Just when it seemed like a normal Wednesday – BAM! – the Houston Rockets traded James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team swap that resulted in Caris LeVert landing in Indiana, Jarrett Allen in Cleveland, Victor Oladipo in Houston and major changes to the fantasy landscape.
So how will Harden blend in with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the Nets? Will LeVert be able to maintain his upward trend with the Pacers? And what type of role with Allen have with the Cavaliers and Oladipo have with the Rockets?
Here’s a list that covers all that and the most fantasy-relevant news and notes for all 30 teams:
Atlanta Hawks: When Atlanta returns to the court Friday against Utah, they are expected to have prized rookie big man Onyeka Okongwu available for the first time. Okongwu, selected No. 6 overall in the 2020 NBA draft, is available in virtually all ESPN leagues and could become a force in defensive stats early in his NBA career. He averaged 2.7 blocks and 1.2 steals in his one season of college at USC, and posted a 61.6 FG% along the way. It will be worth watching closely how he mixes into the lineup with Clint Capela and John Collins.
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Boston Celtics: It remains uncertain when exactly All-Star point guard Kemba Walker will be able to make his season debut, but the Celtics announced last Friday that Walker is cleared to practice, he has been pain-free in his troublesome left knee for over a month, and one report had him targeting Friday for his season debut. This is encouraging to hear, and it also has a direct impact on players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, who will see fewer shots attempts once Walker — who averaged 15.9 FGA per game last season — returns to the rotation. Tatum (21.3) and Brown (19.1) currently rank second and ninth, respectively, in FGA per game.
Brooklyn Nets: Things just got interesting in Brooklyn, as James Harden enters the fold and gives the Nets one of the biggest Big Threes of all-time playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. So many questions are left to be determined. Will Irving return in the coming weeks and be counted on to play on a nightly basis? Will all three play in a lot of games together or will the Nets make habit of resting one of their big three on a regular basis on some sort of rotation? And when all three do play together, how much will their numbers fall as they are forced to share the ball? Last season, Harden ranked No. 3 in the league in usage (36.5), while Irving was No. 8 (33.3). It’s reasonable to expect fewer minutes, fewer shots and fewer points from all three of them as they could use a staggered system with at least two of the stars always on the court at once. One more question … in Golden State, Durant was able to be the lead guy, while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson took on more of a secondary role. Asking that out of Harden and Irving could be a completely different ask, given the different game mentalities and leadership qualities of Curry and Thompson vs. Harden and Irving.
Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball has yet to start in an NBA game, but already the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft is impressing in so many ways. Not only is Ball making an impact defensively with 1.6 SPG and 7.0 RPG, he’s also dishing out 6.0 APG and knocking down 1.6 3PG while limiting himself to 2.0 TPG. Eventually, one has to think that his minutes will rise and Ball will earn a spot in the starting rotation. When that happens, we could be talking about a rookie in the top 35 of the fantasy rankings.
Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine has gone from a guy known for dunking to a guy known for scoring … and who can still rise up and throw down on anyone in the league. LaVine is quietly No. 4 in scoring in the league with 27.7 PPG, sandwiching him between Stephen Curry and Tatum, but his 19.8 FGA per game make him the only player in the top six on the scoring list who is taking fewer than 20 shots a game.
Cleveland Cavaliers: New addition Jarrett Allen gives the Cavs another young and athletic player, but his role could be interesting on a roster that already includes Andre Drummond. It is questionable whether Allen and Drummond will start alongside one another or how much they will play on the court at the same time, but conceivably, the Cavs could go with a backcourt that includes two small guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland and two 7-footers in Drummond and Allen. That would be something. It’s key to remember, too, that Cleveland already has a proven backup big man in JaVale McGee, whose role becomes less important with Allen, a double-double machine at age 22 who starred against the likes of Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert after becoming a starter in Brooklyn in recent weeks.
Dallas Mavericks: Dwight Powell is out Wednesday due to health and safety protocols, joining Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith on that list. With the Mavs so short-handed in the frontcourt, Willie Cauley-Stein is likely going to be thrust into extended minutes against the Hornets. This could be a big opportunity for him, too, because Charlotte is also thin at center aside from Bismack Biyombo.
Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic moved up to No. 1 on my roto rankings this week, thanks in part to James Harden’s sudden struggles, but Jokic has earned it too. Not only is his 15.6 FGA a career high, but his 57.6 FG% is a big improvement over last season (52.6%) and his 41.2 3FG% is making him a greater threat from downtown compared to his past two seasons (30.7% 2018-19 and 31.4% in 2019-20). What a start by Jokic!
