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Ryan Knaus

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NBA Draft: Winners & Losers

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Fantasy values will continue to change as we head into free agency, sometimes drastically. Just this week we saw Jarrett Allen's stock tumble when the Nets traded for Dwight Howard, only to spike again with news that Brooklyn would negotiate a contract buyout for D12. One variable we can already assess is the draft. Below we'll discuss players whose fantasy appeal rose on draft night (Winners) or plummeted (Losers).

 

 

Fantasy Losers

 

 

Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo and Khem Birch

 

Vuc is in the final year of his contract, earning $12.7 million before hitting free agency in 2019. The Magic already gave his defense a vote of no-confidence by inking Bismack Biyombo to a four-year, $72 million deal a few summers ago, and both veterans take a hit with the arrival of rim-protector extraordinaire Mohamed Bamba. Vucevic peaked at 31.0 minutes per game in March last season, a number he'd be lucky to hit any month of the 2018-19 season with Bamba nipping at his heels. “The sky’s the limit [for Bamba]," said team president Jeff Weltman. “From a scouting perspective, when you watch Mo play, you look at his feet, his hands, his frame, his anticipation and you kind of start to think about the things that he could become." Orlando's desire to develop Bamba into a game-changing defensive presence, while serving as a rim-runner and 'vertical spacer' offensively, can only come at the expense of Vuc, Biyombo and Birch this season.

 

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Dennis Schroder

Atlanta took a big gamble on Trae Young, whose diminutive size ensures that opposing teams will attack him relentlessly as a defender. Even if he proves capable of checking most PGs, what happens when he's switched onto a SG or SF? Schroder isn't a good defender and the idea that he could play alongside Young, which GM Travis Schlenk espoused on Thursday, is nonsense. That means that either Schroder's minutes will take a hit (he averaged a modest 31.0 minutes last year) or he'll be traded, although initial responses to trade calls have been "tepid." Unless he's eventually dealt to a team in need of a starting PG, the signs are ominous for Schroder's fantasy value.

 

 

George Hill

 

If LeBron James leaves in free agency, which is very likely, Hill could have emerged as a short-term winner for fantasy. No longer contending with LBJ's monster usage rates, he could play a more traditional PG role and see his stats rise accordingly. With the addition of Collin Sexton as the No. 8 pick, that scenario abruptly ended. Now the Cavs don't need to acquire another starting-caliber PG in free agency (or a potential sign-and-trade with James), as they've already landed a perceived 'PG of the future' in Sexton, an aggressive score-first guard who gets to the FT line with ease, and can be a pest defensively. That shifts Hill into the 'veteran mentor' role this season, which is rarely a good look for fantasy purposes.

 

 

Tyson Chandler and Alan Williams

 

Alex Len was already heading toward unrestricted free agency, so the Suns' addition of No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton doesn't necessarily impact him. It does destroy any remaining fantasy value Chandler had as a source of rebounds and FG%, however, since Phoenix will assuredly develop Ayton at Chandler's expense. The same logic holds for Alan 'Big Sauce' Williams. He's already facing headwinds as an undersized, 25-year-old center coming off major knee surgery. His $5.5 million salary isn't guaranteed and he could be cut loose if Phoenix decides to stick with Ayton, Chandler, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender as their four-man frontcourt. Chandler's value was hurt further by the fact that he wasn't traded -- it would take an ideal landing spot for him to be drafted in fantasy leagues this season, but at this point a change of scenery can only help.

 

 

Jaren Jackson Jr., JaMychal Green and Jarell Martin

I'm including a rookie in this list, but it isn't a reflection on JJJ's fantasy potential or long-term upside...I think he's going to be incredible, especially in the shot-blocking department (5.5 swats per 40 minutes as a freshman). The concern here is...Memphis. The Grizzlies promoted assistant J.B. Bickerstaff to head coach this summer which doesn't imply they'll overhaul the offensive schemes. For a team that ranked 28th in pace last season, that's not encouraging for JJJ's immediate fantasy impact.

 

Green and Martin also take a hit because they're on guaranteed deals (and therefore not going anywhere unless they're traded), and JJJ's minutes should come at their direct expense. That's before even mentioning Ivan Rabb and Deyonta Davis, both of whom could also earn minutes as the Grizzlies experiment with their squadron of young bigs. Martin would have gone undrafted regardless, but the addition of JJJ means JaMychal Green will be a fantasy free agent for most, if not all, of the season. Even last season he was just a marginal option with 10.3 points, 8.5 boards, plus mediocre percentages and supporting stats.

