LeBron James, Cleveland – The whole offseason revolved around where LeBron James would end up and by now you’ve heard he chose Cleveland. Can you blame him? A declining Dwyane Wade and mutated mid-range specialist Chris Bosh were no longer LeBron’s best chance to win. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are a better duo at this moment in time than Wade and Bosh. Period. LeBron proved in Miami that no matter how many superstars he plays around, he’s going to put up dominant numbers. He is a plus in just about every single Fantasy statistic aside from maybe free throw shooting. LeBron is going to get his no matter the situation, so do not fret. After Kevin Durant is selected first in every single Fantasy league, it will be the owner’s choice as to whether they decide to go LeBron or Anthony Davis.
Kevin Love, Cleveland – Love, the master behind some of the most unique box scores ever posted (including the first 30-30 game since 1982), followed LeBron to Cleveland in the
offseason via trade. He went from being “the man” in Minnesota to playing second fiddle to LeBron. As one of the top two rebounders in the game, there’s no reason to fear a decline in the category. Last year he produced a career high in assists, which should not be affected by the move to a better team. No, the biggest fear with Love switching situations would be a drop in points. Love is set to play the role of number two scorer as opposed to number one. Expect to see at least a two point drop in average points per game (PPG) due to the change in roles. He will still warrant a Top 10 overall pick due to the dominance in rebounds combined with the threes, but expect a slight decline.
Chandler Parsons, Dallas – Houston decided Parsons’ cap hit would handicap their ability to build a competitive roster for years to come. For that reason, they ultimately declined to match his offer sheet and sent him packing to Dallas. The Mavericks are an interesting fit, considering one of their top scoring options, Dirk Nowitzki, is nearing 40 years old (36) and on the decline. Monta Ellis can score with the best of them, but that duo is not quite as potent as Dwight Howard/James Harden, who Parsons became used to playing with. Scoring is just one aspect of Parsons’ multi-faceted game and more of the intrigue with him is the ability to do a little of everything. Like the Rockets, Dallas has a dominant center patrolling the inside and rebounding at an elite level in Tyson Chandler. Therefore, Parsons’ defensive responsibilities (not needing to help defend the paint) and rebounding potential should stay almost identical. Dallas can use his shooting every bit as much as Houston, so I would expect the 3’s to stay around two per game. Just like LeBron, Parsons will move into a situation where not much should change. If you loved him before, you will love him again this upcoming season and beyond. Do not change the way you value Parsons because of this move.
Trevor Ariza, Houston – Ariza is one of those strange players whose production wavers every single year. The only time since 2005 that Ariza’s PPG did not change by more than 1.0 per game was from 2010 to 2011 (11.0 PPG to 10.8 PPG). Every other season, his points have fluctuated by a rather significant amount. In terms of points-per-36 minutes, Ariza’s 13 PP36 are rather consistent, so the wide variety of scoring outputs is due to minute distributions. Presumably, with Parsons gone, Ariza will be given all the minutes he can handle. Last year’s 35.4 MPG were his highest since 2009 (36.5). If he can finally go back to back seasons with this level of playing time, the points should not waver. However, 6.2 rebounds per contest were a career high last season, and I doubt he reaches that mark again. Dwight Howard finished eighth in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage last season. The majority of Ariza’s increased rebounding output came from DREBs (career high 4.9) while the OREBs were just the sixth highest total of his career (1.3) on a per game basis. So, with Dwight around, and even Terrence Jones, Ariza’s rebounds should revert back to around his career average of 4.6. Ariza is no more than a middle of the road Fantasy asset whose value relies mostly on his three-point shooting and steals. Again, last season, his three point output was nearly double his previous career high and it was his tenth NBA season. Sure, Houston is a fast paced offense but expecting 2.0 3-plus PM once again this season is a longshot. If you draft him thinking you’re getting around 12 PPG, 1.5 3PM and 1.5 STL then you shall not be disappointed. Projecting a repeat of last year is the Fantasy basketball version of betting on a longshot horse.
