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2019 NBA Free Agency: Fantasy Risers and Fallers


NBA free agency was a pretty drawn out process this year, but things have slowed down enough that we can talk about where things stand now.

There's been a lot of movement around the NBA, especially when it comes to the big name players. Kawhi Leonard. Paul George. Kevin Durant. Kyrie Irving. Kemba Walker. All of these guys will be playing in a new uniform when next season kicks off.

Let's turn our attention, though, to some of the smaller names. Below, you'll find a handful of players that I see as risers -- players who are in better spots after free agency, either through moving to a new team or having a former teammate leave and increase their playing time -- and fallers, which are...well, the opposite of risers.

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Post-Free Agency Fantasy Risers

Willie Cauley-Stein - C - Golden State Warriors

I've been a big Cauley-Stein guy, but the Kings were clearly out on him at this point, even though he started all but one game for them last season.

He goes from a situation where he was definitely heading for a playing time reduction to a Warriors team where the battle for minutes at center is wide open. Cauley-Stein's offensive production puts him in the lead over Kevon Looney for the role, in my opinion, and Cauley-Stein's skill set best fits what the Warriors need right now with all the upheaval on the team, which is a source of scoring and rebounding in the paint. Cauley-Stein also averaged 1.2 steals per game last year, though his block numbers (0.6) were lower than you want to see from a center. Still, the Warriors are a good landing spot that should allow him to effectively do the things that he's best at.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - SF/PF - Toronto Raptors

Hollis-Jefferson fell out of the Nets rotation at times last year, going through stretches where he barely touched the court. He was able to carve out minutes in the playoffs because of his ability to be a small ball five thanks to his ability to switch defensively and get inside, but the writing was on the wall that RHJ's time in Brooklyn was over.

Now, he's a Raptor, and he's got a chance to be an actual rotation piece there and earn consistent minutes. Hollis-Jefferson's not a shooter, and his offensively game as a whole leaves you feeling pretty meh. Synergy rates him as poor or below average in every playtype except for "miscellaneous," which is definitely not an encouraging sign. He can't spot up, or post up, or cut, or...well, any of those other things.

But he can defend, and that's going to keep him in the Raptors rotation. Hollis-Jefferson can defend pretty much any position and has a nose for making plays on that end. He's also better than Stanley Johnson, the team's other free agent forward acquisition, and while I don't see his numbers themselves looking significantly better than they have before, something like 10 points and six rebounds per night can help you in deeper leagues, and there's the added benefit of being able to count on him to actually play.

Enes Kanter - C - Boston Celtics

A good landing spot for Kanter, who takes over for Al Horford as the starting center. He's not even close to being the defensive player than Horford is, but Kanter is still a good offensive center who'll be able to put up good numbers as Boston's third-ish option offensively after Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, with Kanter and Gordon Hayward both filling roles where they'll be asked to do some things in terms of scoring.

Kanter's 44 games with the Knicks -- 23 of which were starts -- seem like a good starting spot to look at his predicted production. In those games, Kanter averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He won't be a steal or block guy, but as a center for a block punting build? He could be extremely valuable, and the guaranteed role he has in Boston will help ensure that value doesn't suddenly dip mid-season.

Terry Rozier - PG - Charlotte Hornets

Let's talk about the difference between the NBA and fantasy basketball for a second.

In the real NBA, the Rozier signing is probably a disaster for the Hornets. They replace Kemba Walker with a point guard who hasn't shown himself to be an efficient scorer or great decision maker in the league yet. Rozier had the lowest PIPM on the Celtics last year, thanks in large part to an O-PIPM that ranked 14th-worst among all point guards in the NBA. For comparison, Rozier's O-PIPM was -2.2, while the guy he's replacing, Walker, had an O-PIPM of 3.3, the third-best among point guards. The Hornets will be significantly worse with Rozier.

But in fantasy basketball, the Hornets being worse only really matter if they're so much worse that they give up on Rozier in the first year of his contract. They won't do that, which means Rozier's going to actually be pretty valuable in punt-field goal percentage builds, as his usage will allow him to rack up solid numbers. So, bad move for the Hornets here, but finding a team to let him start at the point means it's a good move for Rozier's fantasy prospects.