Detroit Pistons: Derrick Rose is questionable for Wednesday due to a sore knee, but whether he plays or not shouldn’t impact Delon Wright too much. Wright, not Rose, has been the fill-in starting point guard since rookie Killian Hayes went down with a torn hip labrum, and the veteran Utah product has averaged 31.6 MPG during the past three games.
Golden State Warriors: Andrew Wiggins is starting to play better. Draymond Green is too. But on Tuesday, the real story was Kelly Oubre Jr., who hit a pair of runners with his first two shots against Indiana and seemed to gain confidence from there. Oubre, whose shooting struggles have been well documented during the opening month of the season, finished the game 3-for-7 from 3-point range. Could this be the start of an upward trend for the career 32.2 3-point shooter?
Houston Rockets: When the dust landed from Wednesday’s blockbuster trade, the Rockets ended up with a wheelbarrow full of first-round draft picks and veteran shooting guard Victor Oladipo. His fantasy value shouldn’t change too much in his new surroundings, but it can’t be an easy development for the Indiana product who had settled into a great role on an efficient Pacers team that appears to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. With Oladipo, John Wall, Christian Wood and veterans like DeMarcus Cousins, P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon, the Rockets should be able to scrape together some wins in the tough Western Conference, even if it means shedding the superstar who demanded his way out of town. No matter what, their chemistry will be better.
Indiana Pacers: Last season, Domantas Sabonis (34.8 MPG) and Malcolm Brogdon (30.9 MPG) finished 13th and 64th, respectively, in minutes. This year, Sabonis (37.7) and Brogdon (37.1) are currently second and third, which only adds to their fantasy appeal. This super-efficient duo is excellent in any format, whether it be points, roto or DFS — and both were underrated (again) in fantasy drafts. On Wednesday, the Pacers swapped Oladipo for Caris LeVert as part of the multi-team Harden deal, and LeVert gives them another playmaker with high basketball IQ and a penchant for scoring and distributing. With LeVert being capable of playing small forward, the Pacers could go with more lineups that include Aaron Holiday instead of Justin Holiday. That will be something to watch in the games ahead.
LA Clippers: It’s not sustainable for Paul George to continue to shoot 3s at the clip he’s at right now (51.2%), but boy is it fun while he has the hot hand. George’s 4.2 3PG ranks No. 2 in the league behind only CJ McCollum (4.9), but George’s 8.2 3PA is well behind McCollum’s 11.0. George, a career 38.4% shooter from distance, set a new career best last season when he shot 41.2% from long range. That mark looks to be in jeopardy this season, given George’s torrid start.
Los Angeles Lakers: How good is LeBron James? This puts it in perspective … at 36 years old, in his 18th NBA season, he is averaging 24.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 7.5 APG. Sounds remarkable, and would be great numbers for just about anyone at any age, let alone someone like James, who ranks No. 8 in NBA history in career regular-season minutes played (48,938) and No. 1 in career playoff minutes played (10,111).
Memphis Grizzlies: Maybe it was predictable, but Kyle Anderson has come back down to earth as far as his scoring is concerned. After scoring 18 points or more in four of his first six games of the season, the versatile veteran forward has failed to score more than 10 points in any of the Grizzlies’ past four games. This doesn’t bode well for when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns, and it’s a safe bet to count on Anderson to settle in right around 11-12 PPG when all is said and done this season.
Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler missed Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia due to health and safety protocols, but his improved play in the two games before that is very encouraging when you consider his early season struggles. Butler put up 26 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks against Boston last Wednesday, then followed it up with 26 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 block and 2 steals on Saturday against Washington. As of now, Butler is looking more like a third-round pick for next season than a second-rounder.
Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton never forces anything on the court, which is part of the reason he’s so good, but fantasy managers everywhere are probably wishing he’d force up a few more 3-pointers every game. The efficient swingman ranks No. 11 in the league with a blistering 49.2 3FG% but is taking just 5.7 3PA, which ranks No. 53. Imagine if he took eight or nine a game!
Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Beasley’s production will take a hit once Karl-Anthony Towns starts playing every game, but for now, he’s a hot hand worth getting into your lineup in all formats. Beasley helped lead Minnesota to a win over the Spurs on Sunday with 24 points and three 3-pointers, and that comes after going for 29 points on 7-of-11 shooting from 3 in the previous game (also against the Spurs). He’s still available in 25.9% of ESPN leagues and, as one of the team’s main scorers, is a solid streaming option while KAT is getting back to full speed.
New Orleans Pelicans: Some players around the league clearly put in a lot of work over the offseason improving their game, and Brandon Ingram may be the best example. Still somehow only 23, Ingram has turned himself into a well-rounded player who not only scores — his 24.0 PPG is a career high — but also rebounds (7.1 RPG), shoots the 3-ball (2.2 3PG) and distributes. That last part is a major development, as Ingram’s 5.8 APG leaves his previous season-high of 4.2 APG in the dust. Ingram is a top-25 fantasy player at this stage in his career.
