2015-16 Fantasy Basketball: Offseason Losers
Here we go again with more off-season madness fantasy breakdowns. I’m sure you already read the off-season fantasy winners version a couple of days ago, well, this is the flipside, the losers. What draft pick, big trade or free agent signing took what appeared to be a ship setting sail towards a lavish fantasy season and dropped an anchor on that belief?
Here are some key off-season fantasy losers:
TY LAWSON — NUGGETS DRAFTED EMMANUEL MUDIAY
As fantasy obsessed lunatics, we hear that teams aren’t interested in trading for Ty Lawson and we instantly scream out “WHY?!” because all most of us think about is his stat line. The Lawson we know has averaged 16.3 points, 9.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 trey and shot a solid 76% from the line over the past two seasons. What we don’t think of — or simply don’t care about as fantasy GMs — is his lack of leadership despite being a veteran, his selfishness and his off the court irresponsibility. His actions off the court, are leading him back in to court, because he just recently received his second DUI of the year. He’s not helping the Nuggets hopes of dealing him, and it may even be to the point now that they’d take just a late-first or possibly a second-round pick to rid of him. Those who have an upcoming DWI arraignment may want to look for a competent attorney in this area which tends to give a better chance of success than doing without and allowing the court to assign one.
It’s not just his DUI that has upped the urgency on getting rid of Lawson, it’s that they just drafted drafted their point guard of the future in Emmanuel Mudiay with the 7th overall selection in the 2015 NBA draft. Mudiay is over-flowing with potential to be one of the better point guards in the league. As we’ve witnessed the past few years, it’s a new era for PGs. The new breed of point guard has a mix of height and freakish athletic ability. While Lawson comes in at just 5’11”, Mudiay towers him at an impressive 6’5″, and has more tools than a leatherman. Sure, Mudiay has the size to play some at shooting guard also, but you have to assume at some point this season the Nuggets will toss Lawson out of their future star’s way and let him be the leader Lawson failed to be. Before I finish talking about Mudiay, check out this vine of a few of his summer league plays, he’s killing it.
As for Lawson’s fantasy outlook this season… I really don’t know what to make of it aside from that he should see a decline in minutes (35+ the last two seasons) which will in turn damper his scoring and assist totals. Maybe he’ll get moved before the season (Philly, Brooklyn or Rockets would be best cases) and we’ll have a better idea, but for now you have to drop him a handful of spots in your point guard rankings.
ALEX LEN — SUNS SIGNED TYSON CHANDLER
Alex Len seemed a likely candidate to land on a lot of ‘sleeper’ or ‘late round target’ lists this season, after such an improvement in his second season in the league. While he absolutely had his inconsistencies, Len had some reasonably good stretches, especially considering his minutes played. In the months of December, January and February, Len showed his capabilities starting 32 of 39 games, although playing just 23 minutes a night. In those games — despite the less than ideal minutes — Alex put up 6.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 0.5 steals and shot just shy of 53% from the field.
His third season oozed of breakout potential with an assumed bump up to closer to 30 minutes a night. If he could average two blocks in 23 minutes, he could have potentially ended near three if given 28 minutes. Then, out of absolutely nowhere, we find out that the Suns signed veteran, Tyson Chandler to a four-year contract. This put an immediate over-sized speed bump in Len’s path to fantasy stardom. The Suns have said that they believe Len can play some at power forward, but I can’t imagine that’ll work too well aside from the occasional perfect matchup for it. Len will likely sit right around 22-25 minutes this season, and he won’t have much upside beyond what we saw last year with the plus blocks and decent boards, unless Chandler were to miss time.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE AND DAVID WEST — SIGNED WITH THE SPURS
Wow, did the Spurs ever have a good off-season. Not traditionally a team that goes after the big names in free agency (despite always being thrown in as a possible suitor for the top free agents over the past several years), the Spurs actually went put in an all out effort to net LaMarcus Aldridge. Pop meeting with LMA a second time and explaining that he’d have a shot to win a title with Tim Duncan this year and he’d be their new Duncan once TD retires, won them the prize. Then, David West walked away from $12-million with the Pacers to play for a ring. He lived up to his words when he passed on offers from the Cavs, Wizards and Warriors to sign with the Spurs for just $1.4-million. So, he could’ve had more money and/or a bigger role elsewhere but he went with the best championship bet regardless, and you have to respect that even if you don’t understand it.