Pascal Siakam - PF - Toronto Raptors

Well, with Kawhi Leonard gone, Siakam becomes the focal point of the Raptors offense. See our recent piece on all the changes in Toronto for more on Siakam.

Delon Wright - PG - Dallas Mavericks

Wright appears to be poised to start at point guard for the Mavericks, a move that probably doesn't make any Mavericks fans happy but does suggest that Wright's heading for his best NBA season.

Wright's impact in Dallas is going to depend on a few things. First, because the team has Luka Doncic and will likely run the ball through him a good amount of the time, Wright's going to be a point guard in name only on the offensive end a lot of the time. That means he's going to be better as an off-ball scorer, which means shooting below 30 percent from three again won't cut it. Has to get that number up to at least his 36.6 mark from the 2017-2018 season, though even higher would be better.

He'll also have to continue being a good rebounding guard and will need to take advantage of the Luka-less minutes he gets, when he'll have more control over the offense and can get his assist numbers up. But even with Luka Doncic in town, Wright's in a much better spot than he was with a Grizzlies team that just drafted JA Morant and added Tyus Jones to the team as well.

 

Post-Free Agency Fantasy Fallers

Jarrett Allen - C - Brooklyn Nets

This upcoming season could have been a breakout year for Allen, but the Nets signed DeAndre Jordan as part of their recruitment of Kevin Durant, and right now signs point to Jordan being the starter for Brooklyn. Allen's still likely to see significant minutes as the backup center, but since Jordan and Allen can't be played together, it's hard to see him topping 25 minutes.

Even if Allen does wind up as the starter, Jordan's presence tops what he can do. The best case scenario would be for Allen to try to get back to developing an outside shot so that he can play some minutes at the four beside Jordan. But unless defenses actually start to fear leaving Allen open, that scenario would be so bad for Brooklyn's spacing. I don't see Allen's numbers increasing much past the 10.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks he produced last season.

Nikola Mirotic - PF - N/A

You could have made a good argument that Mirotic was one of the 25 best players in free agency and that a lot of landing spots would be better for him than Milwaukee, but unless you're playing in a European fantasy league, his decision to sign a multi-year deal with Barcelona means he has no NBA fantasy value now.

J.J. Redick - SG - New Orleans Pelicans

Well, Redick goes from the starting lineup of one of the NBA's best teams, a place where he got easy three after easy three, to the bench of a young, rebuilding Pelicans team.

Ehh.

Defenses will pay more attention to Redick this year, which means the troubling drop below 40 percent from three that he had last year has a decent chance of continuing. He'll also be behind Jrue Holiday in the rotation, and while we'll likely see plenty of Holiday-Redick lineups when Lonzo Ball is on the bench, I just don't see Redick getting the chances he had in Philly. I'd likely downgrade his value by a round or two next season.

D'Angelo Russell - PG - Golden State Warriors

Russell goes from being the first option and starting point guard in Brooklyn to being the off-guard next to Steph Curry. If Russell was a better three-point shooter, I'd see him excel in a Klay Thompson role, but so far he's been much better as a guy who puts the ball on the floor and runs pick-and-rolls.

Russell will be fine, probably, but his scoring and assist numbers are unlikely to reach the levels they did in Brooklyn. He's also a liability defensively, which means we may actually see a slight reduction in minutes for Russell. And there's also the big rumors about being on the trading block still. If the Warriors trade him when Klay returns, a whole new level of uncertainty is introduced into the mix. I don't want to deal with that uncertainty.

Justise Winslow - SF - Miami Heat

RIP, Point Justise.

Miami used Winslow as a point guard at times last season, but with Goran Dragic healthy and Jimmy Butler able to play that point forward role that Winslow held, it's back to an off-ball role for the young forward. I expect fewer minutes, fewer assists, and fewer shot attempts for Winslow this year, and while he'll still have some fantasy value, it won't be at the level it was in 2018-2019.

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