Tommy Beer

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Free Agency Winners and Losers

Friday, August 3, 2018


August has arrived, which means we now have a full month of free agency in the books. Approximately 90 free agents inked contracts in July, and the fallout has been significant. Today, we’ll focus on players that have seen their fantasy value rise and fall as a result of free agent activity this offseason.

 

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Winners:
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavs:
The biggest headline this offseason was LeBron James leaving Cleveland and taking his talents to Hollywood. There was plenty of speculation once LeBron left town that the Cavs would commit to a full-scale rebuild. However, they’ve made it clear they plan to compete for a playoff spot. The surest indicator of this decision was signing Kevin Love to a mammoth four-year, $120 million contract extension. With LeBron out of the picture, Love will be the offensive focal point in Cleveland. Remember, this is a man that averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.5 treys in 2013-14, his final season as "The Man" in Minnesota. And, as Rotoworld's Michael Gallagher pointed out earlier in the week, Love saw his usage rate spike 5.6 percent when LeBron was off the floor last season, with Love averaging 27.5 points, 14.9 boards, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks and 2.0 treys per-36 minutes.

 

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Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks:
Lopez was underutilized in Los Angeles last season. After averaging 20.5 points in 29.6 minutes during his final season in Brooklyn in 2016-17, Lopez averaged just 13.0 points in 23.4 minutes as a Laker. BroLo also became only the second player in NBA history to average at least 1.7 treys and 1.7 blocks per game in the same season during his final campaign with the Nets. Lopez, who inked a one-year, $3.38 million with the Bucks last month, will have to split minutes at center with John Henson and/or Thon Maker in Milwaukee. However, Lopez could be considered the favorite to win the starting job, as he should fit in well playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks prefer to surround Antetokounmpo with players that can stretch the floor and knock down perimeter jumpers. Lopez floating out toward the 3-point arc will allow the Greek Freak to attack the paint. As a result, BroLo should benefit by being able to launch uncontested treys. Lopez’s value is deflated right now, likely allowing shrewd GM’s to scoop up a quality, versatile center at a steep discount in drafts held early in October.


Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns:
Knight hasn’t played in an NBA game since February 15th, 2017. The Suns benched him over the entire second half of the 2016-17 season, after Knight voiced his unhappiness with what he felt was inadequate playing time. Then, last July, he tore the ACL in his left knee, costing him all of 2017-18. However, Phoenix still owes Knight $30.2 million over the next two seasons. Now that he’s finally healthy (he’s been cleared for 5-on-5 action), and with a new coaching staff in place, Knight has a chance to get his career back on track. The Suns made a bunch of moves and spent plenty of money this offseason (including $15 million on Trevor Ariza); yet, they didn’t address their hole at point guard. Currently, the only PG’s on the roster are Knight, second-round pick Elie Okobo, and undrafted rookie Shaquille Harrison, who does not have a guaranteed contract. When speaking with reporters this summer, new head coach Igor Kokoskov has referred to Knight as Phoenix’s "starting point guard." Knight is definitely worth a flier as a late-round pick in deeper leagues.


Jerami Grant, Oklahoma City Thunder:
Re-signing Grant was clearly a priority for the Thunder this offseason. Despite facing crippling luxury tax ramifications, OKC signed him to a three-year, $27 million contract. That may seem exorbitant for a player with career averages of just 7.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. However, Grant proved last season that he was an integral part of the Thunder’s success. And now, with Carmelo Anthony no longer in OKC, Grant should see his playing time and production spike. In 2017-18, he shot 53.5 percent from the floor and has averaged at least 1.0 blocks per contest each season of his career. If he can improve his 3-point accuracy, he has a chance to develop into a well-round fantasy contributor.


Cedi Osman, Cleveland Cavs:
Osman is another player that will benefit from LeBron’s voyage out west, as Cedi is projected to inherit the starting small forward spot in Cleveland. He started 12 games for Cleveland as a rookie last season, averaging 9.2 points in 23.4 minutes in those starts. He also played well for the Cavs summer league squad in Las Vegas last month, averaging 20.0 points, 4.5 assists, 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals. The Cavs recent signing of David Nwaba may hurt Osman’s value slightly, as Nwaba could eat up some minutes on the wing, but Cedi’s stock is still on the rise.


Losers:
Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers:
I’m steering clear of Lonzo in drafts this year, as there are too many red flags to justify paying the price required. First and foremost, the injury issues are a concern. Ball’s balky left knee sidelined him for two separate stints last season. Then, he was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery last month, reportedly due to a problem with his meniscus. Furthermore, the Lakers signed Rajon Rondo to a one-year, $9 million deal this offseason. General manager Rob Pelinka said it was "essential" to add Rondo to the roster and that there will be an open competition for the starting point guard spot in camp. Lastly, we know that LeBron James has been a defacto point-forward for the majority of his career, consistently leading his team in assists. James will frequently have the ball in his hands, facilitating the offense. PG’s playing alongside LeBron have historically not produced favorable fantasy numbers. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Ball should be avoided unless he drops unreasonably far on draft day.


T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns:
A noted above, the Suns surprisingly signed Trevor Ariza to a one-year, $15 million pact. In addition, they traded away a future first-round pick in order to move up in June’s draft to obtain the rights to Mikal Bridges, a highly-touted and pro-ready small forward. Also, when Warren missed the final month of last season, rookie Josh Jackson was wildly impressive. Over his final 12 games of 2017-18, Jackson averaged 21.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 steals in 34.5 minutes. Jackson will continue to see all the minutes he can handle, as they hope he can develop into a key piece alongside fellow franchise cornerstones Devin Booker and No.1 overall pick Deandre Ayton. Warren started all 65 games he appeared in last season and averaged 16.4 field goal attempts in 33.0 minutes, to go along with a usage rate of 24.9 percent. It is safe to assume that all those numbers will drop dramatically for Warren in 2018-19.


DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State Warriors:
Boogie Cousins was putting up otherworldly numbers for the Pelicans before tearing his Achilles last season. In fact, he became the first player in NBA history to average more than 25 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers per game. However, next season, he will join a loaded roster, one that features three other players that averaged 20-plus points per game in 2017-18. Cousins' usage rate will be far lower than it’s been at any other point in his career. In addition, because the Warriors obviously won’t have to worry about qualifying for the playoffs, there is absolutely no reason for him to rush back into action. Even after he finally gets back on the court, Golden State can rest Cousins frequently, limiting his minutes and preventing him from playing in back-to-backs, as the team’s primary concern will be keeping him fresh for the postseason.




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