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The Grass Is Greener: NBA Player's Who'll Succeed In New Places


Free agency in the NBA is the wildest free agency in sports, which means that a ton of players have switched teams this year.

Some of those players are stars and are going to be successful in their new digs. This article isn't about those players. I don't need to write Kyrie Irving is gonna be good with the Nets or wow Kawhi Leonard will work in Los Angeles because you know these things.

Instead, let's take a look at some of the non-stars who changed teams who should find their stock rising up this season.

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Al Horford - F/C, Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers essentially replaced Jimmy Butler with Al Horford, a move that pushes Tobias Harris back to the three and gives the Sixers a really intriguing front court of Horford and Joel Embiid.

There are questions about the fit as the Sixers are going to be playing really big in an age where the NBA is sizing down, but both Horford and Harris have offensive range, which should negate the normal disadvantages of playing big and allow Philly to use their size to their advantage.

Horford took three three-pointers per game last season with the Celtics, making 36 percent of them a year after he made 42.9 percent in the same role. In Philadelphia, he slides into the role that Harris occupied last year, when Harris took five threes per game. This isn't going to be a one-to-one thing where Horford suddenly is taking that many, but we should see an uptick in his offensive usage, while his stats on the other end of the floor remain relatively unchanged. He's not a huge rebounder, so playing beside Embiid shouldn't really affect him.

 

Willie Cauley-Stein - C, Golden State Warriors

Cauley-Stein has a foot injury and is missing the beginning of the season, but when he returns he should slide into the starting center role for the Warriors.

I've been a big Cauley-Stein guy since the Kings drafted him. Last year, Cauley-Stein started 81 games for Sacramento, shooting 55.6 percent from the field and averaging 11.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

Cauley-Stein was sixth on the team in shot attempts per game and played 27.3 minutes. Because the Warriors are weak at center and because their offseason losses mean there's probably not going to be much of the "Draymond Green at center" lineup just because they don't really have the personnel, I can see WCS playing a larger offensive role than he did in his time with the Kings.

 

Delon Wright - G, Dallas Mavericks

After playing in Toronto for three seasons, Wright was part of the midseason trade that sent Marc Gasol to the Raptors. After a half season in Memphis, Wright signed with the Mavericks this Summer.

In 30.8 minutes per game over 26 appearances as a Grizzly, Wright averaged 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per contest. He upped his three point attempts to three per game, though his shooting percentage on them (25.6 percent) was not good.

But Wright can score when needed while also being a solid passer and a rebounding guard. I know Mavericks fans weren't hoping to wind up with Delon Wright as their starting point guard this year, but he should be able to provide solid defensive production and his shooting percentage should be better when he's playing as an off-ball guard more. Wright's going to start, but Luka Doncic will be the point guard on the offensive end more often than not. But with Wright able to hit shots off Doncic passes and also run the offense whenever Doncic sits, we should see good numbers from the fifth-year guard.

 

Danny Green - G/F, Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers added Anthony Davis to a team that already had LeBron James, but beyond those two the offensive weapons in Staples Center are questionable. Kyle Kuzma is Kyle Kuzma, a guy who can score when he needs to but gets a major "is a Laker" popularity group.

The third-best offensive option on this team might be Danny Green, as surprising as that sounds, and the gravity that James and Davis create should allow Green to do exactly what he does best: drain threes and play perimeter defense.

Last season was just the third time in Green's career that he averaged double-digit points; I'd be shocked if 2019-2020 isn't the fourth time. Green shot 5.4 threes per game, hitting 45.5 percent of them. That first number could easily go up. That second number should probably regress a little, as his previous career high from three was 43.6 percent and he hadn't shot over 40 percent since the 2014-2015 season. But that all should even out, and Green's going to thrive as the third/fourth option on this team.

 

Nicolo Melli - F, New Orleans Pelicans

I'm cheating a little on this last one since Melli was playing in Europe last year, not the NBA. But he's a very underrated addition to the Pelicans and projects to make some noise this year.

Last year for Fenerbahce, Melli played 25.9 minutes per game, averaging 7.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He shot 38.5 percent from three and has shot 38 percent or higher from three for the past five years. Melli is also a good free throw shooter.

Melli can help stretch the floor out for a Pelicans team that's light on shooters and is really the only stretch big option that this team has. That alone is going to get him on the floor, because you can't expect Zion Williamson to succeed without New Orleans giving him the space to succeed. Ben Pfeifer of The Bird Writes wrote a great breakdown of what Melli brings to the Pelicans that's worth a read if you want to see some video breakdowns of his performances in Europe since you're likely unfamiliar with him, but from a fantasy point of view, I think Melli has a chance to be a really intriguing late-round value pick.

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