New York Knicks: A calf strain has kept Obi Toppin out of the lineup since the season-opener on December 23, but the rookie lottery pick is probable to play Wednesday against the Nets. Toppin, who was one of the best players in college basketball last season, should re-enter the Knicks rotation right away and is available in 67.7% of ESPN leagues.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder will be without Al Horford in Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, as the veteran center rests during the second game of a back-to-back. In his absence, players like Mike Muscala and Isaiah Roby will see more minutes for the young and athletic Thunder team that has raced out to a surprising 5-5 start.
Orlando Magic: I explained last week how the spotlight is suddenly on rookie Cole Anthony, following the season-ending knee injury to Markelle Fultz, but it could take some time before Anthony becomes much of a factor in fantasy. In the three games since Fultz’s injury, Anthony has averaged 11.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.3 APG and 1.0 SPG while shooting 34.2% (12-of-35) from the field. He’s a streaming option at best for now, unless something suddenly clicks for the first-year pro.
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers clearly have found something in Tyrese Maxey, who slipped to the No. 21 pick in last year’s NBA draft and already has a 39-point game on his NBA resume. Even though that performance vs. the Nuggets came in a game with most all of the 76ers’ starters sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, it still showed what the promising combo guard is capable of in the future. Maxey is a high-energy scorer, and his 33 shot attempts in that breakout performance shows a fearlessness rarely found in 20-year-old rookies drafted at the back end of the first round.
Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton will forever have lofty expectations placed upon him in Phoenix after being selected ahead of Luka Doncic and Trae Young on draft day, but in terms of fantasy Ayton, has been very solid during his first two NBA seasons. The Arizona product has taken a step backwards so far this season, however, seeing his scoring drop from 18.2 to 12.5 PPG and his FT% plummet from 75.3 to 64.0. These are two areas that had made him such a strong fantasy option at center, so this is concerning and worth keeping an eye on going forward.
Portland Trail Blazers: Enes Kanter has averaged just 19.1 MPG in his first 10 games of the season, serving as Jusuf Nurkic’s backup, and it’s not often that a player who logs that little time on the court is a useful fantasy option. Kanter may be an exception, however. His 27.73 PER currently ranks fourth in the league, and that’s a credit to his efficiency. Kanter has a 68.5 FG% and that, combined with his 11.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG, makes him worth in deeper 12-team leagues.
Sacramento Kings: It’s easy to overlook Richaun Holmes in Sacramento’s frontcourt that also includes notable players like Marvin Bagley III and Hassan Whiteside, but Holmes is far and away the team’s most productive big man thus far. Neither Bagley nor Whiteside have been able to match the physicality and energy of Holmes, who is at a career-high pace in scoring (13.2 PPG), FG% (67.5), assists (1.7 APG), steals (1.1 SPG) and blocks (1.5 BPG) while also pulling down 7.7 RPG. Holmes remains available in 19.1% of ESPN leagues, but should be rostered in every league.
San Antonio Spurs: It was easy to jump on the Keldon Johnson bandwagon when the second-year pro impressed during the opening weeks of the season; Johnson’s well-rounded game should make him a fantasy fixture for years to come. What we do have to account for, though, is the inconsistency that can come from such a young player. Johnson has had scoring nights of 9, 5 and 3 points in three of his past five games, as an example. The good news is he has also averaged 35.2 MPG during that span.
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry is in his 15th NBA season and turns 35 years old in March. This is typically a time when veteran point guards start to see their minutes curtailed in order to keep them preserved for the duration of the long, grueling NBA season. That isn’t the case with Lowry, however, as his 36.4 MPG ranks No. 6 in all the NBA entering Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how well Lowry holds up, particularly when you factor in his rugged, attacking style of play that he’s become known for during his lengthy career.
Utah Jazz: Joe Ingles saw his streak of 384 consecutive games played — which was the longest active streak in the NBA — come to an end Friday when a sore right Achilles kept him out of the lineup against Milwaukee. He returned Sunday but then missed Tuesday’s game against the Cavaliers. Ingles isn’t the defensive force he once was in terms of racking up steals, but his 3.2 APG and 1.8 3PG from the forward position make him valuable in roto leagues. Just continue to keep tabs on his ailing Achilles.
Washington Wizards: The Wizards received crushing news over the weekend when it was announced that Thomas Bryant is out for the season due to a partially torn ACL in his left knee. Bryant was averaging a career-high 14.3 points on 64.8% shooting and 6.1 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game this season. In the first game without Bryant, Robin Lopez started and played 26 minutes while Moritz Wagner logged 22 minutes off the bench. Keep an eye on both of those fill-in big men.