Fantasy Fallout from the Trade Deadline

What happens now?

We are living in speculative times. Rumors and gossip dominate the daily NBA news cycle. The trade deadline specifically is its own untamable speculative beast. 

We are led to believe that every action by one player or team has a cosmic consequence to another team or player, or worse, another hypothetical scenario. Predictions take precedent over patience. 

If this, then that. If not, then what? The hypotheticals are endless because they are a fiction. Fake news in the most literal sense of the phrase. 

There appears to be so much fanaticism for what “may” happen that the actual tends to disappoint. Reality can’t compete with our boundless imaginations. 

I’m human. I fall victim to my own dreams too. I’m a well-known resident of hypothetical city. Possibilities are enchanting. Yes, I would love to see Anthony Davis on the Raptors. Excuse me while I spend the next 30 minutes carving out a hypothetical path to make this happen. Might need to get a third team involved. Don’t worry, I’ll call the other teams to garner interest. I can do all this in my head. 

Regretfully, I follow all the news and rumors very closely. My daily text messages would suggest I’m as obsessed as anyone else. I’m entertained by it while also hating it. Then I loathe myself for being entertained by it in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle. 

I’m aware of my own hypocrisy. My will to combat it is greater on some days more than others. Most of the time I give in for the sake of entertainment. The banter is fun. I enjoy it. Guilty.

So what’s the point of all this then? Sometimes, it’s just too much. Too many numbers, too much information, too many scenarios with limited grounding in fact. It’s all clutter. It’s messy and goes further and further away from the actual product — the game itself. Sometimes it feels like accounting is replacing hoop. Speculation is currency and transactions have replaced humanity.

Sometimes, I want to ignore possibilities and be in the here and now, on the court itself, where the only thing that’s true is what we see in front of us. 

Now, ironically, let’s discuss the fantasy impacts of the NBA trade deadline.

Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis won’t return this year but he will be a huge mystery leading up to next season’s fantasy draft. Historically, a injury from the previous year does little to deter fantasy general managers away from star players.

Draft Spot After Missing Most of the Previous Season due to Injury
Kawhi Leonard: Missed 2017-18 / Selected 1st Round, 9th pick overall in 2018
Kevin Durant: 2014-15 / 2nd, 4th pick in 2015
Paul George: 2014-15 / 2nd, 13th pick overall in 2015
Derrick Rose: 2013-14 / 2nd, 16th overall in 2014

In 2017, Porzingis was taken in the second round (19th overall). Expect him to creep up closer to the first round next year as every part of his game will be enhanced with Luka by his side.

Jonas Valanciunas
Valanciunas is the clear-cut starting center on the Memphis Grizzlies. He’ll likely log most of the minutes alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. after the departures of Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green. His pick-and-roll chemistry with Kyle Lowry should easily translate to Mike Conley. But Conley will have to adapt to Valanciunas’ limited shooting range. Valanciunas has been the same 12 points/8 rebounds/1 block player for the past five seasons in Toronto. That’s unlikely to change in Memphis.

He’s incrementally improved on defense each season but has never developed into a consistent back-to-basket post threat that could dominate a game. He’s a good finisher around the rim except for that one time when …

… “There’s a lid on the rim.” It’s still haunting.

Delon Wright
Wright’s struggled this year but he still has the ability to make everything easier for others when he plays. He sees things differently on the court. He’s unconventional and creative. Advice: pick him up!

Marc Gasol
The biggest challenge for the Raptors this season has been crunch time offense a.k.a “Kawhi Time.” The Raptors exclusively rely on Kawhi to power through double teams and make plays for others late in games and it often fails against good teams, most recently against the Bucks and Celtics on national television. Kawhi is an improved playmaker but not yet an elite one.

Gasol gives the Raptors a second option in those precious minutes. The ball should move more as Gasol will find cutters from the high- and low-posts. Dribble handoffs to Lowry and Leonard will be more honest coming from Gasol as opposed to Serge Ibaka or Valanciunas. Stillness should be replaced with life.

The Lowry-Gasol pick-and-roll should be as lethal as the all-time great of Conley-Gasol.

Gasol’s minutes in Toronto will dip below below 30 and it’s likely that his shot attempts will decline as well. Gasol has never played alongside an elite wing. He will have to adapt to having the ball in his hands less but his fantasy value, especially his defensive and rebounding stats, should be unchanged.

Philadelphia 76ers with Tobias Harris The safest assumption is that all four of Philadelphia’s stars will suffer slight declines in their numbers. There’s no fantasy precedent for this many shot-creaters and playmakers to be on one team.

Fantasy Ranks of Philadelphia’s Big Four as of 2/8/19:
Joel Embiid: 9th
Tobias Harris: 18th
Jimmy Butler: 19th
Ben Simmons: 32nd

Harris is currently the 18th ranked fantasy player in the league. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to retain that pace on a team with so many other offensive weapons. The top-three teams in the league currently own Sixers’ players. They should all be concerned about dips in production across the board.

Nikola Mirotic
Mirotic has only appeared in 32 games this season. He’s missed the last seven games with a strained calf. His role and responsibilities on Milwaukee are likely to be closer to his days in Chicago than the past year in New Orleans. It’s difficult to imagine Mirotic retaining fantasy value for the remainder of the season given the recent injury history and likely decline in minutes and touches.

Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. has been erratic in his two games with the New York Knicks but he did play a a season-high 40 minutes on 2/5/19 versus the Pistons. He’s going to continue to hurt a team’s percentages but the raw totals should align with the extended minutes he’s expected to play. Overall, he’s likely to do as much harm as good to your fantasy stat line.

Tyler Johnson
Can anyone name who the Phoenix Suns were playing at point before acquiring Tyler Johnson this week? Was it point guard by committee? Johnson should be the team’s starter at point for the remainder of the season. He’s had great stretches in Miami but never a great season. He’s always been an above average three-point shooter (36.7 percent for his career) and maybe a scorer? We’ll soon find out.

Harrison Barnes / Otto Porter
No reason to believe anything will change with Barnes and Porter. They will keep doing what they do for the rest of the season and may be for the next 10 years after that. We appreciate their contributions but will rarely notice their presence. Both are likely to fit seamlessly into their new teams and continue to put up solid but not spectacular fantasy lines on a nightly basis.