NBA Fantasy: Boogie in the Big Easy

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Last night, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Sacramento Kings were finally actually giving up on mercurial big man DeMarcus Cousins, shipping the historically talented but moody center to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Reportedly, the Kings will be receiving Buddy Hield, who was selected 6th overall this past draft, Tyreke Evans, and Langston Galloway (expected to be waived), as well as 1st and 2nd round draft picks in 2017. The Kings will also include SF/PF Omri Casspi, who has been banged up or otherwise buried on the bench much of this season, though he was quite solid in 2015-16.

There's a lot to unpack here for both sides in real NBA terms. I'll leave that for Zach Lowe. My question is where does this leave fantasy owners? We'll sort through some of the potential effects of this trade for players impacted by the deal.

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Boogie in the Big Easy

Keep on Boogie-ing: DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, NO

In overall value, I don't picture that much changing for Cousins. However, the type of value he provides might shift a little. Alongside more talented teammates than he had in Sacramento in the form of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, Cousins no longer has to carry the offense on every possession. This could lead to fewer shot attempts and assists. However, it could also lead to improved efficiency in the form of FG% and turnovers. Roto owners should be just fine with this deal, but H2H league owners who built a FG% and/or TO punt around Cousins should be worried.

 

The Brow is Up: Anthony Davis, PF/C, NO

It goes without saying that the Pelicans now have the best frontcourt duo in the league and probably one of the top pairings in history. While both would ideally play center in the Platonic ideal of an NBA lineup these days, the Pelicans have been tipping their hand for weeks now (see: Jahlil Okafor trade rumors) that they'd looking for a center to allow Anthony Davis to move to PF. It's obvious that Davis prefers playing PF and that the Pelicans, given AD's recent injury history, believe that keeping him away from bruising defensive assignments is better for his long-term value than maximizing the mismatches they can create on offense with their lineups.

The nice thing about acquiring Cousins is that they now get the best of both worlds -- they get a tank of a center who can take tough interior assignments away from Davis, while still allowing them to play an incredibly skilled offensive player who will draw defenses away from Davis no matter where he is on the floor. My reading of this is that, while he might cede a few shots, Davis will become less of an injury risk and improve his efficiency with the addition of Boogie. This is good news overall for Davis owners, since it's much more rare that they are punting efficiency stats -- and they're all praying he continues to stay healthy and dominant through the fantasy playoffs.

 

Time to 'Reke Havoc?: Tyreke Evans, PG/SG/SF, SAC

Even before he was laid low by injuries over the couple of years, Evans has always been a bit of a weird fit in the league -- not an efficient enough passer to be an ideal point guard, not an efficient enough shooter to be an ideal wing. From a fantasy perspective, he's also a weird fit in most team builds. It's clear the 25 games he played last year wherein he shot 38.8% from 3 and 79.6% from the line were an aberration for the guy who is a career 28.9% and 75.7% shooter in those situations. If his efficiency continues to look like it does this year (and has for most of his career), he will have limited value in roto leagues or in H2H builds where you're fighting for efficiency cats, even with increased minutes. Where he does have more value is in punt builds where you're giving up on FG% and looking for a SF-eligible player who can rack up assists.

Will his minutes definitely increase in the short-term, though? He's still banged up, and it's not like he's leaving a backcourt rotation in New Orleans that's more stacked than what he'll see in Sacramento. There's still a better starting PG than him -- Collison. There's still Buddy Hield demanding minutes at the 2. There's still a high character, tough-defending vet that the coaching staff likes -- Garrett Temple, once he returns from injury shortly after the break, instead of E'Twaun Moore. There might even still be Langston Galloway, and if not him, then at least Ben McLemore. He's a better option than Arron Afflalo, but his fantasy eligibility not withstanding, it's not clear Evans can credibly play as much SF as Afflalo can. His one saving grace is that he's been so bad this year that he might be able to help the Kings tank without seeming like they're tanking, and since he'll be an unrestricted free agent, they won't care about babying his injury. I'll fade him where I care about efficiency, but he's worth the speculative waiver add where available in head-to-head leagues where he fits.