 

 

Zach Randolph and Skal Labissiere

 

The Kings' veteran big man was surprisingly productive in 2017-18 -- when he was on the court. His high-water mark came in December when he averaged 18.1 points on 53.5% shooting, 7.9 boards, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.9 triples in 27.6 minutes. Sacramento soon pivoted to a youth movement which led to sporadic DNPs for Z-Bo, who was eventually shut down in mid-March. His outlook was already dim before the Kings selected Marvin Bagley III with the No. 2 pick, all but eliminating Randolph's chances to help fantasy owners. He'll go undrafted outside of the deepest leagues, and rightfully so.

 

 

Robin Lopez, Omer Asik and Cristiano Felicio

 

All three of these guys had less-than-stellar campaigns last season, and that was without Chicago adding a lottery pick they explicitly feel will complement Lauri Markkanen in the frontcourt -- Wendell Carter Jr. Not much needs to be said here -- it will take a trade for RoLo, Asik or Felicio to be in position for fantasy productivity.

 

 

Austin Rivers, Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic

 

The Clippers traded two second-round picks to move up a single spot in the draft on Thursday, intent upon landing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Austin Rivers has already opted-in for his $12.6 million salary next season, and he's not in the worst position since L.A. could part ways with Avery Bradley. Lou Williams will continue to get his 30-34 minutes off the bench, though, and it's safe to assume Gilgeous-Alexander will be in the rotation after L.A. spent a No. 11 pick to acquire him. That narrows the margin of error for guys like Rivers, Patrick Beverley (coming off major knee surgery) and Milos Teodosic (coming off recurring plantar fascia injuries). I won't be touching any of them, including SGA, in fantasy leagues this season.

 

More potential fantasy losers include Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, Troy Brown Jr. (just because he's buried behind Wall & Beal), Tony Snell, Alec Burks and Cory Joseph.

 

 

Fantasy Winners

 

Kent Bazemore

 

The Hawks essentially drafted Bazemore's replacement when they took Kevin Huerter at No. 19 in the draft. Huerter is recovering from hand surgery but should be ready for opening night. Why is this good for Bazemore? It spikes the odds that he'll be traded. The Hawks shut him down in March with a 'right knee bone bruise' and have been actively trying to deal him -- even on draft night, they reportedly floated an offer to Dallas that would have involved swapping Bazemore and Wes Matthews. The sticking point is that Baze is owed more than $37 million over the next two seasons (2019-20 is a player option), and any team willing to absorb that contract would likely be serious about playing him. With solid 3-point range and strong defensive stats, the 29-year-old Bazemore just needs 28-32 minutes to return mid-round fantasy value. Here's hoping he gets the chance.

 

 

Jarrett Allen

 

It's been a roller-coaster ride for Allen's fantasy value this week, with Dwight Howard coming to Brooklyn only to be bought out. Timofey Mozgov departed as part of that deal, and there are no indications that Jahlil Okafor will be re-signed as a free agent. The draft helped Allen because, quite simply, the Nets didn't add another center. Instead, they took Dzanan Musa (No. 29) and Rodions Kurucs (No. 40), giving them long-term potential with the flexibility of stashing guys overseas. Quincy Acy is also a free agent this summer which leaves Allen on an island at center -- the Nets will definitely bolster the frontcourt in free agency, but they've made it very clear that Allen is 'the man' in the middle going forward. That should have fantasy owners very excited.

 

 

Wilson Chandler

 

This could go horribly awry. If Michael Porter Jr. is healthy enough to play on opening night, Chandler's fantasy value falls off a cliff. He's versatile enough to play PF, but Denver already has Paul Millsap and Trey Lyles at the position. The reason Chandler might be a 'winner' here is that he's already opted-in for $12.8 million next year, and there are no guarantees that Porter Jr. will be cleared to play. He had back surgery last season and recently dealt with a hip injury -- he has immense upside, especially as a scorer, but there's a reason he slid to No. 14 in the draft. With his efficiency and usage dropping last year, Chandler needs 30+ minutes to be relevant in 12-team leagues...MPJ recovering on the sidelines is his best bet to get there.

 

 

Veterans on the Heat and Raptors

 

Neither of these teams had draft picks on Thursday, which makes it easier for fantasy owners to target Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka. There are still plenty of variables here, mostly involving free agency. The Raptors are reportedly dangling Norman Powell in trade talks, potentially to clear enough cap space to re-sign Fred VanVleet. For Miami, meanwhile, Dwyane Wade has yet to decide if he'll return for another season, and Hassan Whiteside is almost certainly on the trade block -- but his perceived value may be too low to get equitable value back in a trade. On draft night, at least, none of these guys had their roles or fantasy values threatened by incoming rookies.

 

The NBA draft inherently adds more competition for existing players, so there are rarely many clear-cut ‘winners’. Rookies who land in ideal situations for playing time can be considered fantasy winners, however, and my list would include: Deandre Ayton, Trae Young (if Schroder is moved), Luka Doncic, Wendell Carter Jr., Kevin Knox, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.



Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
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