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Offseason Extra: Who's on the move?

by | Fantasy Writer
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The NBA offseason is a time of certain uncertainty. What's Stan Van Gundy going to do with the Pistons' roster? Which young free agents will leave the nest? How's this much-hyped draft going to shake out?

But the biggest questions may boil down to a handful of not-exactly-satisfied stars and what uniform they'll be wearing by the end of next season. I'll run through a handful of Fantasy stalwarts, weighing in on whether they're on the move, staying put or possibly even teaming up with one another.

LeBron James

ADP Rank: No. 1 overall
2013-2014 season: Finished third in total Fantasy points

As expected, LeBron James opted out of his current deal, forgoing $20.6 million and becoming an unrestricted free agent. Whether this means James is looking for a new home or simply hoping to renovate his current one remains to be seen.

His future likely depends more on Dwyane Wade and what he chooses to do with his player option. If he opts in, James will probably look for a team with more to offer in terms of cap room and a younger, hungrier roster. If Wade opts out, then it likely means the big three is working to stay intact. Bosh will likely follow suit.

Regardless, for Fantasy purposes, consider LeBron on the downturn. He's basically played five seasons' worth of games in the last four years. It's clear that he's worn out and could use some help. Therefore, it would make sense that all the teams that attempt to woo him, including Miami, will sell him on how they'll ease his burden and relieve some of the pressure he felt in the quest for a threepeat. Talent-wise, Houston and the Clippers make the most sense, but they represent completely different Fantasy outlooks. In Houston, he'd be the central facilitator -- meaning it's not far-fetched to envision 10-plus assists per game. But with the Clippers, Chris Paul would still run the show and James would be forced to play with a true point guard for practically the first time in his life.

Still, the most realistic scenario is a return to Miami with a younger, more athletic supporting cast. If that's the case, expect near identical numbers and efficiency from James. Younger Fantasy studs like Stephen Curry, John Wall and Blake Griffin are nipping at his heels, but I've always taken more stock in a player's situation than his overall talent level. James' decision No. 2 will likely have a ripple effect that changes roles and rosters across the league, so wait until the dust has settled to start assessing draft stock.

Kevin Love

ADP Rank: No. 6 overall
2013-2014 season: Finished second in total Fantasy points

Kevin Love is as good as gone, but his destination isn't so clear. The Warriors came close, but talks stalled out. The Celtics have the picks, but Minnesota wants players too. Can Cleveland tempt them with the No. 1 pick? Will a draft-day trade ultimately decide his fate?

The thing to remember for Fantasy is that wherever Love ends up, he's not really going to be better statistically than he was last season. His usage rate in Minnesota this past season was in Blake Griffin/Al Jefferson territory, so he was already very much the focal point. The only thing to watch out for in reassessing his value is just how good the team around him will be. More All Stars equals fewer opportunities to dominate, which is great for a guy trying to make the playoffs for the first time in his career but not so great for his Fantasy value.

Right now he's a top-five pick, and he'll stay that way if he moves to Boston. But should the Celtics land other top free agents or Love get traded to a talented team like the Warriors or Rockets, you might consider dropping Love to top-ten range. I just can't see Love improving on, or even maintaining, 25-plus points, 12-plus rebounds and 4-plus assists per game in a crowded lineup. Only seven guys in the history of the league have achieved that line for a season. And of those seven, only Elgin Baylor and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were able to do it in back-to-back seasons.

Boston seems like the best spot for Love as far as Fantasy is concerned. He'll have basically a more athletic Ricky Rubio at the helm in Rajon Rondo and will still be an extremely high-usage player, as opposed to in a more crowded lineup with the Warriors. Those looking to draft Love next season should hope he avoids any big three/super team scenarios as not to cut down on his astronomical production.

Carmelo Anthony

ADP Rank: No. 9 overall
2013-2014 season: Finished seventh in total Fantasy points

As the Knicks' sad, sad season was winding down, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Anthony would choose to terminate his contract early and see what else is out there. Now he's done so, meaning he'll see what other teams can offer him before deciding whether or not to spend another highly lucrative waste of a year in New York.

Phil Jackson's already shown his inexperience in the front office by losing out on coaching candidate Steve Kerr (once thought to be a sure-thing) and by getting fined $25,000 in his pursuit of still-in-the-playoffs Derek Fisher. I'm still not convinced that Jackson actually cares about turning the Knicks around so much as he was bored and wanted back into the league without having to pinky whistle on the sidelines again. $12 million is a great cure for boredom.

