The moves are coming fast and furious around the NBA, as teams position themselves as contenders with intentions of making a deep playoff run in 2022-23 or take steps to start over and rebuild.
Whose fantasy value has been impacted most? Who is rising and who’s falling?
Our fantasy basketball experts Eric Moody and André Snellings examine what the moves mean for the biggest names to switch jerseys this summer.
Gobert changes everything in Minnesota
The Timberwolves traded for Rudy Gobert to be their anchor in the middle on defense, moving Karl-Anthony Towns to the 4. Towns is one of the great shooting big men in the league, so on offense it’s a fit. On defense, it could be a challenge as Gobert is already tied to the paint and near the rim, and Towns might be challenged laterally if he has to spend most of his time on the perimeter for certain covers.
As for Gobert’s fantasy status, the previous discussion ties into the question of his minutes. Gobert’s per-minute production likely stays similar in Minnesota. He’ll be near the rim, vacuuming rebounds and blocking shots at his typical pace. And he’ll still be a finisher in the paint on offense, capable of scoring in the teens at high efficiency solely off putbacks and looks created by his teammates. Gobert has averaged 32.5 MPG for the past seven seasons, with a minimum of 30.8 MPG in 2020-21 and a max of 34.3 MPG in 2019-20.
If he plays roughly half his minutes when Towns is on the bench, and the other half with Towns at the four, I think there should be enough minutes for Gobert’s fantasy output to stay largely consistent with perhaps only a small attenuation in his new team situation. — André Snellings
Murray immediately upgrades Hawks’ defense
The Hawks are betting that Dejounte Murray can help them win a championship along with Trae Young. A superb season with San Antonio led to his first All-Star appearance in Murray’s fifth NBA campaign, as he reached new career highs with 21.1 PPG, 9.2 APG, 2.0 SPG and 8.3 RPG. During his time in San Antonio, he recorded 17 triple-doubles, the most in Spurs franchise history.
Last season, he and Young were two of only five players in the league to average 20 PPG and 8.0 PPG. Luka Doncic, Darius Garland and James Harden were the others. From a fantasy perspective, Murray and Young surprisingly benefit from the trade. This might come as a surprise to some, but Murray’s usage rate was 26.8% compared to Doncic (36.2%), Ja Morant (33.35%), and Donovan Mitchell (32.2%). In spite of this, Murray was still a fantasy superstar, and he also excels on defense. As a second-team All-Defensive selection in 2017-18 and third-team runner-up last season, he led the league with 2.0 SPG. Since Young has been in Atlanta, the Hawks have not ranked higher than 18th in defensive efficiency.
While Murray’s presence benefits Young, whose 34.4% usage rate was the fourth highest in the league. It is now unlikely that the opponents will focus solely on Young, which could result in a reduction in the number of turnovers he has made and an improvement in his offensive efficiency.
Fantasy managers are likely to believe they hurt each other’s value in fantasy drafts, which is a mistake. The value of Murray and Young playing next to each other is enhanced. The Spurs appear to be preparing for the future, judging by Murray’s departure and the haul they acquired. There is always opportunity in chaos, and Devin Vassell in San Antonio benefits most from it, after putting up 12.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG and a usage rate of 19.3% in 2021-22. Keep in mind that during Murray’s absence last season, Vassell’s stats improved to 16.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.0 APG and 1.3 SPG. — Eric Moody
The Brogdon Celtics
Malcolm Brogdon has finally found a new home, as the Pacers appear to be in rebuild mode. Brad Stevens said after the NBA Finals that the Celtics needed more playmaking and that’s exactly what they are getting in Brogdon who averaged 19.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.9 APG and 0.8 SPG in 36 games a season ago. He’s also one of 20 active players with 15 PPG and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.0 or better in their careers. Brogdon is an excellent player.
While he has injury concerns, the team will be in good shape and very difficult to score against with Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Jayson Tatum in the backcourt. I’m confident all three can coexist in the Celtics’ rotation, but it will be interesting to see what it looks like.
Regardless, Brogdon will play a crucial role for a Boston team that ranked ninth in offensive rating (113.6) and first in defensive rating (106.2) in 2021-22. Boston gained a playmaking point guard without sacrificing a core player. This is great news for Brogdon’s fantasy outlook this upcoming season, even if his scoring takes a small dip with so many other key scorers around him. The key with Brogdon, as always, will be whether he can stay healthy. — Moody
The Celtics had a weakness at floor general that showed up in the late stages of the playoffs, and they addressed that by trading for Brogdon. Brogdon presumably slots into the starting lineup next to Marcus Smart, with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum at forward and either Robert Williams III or Al Horford at center. This would make the Celtics a more perimeter-based team at both ends, and Brogdon would transition from the primary offensive role he has maintained with the Pacers in the past couple seasons to more of a playmaker and tertiary scorer on the loaded Celtics.
