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Fantasy Basketball - Veteran Free Agency Losers (Part 1): P.J. Tucker, Danilo Gallinari, Gary Payton II

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A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs.

Today, let's talk about some veterans that entered Unrestricted Free Agency in early July and address their fantasy futures and situations. For whatever reason -- be it talent, lack of opportunity, chances to rack up minutes, good and bad environments, etc-- these are some players that can be very valuable on very particular roles for real-life teams, but not so much for their fantasy GMs... and also the exact opposite way in other cases. In other words, monitoring how those are handled by their new front offices and coaches leading up to tipoff night will be crucial to know how viable they will be in terms of their fantasy basketball value.

Let's look at some veterans that can be considered losers in the fantasy realm who most probably won't help their fantasy GMs, and explore their situations going forward to build their negative case.

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Veteran Free Agency Losers - 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball

Gary Payton II, PG/SG - Portland Trail Blazers

You have to be happy about the Baby Glove. GP2 spent years fighting to get to the point he is at right now, and in a matter of three weeks, he checked the last two boxes open in his resume: winning the NBA title and filling his bag. The former, we love, the latter, not so much (in the fantasy realm only, of course!)

Payton entered free agency at the start of July and Golden State decided not to sign him to an extension. At the end of the day, you understand what the Warriors did because of where the Warriors come from. Yes, the biggest salary room+luxury taxes in the sport by a goddamn mile (approaching half a billion dollars). Kevon Looney was retained, but none other than him followed the track back to the Bay Area. GP2 signed a three-year deal with the Blazers, moving just north of Cali.

Nothing will change a lot for Payton on the court. He's a defensive menace, and he will surely make up and cover for Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons on the defensive end of play. That, though, doesn't mean he'll play more minutes than he did last year or have a larger/heavier/more solid role in the PDX. In fact, he's going from PG2 in GSW to PG2 in POR with a similarly young/up-and-coming SG next to him (Jordan Poole last season, Shaedon Sharpe next year.)

In his first season as a full-time player featuring in more than 30 games (he played 29 for the Wizards in 2020), GP2's efficiency cratered to a league-average 0.92 FP/min and he finished the year barely as a top-100 guard in fantasy leagues. He averaged a measly 16.2 FPPG and that's probably not going to change in Portland.

The addition of Jerami Grant and having a larger stable of big men around won't help his rebounding either, which has been historically good (considering he's a point guard) throughout his career. Other than keeping up his 1.4 SPG, I see no upside in drafting Gary Payton II next year.

Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF - Boston Celtics

After trading for second-tier star Malcolm Brogdon to bolster their backcourt, the Celtics took advantage of Atlanta's trade for Dejounte Murray and signed acquired-then-waived-out Gallo from the Spurs after Pop's team landed him as part of the Murray trade. To which I'd say: congrats Boston because you got an extraordinary performer on a very sweet deal. How this move affects Gallinari going forward, though, is a completely different story.

Gallo is far from his peak, of course, but he's been incredibly productive since turning 30 back in 2019 while he posted a career-high (seriously) 33.8 FPPG mark playing for the Clippers and started all 68 games he played. He kept that starting role in OKC a year later (when he moved to the PF position for the first time and where he's remained ever since) and was good for 30.5 FPPG. After that, though, Gallo's outcomes have cratered to 22.9 and 21.6 FPPG in the last two seasons as part of the Hawks franchise.

That should stay the same or even go further down in Boston with his usage and touches getting (one has to assume) hyper-limited. The Celtics lacked playmaking and shooting in the Finals and they were never beating the Warriors without that. Gallo isn't going to turn the ball over, but he won't do so mostly because he is just not tasked with creating or devising passing lines or dropping dimes.

Gallo will be out there mostly shooting spot-up shots, which he wasn't excellent at doing last season, falling from shooting 40% beyond the arc for the first time in the last four years (38.1% on 4.5 3PA per game) and hitting 43.4% of his total 9.0 FGA for the second season in a row, down from the 46.3% he hit in his career-best 2019 campaign. Gallo's getting to the NBA runner-up, but he's also doing so in an even more limited role than the one he had in Atlanta.

This man is an obvious winner in real life landing on a bona fide contender coming off a season in which the chip was this close to ending in the TD Garden rafters... but he's a loser for fantasy GMs out there looking to squeeze the last drops of his talent. More of a top-165-or-worse player than a top-65 as he was not that long ago.

P.J. Tucker, SF/PF - Philadelphia 76ers

Is the band back or what!? Shout-out Daryl Morey for bringing the Rocks Gang back together, only now organizing cheesesteak dinners in Philly. The Sixers will feature all of James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr., and Trevelin Queen, all of whom of course played for the Rockets together a few years ago. Most prominently, the Harden-Tucker pairing shared the floor in the 2017-2020 span reaching its peak in the 2018 postseason when they fell 3-4 to the Warriors – yes, in that infamous 27-consecutive-three-point-shots-missed outing.

Tucker has never been quite the extraordinary fantasy player, but now that he's signed with Philly, I'm envisioning his ultimate death in the fantasy realm. Tucker's best fantasy seasons came all the way back in 2014/2015 when he got to the 91st-overall by virtue of getting top-36 and top-32 finishes at the F position while still in Phoenix. After that, he's never entered the top-100 players in any single campaign, topping at 103 in 2016 and finishing in 2022 as the top-163rd player overall.

Never say never, but it's going to be hard for Philadelphia to get out of Tobias Harris (current starting PF) early unless they see a path to the championship so clear that they pony up some first-round in any potential trade to sweeten the deal. If that doesn't happen (and it 99% won't), then Tuck is going to hit the pine head first and violently.

Tucker is a very niche player who can knock down three-point shots (career-high 41.5 3P% on 2.7 3PA per game last year in Miami) and grab some boards (5.5 in 2022). P.J. bounced back a bit in Florida last year, starting 70 of 71 games and getting a bulky 28 MPG, but you'd be better off him unless you need what he does particularly well.

Folks will look at his years in Houston next to Harden – namely, that 2020 season in which he posted a 7-6-1-1 line, 41.5/35.8/81.3 splits, and an unreasonable 21.3 PER – and drool at the possibilities. Too bad for them that Tucker is not that player anymore, much less in an Embiid-Harden-Tobi team.



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