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Offseason Extra: The winners and losers

Fantasy Writer
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With a few exceptions -- Did Nikola Pekovic's agent forget to pay the phone bill? -- the dust has largely settled on the busiest part of the offseason.

The biggest names have all found new homes, either via trade or free agency, and there is plenty to digest for Fantasy owners as they prepare for next season.

Some of the moves won't make much of an impact right away: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul were going to be elite Fantasy options no matter where they ended up. The opposite is true for guys like Nick Young and Byron Mullens, who probably cannot do much of anything to change who they are at this point.

There were plenty of changes across the landscape of the league that will change how Fantasy owners have to approach the upcoming season. While it isn't always a cut-and-dried issue, I like to think at least some of the offseason's moves can be broken down by a binary system -- Winners vs. Losers.

Winners

Young players in Boston, Philadelphia, and Utah

With seemingly half the league gunning for pole position in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes in next season's draft lottery, we saw quite a few teams shed payroll and playoff aspirations in an effort to be as bad as possible this season. The easiest way to get bad fast is to throw young players into the fire, and that is what these three teams in particular look to be doing.

The Celtics and 76ers could rely more on newly acquired players, specifically rookies Kelly Olynyk and Michael Carter-Williams, who have a good chance to emerge as Fantasy contributors as the season goes on given their projected roles. We should also see the continued emergence of relatively young players with mixed track records like Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Jeff Green, who should be asked to shoulder a bigger load than ever before this season.

The Jazz, however, are the most intriguing option, as they already had plenty of young talent on hand before letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk via free agency. Those two departures should lead to the long-awaited unleashing of former No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors, who has been a Fantasy favorite for a while. We should also see Gordon Hayward take on more responsibility as a scorer and a playmaker, and I think he is more than ready to do so. Hayward is going to be a popular breakout pick this season and I think he can vault into the top-25 among Fantasy forwards. Alec Burks and Trey Burke should also be a popular sleeper options in the backcourt.

Pau Gasol

It says a lot about what kind of career Pau Gasol has had when 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 blocks per game is considered a resounding disappointment. This is a bar for future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame players, and it is one that Gasol should have little trouble clearing with ease, even if he isn't much of a leaper in real life anymore.

With Dwight Howard gone via free agency and Kobe Bryant likely to get a late start on the season thanks to an Achilles surgery, Gasol should be asked to carry a larger load than usual this season. He should also be moving back to center, where his skill set should age more gracefully. Gasol might not ever be the 20-10 player of years past, but expect the Lakers to lean on him to a large degree, especially since Chris Kaman is the only other option picked up as a free agent. With the Lakers lacking much of anything resembling go-to options until Kobe comes back, I'm expecting a big bounce-back campaign from Gasol. And that is almost entirely due to Dwight Howard's departure.

Al Jefferson

Though he has likely doomed himself to at least a few years of lottery trips, Al Jefferson's decision to sign with the Bobcats should be a boon for his Fantasy value. After being forced to take on ever-smaller roles in the Jazz's crowded frontcourt, Jefferson will now be the man in Charlotte. He should get the ball whenever he wants and will be the focal point of an offense that actually has some talent on the perimeter.

Jefferson has been in a steady statistical decline since joining the Jazz, but he could see a return to levels of production not seen since he was in Minnesota. Jefferson was once a lock for 20 points and 11 rebounds per game and he could approach those numbers with the Bobcats. Jefferson still finished fifth in Fantasy scoring among centers last season, but I could see him emerging as a possible option for the top center in the league in 2013-14.

Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe is going to be a popular breakout choice this season -- and for good reason. After the trade that sent him to Phoenix, Bledsoe should be given much more leeway than he had in Los Angeles, where he was buried behind Chris Paul and could only show glimpses of his considerable potential. The Suns should be dreadful again this season, but watching Bledsoe figure out how to harness his considerable physical gifts within the confines of a functioning offense.

Bledsoe fills up the box score like few other players in the game, as he averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals and an astounding 1.3 blocks per-36 minutes last season. While he did much of that against tired starters or second units, Bledsoe's work in 12 games as a starter last season does much to make me confident in his ability to sustain his production; he averaged 14.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in those games. While Bledsoe will be sharing the point guard duties with Goran Dragic in Phoenix, his move this offseason immediately puts him among the ranks of the starting guards in Fantasy, with huge upside.

Chandler Parsons

Like Pau Gasol, Chandler Parsons didn't actually change his address this offseason, but his Fantasy value should tick up with Dwight Howard's decision to head to Houston. Parsons already took a step forward across the board last season, and that was before Howard arrived to occupy all that space in the middle of the floor. Omer Asik was a solid pick and roll partner for James Harden, but Howard is on another level, and defenses will have no choice but to inch down into the paint to guard that. That should leave Parsons even more wide open than he was last season, when he shot 38.5 percent from three-point range and upped his scoring to 15.5 points per game.

