NBA Free Agency: Breaking Down the Fantasy Ramifications

NBA Free Agency: Breaking Down the Fantasy Ramifications

Talk about a wild free agency period. With the start of the NBA season less than a month away, teams don't have a lot of time to make changes to their roster. The result has been a flurry of activity. Let's discuss the changes made by some teams and the impact that they will have across the fantasy basketball landscape.

Atlanta Hawks

This team is going to be fun. Trae Young now has a healthy Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn to help him try and get the Hawks into the playoffs. On top of that, the Hawks also signed restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic to an offer sheet. Add in hold overs John Collins, Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter and this all of a sudden became a deep team.

While depth is good for real-life basketball, it's not for fantasy. If the Hawks don't move Collins, it would likely mean that Gallinari would play small forward. That means fewer minutes are likely coming for Hunter and Reddish. If the Bogdanovic deal goes through, Kevin Huerter should also see a decline in playing time and scoring opportunities. Rondo, Dunn, Reddish and Hunter don't have much fantasy appeal. Huerter and Gallinari could both see fewer scoring opportunities than they did last season, as well. If Collins is traded, then things become a lot less crowded, so keep an eye on this situation.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers' offseason is a case of the rich getting richer. Yes, they lost Rondo, Danny Green and Dwight Howard from their title team. However, they replaced them with Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews. They were also able to retain Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was a key contributor during their title run. Anthony Davis has yet to officially re-sign with the team, but his return seems to be a formality at this point.

Depth is going to be key for the Lakers, who are going to have an incredibly short offseason. Don't be surprised to see James and Davis sit out at least one game of back-to-back sets, maybe for the entire season. They could also play limited minutes out of the gate. It's fair to think that Schroder might see a decline in his 27.2 percent usage rate from last season, but it might not be by much considering he'll probably be the third-best scoring option the team

 Maybe the new addition who will be impacted the most will be Harrell, who is coming off of a career-high 18.6 points per game with the Clippers. His usage rate was 25.7 percent, which feels almost certain to decline having to share the floor with Davis, James and Schroder, while losing some minutes at center to both Davis and Gasol.

Charlotte Hornets

If you can say one thing about the Hornets, it's that they don't lack players who are good ball handlers. Despite already having Devonte' Graham and Terry Rozier on their roster, they selected pass-first point guard LaMelo Ball with the third pick of the draft. They then made a big splash in free agency by signing Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120 million contract. Although he's not a point guard, he's averaged at least 3.5 assists in a season five times during his career.

Graham figures to remain in the starting lineup and Hayward is obviously going to start, which probably pushes Miles Bridges to the second unit. The Hornets can now ease Ball into the league by bringing him off the bench if they want to while keeping Rozier in the starting five. With that being said, Rozier does have experience coming off the bench, so he could might be better suited to be the team's sixth-man. Bridges is probably the player who will be downgraded the most since it will be difficult for him to average 31 minutes a game like he did last season. Even with playing that much, he only averaged 13 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 three-pointers.

Milwaukee Bucks

It's not often that you see the previous season's best team in the league make significant changes, but that's just what the Bucks have done. They failed in their quest to win a title and can't be complacent with Giannis Antetokounmpo's impending free agency. In an order to try and get Giannis his ring and keep him with the franchise, they dealt Eric Bledsoe to the Pelicans in a trade that netted them Jrue Holiday.

Holiday is a significant upgrade over Bledsoe and won't negatively impact the production of Giannis or Khris Middleton. Holiday is still an excellent fantasy option, but the Bucks probably won't have a need to push him to average 35 minutes a game like he did last season, so a slight decline in production could be in the cards. For Bledsoe, the move to the Pelicans is not ideal since he'll now have to share playmaking duties with Lonzo Ball. The Pelicans would probably love to trade him, so don't be surprised if he never ends up playing a game with the team.

Phoenix Suns

After going undefeated in the bubble, the Suns clearly have their sights set on making the playoffs. In an attempt to do that, they brought in veteran point guard Chris Paul, who was stellar for the Thunder last season with averages of 17.6 points, five rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 three-pointers. With Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in the fold, Paul could see a decline in scoring, but an uptick in assists. It's also worth noting that he was able to stay healthy last year, playing at least 70 games for the first times since the 2015-16 season.

Another move that should not go overlooked is the Suns trading Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Warriors. They helped somewhat offset his loss by signing Jae Crowder, but Mikal Bridges could also be in line for an expanded role. Still, with so much talent around him, don't expect to get much scoring output from Bridges. However, he did average one three-pointer and 1.4 steals in only 28 minutes a game last season.

Golden State Warriors

Acquiring Oubre was a significant move for the Warriors because Klay Thompson (Achilles) is now set to miss his second straight season. This is an ideal situation for Oubre, who is coming off of averages of 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Other than Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors don't have many potent scorers. They also don't have much quality depth, so minutes shouldn't be difficult to come by.

Another key move for the Warriors was drafting James Wiseman with the second overall pick. He should immediately step in as their starting center and could average between 25-30 minutes a night. With that kind of playing time, he could be a valuable source for rebounds and blocks.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves have built impressive depth at point guard, shooting guard and small forward. They acquired Ricky Rubio to take over at the point, re-signed Malik Beasley and drafted Anthony Edwards. Add that to D'Angelo Russell, Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie and this is a crowded situation. Rubio and Russell and likely safe options as they will log plenty of minutes. Beasley averaged 20.7 points with a 23.7 percent usage rate after being acquired by the Timberwolves last season, but that was part of an injury-depleted roster. It's safe to say he won't approach either mark this season.

Despite being the top pick in the draft, the Timberwolves don't need to push Edwards to be a main contributor right away with this roster, so he's not an overly appealing fantasy option. Okogie and Culver can also be avoided in anything but considerably deep leagues. Karl-Anthony Towns could see his usage rate decline with so much talent around him, but with little depth at power forward and center, he's still primed for a big season and worthy of a first-round selection.

Oklahoma City Thunder

It feels like the Thunder will have accumulated a hundred first-round picks with all of their trades. The end result is a stripped-down roster that will be without Gallinari, Paul, Schroder and Steven Adams from last season. That means big things are likely coming from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who should be a usage rate monster. Another important player to make note of is Al Horford, who is coming off of a down year with the Sixers. No longer have to play alongside Joel Embiid, Horford is primed for a bounce-back campaign on this lackluster roster.

As far as late-round targets for fantasy drafts, Darius Bazley, Luguentz Dort and Hamidou Diallo should all be on your radar. Dort averaged 0.8 three-pointers and 0.9 steals in only 23 minutes a game last season. He could average 30 minutes a night on this roster. If Bazley doesn't start at power forward, he has the potential to average around 25 minutes per contest off the bench. Across 20 games in which he played at least 20 minutes last season, he averaged 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 three-pointers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Barner
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. In 2018, he was a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. In addition to RotoWire, Mike has written for Sportsline, Sports Illustrated, DK Live, RealTime Fantasy Sports, Lineup Lab and KFFL.com.
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