 

The Big Man with a Big Opportunity: Willie Cauley-Stein, PF/C, SAC

The truly big fantasy winner in this deal is the second year big man for the Kings who is now stepping into a major role with the departure of Cousins. He has not been that impressive in the 12 minutes per game that the Kings were giving him -- his per 36 numbers feature 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, both much lower rates than you'd want out of a low-offense big man. However, he's full of athletic talent, is quite young, and shows flashes of being capable of more on both sides of the ball. He'll be given a big chance with much more playing time at center and he'll get the opportunity for more shots and more rebounds with Cousins not sucking up all the oxygen in the rotation. He particularly projects as a potential nice source of steals out of a big man. I wouldn't hope for a major star-level breakout this year, but he could provide reasonable low-end production the rest of the way.

 

Big Shot Buddy: Buddy Hield, SG, SAC

The Kings, without Cousins and the injured Rudy Gay, have no one who can generate their own shots at this point. Buddy Hield hasn't shown he can yet in the NBA, but he certainly could in college for Oklahoma. With no incentive to do anything but tank and develop their young players, and a gaping need for someone who can get buckets, the Kings should give Hield plenty of minutes and plenty of shots. Along with Cauley-Stein, Hield is the other clear fantasy winner in this trade. While his efficiency could remain ugly -- he only shot 39% for the Pelicans -- he could double his points per game from the 8.6 he got in New Orleans, while seeing his three-pointers surge over 2 per game as well. Now if only he could get any defensive stats or improve his assist rate. He's certainly worth owning in fantasy while you wait on what he looks like in Sacramento.

 

The Biggest Loser, For Now: Terrence Jones, SF/PF, NO

No one takes quite the hit Terrence Jones does in this deal. With Davis and Cousins locked in at starters, Jones loses major rotation minutes. There's already talk that he's on his way out the door before the deadline as well, and that he's played his last game for New Orleans. Fantasy owners' one hope for him is he gets traded somewhere he gets a chance to start at the 4.  But where is that for a guy like him?  The previously thin Pelicans were really a perfect situation for him to find playing time, and it's hard to envision another team where he's more than a reserve.

 

The Other Guys

Jrue Holiday will have a chance to play efficient basketball and rack up assists with those two bigs to pass the ball to. He may take fewer overall shots, but he'll really have a chance to shine across the board elsewhere. I like his deal for him.

E'Twaun Moore had already solidified his role as starting 2 in New Orleans, but now that Evans, Hield, and Galloway are gone, he's completely locked in. Look for him to continue with his bottom of the roster value the rest of the season.

Darren Collison should get more usage in Sacramento with Cousins gone.  He may be traded as the Kings tank, though.

Kosta Koufos was already starting next to Cousins, but he may increase his value a little bit. Not an inspiring fantasy option, though -- we know what he is at this point.

Tim Frazier is back to being the only backup ball-handler behind Jrue Holiday, and he could even see some playing time alongside Jrue until the Pelicans find a real SG who can rotate in behind Moore.

Garrett Temple will take a hit from his pre-injury value as his efficiency dips without Cousins and his playing time dips with the addition of Hield and Evans, but the coaches still love him, and he should have a role.

Ben McLemore was playing big, if uninspiring minutes, just before the All-Star Break. He was already expected to lose minutes when Temple returned, though, and that's now doubly the case with two other guys in coming on board in Hield and Evans who also play his position.

Ty Lawson may get an opportunity to show he can create baskets, but the minutes will be rough while both Collison and Evans are on the team.

Anthony Tolliver is suddenly one of the main offensive threats for Sacramento, but I don't see him having much value.

Omri Casspi may not stay in New Orleans, but he could be useful there as a rotation SF with Solomon Hill.  He's off fantasy radars for now.


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