Sunday was one of the craziest days in the history of the NBA. For the first time ever, we had some daylight in the USA with the free agency opening bell chiming in at 6:00 EDT instead of at midnight as the NBA landscape changed across the country -- the Raptors were quiet. Obviously, the Knicks selling hope after piling up the losses didn't work out as their in-state rivals locked down Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
While the Knicks were the losers in NBA reality, there were a lot of losers in the fantasy value department. To kick off our free agency coverage, I took a quick look at some players who saw their values slide. I didn't really go in my usual deep-dive mode here because some things could change, and perhaps teams that look to be close to done are not.
Over the course of the week, Jonas Nader is going to do the fantasy winners, Steve Alexander will cover the team grades, Raphielle Johnson will preview some guys to watch in summer league, and Tommy Beer will add our free agent trackers.
The returning Celtics
Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward may not see as much usage now that high-volume Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter are in the mix. Kanter’s usage rate of 21.9 last season tops Al Horford’s 18.8, and Kemba’s 30.8 tops Kyrie’s 29.2. Jaylen Brown is particularly tied to needing a higher usage to put up strong fantasy value, so he is shaping up to be only a late-round guy. Tatum’s shot selection last year stunted his growth as a prospect and he really struggled with efficiency late in the year with just a 51.7 TS% in his final 21 games. Perhaps he can get it going, but his upside is capped. Gordon Hayward may have been looking at more ball-handling chances, but not with Kemba around. Walker was second in the NBA for total time of possession last season, so Hayward may only have top-75 upside despite his strong finish. In the frontcourt, Robert Williams could have been looking at a huge role, but his ceiling drops with Kanter around. A quick side note on Kemba: he’s a solid late second-round pick.
Joel Embiid and Al Horford
The 76ers may be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, but things are shaping up for them to rest Horford and Embiid a ton. Horford is 33 years old already and his knees were wearing down last season. Of course, we all know the 76ers will be extremely careful with Joel Embiid, especially after the successful Kawhi Leonard rest plan. Embiid only played 10 games after the break, and that was with the 76ers having a dearth of options at center behind him. With Horford in town, the team could be even more open to sitting him.
The Wizards are one of the worst teams in basketball, and they lost Tomas Satoransky to make matters even worse. Beal absolutely has top-five upside per game, but there will be too much concern on tanking. We’ll see if the Wizards give Beal an extension later this month, but being on such a bad team with a lack of a plan from the front office makes Beal a late-season rest candidate. I doubt he'll slide to 16ish, which makes him a little too expensive given the situation.
Kris Dunn and Wendell Carter Jr.
Despite how the Bulls have said they’re still committed to Dunn after the draft, it’s more than obvious they want him elsewhere. Sports Illustrated reported that he’s on the block, and there’s only a small chance a bad team adds him to make him their starter -- Wizards? The Bulls also added some depth up front with Thaddeus Young. Maybe the Bulls do go with him at the three like his 76ers days, but his minutes could take time from the young guys. Lauri Markkanen did play some five last year, so that could cut into WCJ’s time. He’s still going to be worth a look in the later rounds, but it’s hard to make a case for him as an aggressive target. Markkanen should still be OK.
Jalen Brunson and Dwight Powell
The Mavs were able to bring back Seth Curry, and Maxi Kleber is also re-signed. Powell was a major force on a lot of winning fantasy rosters last year, but the opportunity won’t be there this time with Kristaps Porzingis in the mix. Brunson was given ample opportunity last year, but he didn’t quite answer the bell. Seth should cut into his minutes a bit.
Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson
The Pistons adding Derrick Rose is going to give Dwane Casey a few different options on closing lineups. Kennard would need some heavy minutes to produce fantasy value because he will need to score a bunch while barely doing anything else on the stat sheet. Rose will likely run the offense more to take play-making chances away from Reggie.
Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon
The Al-Farouq Aminu signing is a bit of a buzzkill to Isaac and Gordon. Like those two, Aminu plays the three and the four, so this will likely mean the Magic won’t up them to minutes in the upper 30s. Plus, Terrence Ross routinely took minutes from Isaac. I’d still be in on drafting Isaac in the late-mid rounds, but I’m not going to reach for him over proven players. Obviously, Nikola Vucevic returning takes Bamba off the board unless the Magic are up to something.
Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram
J.J. Redick is a terrific fit next to Jrue Holiday, Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors. Hart loses most of his appeal as a late-round sleeper while the Pels may have to move Ingram and/or Ball to the bench. Both could still perform and become value picks, but the Pelicans added Redick for a reason.
The Knicks are a total mess and their lack of direction makes it tough to target them. Julius Randle should get his share of shots while the Knicks will absolutely need Mitchell Robinson to protect the paint. Side note: Mitch-Rob isn’t really a loser here, but he’s not a winner because the Knicks have a few possibilities to cap his playing time. He probably couldn't handle a 30-minute workload over the course of the season anyway, but having options around him does cast some doubt on a night-to-night basis.
The rookie fans were rooting for the Grizzlies to miss out on Jonas Valanciunas. That didn’t happen, so Clarke is going to get limited minutes to start the year. Maybe he can play some three in larger lineups, and we’ll definitely be watching that in summer league.
Suns backup guards
For the umpteenth year in a row, the Suns changed course on their guards. Adding Ricky Rubio takes opportunity away from Ty Jerome, Tyler Johnson and maybe Cameron Johnson. Plus, the Suns are likely looking for takers on Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton.
Harry Giles, Trevor Ariza, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Harrison Barnes
The Kings went with depth, adding Dewayne Dedmon, Richaun Holmes and Cory Joseph. There’s some talk of the Kings possibly playing Giles at the four, but it really doesn’t matter at this point. Barnes doesn’t do enough non-scoring stuff to make an impact.
Maybe the Warriors are up to something here with some roster changes, but adding D’Angelo Russell takes away some value for guys like Alfonzo McKinnie, Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green should be fine, though. D’Angelo himself isn’t really a loser to start the year, but his value could drop when Klay Thompson gets back.
He saw huge volume late in the season with the Oladipo-less Pacers, but the shots won't be there nearly as much in Utah. He rarely misses games, but being so scoring dependent makes him a late-round option at best.
The Hornets should just change their logo to a Crying Jordan. Fantasy wise, there will be a lot of value up for grabs, but the Hornets likely will limit Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Keep an eye on Miles Bridges as a high-upside guy while Dwayne Bacon, P.J. Washington and maybe Malik Monk make noise. Maybe.
That’s it for now and we’ll have more losers as the rest of free agency wraps up. We’ll also have a ton to cover with summer league. No offseason!