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Losers from the 2022-23 NBA Free Agency - Big Men (Part 1): P.J. Tucker, Mo Bamba, Royce O'Neale

Free agency can be a great opportunity for players to find new homes that mesh with their playing styles and help them achieve their potential, but it can also be a chance for players to think they're doing that and then wind up in a bad situation where they're unable to find NBA success.

This article is about the latter, and while it's only been hours since the market officially opened, we're here to analyze some of the deals that have been confirmed in advance of the 2021-22 season tipoff later this fall.

Let's take a look at some players who recently changed teams and who should find their stock cratering in advance of the 2022-23 campaign.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including NBA Writer of the Year, Best NFL Series, MLB Series, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Fantasy Basketball: Losers from 2022-23 Free Agency - Big Men

P.J. Tucker, PF - Philadelphia 76ers

Is the band back or what!? Shout-out Daryl Morey for bringing the gang back together, only now in Philly. The Sixers will feature all of James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr., and Trevelin Queen, who of course played from 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. No bueno.

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). Tucker 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.

Royce O'Neale, PF - Brooklyn Nets

In a move that nobody understood when the news broke – let alone when Kevin Durant's trade request was made official – the Nets moved a first-round draft pick in exchange for Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale. Whatever their motives were for making such trade are still unclear. Is this just a pre-KD-trade move to aid that transaction somehow? Is Royce going to be re-routed to another franchise as part of a multi-team deal involving Durant, or even Kyrie Irving? Questions, questions...

After two years of not really factoring that much into Utah's plans, O'Neale became a legit starter in the 2020 season getting almost 29 MPG with 62 of 71 games as part of the starting unit. That's been the case for the past three seasons, in which O'Neale has started 96% of the 219 games he's played with the SLC franchise. Some fantasy GMs would assume that Royce can only be labeled a winner after it took the Nets a first-rounder to land him, and now that he's getting to a team that (if things go according to expectations) is about to lose its main two usage-eaters and volume contributors in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

The thing is that, in a very similar case to that of Tucker, O'Neale is not quite a strong offensive player no matter the team or scheme he plays into, and even having Ben Simmons (again, assuming things go back to normal and Simmons graces the court once for all in Brooklyn) shouldn't really bump up his numbers that much, if at all. O'Neale has finished the last three seasons in the 109-to-134th overall range of fantasy players and never finished inside the top-35 fantasy F players in that span. He's a 20+ FPPG player but his efficiency is atrocious averaging just 0.65 FP/min last season (league average at around 0.90). If he couldn't do that starting games and sharing the court with legit players such as Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert taking defensive eyes off of him, well, I guess he won't start doing it in a rebuilding/retooling squad in Brooklyn. He's not the worst three-point shooter (38.9% on 4.0 3PA per game last year) with some rebounding (4.8 RPG) and assisting(2.5 APG) upside, but that's pretty much it.

Jonathan Isaac, PF/C - Orlando Magic
Paolo Banchero, PF/C - Orlando Magic
Wendell Carter Jr., C - Orlando Magic
Mo Bamba, C - Orlando Magic

The Magic just can't help themselves. That doesn't have to be bad, of course, but it's funny to see how Orlando has always found itself in a position to draft big men with the no. 1 overall pick through all of its short history. First came Shaq, then Dwight, and it's now Banchero's time. Again, nothing to be mad at considering the HOF careers of the first two and the probable one on its way to Banchero's resume. That will take a little bit of mixing and matching from coach Jamahl Mosley as the Magic have a ton of big men in their depth chart.

How all of the four players above will fit in the grand scheme of things and Orlando's rotation doesn't really look that problematic. At the end of the day, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba should be the clear-cut centers of the team with Banchero and Jonathan Isaac manning the four. Okeke profiles more as a forward Mo Wagner fits more in the C spot. So it's just a one-two-three rotation at both slots, but with everybody suffering a little bit of a knock in terms of upside as it's going to be too many mouths to feed in that frontcourt.

Of course, Carter Jr. and Banchero should be the starters of the team when the ball gets rolling next season. Bamba seemed to be out of the franchise this offseason and then the Magic decided to bring him back in a kind of unexpected move. As promising as he's always looked, we have to see Isaac play basketball for the first time since he stopped doing so in January of 2020 only to come back in July/August for a two-game run in which he got to play a total of 30 minutes before getting off for good until now. He's expected to be readily available for Game 1 next October, but you know how this stuff goes...

You don't use the first-overall pick in a bench guy, much less if you're the Orlando Magic. Banchero is going to be out there at the four or the five more often than not. The split between Bamba and Carter might be more prominent, though. The former played 30 MPG last season to Bamba's 26 average, though they started 61 and 69 games fitting next to each other playing the four and the five positions. Bamba's surprising floor-stretching (38% on 4.0 3PA per game) was fantastic and widened his range and possibilities while on the floor. Carter's rebounding was more than two boards per game above Bamba's figure though, and his scoring was more than four points above the latter's, too.

It's going to be hard for any of the four players highlighted above to hit 30+ MPG next season in such a crowded frontcourt. Of course, the likes of Bol Bol, Chuma Okeke, and Mo Wagner will only be ancillary pieces in the rotation if anything at all and you shouldn't expect them to be more than 10-to-15 FPPG players in the best possible scenario. I would say that Carter, Bamba, and Banchero are all three locks to score around 30+ FPPG with upside for 35+ if one of them gets solid minutes and a steady role in the rotation (I'd bet on rookie Banchero ending there as he comes with tasty playmaking abilities baked into his skill set and it's not that Fultz/Cole Anthony/Suggs are incredible creators). I have not lost the faith in Isaac, but he's just too much of a question mark at this point that I'd advise waiting to see what he brings to the table and the status he comes back in.



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