With a number of major deals and trades following the 2021 NBA Draft and free agency, fantasy basketball has seen quite the shake up with a handful of players settling in new places.
It's never too early to get a head start on your competition, so take a look at how those deals have altered the value of the players on the move.
How free agency altered 2021-22 Fantasy Basketball
The headlining deals
Russell Westbrook to Los Angeles Lakers
I'm going to put this plain and simple: when it comes to Westbrook and fantasy basketball, don't overthink it.
Westbrook was undeniably the Fantasy MVP of every league last season, playing his best stretch of basketball during the heart of the fantasy playoffs. I would love to see a statistic on the percentage of fantasy league champions that rostered Westbrook. And most teams that drafted him and held on to him for the duration of the season likely got him in the second or early-third round.
I could see his average draft position remaining roughly the same because of his new location, even after carrying fantasy teams to a title last year. Although Westbrook will now be paired with a high-usage, ball-dominant player in LeBron James, don't be afraid to take an early swing on him. He has averaged a triple-double three times in the last four seasons, regardless of the team he plays for or star teammates he plays with.
Don't let him slip too far.
Kyle Lowry to Miami Heat
I expect Lowry's fantasy value in Miami to be eerily similar to his production in Toronto. He'll still be a top-three scoring option alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but he should be able to get some more open looks based on the other talent he has around him. Because of that, he may be able to get back to being a player that knocks down more than three 3s a game, something that bodes well from a fantasy perspective.
The fact that the Heat have Butler and Adebayo initiate a lot of offence could affect Lowry's assist numbers (he has averaged 7.9 assists per game over the last three seasons with the Raptors), but you don't bring in a floor general of his calibre to have him play the majority of his time off-ball, so the dropoff shouldn't be too drastic.
As for the Raptors, this could mean more scoring opportunites for someone like OG Anunoby, who is already a jack-of-all-trades-type fantasy player. Most of the offence should run through Fred VanVleet, making him even more valuable than he was last year. Goran Dragic's uncertain future in Toronto does cloud things up a bit from a fantasy projections standpoint, but Malachi Flynn - a streaming gem at the end of last fantasy season - should still be on your radar as a waiver wire guy for spot starts.
DeMar DeRozan to Chicago Bulls
This may be the most intriguing switch-up of fantasy basketball.
With DeRozan, Zach LaVine and newly-signed Lonzo Ball, the Bulls now have three players that can orchestrate the offence. How that affects assist numbers will be particularly interesting, given that DeRozan (6.9 assists per game) and LaVine (4.9) are both coming off of career-best seasons in that category, while Ball is a known distributor who will certainly be the starting point guard.
From a scoring standpoint, LaVine will still be the go-to guy with All-Star center Nikola Vucevic just behind him, but DeRozan has averaged 20 or more points per game for eight-straight seasons, so that trio will have to figure out how to share the wealth. I wouldn't hesitate to draft any of those for players, but the pecking order is still clear to me with Vucevic and LaVine as 1A and 1B, respectively, then DeRozan, then Ball. Chicago's newfound depth also likely means you should avoid reserve guard Coby White for the later rounds of the draft with an undetermined role.
Without going to in-depth on the DeRozan departure from the San Antonio Spurs, this just means Dejounte Murray - a breakout fantasy player last season - becomes one of my favourite fantasy prospects for this upcoming season. He's worth the risk, reaching for him earlier than his average draft position.
Andre Drummond to Philadelphia 76ers
I know this wasn't a groundbreaking deal for real basketball next season, but it was the nail in the coffin for Drummond's value in fantasy basketball.
Drummond was a walking double-double throughout his entire career until the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Jarrett Allen last season. The four-time rebounding champion then elected to sit out until he could land in a new destination, and his fantasy value never returned to the level of expectation of owners that likely spent a second- or third-round pick on him.
Now playing behind MVP candidate Joel Embiid, it's hard to imagine Drummond will even come close to flirting with nightly double-doubles the way he has in the past. Of course, Embiid has an extensive injury history, so Drummond is still worth a flier, but you'll be able to be patient and get him in the later rounds of your fantasy draft as he is destined for a limited role as a backup.
