James Naismith is probably rolling over in his grave right now. The NBA and NBPA have been fighting for over 130 days on the new labor agreement and it's safe to say that there's a good chance we might not even have a season. Fantasy basketball owners have been familiarized with B.R.I more than they have dreamed and last we checked, that's not a fantasy stat. It's really been a while since we actually had news that relates directly to fantasy basketball, so with that in mind, let's revisit the last gem before the lockout.
Approximately 10 hours before the looming lockout occurred, the Kings and Cavs gave the NBA fantasy world a nice little going-away present. Sacramento sent small forward Omri Casspi to Cleveland in exchange for power forward J.J. Hickson and a conditional first-round pick.
There are a lot of implications from this trade since the Kings had a surplus in the small forward department and adding some new personnel to the fold. The Cavaliers could afford to lose J.J. Hickson after acquiring Texas product Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick in the NBA Draft. It was the last important piece of news, so let’s discuss which players were affected by the June 30th transaction:
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J.J. Hickson- Hickson had a breakout year last season thanks largely to the decimated frontcourt rotation of the Cavaliers, headlined by Anderson Varejao, who missed the last four months of the season with a torn ligament in his right ankle. The NC State product was a red-hot sleeper during draft season, but was let loose in several leagues for his inconsistent minutes during the first couple months. He became the one-man wolfpack by flipping the switch, averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds during the calendar year of 2011 (last 50 games).
Despite the nice production in the points and rebounds, Hickson wasn’t too helpful in the other fantasy categories. He was very inefficient from the floor by shooting just 45 percent at an 11.7 shot-per-game clip on the season. That’s not good for a player that takes the bulk of his shots near the basket. J.J. wasn’t dy-no-mite with his free throw percentage for his roto owners with just 67.3 percent converted from the stripe. Hickson also saw his defensive stats disappear by averaging just 0.5 BPG in the final two months of the year.
At first glance, one might think that Hickson’s value takes a big hit based on how there are not enough shots to go around with all of their young offensive-minded players. However, while Hickson’s strengths figure to take an inevitable dive, his weaknesses could see a nice increase, excluding free throw percentage. Hickson will be able to guard fours and be able to help on the weak side much more often, which could lead to hitting the 1.0-BPG threshold. Plus, with less pressure on him offensively, he should have no problem getting his percentage from the field in the 48-to-50 neighborhood.
Hickson’s upside does have a fairly low cap on it with the increased talent level around him though. That should cause him to slide into the second half of a standard draft in eight-cat leagues. The value is there and he could easily outperform an ADP like that as a player with eligibility at the four and five.
Omri Casspi- Casspi had a knack for being a recommended waiver-wire add for several stretches during the season. He gets hot in a flash with the range from three to go with respectable rebounding numbers. It’s not really much of a head-scratching conundrum to figure out the up-and-down season is due to Francisco Garcia’s bum calf and likelihood of Cisco missing games.
Casspi’s season averages weren’t exactly of the eye-popping variety with 8.6 points, 4.3 boards, 1.3 triples and 0.8 steals to go with hideous percentages of 41.2 from the field and 67.3 from the line. Oy vey! He had most of his value in non-shallow leagues during January and February with 10 PPG, six RPG, 1.5 3PM and 0.9 SPG. Not too shabby even the percentages were pulling owners down over his 30 MPG in that span.
The Israeli heads to arguably the weakest rotation spot in the league and immediately becomes the favorite at the small forward this season. The Cleveland small forward slot was so weak (how weak was it?!), it was so weak that Alonzo Gee finished the year as the starter. Gee was jettisoned by the Wizards and Spurs last year during the season. Christian Eyenga was recently extended for the next season and was a blip on the fantasy radar with his exciting style of play, but he is definitely not the answer.
The Kings’ inside-out thinking didn’t suit Casspi. They were ranked just 25th in the league in threes made, despite coming in as the 14th-highest in PPG as a team. Now that he’s on the Cavs, Baron Davis and Kyrie Irving are much more apt to be the drive-and-dish facilitators that could help Casspi make around two threes per game. He will have to improve on his shooting numbers to really become a true asset in all eight-cat leagues, but fantasy is all about maximizing talent based on opportunity and Casspi’s chance doesn’t get much more attractive than this one.
