6 NBA Free Agents with Big Fantasy Basketball Implications
We’re getting close to that time of year where NBA free agency is about to kick-off. Last year was certainly very exciting, as we saw a lot of old faces end up in new places. Undoubtedly, the biggest move was Kevin Durant heading to Golden State from Oklahoma City. That team is now poised to contend for titles for a few years, despite the fact that both Durant and Stephen Curry are free agents this summer.
I don’t really want to discuss players who are highly unlikely to leave their current situations. For one, it’s very tough to see Stephen Curry not appearing in a Golden State Warriors uniform next year. The same can be said about Kevin Durant. I also want to focus on players who have big-time fantasy impact with wherever they land. This rules out a lot of the smaller time players who could move into bigger roles, because quite frankly the list that we’re going to talk about today is a solid list of either unrestricted free agents or players with player options that they are likely to opt out of this year.
To me, the top player on this list is Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz. Hayward had unquestionably his best season in 2016 – 2017, averaging 21.9 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game. He shot the three ball well and was always there to contribute with steals and blocks and played fairly solid defense as well. He’s coming into free agency at probably the best time he can and will certainly end up with a max deal because of his versatility. At 6 foot 8 inches, he can play small forward, but I also think he can still play a little bit of shooting guard, which is where he played when he came into the league. The biggest question with Hayward is whether or not he will want to stay in Utah. The Jazz definitely jumped forward this year, much of the reason being that they signed George Hill so that this team could finally have a point guard.. He’ll is a free agent and he seems dependent on Hayward staying in Utah to sign there. Ultimately, I think Hayward needs to buy in on Rudy Gobert being able to play at that level consistently, Derrick Favors staying healthy and the team finding some solid support off the bench as Joe Johnson ages.
Then we have Blake Griffin. We’ll put him ahead of his teammate because of the fact that he’s got time on his side. Blake had a solid year at 21.6 points per game, 8.1 rebounds a game and 4.9 assists per game. He often flirted, if not achieved, triple doubles in Chris Paul’s absence and really showed his versatility on the court. Unquestionably, he is an important part of this team. The problem with Blake Griffin is the fact that he is incapable of staying healthy. He is a very talented basketball player and when he is healthy he is probably one of the best in the game, but he is consistently missing games year in and year out and he’s kind of in the same situation that Joe Haden in Cleveland for the Browns is in: He’s in his late-twenties going on 40 because of all of the surgeries. There are a lot of questions about whether or not this Clippers team can win or not because they’ve had solid teams for the past few years and can’t get it done and I’m not sure Blake is willing to stick around to see it to completion.
Next up, we have to talk about Chris Paul. This could very well be the last big contract and the last stand for Chris Paul, but he’s done a very good job thus far proving doubters wrong. Each year we continue to say that this is it for Chris Paul and that he’s going to be on the decline of his career and he comes out and still does what he does. He averaged 18.1 points per game 9.2 assists per game and 5.0 rebounds a game this season. That’s really solid and it does show that he has not lost his step yet. I know that right now it looks like both he and Blake will stay with the Clippers, but we’ve been tricked before in free agency. Paul is going to get a massive contract wherever he goes and quite frankly as long as he doesn’t have someone heating up behind him, he should continue to be a solid point guard that you can trust taking in your fantasy basketball draft.
One of the more interesting names on this list is Kyle Lowry, who enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Lowry was really good this year averaging 22.4 points per game, 7 assists per game and 4.8 rebounds per game. The rapport he has with DeMar DeRozan make them one of the best guard combos in all of the NBA and it would be shocking to see these two separated, but there are a lot of reports coming out that Lowry has a lot of interest in either Philadelphia or San Antonio. If Lowry were to leave Toronto, I think first and foremost it would give a big bump to Cory Joseph and DeMar DeRozan and it could actually have a negative impact on Lowry depending on where he lands. The Philadelphia 76ers have Ben Simmons who they wanted to play point forward, as well as a slew of draft picks that could see them bring in another guard. San Antonio would see him playing second fiddle behind Kawhi Leonard, but perhaps more importantly that offense runs at such a slow pace that his fantasy value would have to take a hit as well. it wouldn’t shock me to see Lowry leave in the offseason, but all things considered I do think we will see him back in a Raptors uniform in the fall.
Paul Millsap has already opted out of his player option to hit the free-agent market. He is going to be interesting because he is the consummate overachiever who just doesn’t get the respect he deserves around the league. That doesn’t mean he won’t get a huge deal, it just means that his signing will probably not be seen as impactful as someone like Hayward or Lowry. He performed exceedingly well in the 2016-2017 season with Al Horford shipped off to the Boston Celtics, achieving 18.1 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game and 3.7 assists per game. When his game is on, he is a true triple-double threat, again another accolade that he never gets enough credit for. There is a possibility he could end up back in a Hawks uniform next year, but it is going to come at a hefty price. In the DFS world, he was often a go to cash game play because of his consistency and that is all to mately what he is going to bring to the table for whatever team takes him next.
The last guy we’re going to talk about here is in this article specifically because I have high hopes for his current team next season. Danilo Gallinari announced yesterday that he was going to opt out of his contract with the Denver Nuggets to pursue the free agency market. This is a tough situation for the Nuggets who are really poised to take a step ahead this year with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray spearheading the campaign, as well as players like Gary Harris and Will Barton who are more than capable of scoring the ball as well. The thing about Gallinari is though he is a very good basketball player, a big forward that has a very vast range. What that amounts to is likely to be a lot of interest in the free agency market as well as a big dollar contract wherever he ends up. Of all the players on the list, something tells me that we are going to see Gallinari in a new uniform next season. His fantasy value will be completely and totally dependent on where that is, but it will be beneficial to those teammates he leaves behind.
This looks like it’s going to be another fun summer for free agency. One of the best things about basketball is that it certainly seems like it starts just as soon as it ends. The NBA Finals will likely make it to the middle of June and roughly only four months after that we will be starting the regular season. I cannot wait as the NBA is easily my favorite sport, and with a strong draft class this season should be better than the ones before, which have been pretty good in themselves.