers also gain some much-needed perimeter shooting. Only the Spurs have fewer 3-point field goals per game this season than Los Angeles. For a Lakers team desperately in need of outside shooting, Beasley's fantasy value is secure. He averaged 13.4 PPG and 3.1 3PG in Utah and provides a true perimeter threat.
Russell is a particularly intriguing addition because he helps fill the ballhandling and playmaking void following Westbrook's departure. It's worth noting, too that Russell is also in the midst of the best shooting season of his career with an effective field goal percentage of 56.9%. Russell has averaged 35.2 fantasy points per game this season and should continue that trend with the Lakers.
Conley is now reunited with former Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert in Minnesota and should slot into the starting point guard role. The veteran out of Ohio State has averaged 7.7 APG, a career high, and Gobert set an on-ball screen for Conley 21.9 times per game last season, second only to Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton. Conley's fantasy value is secure following the trade.
The biggest takeaway for Westbrook is that the Jazz won't bring in another point guard in the deal, and he may be bought out. The Clippers and Bulls seem to be the most interested teams. As the trade deadline approaches, the Clippers are seeking to upgrade at point guard. While the Bulls have been without starting point guard Lonzo Ball this season due to a knee injury that has kept him off the court since Jan. 2022. Regardless of where Westbrook ends up, he should be able to maintain his average of 33.2 fantasy points per game.
Poeltl heads back to Raptors
Jakob Poeltl heads to the Raptors in exchange for Khem Birch and draft picks, returning to Toronto where he was drafted in 2016. If you recall, he was traded from the Raptors to the Spurs in 2018 as part of the Kawhi Leonard trade.
Poeltl averaged 31.6 fantasy points and 26.2 minutes per game with the Spurs this season. and it would be surprising if he didn't play a significant role for the Raptors. The fantasy value of Poeltl is secure whether he starts or comes off the bench in Toronto.
Knicks land Hart
Josh Hart joins the Knicks and is reunited with former Villanova teammate Jalen Brunson in New York. Portland will receive Cam Reddish, Ryan Arcidiacono, Svi Mykhailiuk and a protected first-round pick in 2023 in return.
Hart is an elite rebounder (8.2 RPG this season, the most by a player at 6-foot-5 or shorter) who adds athleticism to the Knicks backcourt, even it if comes in the form of a player who has been reluctant to shoot the 3-pointer this season.
Hart has averaged 27.5 fantasy points per game this season and his fantasy value will be influenced by whether he starts or comes off the bench for the Knicks. Reddish has not played since Dec. 3 and hasn't started a game since Nov. 18, and unless the Trail Blazers show more confidence in the former lottery pick he could very well remain off the fantasy radar. That will be worth watching. Reddish could absorb Hart's 33.5 minutes per game, which would bode well for his fantasy value, but Portland also acquired Matisse Thybulle in a three-team deal with Charlotte on Thursday so it will be a battle for playing time.
Other odds and ends
--The Warriors traded former No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman in a multi-team deal with the Pistons and Hawks. Wiseman went to the Pistons, Saddiq Bey to the Hawks and the Warriors received five second round picks. Bey was an occasional starter for the Pistons that has averaged 15.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.3 3PG, 2.2 APG and 0.9 SPG in 30.9 MPG over the last two seasons. He joins a deep forward group with the Hawks featuring John Collins, De'Andre Hunter, sometimes Bogdan Bogdanovic, AJ Griffin and Jalen Johnson so it's difficult to see him maintaining as large of a role. Wiseman joins impressive rookie Jalen Duren, solid third-year big man Isaiah Stewart and another former No. 2 overall pick -- Marvin Bagley III -- in the center rotation for the Pistons. The Pistons seem to want Wiseman in a developmental role, as a high-upside talent on a rebuilding team, but it's hard to see him getting significant fantasy-worthy minutes in Detroit barring some sort of injury.
--The Pelicans traded Devonte' Graham and four second round picks to the Spurs for Josh Richardson. Graham had fallen into a very small role behind both CJ McCollum and Jose Alvarado for the Pelicans, playing just 15.3 minutes per game on the season with four DNPs in the last five games. Graham isn't guaranteed a starting role for the Spurs, but he has a better path to playing time as he battles just Tre Jones for the point guard slot. In the three seasons before this one, Graham averaged 24.8 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.8 RPG and 3.0 3PG in 31.1 MPG for the Hornets and Pelicans.
--The Hornets traded Mason Plumlee to the Clippers for Reggie Jackson. This trade doesn't seem to make much sense for the Hornets, as Plumlee was productive as their starting center while Jackson seems redundant (and is reportedly a strong candidate to be bought out) with other point guards in LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier getting big minutes with a similar skillset. This move does seem to signal that rookie Mark Williams (available in 97.9% of leagues), who the Hornets have been high on since the Draft, should be in for a bigger role. These things don't always translate precisely, but Williams has averaged 14.6 points per 30 minutes, 10.7 RP30, 2.1 BP30 and 1.5 SP30 thus far this season. Plumlee likely enters a time-split with Ivica Zubac for minutes in the middle, for a Clippers team that also likes to play their share of centerless smallball. So, his fantasy prospects diminish in LA.
--The Clippers were busy, also acquiring Eric Gordon in a multi-team deal where they sent Luke Kennard to the Grizzlies, and trading for Nuggets guard Bones Hyland as well. Hyland is a young lead guard that was averaging 12.1 PPG, 3.0 APG and 2.2 3PG in 19.5 MPG off the bench for the Nuggets. He could push Terance Mann for playing time at the point, and even if he comes off the bench could be in for a larger role with the Clippers than he had with the Nuggets.
--Gordon is a veteran, professional scorer that joins Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Norman Powell on the wings. His role should be much smaller than the 30+ MPG he was getting for the Rockets, and Gordon's presence could detrimentally impact Powell when George and Leonard are both playing. But, in the event of load management games or injury, Gordon could end up getting spot-starter minutes. The bigger fantasy impact of this move is in Houston, where the Rockets removed their 30-something Gordon from getting 30-something minutes on a nightly basis, opening up space for Kenyon Martin Jr., Tari Eason and/or Jae'Sean Tate to get more minutes on the wing. Eason (available in 93.7% of leagues) is the player to watch for potential fantasy relevance down the stretch.