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Saturday, July 6, 2013
Impact of offseason moves

By John Cregan
Special to ESPN.com

Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap could have a big fantasy season for the Hawks next season.

We've already weighed in on what Dwight Howard's decision to play for the Rockets means from a fantasy perspective. Now let's take a look at the fantasy impact of several other recent free agent signings and trades:

Paul Millsap signs with Hawks for two years, $19M
Kyle Korver signs with Hawks for four years, $24M

Millsap to the Hawks is a move I'm really excited about.

One of the NBA's most criminally underrated assets, Millsap escapes Utah's overcrowded frontcourt rotation to pair up with (the also somewhat underrated) Al Horford. In terms of the variables they present, Millsap and Horford make for an intriguing frontcourt combination. Horford can work the post and the midrange game, while Millsap is evolving into a prototypical stretch 4.

Millsap regressed in 2012-13 thanks to a logjam in Utah's frontcourt that resulted in a reduced role. He logged only 30.1 minutes per game but still produced solid across-the-board numbers (14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 steals, .490 field goal percentage). After two seasons of diminishing returns, Millsap is primed for a return to fantasy prominence in 2013-14.

For an idea of what Millsap can do given a steady diet of 34 minutes per game, his 2010-11 numbers paint the picture: 17.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists (a nice rate for a PF), 1.4 steals, 0.9 blocks, and .531 from the floor to go with a solid .757 from the line.

Before last season, Millsap enthusiasts were teased with preseason reports of his becoming more of a 3-point threat. And while Millsap only averaged 0.5 3-point attempts per game, he hit enough 3-pointers (at a .333 clip) to give fantasy owners hope he'll continue to stretch his range alongside Horford.

With Millsap's special statistical upside getting extended playing time, I'd start thinking about him in the beginning of the fourth round.

Kyle Korver's range is already well established. He was able to nudge his value past a one-category specialist last season thanks to a dramatic increase in minutes per game (up from 22.6 in 2011-12 to 30.5 last season). The boost in minutes lead to Korver's best steals and rebounding rates (0.9 steals, 4.0 rebounds) since his sophomore season in Philadelphia.

He still has next to no competition at small forward, and barring any more free agent moves or trades (a 3 could come back in a sign-and-trade for Josh Smith), events are lining up for Korver to replicate his 2012-13 numbers.

Andre Iguodala signs with Warriors for four years, $48M

This is a banner acquisition for the Warriors, but one of those deals that means more in real-life NBA terms than in fantasy. Iguodala's scoring numbers have been regressing for several seasons, but he's still a nice player to own thanks to the out-of-position production he provides in the assists department. He should start at small forward, (unfortunately) relegating promising fantasy riser Harrison Barnes to the bench. (It's also unlikely the Warriors are done dealing.)

I don't see Iguodala's fantasy numbers improving, not even in the offense-first/defense-last system employed in Golden State. After all, Denver sported a similarly fantasy-friendly attack, but Iguodala's predilection to facilitate kept him bogged down at 13.0 points per game.

And with age, new divots are appearing in Iguodala's fantasy value. Take a look at his disappearing free throw percentage, which inexplicably dipped into big man territory last year at 57 percent.

Free throws aside, Iguodala is still a unique fantasy presence who provides a solid statistical base in multiple categories. He should hold sixth-round value.

Jose Calderon signs with Mavericks for four years, $29M

Darren Collison was a mild disappointment at point guard for the Mavericks last season, so the Mavericks decided to use some of the cap space that had been earmarked for Dwight Howard to upgrade.

Calderon always produces when given playing time (and good health), and should be among the league leaders in assists in 2013-14. He's a solid second-tier fantasy point guard who serves as a nice complement to score-first point guards such as Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.

I like Calderon with the Mavericks, and I like him in the late fifth round in medium-to-deep leagues.

In the meantime, the Mavericks still have cap space to play with, and a superstar with a rapidly closing window in Dirk Nowitzki. I expect the Mavericks to make at least one more personnel-related splash in the next week. (Maybe even signing a certain well-rested center who spent the past season working on his bowling technique?)

O.J. Mayo signs with Bucks for three years, $24M

Mayo turned in a career fantasy season in 2012-13, but my favorite wrinkle in his output was the uptick in assists (4.4 per game). His game-to-game output can be a little erratic, but he's probably going to replace one of the most erratic performers in basketball in Monta Ellis.

With no Ellis or J.J. Redick to cloud Mayo's role, Mayo will figure prominently in Milwaukee's offensive plans and should mesh nicely with Brandon Jennings. The Bucks desperately need scoring and Mayo's not shy about getting his proscribed allotment of shot attempts.