Tatum and Brown, in particular, also have the ball in their hands a lot and generate their fair share of assists, which might cap Brogdon in that category. All told, his averages seem likely to approximate his 2019-20 season with the Pacers, when he scored in the mid-teens, dished around seven assists and grabbed a handful of rebounds. He should also get his fair share of open looks on this Celtics team, so he could challenge his career marks in field goal percentage and should knock down close to two treys per game. — Snellings
Brunson in the Big City
Free agency got off to a fast start Thursday, and the biggest team-changing deal of the day was the Knicks going all in on Jalen Brunson. His departure from the Dallas Mavericks has been speculated since the Golden State Warriors defeated Dallas in the Western Conference finals. To clear up cap space for Brunson, the Knicks traded their first-round draft pick and then Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel to the Detroit Pistons.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday that Brunson had signed a four-year, $104 million contract with the Knicks, as confirmed by his agents. He becomes the first player in NBA history to sign a $100 million contract with a new team having never been an All-Star.
Brunson is coming off the best season of his career, putting up 16.3 PPG, 4.8 APG and 3.9 RPG with a 54.9 eFG%. In 17 games without Luka Doncic last season, Brunson averaged 20.4 PPG and 7.5 APG. Brunson will now have the opportunity to be the Knicks’ top scoring option, especially because there is a desperate need for improved point guard play in New York. Over the past three seasons, the Knicks’ starting point guards have combined to average 10.9 points per game. Furthermore, they average the second-fewest assists per game. Also, the Knicks ranked last in FG% on drives and 26th in points per chance on drives. In addition, New York ranked 27th in FG% on off-the-dribble jumpers. Brunson’s impact should be immediate, especially in these areas.
The Knicks landed one of the best drivers in the league in Brunson. He ranked second in FG% on these plays last season among players with 200 field goal attempts. Brunson finished ahead of Doncic and only behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. Additionally, he excels at creating for himself outside the paint. Brunson has the talent to reach the All-Star game without Doncic as his teammate.
Mark Jackson was the last Knicks point guard to make the All-Star game way back in the 1988-1989 season. As far as fantasy basketball is concerned, Brunson can be viewed as a top 50 option in all formats, and given how aggressively the Knicks pursued him, he will play an important role alongside Julius Randle and RJ Barrett for a franchise that has not won a playoff series in the last nine seasons and looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2021-2022 campaign. — Moody
Barton joins the Wizards
Will Barton was traded effectively for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, so there is a template already in place for the type of minutes and shots Barton might enjoy in Washington. Last season, KCP averaged 30.2 MPG while taking 10.8 FGA and 5.3 3PA per game. These numbers are roughly similar to Barton’s career with the Nuggets, with whom he averaged 30.7 MPG, 11.9 FGA and 4.8 3PA over the past seven seasons.
Barton averaged 14.2 PPG (43.7 FG%, 36.5 3P%, 78.8 FT%), 5.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.7 3PG, 0.9 SPG and 0.5 BPG during those seven seasons, and his numbers in Washington are likely to translate fairly well. He has upside as a playmaker, as he’s going from a Nuggets team that runs everything through Nikola Jokic to a Wizards squad that currently lacks playmaking. Thus, it wouldn’t be surprising for Barton to improve on his career-best mark of 4.1 APG this season. — Snellings
Drummond moves on to another new team (Chicago)
The Bulls start Nikola Vucevic at center, and neither Vucevic nor Andre Drummond are capable of playing power forward next to the other. As such, Drummond projects to a purely backup role, similar to the one he played for the 76ers last season behind Joel Embiid.
Drummond averaged 6.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG and 0.9 BPG in 18.4 MPG for the 76ers. This is rosterable production in many fantasy leagues, particularly roto leagues where nine boards, a steal and a block is a useful combination. Drummond also has big upside if ever called upon to start, with splits of 10.8 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG and 1.0 SPG in 24.6 MPG in 36 starts last season. — Snellings
Bigger role for Payton in Portland?
Gary Payton II leaving the Warriors for the Trail Blazers is a huge loss for the Warriors. As an integral member of Golden State’s rotation, he outperformed the $1.9 million veterans minimum deal signed the day before the season opener. Payton was popular in the locker room and with the coaching staff.
During the regular season, he averaged 7.1 PPG and 3.5 RPG. The Trail Blazers offered a three-year contract worth $28 million, although incentives could push the value beyond $30 million. Due to their cap situation, the Warriors could not counter this.
Given the Trail Blazers’ roster, Payton will have difficulty being fantasy relevant. Given his defensive prowess, however, he is worth prioritizing near the end of your draft as a potential sleeper. — Moody
Huerter heads to Sacramento
Kevin Huerter was traded from the Hawks to the Kings. The Kings lost Donte DiVincenzo from their backcourt this offseason, but also added Malik Monk to incumbent lead guards De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell. Huerter is an upgrade to DiVincenzo, who played 26.6 MPG for the Kings last season. He and Monk are instantly the two best perimeter shooters on a team with a big hole in that area. Plus, at 6-foot-7, Huerter has the height to get some time at the small forward slot to open up enough space for him to potentially play at least the 30.5 MPG he averaged his last three seasons in Atlanta, if not more.
Huerter’s $65M extension kicks in this season, and presumably the Kings plan to play him enough to justify his salary. In the last three seasons, Huerter has averaged 12.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.1 3PG and 0.9 SPG. I could see him improving across the board in Sacramento, with his most noticeable gains coming as a shooter-scorer and thus improving his points and 3-pointers totals. — Snellings