“The circus begins!” – ESPN, Brian Windhorst
The circus he’s referring to is NBA Free Agency. Discussions with players and teams started on Friday, June 30, at 6 p.m. Eastern. However, deals can be agreed upon in principle, but nothing becomes official until July 6. Gone are the days of players barricading doors to influence another player’s decision on where to sign. And the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement surely has franchises hesitant to make reckless long-term commitments (hello, Mr. Mozgov). That doesn’t mean free agency won’t be entertaining. There’s already been a host of salary cap casualties, superstars wanting out or just looking for a new place to call home. Stay tuned as I’ll keep tabs on the notable free-agent movements and acquisitions relevant to fantasy basketball.
The undrafted former All-Star and NBA Champion is swimming in cash after agreeing to a three-year, $130M contract Friday. He’ll be given the keys to a rebuilding franchise that lacks a veteran presence, and Houston will get its money’s worth. VanVleet finished just outside the top 15 in fantasy last season, and as the lead man, a top-20 finish is certainly in the cards. He’s a dependable point guard to anchor your team in points, assists, threes and steals.
The market for Uncle Drew isn’t what it could’ve been, but who cares, because he got paid, and he’s shown he can flourish with Luka Dončić. I’ve said it many times before — Irving is one of the most efficient guards in the league, and for 9-cat leagues warrants a late first-round pick or, worst case, early second-round, with no hesitation.
I mentioned Green and Khris Middleton (more on him shortly) as players that should stay with their current teams to preserve their fantasy values. Green returns to the Warriors on a team-friendly four-year, $100M contract that extends the Warriors’ championship window a bit longer.
Green was right on the cusp of being a top 100 player, so while his best years are behind him, fantasy managers can still get some assists, steals and rebounds out of Dray — but don’t expect much more than a triple-single.
I like this move for Middleton because his future is tied to an Eastern Conference contender. Playing with perennial MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez (more on him below) should make life easier for him and he is a player I’d expect to return to his top 60 status next season. Hopefully, his injury issues are behind him.
Brook Lopez – C, Milwaukee Bucks
Splash Mountain makes his return to the Bucks and the championship core extends their championship window a bit longer after Khris Middleton signed a four-year deal on Friday. Lopez balled out last season, finishing 11th in per-game value. He was one of my biggest misses of the ’22-23 season and he should be one of the top bigs off the board in drafts for his ability to knock down threes and be among the league leaders in blocks.
The small-ball era ended in Toronto once Poeltl came through in a mid-season trade last year, and he made enough of an impression to be a part of their future plans. His fantasy value remains intact, and a top-80 finish is still in play. He’ll be a solid center to target in the seventh and eighth rounds next season.
He closed the ’22-23 season as the 99th-ranked player in 9-cat leagues. He’s a prime candidate to see more than 30 minutes per night, and being the point guard paired with Victor Wembanyama is very enticing. Plus, he carries one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the league. He’s underrated, and last year’s eighth-round ADP is likely too low.
“Just got paid, Friday night … Party huntin’, feelin’ right.” I know Grant has to be on one after landing a substantial five-year deal worth $160M to stay in Portland. He was a top 70 player last season and should have no issue repeating that performance whether the Blazers decide to hit reset or build around Damian Lillard.
Cap space was dwindling around the league, so Kuz’s decision to re-sign with the Wizards is a savvy move financially and preserves his fantasy value. He’s still an inefficient 20-point scorer, but he’s evolved into a solid rebounder and distributor.
Kristaps Porzingis’ departure opens up more scoring potential, even alongside newly acquired G Jordan Poole. Plus, usage won’t be an issue. Kuz finished 136th in 9-cat leagues last year, and I’d expect him to put up better counting stats, given the talent on the Wizards’ roster.
Johnson re-signs with the Nets on a four-year, $108M deal, and fantasy managers should be ecstatic. He finished 53rd last year after splitting his time in Phoenix and Brooklyn, but after signing a significant contract, it’s evident he’ll have a major role in the future.
He slots in as Brooklyn’s second option on offense (behind Mikal Bridges), and fantasy managers can look forward to spending a mid-round pick on a budding talent who scores efficiently, shoots 40% from three and can get over a steal per game. Don’t expect to draft Johnson outside the top 100 picks ever again.
Jones stays with the Pelicans after signing a four-year, $54M contract. The Pelicans have plenty of wings, but no one comes with Jones’ defensive pedigree.
He finished just outside of the top 100 in fantasy last season, and hopefully, his minutes will climb over 30 to improve on his second-year numbers of 9.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists with 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 47/34/76 shooting splits. His eligibility at three different positions provides a nice boost to his fantasy value as well.
It must be nice to win an NBA championship one day and get $20M+ less than a month later. Brown joins a young Pacers team looking for a change in the backcourt after trading Chris Duarte to Sacramento. Brown’s arrival likely impacts Andrew Nembhard‘s value the most.