Pau Gasol, Chicago – Leaving a terrible, fast-paced offensive team for a very competitive, slow-paced offensive team makes for a tough case to project. On the one hand, the team likely will not get blown out on many occasions. Therefore, he should stay in almost all the games for his normal allotment of minutes and produce. On the other hand, there will not be as many points to be scored for his team. As the pace of a game is slower, there are fewer overall rebounding opportunities also. Furthermore, Joakim Noah is as good, if not a better passer in the post and demands that a lot of the offense runs through him. Two well-rounded, excellent passing big men will be great for real life purposes but may affect Gasol’s assist totals. All in all, the pace has to lower his scoring output, which, on a per-36 minute basis was his highest total in five years. The Bulls need a number one scoring option, assuming Derrick Rose isn’t at 100 percent and a number two scorer at worst. My fearless projection for him next season is 17.0 PPG, 8.7-9.3 REB and around 3.2 AST; all are slight downtrends from last year’s numbers.
Luol Deng, Miami – In Cleveland, Luol Deng could not believe his eyes as to what he saw in practice. Deng had been used to the competitive nature in Chicago and walked into disarray with the Cavaliers. “The stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.” For that reason, Deng must have been happy to go back to a competitive situation in the offseason. Coach Erik Spoelstra expects a winner even sans LeBron and Deng will play a big role in the team’s success. He played the role of Chicago’s number one scoring option before his move to Cleveland last season and succeeded. 19 PPG, which he produced in 23 games with the Bulls, would have been his career high if he sustained the number (previous high was 18.8). The number plummeted in Cleveland down to 14.3. Heading to Miami, he will be counted on as the team’s number three scorer when Dwyane Wade is on the court. However, Wade’s knees are deteriorating and will need his maintenance days, so Deng will have his days as the number two scorer. His career average of 16 PPG seems about right along with about half a 3-pointer, decent amount of rebounds, about three assists and one STL. He’s a high floor, solid mid-round option. At age 29, you know just about what you are getting at this point from Deng.
Jeremy Lin, Los Angeles Lakers – Turnstile defender Jeremy “Linsanity” has one again switched his home base. Lin heads out west to a Lakers situation where only a 41-year old, injury prone Steve Nash sits in his way of playing time. Nash is feeling better this season than last (which isn’t saying much), so maybe he stays on the court a little bit more. Byron Scott did say he likes what Jeremy Lin brings to the team, and hinted he will give him “ample playing time” this year. If the team has any prayer of keeping Nash healthy, they’ll have to keep him around 20 MPG. That leaves a lot of time for Lin to be on the floor running the offense (along with Kobe Bryant). The team will be somewhat improved on defense (allowed 109.2 PPG last season or second behind only Philadelphia’s 109.9) but not enough to avoid habitual shootouts. They will still be one of the last few teams in points allowed per game and will need to put up points to compete. The team’s fast-paced nature will mesh nicely with his Fantasy friendly game which includes a healthy amount of steals and threes. He should continue to score in the low to mid-teens as he has in the past three seasons. His assists dipped last season (4.1) from 6.2 and 6.1 the prior two years. If he sees around 30 MPG, he’ll be one of those guys better in Fantasy than reality. He’s worth a late round flier if for no other reason than he’ll see minutes in a solid situation for Fantasy production.
BONUS: SAME FACE, NEW SITUATION
Chris Bosh, Miami – Having LeBron exit stage left sets Bosh up for a much larger role in the offense. Dwyane Wade has re-signed with the team but his knee is in its final phase. Luol Deng enters the equation but he’s really more of a number three scoring option for an excellent team anyway. Therefore, Bosh will need to put the offense on his shoulders plenty this season. During his time with the Raptors, he was one of the elite scorers in basketball. From 2005 (Bosh’s third NBA season) to 2009, Bosh played 353 games for Toronto. During that period, Bosh averaged a gaudy 22.81 points per game on 50.0 percent field goal shooting. The second highest scoring players on the team were (by year, starting at 2005): Mike James (20.3 PPG), T.J. Ford (14.0 PPG), Anthony Parker (12.5 PPG), Andrea Bargnani (15.4 PPG) and Bargnani again in 2009 (17.2 PPG). Wade, even hobbled, is a better scorer than any of those former Bosh teammates. Still, Bosh will have an opportunity to bring his scoring up to at least give the 20 PPG mark a run for its money. Some experts tweeted that their expectations were for Bosh to return to the 24 PPG, eight-rebound totals he amassed in his Toronto days. This move certainly helps his Fantasy value, but here is a more realistic prediction: 20.0 PPG, 7.5 REB, 1.0 STL and 1.0-1.2 BLK. With his excellent percentages factored in, Bosh is no worse than a Top-30 overall Fantasy option heading into next year. If he falls past pick 15, he is a steal.