If Anthony stays, look forward to another ultra-high usage season where he's asked to do everything every game -- great for Fantasy. If he bolts, it will likely to try and form another "super team" in Chicago, Boston or elsewhere, meaning he'll get to relax and worry more about developing chemistry than dragging his team into the playoffs.

One thing to watch when he does decide is whether he'll stick to the stretch four he's been playing or move back to the perimeter where he began his career. Having the paint mostly to himself allowed Anthony to snatch a career-high 8.1 rebounds per game this past season. Expect that number to go down if he moves back to the three.

Rajon Rondo

ADP Rank: No. 66 overall
2013-2014 season: Averaged 34.8 Fantasy points per game

If there's a blockbuster trade about to go down in the league, I'd put my money on the Celtics being a part of it. It's not just the plethora of first round picks in their back pocket. Rajon Rondo is no spring chicken anymore. At 28 years old and coming off knee surgery, he doesn't strike me as the patient type – especially considering he won an NBA Championship in his second year and continued to go deep into the playoffs for the next several years.

The East is weak, and Danny Ainge has the guile and assets to make major upgrades in the talent surrounding Rondo. Kevin Love makes the most sense, as we've already seen how productive he can be with a tall, pass-first point guard. Rondo is pretty much a more athletic Ricky Rubio. But rumor has it the Celtics could be gearing up to bring two big names to Boston this offseason. Carmelo Anthony maybe? Chandler Parsons possibly?

There's also a small chance that the blockbuster pendulum swings the other way and Rajon Rondo is dealt, pushing the Celtics to go all-in on the total rebuild. That doesn't seem like Ainge's style though, and something clearly has to give here. It just doesn't make sense to surround a 10-plus assist player with raw youngsters only to watch him walk away in 2015. That's why they'll value for him now by dealing him, or give him a reason to stay beyond next season by surrounding him with competitive talent.

Rondo was still awesome for Fantasy in the 30 games he gave us last season, but the frequent rest and the unpredictable teammates made conditions less than ideal. I'm hoping Ainge whips up some 2007 trade magic, allowing Rondo free lanes to the basket with ample targets to choose from. The waiting hands of Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon won't be enough to keep Rondo or Fantasy owners happy.

Kyle Lowry

ADP Rank: No. 68 overall
2013-2014 season: Finished ninth in total Fantasy points

Considering where he ended the season compared to where he was drafted, Lowry was easily the biggest surprise in Fantasy. But that production might not have been enough for him to get paid like a top-tier point guard.

One of the biggest problems is there aren't a whole lot of other situations that make sense for him. There are only so many teams that might offer Lowry in the first place. When guys like Jameer Nelson, Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings and George Hill are owed $8 million next season from their respective teams, it’s hard to find a franchise that would be willing to pay Lowry what he earned with last season’s production. Maybe the Lakers? Can the Heat afford him? Who knows?

Chandler Parsons

ADP Rank: No. 53 overall
2013-2014 season: Finished 45th in total Fantasy points

Speaking of restricted free agency, the Rockets are leaning toward declining the super affordable team option for Parsons' contract, meaning he too could be on the semi-open market. Since Houston has also been rumored to be searching for another All Star, declining the Parsons option seems like an insurance policy in case they don't land anyone big.

If they pick it up, they'll pay him a tiny amount next season, but that could open the door for a huge pay day in unrestricted free agency next summer. Instead, they'll likely give Parsons a more moderate raise sooner, even if it means allowing him to field offers from the rest of the league. But unlike point guard, forward is not so deep, meaning an ambitious team could end up with Parsons next season if it pushed his price high enough.

One thing the Rockets would miss out on is his 4.0 assists per game, specifically when it comes to entry passes to Dwight Howard. With no true point guard, Houston relied heavily on Parsons' ability to handle the ball at 6-foot-9 -- much like recent championship Lakers teams did with Lamar Odom. It will be very interesting to see if this translates to a less talented team – the kind of team that might be inclined to pay Parsons more than the Rockets next season.

The majority of restricted free agents end up staying put, but this one seems like it has the best chance of going the other way. Parsons' basketball value was magnified by how little Houston had to pay him. I can't say for sure that the money needed to shake him loose will be well spent. In the end his fate will likely be determined by how the higher-priced trade chips fall – those being the first three guys of this column.

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/22/2014) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

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. 


 
 
 
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