The Other Guys
Samuel Dalembert- Sammy D figures to be one of the Febreeze Brothers since he will likely be getting a fresh start with another team. He is an unrestricted free agent and there has been interest from multiple teams to acquire his services. Miami and New York, two teams with huge voids at the five, seem to be the most likely destinations. Dalembert is one of the better centers on the defensive end with his skills as a shot blocker, thus he could become a very nice pick in the late-middle rounds provided the right situation occurs.
Jason Thompson- It’s time to face the facts. Jason Thompson went to Rider University. The former Bronc has been overachieving his whole career and now that the Kings have J.J. he will find himself firmly on the bench. Thompson’s minutes fell from 31.4 MPG in the ‘09-’10 season down to 23.3 last season. While there is no denying that Thompson has been a nice piece of the fantasy puzzle, there is not much upside here and owners would be better suited on rolling the dice on someone else in the last rounds.
John Salmons- It’s looking pretty obvious that John Salmons is going to be the big fish in the little pond at the three. The problem is that Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton will be doing most of the scoring on the perimeter. He can fill up multiple categories, but it’s not really worth a pick earlier than 115 to find out how large of a role he’ll get on the offensive end.
Francisco Garcia- Cisco, like Casspi, was often discussed in the fantasy world for his sudden production. He has been very helpful in the three-pointer category with 1.4 made per game last year. The bombs were complimented by above-average block totals for a wing guy with 0.9 per game.
Of course, there’s not a whole lot to like about the Louisville Struggler now that John Salmons is back in town. Garcia could see more time at shooting guard though, and might be a useful man off the bench. It’s also not a given that Jimmer Fredette is going to click right away. There are worse picks to take at the end of your draft than Garcia.
Tristan Thompson- Everybody loves rookies (especially me) and with this trade there is a whole lot to like about Tristain Thompson. He sort of resembles a guy like Derrick Favors since he has the right body and quickness to be an offensive big in the league. Thompson shot 55 percent from the field at Texas last year and really felt at home in the paint. By comparison, Derrick Favors shot 61 percent from the field in the softer ACC, then he shot a respectable 52 percent on the season as an NBA rookie.
The word on the street is that the Cavs really like what he can do for them and that evidence was supported today by Hickson being dealt. Furthermore, the endorsement of Thompson can also been seen by the lack of depth at the four and five. The Cavs leaned on Samardo Samuels heavily before he injured his wrist. Samardo Samuels.
There is a very good chance that someone reaches for Tristan, but given how raw he really is, to go with the absolutely disgusting 49 percent from the charity stripe he posted last year, it’s not really worth grabbing him before the 160th pick in eight-cat leagues. Although he could have a nice stretch after the All-Star Game with Cleveland likely to be terrible yet again and looking to deal players like Antawn Jamison’s expiring contract at the deadline.
Anderson Varejao- Varejao will now be tagged as an injury risk for the next handful of seasons due to the increased likelihood of him aggravating his right ankle. However, the Cavs have him signed for the next three seasons with a team option for the fourth, so it’s clear that he is a big part of their plans. The Brazilian’s only healthy month last season was December and he turned in a tidy line of 9.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG and 1.1 SPG in 32.5 minutes per contest. Those are big numbers that would make even an Amazonian woman jealous.
The injury risk will be there, but there is a huge upside for a guy that did show he can produce while he was healthy last season. Owners should not forget about Andy during the late-middle rounds.
Antawn Jamison- Jamison, and his huge $15 million salary for the ‘11-‘12 season, now becomes the clear-cut leader in the frontcourt to carry the scoring burden. Jamison broke his finger to end his season after putting up must-start averages including 18 points, 6.7 boards, 0.8 steals and 1.6 from downtown in 33 MPG. Jamison is not going to be a sexy pick during draft season, so it’s very possible he slides to the 85th pick or so in several leagues. Beware of the fact that he will be traded and suffer a sizeable decline with a new team, so he will be a prime sell-high candidate once he shows what he can do.
I seriously can't wait for the NBA season. If you've been following my coverage for the NFL, I actually have a much deeper basketball background in covering fantasy sports (even though I've played fantasy football longer). I'm looking forward to being your main man for fantasy basketball news and please don't be bashful about picking my brain on Twitter for strategy (a column should be coming soon.. Hopefully).
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