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How NBA Free Agency Will Impact Fantasy

Plenty of players changed teams this summer, so who improved their fantasy basketball value and hurt theirs?

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The NBA draft wrapped up a month ago and most of the top free agents have been off the board for at least a week now, which means teams have more or less made all of the major roster moves that they’re going to make this offseason. For fans of the game, things are settling in.

For fans of the virtual game, however, things are just now starting to heat up. Now that we know who’s landing where, we can look at how some of these additions and subtractions will affect players’ value in the world of fantasy hoops.

Here are a few players who should see an uptick in value, and a handful that might not be as draftable as we’d like:

Value Boost:

Chris Bosh, Miami HEAT – While the Miami HEAT will undoubtedly be worse off without LeBron James on the roster, Bosh’s value is sure to shoot through the roof as the unquestioned best player on the team. Back when he served that role for the Toronto Raptors, Bosh was one of the league’s better all-around fantasy players, his best season coming the year before bolting for South Beach. In 2009-10, he averaged 24 PPG and 10.8 RPG, with 1.0 BPG, 2.4 APG and a .518 FG%, all excellent numbers that put him in the conversation for a first-round draft pick.

Some of those numbers have held strong since moving to Miami, and obviously his three-point attempts have gone way, way up (from 0.3 in 2009-10 to 2.8 last season), but Bosh’s numbers have, in the last two years, been only about 60% as good as they were when he was leading the charge in Toronto. Bosh still shoots at a high clip, but takes more threes and gets more steals than he used to. If he can boost his points, rebounds and assists back up, he’ll be one of the nicer all-around fantasy picks in the league next season.

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers – It’s hard not to improve upon a season in which Noel didn’t play a single NBA minute, but this pseudo-rookie looks absolutely primed to dominate in his first season with the ho-hum Sixers. He had a monster Summer League and it looks like he’ll put up very good numbers in terms of blocks and rebounds next year. Honestly, Philadelphia doesn’t have much going on in the front court right now, so Noel should play a ton of minutes and accrue some decent offensive stats, too, if only by attrition. He’s going to play, he looks healthy and he has the skill set of the No. 1 overall pick he would have been had he not torn his ACL in college. He’ll put up numbers on a bad team, just like Michael Carter-Williams did last year.

Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets – Beverley made huge strides in his second year in the league, averaging 10.2 PPG, 1.6 3PT and 1.4 SPG in 31.3 MPG for Houston. Now, with the only other real point guard on the roster in Jeremy Lin getting shipped to L.A. in a failed attempt to land another big free agent, that should only mean more minutes for Beverley and a larger role as the team’s primary point guard. He’s never averaged more than 2.9 APG, but he’s proven he can contribute in other ways. As his assists number rise, hopefully to the 5 APG range, he’ll become an increasingly valuable fantasy asset.

No Change:

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers – It’s hard for the best player in the game to get better on a new team. LeBron’s move was the story of the summer, but in terms of fantasy he’ll still be one of the top two players in the game next year.

Value Drop:

Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns – Definitely one of the most underrated players in the game last year, Thomas was a deep-draft point guard who brought more value than anybody expected, putting up 20.3 PPG, 6.3 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG and 1.8 3PM. Those numbers aren’t sustainable in Phoenix, however, because it looks like he’ll be part of a three-headed point guard monster along with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Rookie Tyler Ennis probably won’t have a huge role next year, but he’s yet another point guard on the Phoenix roster, so big minutes are going to be harder to come by. Thomas is still a great player, but he’s more likely to put up reserve numbers than starter numbers this year. The only way that would change is if Bledsoe ended up on a different roster, which doesn’t look particularly likely at this point.

Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls – Gasol had a solid season for the Lakers last year when he was healthy, posting 17.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1.5 BPG, but that was on a team in which there was no Kobe Bryant and really no other consistent scorer to help him shoulder the offensive burden. Frankly, he was the team’s best player a year ago, but in Chicago he’ll be a little further down the totem pole. The general belief is that Gasol will get Carlos Boozer’s minutes, with Taj Gibson likely to see an increased role and still plenty of fourth quarter minutes alongside Joakim Noah. With rookie Nikola Mirotic in the mix in the frontcourt, too, it’s more likely that Tom Thibodeau uses Gasol sparingly, meaning 31-35 minutes per night isn’t likely. We’re probably looking at something more in the 24-27 range, which means an inevitable dip in stats.

Lance Stephenson, Charlotte Hornets – For the first two-thirds of last season, Stephenson was an absolute fantasy steal, getting snatched up in late rounds or even off of waivers in some instances. With a handful of triple-doubles and some monster all-around statistical outpourings, he was a fantasy force, but like the rest of the Indiana Pacers he really crashed back down to earth after the All-Star break. In Charlotte he’ll get a fresh start, but as part of a really crowded backcourt that already includes Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker and Gary Neal. Plus, Charlotte drafted P.J. Hairston, who also will be part of that rotation. It was a tremendous bargain for the Hornets to get Stephenson at so reasonable a price tag, but his ADP may not prove to be quite the same bargain.

We’ll have more fantasy coverage here at Basketball Insiders as the season draws nearer, but for now, these are the offseason moves that should have the biggest fantasy impact.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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