He's still a young player (he turns 26 in November) who showed he could evolve as a Maverick (his field goal percentage improved from .408 to .449 in 2012-13).

An added plus: Despite his solid performance last season, Mayo still comes with some negative baggage that actually works in a fantasy situation (players with negative buzz tend to go a round or two later than they should). New Milwaukee head coach Larry Drew is underrated from a fantasy perspective and will improve the Bucks' numerical prospects across the board.

All in all, I like Mayo to return to the 17-18 points per game range he averaged early in his career. If his improved percentages hold, he'll be worth a late fourth-round pick.

Chris Paul signs with Clippers for five years, $107M
J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley traded to Clippers
Matt Barnes signs with Clippers for three years, $11M

The Clippers are one of the surefire winners of the real-life NBA offseason, but they were a bit of a fantasy buzzkill in 2012-13. Depth can be a wonderful thing, but the Clippers' Marxist approach to roster building means too few minutes -- and fantasy numbers -- for too many quality players.

Chris Paul lost his best backup in Eric Bledsoe, and gained a new coach in Doc Rivers. Both moves should consolidate Paul's grip on Clipper Nation, but his lofty fantasy forecast remains relatively unchanged. Regardless of who backs Paul up, his knees can't take more than 33-34 minutes per game, which will keep him in the 17-point, 10-assist, 2.4 steals per game range.

J.J. Redick's numbers took a massive hit after his trade from Orlando to Milwaukee (from 15.1 points per game to just 12.3). He shot a career-low 32 percent from downtown as a Buck and saw his overall field goal percentage nosedive from 45 percent to 40 percent. After Redick saw his reduced role reduced even further in the playoffs, he was not long for Wisconsin.

Willie Green is still around at SG, but it's hard to see him beating out Redick for his old starting job. Redick's percentages will rebound in Los Angeles, but with Jamal Crawford needing minutes (and touches), he should post just around 13.5 points and two 3-pointers a game.

Don't forget that Redick provides nice under-the-radar boosts in assists (3.8 per game in 2012-13) and free throw percentage (career percentage of 88 percent). He's a top-15 shooting guard in medium leagues and a decent ninth- to 10th-round pick.

I've always been intrigued by Jared Dudley's subtle all-around fantasy production (10.9 points, 1.3 3-pointers, 0.9 steals per game in 2012-13) but he's stuck in another timeshare. If Matt Barnes had left, Dudley would have been a nice late-round grab. But now, I like him as an end-game sleeper in most in medium-to-deep leagues.

Al Jefferson to Bobcats for three years, $41M

The Bobcats sported one of the most anemic NBA frontcourts in memory last season (though Byron Mullens provided some low-end 3-point pop), and Jefferson will provide immediate respectability on the block.

Jefferson will instantly become the focal point of Charlotte's offense and provide young big men Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo a front row seat in how to craft an NBA post game. He's easily one of the top 5 offensive threats at center in fantasy and will improve his stats across the board in 2013-14.

A return to his gaudy Timberwolves-era numbers is within reach (something like the 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks he threw down in 2007-08.)

Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler traded to Suns

Bledsoe gets a fresh start in Phoenix, but has to split time yet again with a very good point guard in Goran Dragic (out of respect to everyone involved, we'll omit Kendall Marshall from the conversation).

If Ye Fantasy Gods had their say, Bledsoe would plug in at shooting guard (where he played at times alongside Paul) and start translating those gaudy per-36 minute averages (14.9 points, 5.4 assists, 1.8 3-pointers, 2.5 steals, 1.3 blocks) into actual production. But that's not happening, at least not for longer than a few minutes per game.

There should still be a way to find 28-30 minutes a night for Bledsoe and Dragic. Based on upside alone, Bledsoe is worth a gamble in the seventh or eighth round.

Andrea Bargnani traded to Knicks
J.R. Smith signs with Knicks for four years, $24.7M

Andrea Bargnani
How will Andrea Bargnani fare in the Knicks' offense next season?

When Bargnani was first shipped south, it was partially characterized as an insurance move in case the Knicks lost J.R. Smith in free agency. Now that Smith is staying, we'll get to see how they co-exist within the same rotation.

I'm predicting a slight post-contract year dip in Smith's numbers. Bargnani will drain some touches away from Smith, but Smith will benefit from the departures of Jason Kidd and Chris Copeland.

One of the reasons Smith had a career fantasy season was his increased rebounding rate (5.3 per game). It's not as if the board-allergic Bargnani will yank rebounds away from Smith.