With the amount of money coming Brown’s way, I’d also expect sufficient playing time to come. His multi-positional eligibility is great for fantasy purposes, and he’s one of the early winners of free agency thus far.
The Lakers were wasting no time building their depth in free agency after getting swept in the Western Conference Finals. On Friday, Vincent, formerly of the Miami Heat, agreed to a three-year, $33M deal. He presumably would have been the Lakeshow’s new starting point guard if not for another signing (more on that below). That said, if he gets minutes in the high 20s or low 30s, he could emerge as an asset in the tail end of drafts, specializing in threes made and steals.
D’Angelo Russell (PG/SG) – Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers continue to spend wisely in free agency, re-signing Russell to a two-year, $37M deal. He finished the ’22-23 season with the Lakers posting similar numbers to his time with the Timberwolves — 17 points with three rebounds and six assists. However, he improved his efficiency across his 17 games in LA, shooting 48% from the field and 41% from three. If this trend continues, he could outperform his ADP next season. The move likely downgrades Vincent to a bench role, limiting his appeal as a late-round pick.
I was hoping Barnes would sign elsewhere for Keegan Murray’s sake, but a reunion with the Kings makes a lot of sense, considering the team’s trajectory.
He was a major part of their success this season, but fantasy-wise, I’d bucket him along with Tobias Harris as a player I won’t be targeting in drafts.
Rui Hachimura – SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers GM Rob Pelinka rewarded Hachimura’s productive postseason play with a three-year deal worth $51M. While Hachimura’s play stood out in real-life, fantasy is a different story. He closed the season 286th in per-game value and only averaged 10 points per game in 33 games as a Laker (down from 13 ppg with Washington).
He’s not much of a rebounder and provides next to no assists or defensive stats. He could carve out more than 22 minutes per night, but he’d only be useful for spot starts or if you need scoring off waivers.
Remember when he fumbled the bag a few years ago? He restored his value enough to ink a two-year, $26M deal to join the Raptors. If the Raptors don’t make any additional moves, he’ll compete with Malachi Flynn, whose largely been disappointed in his first three seasons behind ex-Raptor Fred VanVleet.
I’m not itching to add Schroder, but he can contribute to steals, scoring and assists in 12-team leagues (assuming he remains the starting point guard). It’s also possible that this move signals Scottie Barnes or Pascal Siakam to take more command of the offense.
Morris was traded from the Washington Wizards to the Detroit Pistons on Friday for a second-round pick. With Morris out of the way, this is terrific news for Tyus Jones‘ stock, as that’s one less point guard to compete with for minutes.
On the flip side, Morris’ value remains neutral as he’ll become the backup point guard to Cade Cunningham. Killian Hayes‘ days in the D are numbered after the Pistons acquired Morris, a veteran PG with an exceptional assist-to-turnover ratio and a better track record in fantasy.
Caris LeVert SG/SF – Cleveland Cavaliers
LeVert re-signed with the Cavs after playing in 74 games (starting in 30) and averaging 12 points with almost four rebounds and four assists in over 30 minutes per night. He finished 156th in per-game value, and if he can improve his efficiency from the field, he’d flip his profile of a late-round waiver guy.
Joe Harris – SG/SF, Detroit Pistons
The career 43% 3-point shooter will fit well with a Pistons team that desperately needs a consistent threat on the perimeter. Harris is a good source of threes but likely belongs in the waiver pool. I really mentioned Harris because 20+ minutes just opened up for Cam Thomas, a player who could emerge as a late-round pick.
Chris Duarte (PG/SG) – traded to Sacramento Kings
Seth Curry (PG/SG) – signed with Dallas Mavericks (again)
Julian Champagnie (SG) – signed with San Antonio Spurs
Victor Oladipo (SG/SF) – traded to Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Love (PF/C) – re-signed with Miami Heat
Taurean Prince (SF/PF) – signed with Los Angeles Lakers
Cam Reddish (SF/PF) – signed with Los Angeles Lakers
Derrick Rose (PG) – signed with Memphis Grizzlies
Shake Milton (PG/SG) – signed with Minnesota Timberwolves
Nickeil Alexander-Walker (SG/SF) – signed with Minnesota Timberwolves
Troy Brown (SF/PF) – signed with Minnesota Timberwolves
Joe Ingles (SF/PF) – signed with Orlando Magic
Georges Niang (SG/SF) – signed with Cleveland Cavaliers
Jevon Carter (PG/SG) – signed with Chicago Bulls
Coby White (PG/SG) – re-signed with Chicago Bulls
Damion Lee (SG/SF) – re-signed with Phoenix Suns
Drew Eubanks (PF/C) – signed with Phoenix Suns
Keita Bates-Diop (PF) – signed with Phoenix Suns
Chimezie Metu (C) – signed with Phoenix Suns
Oshae Brissett (SF/PF) – signed with Boston Celtics