While these signings were great for the Spurs, it wasn’t the best case scenarios for Aldridge and West’s fantasy outlooks. Since the Spurs traded Tiago Splitter and Baynes out of the picture and Aldridge is just turning 30-years-old, LaMarcus should see a good amount of minutes despite the normal Spurs minute watching ways. Kawhi led the team last year, playing just shy of 32 minutes per game, Duncan was next at 29. I feel having Aldridge and West could allow Pop to play Duncan even less but he’ll still get his share. So, Aldridge may not play 35+ minutes a night like in Portland, but he should stay around 30-32. With this slight minutes drop and a better all-around team around him that is all about swinging to the open man, you can safely assume LMA will have a decline in his scoring. While he may drop from the 23 PPG he averaged last year to around 18.5, his assists are likely to take a bump up from 1.7 to at least three. LaMarcus averaged 2.7 the two seasons prior to last, so the passing ability is there. As of this moment I would drop Aldridge from right around the top-15 I had him last season to 25 or so in my rankings. We’ll see how things shape up as we get closer.
David West is the bigger loser here in the fantasy world, but he is definitely giving himself the best shot possible at winning a real life championship. We already saw a decline in his game last season where he was only playing 28 minutes and put up his lowest scoring average since his second NBA season. Any hopes that he would return to his 17 points – 7+ boards – 3 assists – 1 steal – 1 block ways flew out the window when he joined San Antonio. As the primary back-up to Tim Duncan, he’ll have some good games mixed in but it’s unlikely that West is worthy of being rostered in a 12-team league this season unless Duncan or Aldridge miss time. His last season numbers which weren’t anything special, are probably a best case scenario for him this season when the formerly mentioned Spur bigs are healthy.
Tim Duncan has been a guy that I have depended on in fantasy leagues the past few years, as people continued to simply guess that it was the year his numbers would drop off. He continually has outperformed his ADP the last few seasons and it it absolutely incredible what the best power forward of all-time has been able to do even in the ladder part of his career. It may finally be the year that the five-time NBA champ takes a decent drop in his fantasy production (although I’ll surely still own him in a couple of re-draft leagues if his ADP drops too far). Like I said above, with West and Aldridge around, the Spurs can treat the 39-year-old even more gingerly.
While many like to say that TD will miss numerous games because of Pop (only missed five last season), they’ve mostly been wrong to act like it’s been a severe problem. Timmy has only missed more than eight games once in the last ten seasons. The one outlier was when he missed a stretch of 9 games with an injury in 2012-13. TD still played 29 minutes last season, but I’d look for that to drop to around 26 this season and him to rest around 8-10 games, usually on back-to-backs. The past couple years I have tended to have Duncan ranked around 40-50 annually, but this season I think he’ll be closer to 75 in my rankings if I was doing them today. I would say we’ll know more about the Spurs rotation plans as our draft dates near, but this is the Spurs, there will be no such information leaked.
BOSTON CELTICS POINT GUARDS — DRAFTED TERRY ROZIER
We came into June with the belief that the Celtics had a pretty fair duo at point guard in defensive minded, Marcus Smart and offensive weapon, Isaiah Thomas. Most draft analysts and myself had Boston likely pegged to draft a small forward if a good one was on the board at pick 16, and when Wisconsin standout Sam Dekker was available when it was announced Boston was on the clock, I think everyone expected him to be their choice. Then, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced “With the 16th selection in the 2015 NBA draft, the Boston Celtics select.. Terry Rozier, from the University of Louisville.” and everyone shared a moment of confusion. Why another point guard? Does this mean they’re trading Marcus Smart? What just happened?