As long as owners are OK with riding out Smith's dramatic peaks and valleys in production, they'll end up getting about 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.0 3-pointers per game. That's still solid middle-round value.

Bargnani fills an immediate need at power forward, and gets a chance to do some career reclamation after a couple of lost seasons in Toronto. It wasn't too long ago the former No. 1 pick was a rising fantasy star (Bargnani is the kind of offense-only player who fares better in fantasy than in reality.) He had a career year in 2010-11 with 21.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, and 1.2 3-pointers per game.

The thing that makes Bargnani special is his out-of-position 3-point production from the center slot. During his first four seasons, Bargnani averaged around 1.5 blocks and 1.5 3-pointers a game (he shot a career high 41 percent from downtown in 2008-09). He boasted great percentages for a perimeter big man (.825 career free throw percentage) and seemed primed to mature in a unique offensive force.

Then injuries and a lack of confidence derailed his production. Inexplicably, Bargnani's penchant for blocking shots and draining 3s tapered off. I believe a lot of Bargnani's problems lie north of the shoulder blades, and he should benefit from a clean slate.

Bargnani could provide a solid second or third scoring option, and will get more open looks thanks to the attention Anthony demands. Bargnani is capable of averaging 17-18 points per game as a Knick. But due to poor rebounding, he has to up his blocks and 3s to justify anything higher than a ninth-round pick.

Kevin Martin signs with Timberwolves four years, $28M

In the 10 years I've been writing about fantasy basketball, the Timberwolves have never featured solid, consistent fantasy play at shooting guard. They've finally solved that problem with the addition of Martin, who should be able to rebound from a down season (albeit in a supporting role) in Oklahoma City.

The Timberwolves badly need perimeter options to match up with Kevin Love. With Love drawing plenty of defensive attention, I could see Martin returning to his former 18-20 points per game ways. Don't expect Martin to replicate last season's career high .426 3-point percentage, but 2.0 3-pointers per game is well within reach. The late seventh-round feels about right for him.

Tyreke Evans traded to the Pelicans

Evans will plug New Orleans' hole at small forward and provide the kind of production they haven't seen out of that position in a while. The question is, what kind of numbers will Evans bring to the table in his new role?

The very rare fantasy player who can qualify at three positions (PG/SG/SF), Evans' numbers mutate depending on his position. He actually had a nice understated little season in 2012-13, with most of his stats (15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, career high .478 field goal percentage) coming at small forward.

One problem is that when Evans plays the 3, his assists go down, and he loses a little of that numerical edge that makes him special. His other problem (as always) is staying healthy. He managed to play in only 65 games last season, and needs to log 70-75 games to hold his full fantasy value.

New Orleans is quickly building an intriguing lineup that could push for a playoff spot this season, and I'm liking the fantasy possibilities. Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Evans, Ryan Anderson, and Anthony Davis will all be fantasy contributors. Who ends up as the starting center in the post-Robin Lopez era is anyone's guess.

There could still be another move (perhaps involving Anderson) in the offing. More than most teams' preseasons, the Pelicans' preseason will be telling in terms of what to expect fantasy-wise. Right now, I'm guessing Evans will be a solid low-risk, medium-upside gamble in the ninth or 10th round.

Manu Ginobili signs with Spurs for two years, $14M
Tiago Splitter signs with Spurs for four years, $36M
Marco Belinelli signs with Spurs for two years, $6M

Ginobili and Belinelli should combine to form a nice international-flavored timeshare at shooting guard that will diminish both players' fantasy prospects. Ginobili will still hold some late-round value and, if healthy, could be an end-game steal. Despite the drop in his minutes and scoring numbers, his steals, 3-pointers and assists have held remarkably steady.

With a new contract, this could finally be the season Splitter finally realizes his potential and becomes a poor man's J.J. Hickson. That's not an awe-inspiring ceiling, I know, but there is fantasy value to be had if Splitter's minutes climb above 30 per game.

David West re-signs with Pacers for three years, $36M

West was a top-10 power forward last season, but age, a new contract, and Danny Granger's return should keep West from fully duplicating his comeback campaign. He'll still be a solid pick starting around the sixth round (and is still the kind of player I love to have in a utility slot), but I'd expect a 10 percent drop across the board in 2013-14.

Tony Allen resigns with Grizzlies for four years, $20M

Allen is a one-way player, with little fantasy impact.

Earl Clark signs with Cavaliers for two years, $9M

This could hold some fantasy possibilities, as Cleveland will probably mix and match at small forward in the hopes of finding a short-term solution until they re-sign LeBron James next summer. (Yes, I'm extrapolating. But see how natural that sentence felt?)