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Fantasy Basketball - Veteran Free Agency Winners (Part 2): James Harden, T.J. Warren, JaVale McGee

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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 winners in the fantasy realm, will help their fantasy GMs, and explore their situations going forward to build their positive case.

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Veteran Free Agency Winners - 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball

James Harden, SG - Philadelphia 76ers

We all know there's tampering in the NBA. We know there are under-the-table deals. We know money flows and we don't even know, even if that sounds like a contradiction. This type of thing has been around since professional contracts became a thing and before Wilt Chamberlain to traded from the 76ers to the Lakers all the way back in 1968. Do you know who's not leaving Philly this summer, though? The Beard.

The noise is getting louder regarding Harden's decision to sign a "low" money deal with the Sixers in order to facilitate other acquisitions by the franchise--and then, when he's nearing 40 years, getting his due big-bucks payment--but let's forget about that for a minute. One and only one thing is real and that's the fact that Harden and the 76ers by extension are entering a crucial season as they have the stronger roster they've had in their post-Process, pro-Embiid era.

Harden joins Embiid, Tobias Harris, and two youngsters who have already blossomed into very legitimate starters: Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle. The best news for Harden, though, is that Daryl Morey has also brought super-sub-dawg P.J. Tucker and fellow old-times Rockets friend Danuel House to Philadelphia. The depth chart is hella deep, and the 76ers also brought G League MVP Trevelin Queen!

Truth be told, Harden was always going to re-sign to close his career in a team with chances of lifting the chip as The Beard grows old and ring-chases a bit. Which better place? And as the no. 1 player in the squad, no less!

Harden has been top-three guard in eight of the past 10 seasons and also finished top-five in nine of those 10. Last year, even splitting time between BKN and PHI, he still found a way to an 11th-OVR finish in fantasy basketball, putting up a per-game 22-7-10-1 line and averaging nearly 50 FPPG and 1.34 FP/min. That latter figure, mind you, is his worst since 2016. Imagine what the slightest of upticks in efficiency could mean for JH.

T.J. Warren, SF - Brooklyn Nets

Shout out to the Bubble King. It's been years, literally, which sounds stupid but can't be more real, since we last saw Warren truly balling on an NBA basketball court. I know, he played briefly in 2021 when he logged four games, but that's nothing to call home proud about nor actually get anything substantial from. So, yeah, it's been nearly a couple of years since the last time Warren did it.

Even after such a long time on the shelf, and entering free agency at the worst possible time, Warren landed a deal from the Nets to play in Brooklyn next season. Just a one-year pact, but a prove-it one for someone still not even 29-years-old who should have a few years left in him.

You know the drill (no pun intended) in BK. Durant is inching closer and closer to finally getting traded, Ben Simmons is most probably going to get moved to because of NBA rules preventing him to side with any returning young star, and Kyrie is not going to remain in BKN all by himself, let's be honest. Warren is projected to be one of the better and most veteran players in Brooklyn next year barring that other star or rotation players arriving in trades.

Removing the Nets trio from the DC makes it look bad, but that also means Warren would most probably be the legit starting SF/PF next year. We'll have to see if Bubble T.J. is back, or if we just get a Bubblewrap version of the man. Warren played nearly 33 MPG in 2020 for the Pacers, putting up 30.8 FPPG and that season marked his third straight averaging the exact similar efficiency figure with 0.93 FP/min, slightly above average. High-risk, high-reward type of play for a late-round pick with upside for an extraordinary, under-the-radar comeback (we know he can do it).

Juan Toscano-Anderson, SF/PF - Los Angeles Lakers

I have a bunch of Bay Area friends and I can assure you they're all hating this free agency acquisition by the Lakers. It makes sense, obviously, as the Warriors and Toscano benefited each other, had to fight to the death to find their way toward a first-squad reunion, and ultimately grew into a championship together last June. It's a fairytale, but it's not that Juan-T was the reason it happened for the never-ending Warriors' dynasty. As Toscano has put it himself, this is just another step in the career of a borderline NBA man seemingly always fighting just to live another day.

Toscano is now joining LeBron and AD in Los Angeles. There is not really that much of a change in terms of the context/situation he will find in Hollywood as he's pretty much moving on from a core built around Steph/Klay/Dray to another one made out of Russ/LBJ/AD (we'll see about that Westbrook thing, though, but the most probable change would bring Kyrie Irving to LA so it'd not be that bad, I guess). The pine awaits once more, and that will never change for Juanito.

That said, LeBron is widely known for elevating players such as Toscano-Anderson throughout his career as those ancillary pieces have just to wait for their turn and to be on the killer end of LBJ's plays to hit paydirt from stationary positions banking spot-up shots with gusto.

JTA projects to be the SF2/SF3 of the Lakers as the depth chart reads right now, and he can play way higher than that up to manning the five. Forget about bulky raw and counting stats, but expect high FG% on the limited touches he'll get with defenses clearly putting the clamps on whoever happens to be playing next to him more than on the very Juan. Nice flier to get from the WW but probably nothing more than that in terms of spending a draft pick on him.

JaVale McGee, C - Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs pulled off one of the better trades of the offseason in acquiring Christian Wood from Houston in exchange for, basically and given later trades happening in the league, peanuts. Dallas gave away a bunch of players, yes, but none of them was expected to move the needle for them in the slightest way, let alone as much as Wood will supposedly do starting next season. Dallas' addition of veteran big JaVale McGee, though, is a must to include in this column as he's a free-agency winner. The main reason? He's on the starting five of the Mavs as the depth chart is currently projected.

We have yet to see how the depth chart ends looking, but some beat reporters (namely from The Athletic) are handing JVM the starting nod at the center spot with Wood coming off the pine. Tons of fans out there are surprised, but the Mavs see Wood more like a second-tier/super-sub player than anything else, and the pairing of McGee at the five and Dorian Finney-Smith at the four looks like the most probable starting unit with Wood taking on relief duties for those two men when needed.

McGee has proved of late to be a fantastic veteran presence on the court – though he's been limited to some 15-to-17 MPG in the last three seasons and still can do it at great levels – just ask the 2021 NBA Finals-bound Phoenix. McGee has strung seven seasons at above-average FP/min efficiency and has averaged 1.25 FP/min in the last two seasons (league average at 0.90) while putting up 18, 17+, and 20+ FPPG in the 2020-2022 span. Win-win for all parties involved in this couple of deals, but with the old JVM getting another extraordinary chance of playing for a championship contender--next to a top-five NBA player in Luka Doncic.



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