The Celtics point guard depth chart just got more crowded, that’s what happened. Rozier is another defensive point guard, that was actually called a smaller Marcus Smart by some draft analysts. Even Marcus Smart told a Boston beat writer after the pick that he was puzzled by the selection. Rozier will not have any fantasy value this season unless an injury occurs.
Marcus Smart has been impressive when he’s been active this summer. Through three games he’s only shot 40% from the field, but he has looked really good taking the ball to the rim and drawing contact. He’s also shown no fear of pulling up from long-range, shooting 10-of-27 from deep in those three games. Smart only averaged four 3-point attempts per game last season, so seeing him shooting nine per this summer shows he’s definitely working hard to make it a part of his game. (Don’t expect him to be taking nine 3PA this season though.) I can’t imagine the drafting of Rozier derailing Smart from starting this year, and he is capable of playing some shooting guard as well, so he’ll get his minutes regardless. I just felt Smart would go from his 27 MPG last season to around 32 this season, but with the Rozier pick, we’re probably going to see him right around 27 again. So, Smart isn’t a major loser this off-season but the draft lessened his big breakout hype.
Isaiah Thomas is the best scorer the Celtics have, plain and simple. So, Rozier joining the party does cap his minutes back to the same as last season (26 mins/gm with Celtics), but they badly need his offensive spark off of the bench. So, expect his usage to be really high every minute he’s out there. Like Marcus Smart, Thomas will still be good this season but his fantasy stock that seemed to be rising another notch now likely plateaued to where it was at the finish of last season.
CELTICS BIG MEN — TRADED FOR DAVID LEE, SIGNED AMIR JOHNSON
Boston is going to be a difficult team to project this season as far as who will get how many minutes at each of PG, PF and C. They were already coming into this season with a handful of just so-so big guys, and now they’ve added David Lee and Amir Johnson to the mix as well. It seems obvious that David Lee will likely lead the pack in minutes with his offensive abilities needed most, but after him it is going to be a battle between newly signed Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk and even Jonas Jerebko could log some minutes at the 4. Also, they drafted LSU power forward Jordan Mickey last month and he’s been a pretty good performer on their summer league squad.
I will likely be fading this situation heavily with the exception being David Lee — only if his ADP isn’t too high, would prefer to land him in the 75-90 range. As for the rest of the bunch, I will likely steer clear of them completely. None of them are that spectacular when given opportunity anyways and there’s just too many in the running for minutes night-to-night to even sweat over. Sullinger definitely has fantasy upside, but there is zero guarantee he gets enough PT to excel. I have been expecting the Celtics to trade one of Sulli, Zeller or Kelly O, but as of now it’s all quiet on that front.
DARREN COLLISON — KINGS SIGNED RAJON RONDO
While most of the attention went to the DeMarcus Cousins rumors this off-season, there was a steady trend of talk that the Kings were interested in trading for Ty Lawson or signing a point guard via free agency. When the dust settled, the Kings decided to bring in the disgruntled, Rajon Rondo. All of this talk about bringing in a starting PG couldn’t have sat well with Darren Collison who the team signed last off-season when they decided to let Isaiah Thomas leave.
While it sucked that Collison missed the final 32 games of last season due to injury, he actually put up pretty good fantasy numbers in the 45 games he was active for. 16 points – 3 rebounds – 5.5 assists – 1.5 steals – 1.3 treys with 47% FG and 79% FT had DC looking like a draft day pillaging. I had the 6-year vet on several teams and was riding high until his injury slapped that cocky grin off my face. Darren was playing a hefty 34 MPG last season but with Rondo in town that is sure to drop to around 25 or so. With this being the case, it’s hard to imagine Collison being fantasy relevant in standard sized leagues without Rondo getting hurt.
Rajon Rondo on the other hand will step in as the starter in Sacramento and see likely right around 30 minutes per game. I have never been a Rondo fan and I find it very hard to imagine him landing on any of my fantasy squads this season. I know he should be motivated by only signing a 1-year deal and if he produces he’d likely get a multi-year deal somewhere next summer, but I am just not buying in. He’s capable of putting up occasional low-end double-doubles but most of the time he’ll just be some solid assist numbers, fair steals and not much else. Same ‘ol Rondo.