Without much in the way of competition for playing time at small forward, Parsons should play a ton of minutes yet again. His skill set has increased across the board in his two years in the NBA, which only serves to increase his value. Parsons upped his assist rate last season, and could have the potential to play the part of the late-2000's Hedo Turkoglu, who thrived so much next to Howard. Parsons should receive plenty of ancillary benefits to Howard's move to Houston, making him a possible top-15 Fantasy forward in all formats.

Losers

David Lee

The Warriors stumbled onto a second-gear in the postseason last year, as they became a long-range juggernaut once David Lee went down with a hip injury. Though he was ultimately able to play in five games after the injury, the Warriors consistently played their best ball without Lee on the floor, as they were able to load up on the perimeter and open driving lanes with their elite shooting. And their offseason acquisition of Andre Iguodala indicates that the organization thinks that small ball is the answer long term.

The elephant in the room, then, is Lee and his massive contract. The Warriors cannot turn away from him, but it is abundantly clear that he is no longer the franchise centerpiece he once was. They reportedly tried to trade Lee last season, and it is not hard to see how his brand of flat-footed defense and lack of three-point range will lead to the Warriors leaning on him less. Lee is still a fantastic player -- on the offensive side of the ball -- but I expect a reduction in both playing time and touches, especially after each of his last two seasons have ended with Lee going under the knife. Lee has consistently been a top Fantasy option in recent years, but the Warriors' changing culture should knock him down to the next tier this season.

Old players in Brooklyn

That pretty much covers everyone in Brooklyn, as the Nets doubled down on their star-heavy plans this offseason with the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry. That means six of the team's top nine rotation options are above the age of 32, with only Deron Williams (29) and Brook Lopez (25) entering the season on the right side of 30. This arrangement should work out fine for the Nets, who have the kind of depth to keep their older players healthy and fresh by limiting their minutes, but it also should create a headache for Fantasy owners.

The Nets have strong options at three of five positions, with Lopez and Williams the only starters likely to continue seeing a similar number of minutes as last season. Not coincidentally, they are the only Nets' players I have projected as top-tier options at their respective positions. Pierce, Garnett and Kirilenko, along with Joe Johnson, should all remain useful and worth having on the roster, but Fantasy owners will likely grow frustrated if they expect their previous levels out of those vets.

Everyone not named Ty Lawson in Denver

Though some of the Nuggets' disastrous offseason has been self-inflicted (firing George Karl, specifically), much of what went wrong in Denver was largely beyond their control. Still, it is tough to make sense of their fallback options, which included signing J.J. Hickson, Timofey Mozgov and Nat Robinson. The Nuggets' unique roster construction at least made sense last season; now, I'm not sure what to make of their rotations, especially with new coach Brian Shaw's plans a mystery.

Ty Lawson should remain a rock, but I can't make sense of the rest of the team right now. There is loads of Fantasy potential here, especially with JaVale McGee and Wilson Chandler looking at larger roles. Unfortunately, that potential comes with plenty of risk given the numerous questions surrounding the team and their plans. I wouldn't want to take a chance on anyone in Denver except Lawson on Draft Day.

J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley

I'm sure if you asked J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, they would probably count themselves among the big winners of the offseason. Each went from a fairly hopeless situation to a team that could very easily come out of the West this season, and they will be placed in better positions to succeed than arguably at any other time in their career.

Unfortunately, from a Fantasy perspective, we're likely to see both players take a step back this season. Redick enjoyed a career-best season across the board in 2012-13, but his production took a big hit after he was taken from his high-usage role in Orlando, and Fantasy owners should expect more of the same as the Clippers will be able to limit what he is asked to do. Dudley will similarly be used more as a role player than in recent years, as he will be asked to do little more than spot up on offense, while putting more focus on defense. Each player will likely see their Fantasy value drop to that of a low-end starting option, at best, after their moves.

Omer Asik

Omer Asik spent the first two years of his career stuck behind an All-Star center before breaking out in his first season with the Rockets last season. So it is no surprise that he reportedly demanded a trade upon learning of the Rockets' acquisition of Dwight Howard, as it will only serve to push Asik to the same role coming off the bench that he escaped in Chicago. Howard reportedly asked the Rockets to keep Asik, as he has expressed in the past how much he enjoys playing with another seven-footer, but it is pretty clear Asik is looking at a significantly decreased role yet again.

Last season, Asik was one of the more useful centers in the league, averaging 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game; only 11 other players averaged a double-double, and none did so while playing in all 82 games as Asik did. While he is likely to see more than the 13.2 minutes per game he averaged over his first two seasons, Asik is clearly not going to be a worthy starting Fantasy option this season. Strike one more center off your list on Draft Day, weakening an already shallow position.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 


Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   


Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 


Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per Stats.NBA.com, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per MySynergySports.com, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 


Eric Gordon cleared for contact
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has been cleared to take part in full-contact offseason drills ahead of training camp, The Times-Picayune reports.

Gordon underwent season-ending knee surgery last April, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. 


 
 
 
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