By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Many big-name fantasy stars stayed put this summer, and trades have failed to materialize for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But, as always, there was enough motion to affect the fantasy landscape. When preparing for drafts, how should you interpret the biggest moves of the offseason?
Minnesota goes massive with Rudy Gobert; what's going on in Utah after Donovan Mitchell trade?
Apparently, it's the summer of dishing out a half-decade's worth of draft picks to bring in a starter for a position where you already have a franchise player. Minnesota handed Utah four first-round picks and depth for Gobert, who plays the same position as Karl-Anthony Towns.
Clearly, Towns is shifting to power forward. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I like him as a power forward on offense. He's an outstanding floor spacer — 40.6 percent from three on 5.0 attempts over the past five seasons — and his relatively basic post play will be more effective against smaller opponents. My guess is he'll be more affected by the trade than Gobert, who is so one-dimensional on both sides of the ball (this is not a slight; he's dominant at what he does) that he has to stay in the role he's been in. Draft Gobert at his usual ADP with confidence.
So, what's in store for Towns? More threes, fewer rebounds, fewer blocks. Out of necessity, he'll be farther away from the rim on both sides of the ball. It won't startle me if this season is his worst from a fantasy perspective (he's never ranked lower than 18th in per-game production). The addition of Gobert plus the clear star upside and development of Anthony Edwards muddies Towns' role and usage. I don't consider him a first-round choice this year.
Let's move now to one of the biggest trades — maybe THE biggest — of the offseason.
After discussions between Utah and New York failed to gain necessary traction, Cleveland emerged as a suitor for the three-time All-Star guard. Mitchell joins a talented young roster with All-Star point guard Darius Garland, All-Star center Jarrett Allen and an extremely promising forward in Evan Mobley. It may take some time for Garland and Mitchell to figure out the give-and-take in usage, but neither player should take a massive hit. Mitchell is coming off his age-25 season with averages of 25.6 points on 45/36/85 shooting, 5.3 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 33.8 minutes. He ranked 18th in fantasy last season on a per-game basis, which figures to take a hit playing next to Garland, but Mitchell has never ranked worse than 44th.
Sexton played in only 11 games last season due to a torn meniscus, but he's said to be fully recovered and should be a full go for the start of training camp. In 2020-21, Sexton enjoyed a career year, posting 24.3 points, 4.4 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.6 threes per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field.
With the Jazz now having moved on from both Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, they appear to be heading into a rebuild. There should be plenty of opportunity for Sexton to flourish.
Markkanen has failed to capitalize on the upside he showed as a sophomore with the Bulls in 2018-19. He ranked 54th in per-game fantasy production that season behind 18.7 points on 43/36/87 shooting, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 32.3 minutes. However, with the rebuilding Jazz, who will presumably aim to feature him and ship out veterans like Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gay, it's possible Markkanen trends closer to those numbers again.
Jalen Brunson gets a new start in New York
An early second-round pick in 2018, Brunson’s development with the Mavericks was steady, but he broke out last season. He started next to superstar Luka Doncic and averaged career highs in his box score stats — 16.3 points, 4.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 0.8 steals in 31.9 minutes. He also slashed an exceptional 50/37/84 and performed well in the playoffs.
Away from the extreme usage of Doncic and with a nine-figure commitment by the Knicks, Brunson is in line for a breakout campaign. Per 36 minutes with Doncic off the floor last season, Brunson averaged 23.3 points, 6.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 0.9 steals. Maybe he won’t reach those heights, but he’s clearly capable of All-Star production when needed. A usage decrease for both RJ Barrett and Julius Randle should be anticipated, but they may become more efficient with less pressure and more open looks from Brunson.
No Brunson means inflated responsibilities for Spencer Dinwiddie, who was acquired at the trade deadline. Tim Hardaway Jr. will also be back after breaking his foot in mid-January and missing the rest of the season. Both players have the potential for back-end standard league relevance, but neither has to be drafted, and they'll probably end up as streaming alternatives in most leagues.
Dejounte Murray tandems with Trae Young; Spurs plunge into rebuild
The Spurs and Hawks are franchises headed in opposite directions, so they decided to help each other out. Atlanta shipped three first-round picks, a draft swap (and Danilo Gallinari, who was waived) to San Antonio for Murray. The point guard was given the reigns of the Spurs offense sans DeMar DeRozan, who left for Chicago, last season and broke out with 21.1 points, 9.2 assists, 8.3 rebounds and a league-leading 2.0 steals.
If you're like me, your first reaction to this trade was, "Wait, did the Hawks just trade for another starting point guard to pair next to Trae Young?" And, yes — that's what they did. Wanting a proven defender in the backcourt next to the matador defense of Young makes sense, but spacing is an issue — Murray is 33.1 percent from deep over the past three years — and does Young intend to play off the ball more?