TRAIL BLAZER FRONTCOURT — PORTLAND TRADED FOR MASON PLUMLEE AND NOAH VONLEH, SIGNED ED DAVIS
The Blazers have found themselves in a similar situation as the Boston Celtics in the frontcourt. There are just too many guys that aren’t much better than the next guy, and it leaves fantasy owners guessing as to who is the guy to own, if any. This summer the Blazers found themselves in a rough spot where they lost their superstar, LaMarcus Aldridge. With LMA out, re-signing Robin Lopez became unlikely and he eventually signed with the Knicks. So, the Blazers front office had work to do. They plugged some of the holes by trading for Mason Plumlee from the Nets and Noah Vonleh from the Hornets. Then they looked to free agency where they found Ed Davis as a suitor and locked him in. They didn’t stop there though, the team then put in a max offer sheet for restricted free agent Enes Kanter, but the Thunder matched that offer to coral him in OKC. Add those three incomers to Chris Kaman and Meyers Leonard and you’ve got yourself a fantasy conundrum.
Many fantasy analysts were anticipating a breakout year ahead for Meyers Leonard coming into his fourth NBA season. Leonard had some intriguing notables in his game last season, shooting better than 51% from the field, 42% from 3-point land and just shy of 94% from the foul line. Leonard played 25+ minutes eight times last season and in those instances he put up 12.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 threes and good percentages, so the potential was definitely there — until it wasn’t. I mean he will definitely still be in the rotation but the team is loaded in the frontcourt so anything over 22 minutes per would be a surprise.
Mason Plumlee has to be the day one favorite to start at power forward for the Blazers this season. He started 45 games last season for the Nets averaging 27 MPG – 11.8 PPG – 7.6 RPG – 1 BPG – 1 SPG – 63% FG. His lone flaw in his game was his free throw shooting where he hit only 54% on 4.5 FTA. Plums should see around those same type of minutes and maybe a minor boost in scoring, but for the most part he’ll be what you see above. Not amazing, but not bad at all if you can take the poor FT shooting. Had Portland not signed Davis, Plums could’ve really racked up the minutes and had a legitimate breakout fantasy season.
Ed Davis will likely start alongside Plumlee and also be capped at right around 27 minutes at best, sharing with the rest of the unit. Davis’ upside has always been a little overrated in my opinion. He of course has some block growth potential but I personally don’t see it getting to over 1.5 BPG. He’s not much of a scorer and while he’s not an inept rebounder, he’s not a glass cleaner either. Davis would need 30+ minutes to truly bust out on the fantasy scene which is doubtful with this deep rotation. I guess I’d put him at around 8 points, 8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. His free throw shooting is poor also but he gets to the line less (just 3 FTA last year as a starter).
Noah Vonleh isn’t really an off-season ‘loser’ because he’s not in much of a different position for minutes here than he was in Charlotte. The second-year pro is super raw and his basketball IQ isn’t up to par just yet. He’ll show some really good flashes on offense with nice dunks and a surprising shooting touch, but he’ll get worked on the defensive end and be mistake prone. He has a lot of long-term potential but he’s at the end of the rotation in Portland while he learns and improves his game for now.
JORDAN CLARKSON — LAKERS DRAFTED D’ANGELO RUSSELL, SIGNED LOU WILLIAMS
As soon as Adam Silver announced that the Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell instead of Jahlil Okafor, Clarkson instantly took a fantasy dip. Clarkson has looked phenomenal in summer league and it’s really a shame that he won’t see more minutes this season, but with D’Angelo Russell, recently signed Lou Williams in town, big minutes just aren’t likely even if he does play beside Russell at times. Clarkson will definitely mix in some good nights but overall his minutes being stuck around 23-26 will limit his fantasy production too much to depend on.
A big thanks as always to Basketball-Reference.com for being my go-to statistical resource.
For more fantasy hoops analysis and to have any questions you may have answered, follow Zack on Twitter @BigZack44