Just a couple minutes after the not-at-all-surprising (fans booing David Stern), the NBA Draft dropped a somewhat monstrous surprise right from the jump with the Cavs taking Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall – causing most mock drafts to spontaneously combust almost instantly.
Here are a few (fantasy-related) takeaways from Thursday night’s surprisingly intriguing festivities:
Trey Burke looks like the Rookie of the Year front-runner: Burke wasn’t in the best situation when he was drafted by Minnesota (where he would have been a backup and sometimes backcourt sidekick to Ricky Rubio). And it looked like things got worse when it was briefly reported that Burke was being traded to Portland (where he would have had to play behind Damian Lillard). But when news broke that Burke was being dealt to Utah? Yahtzee. Last year’s Jazz point guards (Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley) are all free agents, meaning that Burke (18.6 ppg, 6.7 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.9 3s at Michigan last year) has a green light and wide-open court to run around on. A lot can change between now and the start of the season, but at this point it wouldn’t be a shock to see Burke (the No. 9 pick) pull a Lillard (No. 6 pick last year) and bring home Rookie of the Year.
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Holiday Road: Aside from the Barclays Center- and TD Garden-shaking news that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are changing area codes from 617 to 718, the biggest shock of the evening was 23-year-old Jrue Holiday (repeat: 23) getting dealt to the Pelicans in a trade for No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel – obliterating, in a flash, any chance for “Nerlens Pelicans”- related marketing opportunities.
The fantasy fallout: Holiday joins a crowded backcourt with Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon, but I don't think the Pelicans traded for him to have him fight for minutes. Furthermore, given Gordon’s injury history (an average of 26 games played the last two years), it’s easy to envision Vasquez and Holiday eventually playing most of the backcourt minutes together. And though that could mean a dip in assists for Holiday (17.7 ppg, 8.0 apg last year) and less free reign for Vasquez (13.9 ppg, 9.0 apg), the two should get every opportunity to coexist next year.
Meanwhile, in Philly, Michael Carter-Williams should have a chance to play a lot (and potentially start) right away, which is intriguing for counting stats (MCW posted 11.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 7.3 apg, 2.8 spg and 0.5 bpg last season at Syracuse), but not so good in the percentage department (39.3 percent from the field, 69.4 percent from the line last year).
Anthony Bennett: Big surprise, but how much playing time? It’s hard to forecast exactly how the Cavs see Bennett fitting in – and he is coming off shoulder surgery – but there a couple scenarios that would give him a chance for fantasy value right away as a rookie:
1) Anderson Varejao repeats recent history (an average of 27 games played the last three seasons), allowing Bennett to play a lot of PF with Tristan Thompson at C;
2) The Cavs decide that Bennett can play SF.
Not sure how realistic that second scenario is, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen from Bennett on video – and beyond all else, I don't think the Cavs shocked everyone and took Bennett first overall to have him sit a lot as a rookie.
Alex Len: Bad song association, crowded frontcourt. It’s not Len’s fault that his last name makes me think of a vomit-inducing late-1990’s pop song (Len’s “Steal My Sunshine”), nor is it Len’s fault that he’s coming off ankle surgery and entering a crowded frontcourt in Phoenix. But all are true. The Suns could deal Marcin Gortat, but as of now they have Gortat, Luis Scola, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and Channing Frye (assuming he returns – which it sounds like he will). All in all, bad news for the short-term fantasy value of Len, who could be looking at an apprenticeship season much like the one Meyers Leonard had last year in Portland (5.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg in 18 minutes per game).
Ben McLemore: Better song association, lots of potential. Unlike Len, whose song association makes me want to claw my eyes out, the inevitable song that comes up when I think of McLemore (Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”) at least has a pretty good video. And if the Kings make what I think is the wise choice and let Tyreke Evans walk – and it sounds like they may – McLemore has the potential to make a Bradley Beal type of impact next season.
Shane Larkin + Dallas = Yes. Putting aside my disappointment that my hometown Hawks traded him away, there are two reasons I’m excited about Shane Larkin landing with the Mavericks:
1) Larkin can flat-out play, and I'm convinced he's ready to make an impact right away in the NBA after posting 14.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.0 spg and 1.9 3s on 47.9 percent from the field as a sophomore last season in the ACC;
2) His only competition for PG minutes right now is restricted free agent Darren Collison.
Bottom line: There’s still a lot of time for the Mavs to ruin Larkin’s situation by bringing in more veteran competition, but as of early Friday morning, after a hectic and entertaining night at the Barclays Center, things were looking pretty good.