What seems inevitable is that both players will see a decline in assists, and Murray's usage, especially, should take a hit. Maybe both players will be more efficient, but fantasy managers shouldn't draft either player with the expectation of a career-best season. Risk-averse managers may want to sidestep the situation altogether.
The trade also cemented the Spurs as one of the worst squads in the NBA, but it may be a goldmine for fantasy sleepers. There's a new pecking order, with Keldon Johnson as the new No. 1 option. Devin Vassell should also see augmented usage, and Tre Jones — a relatively anonymous player — will be starting at point guard.
It's not easy to gauge how much of a sleeper he truly is before we get more reliable Average Draft Position data, but he averaged 13.5 points on 48.8 percent shooting, 7.5 assists (1.1 turnovers!), 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 32.7 minutes across his 11 starts. If you're in some early drafts, make sure he doesn't go unselected.
Christian Wood to Dallas unlocks starting job for Alperen Sengun
Houston evidently loves Alperen Sengun as much as fantasy managers, dispatching Wood to Dallas to open up the starting center job. Sengun was intriguing as a rookie, showing upside as a versatile big capable of melding old-school, creative post play — complete with up-and-unders, reverse pivots and everything your dad thinks is "real basketball" — with Jokic-esque passes and a whiff of three-point shooting. As a starter, he averaged 12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 combined steals-plus-blocks in 29.7 minutes.
In theory, Wood should be the No. 2 to Luka Doncic, but coach Jason Kidd is bringing him off the bench while JaVale McGee and Dorian Finney-Smith start. It may satisfy everyone, permitting Wood to have more iso touches and help carry the second unit. But fantasy managers should be concerned. He ranked 74th in per-game production last year in 30.8 minutes with some loose coaching on the rebuilding Rockets. It seems like both his minutes and usage will diminish this year. Taking him in the top 100 is a gamble.
Blazers bolster wing with Jerami Grant
The Pistons were eager to move off Grant, dealing him to the Blazers for a protected first-rounder in 2025. He spent the past two years in the most prominent role of his career, as he led Detroit in points per game in both campaigns and had a 27.2 percent usage rate — the equivalent of James Harden last season.
He'll pull back into a third or fourth option this season, vying for touches with Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic. Portland is shallow, so he shouldn't have to worry about minutes, but fantasy managers can't anticipate him finishing 63rd in per-game production as he did in 2021-22. However, in 2018-19 with the Thunder, playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Grant still managed to rank 100th in 32.7 minutes per game behind 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 assists. He has a high floor.
The starting power forward spot is available in Detroit. Early reports suggest it's a competition between Marvin Bagley and Isaiah Livers. However, it's reasonable to expect Bagley to win since he was given a three-year, $37 million deal in the offseason. His fantasy rank has decreased every season — not good for a 23-year-old! — and he doesn't space the floor for Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey like Livers does.
I plan to avoid that competition entirely and focus on the other forward — Saddiq Bey. Even with unreliable three-point shooting, he averaged 16.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33.0 minutes. His workload is secure, he's young and he's exhibiting potential beyond being just a three-point shooter.
New Celtics sixth man Malcolm Brogdon; table set for Tyrese Haliburton
Giving up just a 2023 first-rounder and fringe rotation components Daniel Theis and Aaron Nesmith, the Celtics acquired a proven asset in Brogdon following an NBA Finals run. He's spent the past three years as a top option in Indiana, averaging 18.9 points, 6.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 33.0 minutes. The catch is that he can't stay healthy, which is why the asking price was so low. The 29-year-old is averaging 55.5 games per season while dealing with persistent lower-body injuries. That, plus an imminent sixth-man role, means that Brogdon's fantasy value is relatively low this season.
The more fascinating story for fantasy is Indiana installing Haliburton as the No. 1 option. The point guard's stats translate excellently to fantasy. He ranked 22nd in per-game production as a sophomore between Sacramento and Indiana, averaging 15.3 points, 8.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals while slashing 47/41/84. With another year of evolution and increased usage, Haliburton is a clear second-round pick in fantasy. He'll frequently construct efficient 20-and-10 performances with steals thrown in.
John Wall is worth the risk for Clippers
Wall hasn't played since April 2020, as the Rockets put him on ice last season while developing Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. Over the summer, Wall arranged a buyout and subsequently finalized a two-year, $13 million pact with the Clippers.
Wall will contend with Reggie Jackson for the starting point guard spot. Wall has the pedigree, but Jackson has familiarity. In the end, it may be semantics — they could split time.
It's tough to gauge Wall's potential. He's entering his age-32 season and has played only 113 games since the start of the 2017-18 season. In 2020-21, he averaged 20.6 points, 6.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals, but he shot just 40/32/75 and ranked a modest 94th in per-game fantasy value. Now, he's two years older and will be sharing touches with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard while fighting for minutes against Jackson.
Wall might be worth a flier at the end of standard drafts, but there's arguably more that could go wrong than right.