In the days leading up to the start of free agency on Dec. 9, Damn Lies & Statistics will be taking a look at each team’s potential moves, top fantasy players and more. We’ll start with the Atlantic Division.
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): G Rajon Rondo (2/3), F Paul Pierce (3/4), G Ray Allen (7/8), F Kevin Garnett (8)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F Glen Davis, G Delonte West, F Troy Murphy
Key Restricted Free Agents: F Jeff Green
What to Look For: Boston is a team looking to win right now. Allen and Garnett come off the books for the summer of 2012, so this is it. Unfortunately, since the core of the team is aging and expensive, there are few moves Danny Ainge can make outside of trading an asset like Rajon Rondo. Rumors are already starting to percolate that the Celtics could move Rondo for Chris Paul. Crazier things have happened under Ainge’s reign as GM. For now, the team will likely hope Jeff Green doesn’t get any big offers and try to fit him into a reasonable new deal. Davis is likely gone and West could return on the cheap. With the doddering Jermaine O’Neal as the team’s only center, expect the C’s to grab a few cheap big men. The bottom line is that barring a major trade, the fantasy values are set in stone here. However, we’re very wary of spending high picks on Garnett or Allen, and even Pierce, considering the condensed nature of the 66-game schedule. They will have to be rested regularly and are injury risks.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Let both Davis and Green walk, re-sign West, lure Chuck Hayes on the cheap and maybe use the mid-level on Carl Landry or Tayshaun Prince. Fill out the roster with a Roger Mason or Theo Ratliff, and try to win with this group. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul ain’t walking through that door.
NEW JERSEY NETS
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): G Deron Williams (1/2), C Brook Lopez (2/3), G Anthony Morrow (12)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F Kris Humphries
Key Restricted Free Agents: None
What to Look For: The Nets should be players come Dec. 9, since they have several roster spots to fill, but the key decisions regarding this franchise won’t come until next offseason when Williams becomes a free agent. New Jersey would love to sign Williams and Dwight Howard for their new building in Brooklyn, but there will be plenty of drama and rumors flying before we even get to that point. This season, the key is Williams’ health as he nursed a wrist injury last year that hampered him. He could be in line for a monster year. Lopez must rebound better, and with Humphries potentially gone, he might have to. The Nets could make a run at free agents such as Nene and Jamal Crawford, and could perhaps use their amnesty clause on horrific 2010 signing Travis Outlaw.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: The Nets should do what it takes to get Dwight Howard, and that means not waiting for him to make a decision. Trade Lopez, bodies and picks to Orlando and get D-Will and Superman playing together as soon as possible in front of the New Jersey fans they’d be screwing over by moving to Brooklyn just as things got exciting. Tee-hee.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): F/C Amare’ Stoudemire (1/2), F Carmelo Anthony (2), G Chauncey Billups (4), G Landry Fields (12/13), G Toney Douglas (14/15)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F Shawne Williams, F Jared Jeffries
Key Restricted Free Agents: None
What to Look For: The Chris Paul-to-Knicks talk has already begun and it isn’t likely to stop despite several hurdles in the new collective bargaining agreement that might prevent this marriage from happening. The Knicks will save their money in hopes of luring Paul in 2012, and will likely surround Stoudemire, Anthony and Billups with one-year-deal cheap help. Anthony could go bananas this year and challenge for the league scoring title. There are concerns about Stoudemire’s back, as well as the hit his stat line takes playing a full season with Melo. Billups is certainly capable of providing excellent fantasy value in this offense, but expect Douglas to get plenty of run as an energy backup and sixth man.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: The Knicks are going to have trouble getting CP3 with no assets, so unless Melo and Amare’ want to restructure their contracts, it is going to be the three of them and 10 minimum-wage scrubs going in 2012-13. Lose Paul from your sights and focus on picking up a real center: Nene. He can defend and doesn’t need the ball in his hands. Then, use leftover money to convince Steve Nash to take a pay cut next summer and play for a title with D’Antoni.
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): G/F Andre Iguodala (3), G Jrue Holiday (4), F Elton Brand (6), G Evan Turner (12), G Louis Williams (13)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: None
Key Restricted Free Agents: F Thaddeus Young, C Spencer Hawes
What to Look For: It would be surprising if the Sixers let both Young and Hawes walk, but it isn’t entirely clear what direction this team is going in. This is probably the year Holiday becomes the team’s most reliable fantasy player, but there is almost too much depth here with Williams, Turner and Jodie Meeks. What is Philadelphia going to do with Iguodala? It hasn’t traded him by now, so who knows what’s next for this roster. Being free of Iguodala would solidify the roles of Turner and Young and make them fantasy-worthy in most leagues. Both are worth fliers, but there are just too many minutes to spread around to this team’s guards and wings.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Philly needs to give playing time to Turner, so it’s time to move Iggy. Offer him to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan and enter the year with a young, burgeoning center. Let Hawes walk. Re-sign Young as a super backup at the three and four, and hope he’s ready to slide into Elton Brand’s spot when Brand is a free agent next summer.
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): C Andrea Bargnani (5), G DeMar DeRozan (6/7), G Jose Calderon (10/11), F Amir Johnson (12), F Ed Davis (13)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: None
Key Restricted Free Agents: F Reggie Evans
What to Look For: It could be a long year in Toronto as top draft pick Jonas Valunciunas won’t join the team until 2012-13. Ouch. From a fantasy perspective, DeRozan is the one guy to get excited about as he should average around 20 points per game if not more and become a more productive all-around player. Davis is a deep sleeper but should split minutes with Johnson most nights, to the consternation of all of us. Johnson is worth a flier in deep leagues as well for his shot-blocking ability, but he has disappointed many times before. Calderon is the king of the nagging injury, so pardon us if we aren’t thrilled about owning him in a 66-game season featuring tons of back-to-back games. Be on your toes and grab Jerryd Bayless if Calderon goes down.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Outside of getting Valunciunas over here now, the Raptors don’t have much hope. Time to start making decisions. Is Bargnani the answer long-term? I’m skeptical, so I’d dangle him on the open market. Johnson too, as Ed Davis needs to start getting 30+ minutes a night. The Raps should set their sights on Wilson Chandler as they need some punch at small forward. Maybe Denver will take Johnson in a sign-and-trade since Chandler is stuck overseas and the Nuggets are potentially desperate for capable big men. What does Toronto have to lose? And if Chandler is willing to play in China, he’d be willing to sign a long term deal in Toronto.