Jonas Valanciunas to New Orleans Pelicans
Valanciunas was a fantasy monster last season, averaging 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds with 49 double-doubles in 62 games with the Memphis Grizzlies.
While you could look at playing alongside Zion Williamson as a negative for his rebounding production, I would actually make the case that it hurts Zion's rebounding numbers more. Valanciunas is one of, if not the, best rebounder in the NBA today and he should continue to put up double-doubles on near-nightly basis. As for Williamson, his 7.2 rebounds per game may take a slight hit but because of his production and efficiency, it should not scare you away in the slightest from selecting the generational talent.
On the other side of this deal, could Steven Adams in Memphis mean a revitalization for his fantasy value? His production was down in New Orleans, only averaging 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and fewer than one block and one steal per game, but if Valanciunas' numbers with the Grizzlies are any indication, Adams' value could be trending back upward.
Other deals worth noting
Kemba Walker, New York Knicks: Walker was a bit of a fantasy headache last season, not playing in the majority of Boston's back-to-backs. With a crowded backcourt in New York, it's hard to know what his fantasy value will be until we see where head coach Tom Thibodeau has him in the rotation. It's best to let someone else take the chance on Walker.
Evan Fournier, New York Knicks: Fournier will be the starting shooting guard in New York and with their desperate need of a shot creator, I would expect his numbers to look closer to the 19 points and four assists he averaged with the Magic than the 13 points and three assists he averaged with the Celtics last season.
Dennis Schroder, Boston Celtics: Schroder is another player whose undetermined role will leave a question mark on his fantasy value until he takes the court. Will he be the starting point guard, or will new head coach Ime Udoka go with Marcus Smart? Because of Boston's need for a playmaker and scorer off the bench, and Schroder's ability to do both of those things, he's well worth the swing in the middle rounds of your draft.
Kelly Olynyk, Detroit Pistons: Olynyk was a fantasy revelation once he was traded to the Rockets last season, rewarding owners who scooped him off waivers by averaging 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and nearly two 3-pointers per game in Houston. I wouldn't expect that production in Detroit, but I still believe Olynyk will be worthy of a draft selection and roster spot in his new threads.
Al Horford, Boston Celtics: Horford lands back in Boston after a confusing year in Philadelphia and a short season in Oklahoma City. Don't expect to see Horford average 13 points, seven boards, five assists and a block like the last time he was an All-Star with the Celtics, but the 35-year-old's balanced stat lines across the board will definitely be worthy of a roster spot.
Devonte' Graham, New Orleans Pelicans: Graham gets a change of scenery in New Orleans but his fantasy value should remain the same. With Tomas Satoransky also coming into town, the two will share playmaking duties while still deferring touches to Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Graham will still be a solid source of 3s and assists, though.
Mason Plumlee, Charlotte Hornets: Plumlee was an under-the-radar solid fantasy player last season, even recording a few triple-doubles for the Pistons. He should be the Hornets starting center (even with a talented rookie in Kai Jones looming) and he'll be a beneficiary of playing alongside talented playmakers like LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward. When there's diminishing desirable names remaining on the draft board, give Plumlee a shot.
Kelly Oubre Jr., Charlotte Hornets: Oubre Jr. is another player that falls into the category of needing to see what his role will be before assessing his fantasy value. Owners that selected Oubre last year will likely steer clear after a bizarre season, but he can still score, rebound and knock down 3s at a rate that's worth of a roster spot. Playing alongside Ball will only help his case, and with Hayward's injury history, he could see some time as a starter at some point.
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers: In Cleveland, Rubio will take a backseat to the backcourt of the future in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, but he'll still be worthy of a roster spot in fantasy because of his assists and steals numbers.
Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets: Coming off of leading the Tokyo Olympics in scoring, Mills will look to add a spark to the Nets' bench. With how often Brooklyn's star trio misses games, he's worth taking a flier on in the draft, in case Kyrie Irving or James Harden aren't in the lineup.
The Lakers additions: This goes out to Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Wayne Ellington. The Lakers' new pieces should be considered as a Waiver Wire Super Team, because I'm not convinced any of them will be worth permanent roster spots, but they will all be worth monitoring as streaming options.
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