Fantasy basketball draft preview: Old faces in new places
The NBA offseason saw many major players packing up and moving to new cities. This list of 10 players with new homes focuses on whose stock will improve in a new setting, who should have never changed uniforms and who will put up big numbers, no matter where they play.
• Eric Bledsoe, PG/SG, Phoenix Suns: Bledsoe is on a lesser team without a perennial scoring threat from the guard position. Goran Dragic is going to pile up his assist total with the former Clipper as his partner in the backcourt, as Bledsoe is finally going to get a real chance to grow as an offensive player. Look for all of his offensive stats to improve from last year, along with a slight jump in rebounds thanks to getting more minutes. Bledsoe is a pretty consistent defender and will give you a few steals every week, too.
Value Change: Increase. Owners may be reluctant to draft him higher than the middle rounds, but he will prove his worth, and fast.
• Al Jefferson, C, Charlotte Bobcats: Big Al is going to be effective wherever you put him. He is a double-double threat every night and makes about 50% of his shots. Nothing should change for him in Charlotte, becoming its number one option in the post. His rebound total shouldn't change, if anything it will get a little better, and it's hard to say whether his block average will fall on the side of one per game or two. Either way, he's going to give you a healthy amount of blocks.
Value Change: None. Jefferson is a valued piece in any offense and you can't expect him to do much more than he already does. He's still a starting center on good fantasy teams.
• Josh Smith, SF/PF, Detroit Pistons: Smith is making the move back to small forward with his move to the Motor City. This will give him a height advantage in most situations, one that he was not used to in Atlanta. While he'll have advantage on his opponents when rebounding, Smith still has to compete with his monstrous teammates Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond for rebounds. He may not pull down his consistent eight a game. Scoring is a worry in a new offense where four of the five starters need to get their scoring chances. Having Brandon Jennings injured for the first few games could help Smith get more points early, but in the long run his scoring opportunities won't be as consistent as they were for the Hawks. He'll still be the defensive stud he always has been, but his offense could see a slight dip.
Value Change: Slight Decrease. He's going to have big nights, but he might not have consistent offensive outputs.
• Brandon Jennings, PG, Detroit Pistons: Having been criticized by his former teammate Larry Sanders as a "ball hog," Jennings won't get the same looks he got in Milwaukee. He has been on teams where the offensive strategy relied largely on his performance. But now he's in a place where they have built around their big men and brought in Josh Smith to add to their total. Jennings will try to force shots early on, but he will smarten up as the season progresses. His assist totals should definitely improve with the weapons in the starting lineup, and his steals will remain one of his strong suits, especially with Smith helping him defensively. One downside is that the injury keeping him out of the preseason and the start of the season will hurt how he connects with his new team.
Value Change: Slight Decrease. If he had chemistry issues with his last team, he may have more trouble with this one. His scoring is going to be affected because of the well-rounded Pistons lineup.
• Monta Ellis, SG, Dallas Mavericks: Ellis makes his move to a team expected to compete in the playoffs every season, which is something he has not dealt with his entire NBA career. His addition will give the Mavericks another deadly scoring option to compliment Dirk Nowitzki. Now what does this mean for his fantasy value? It means he's going to have another great year. Ellis is going to get consistent shot opportunities and is going to get assists, maybe more than usual, and he should maintain his healthy average of steals. Having Ellis and Nowitzki will help spread the floor, helping his moves to the hole and providing him with a quick option to dish out assists, as well as having Jose Calderon and Devin Harris at the helm.
Value Change: Slight Increase. Ellis already does well, so it's hard for him to go up much in value, but I expect him to score a few more points per game, as well as add to his assist total.
• Paul Pierce, SF, Brooklyn Nets: Calling somewhere besides Boston his home for the first time since he reached the NBA, Pierce may get home sick. He will be an important factor in his team's offense, but comes to a team built around Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Pierce may become more of a perimeter offense player than the full package he has always been. He could also see his rebounds take a hit, losing them to Lopez, Kevin Garnett and Reggie Evans.
Value Change: Decrease. Not only is he old, but he's also dealing with a new offensive scheme. Pierce could see his points per game drop by as much as 7 from last year's total with the star-powered Brooklyn offense.
• Kevin Garnett, PF, Brooklyn Nets: The Big Ticket is not what he used to be. He's getting old and has to adjust to a new offense. His rebounds have seen a steady decrease since he arrived in Boston, as well as his scoring totals. KG has shown that he is a very unselfish player and cares more about winning than his stats. Playing in the post with Lopez and Evans could help or hurt his rebounding numbers, it's hard to tell whether teams will be more focused with stopping him or the other two. It looks like he will probably have a slight decrease in rebounding, again, but his scoring will only take a small hit in the Nets offense.
Value Change: Decrease. He's getting old and only cares about winning these days. Look for Garnett to sacrifice his stats for the betterment of the team.
• Jrue Holiday, PG, New Orleans Pelicans: With his move south, Holiday is joining a revamped roster in New Orleans. He will dovetail well with Anthony Davis, which should help Holiday rack up just as many, if not more, assists as he did last year. I don't see Holiday's three-point-game changing any, and his free-throw shooting has been lackluster in three of his four NBA seasons. While the 76ers decided to give up on Holiday, the Pelicans, and fantasy owners, are going to love the numbers he puts up this year.
Value Change: Increase. A change of scenery bodes well for 23-year-old point guard.
• Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, Golden State Warriors: It's hard to believe, but Andre Iguodala has been in the league for nine years. The one thing fantasy owners know about him is that he is NBA fantasy's jack-of-all-trades, master of none. He has had a decrease in his scoring average since the 2010-2011 campaign, but still is a decent scorer. The former Nugget has averaged 5.7 assists per game the past three years, in addition to his 5.7 rebounds. His assist total will only get better with three-point threats Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, along with big man option David Lee. Iguodala's efficiency as a scorer is going to compliment the Warriors' offense well, as he provides the threat of cutting, as well as creating his own offense when Curry is being smothered. One thing he still can't do is shoot well from the free throw line, but that is his only major drawback. Iguodala is going to enjoy his move to California.
Value Change: Increase. Iguodala has found his ideal system and will only do better playing for the Warriors.
• Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets: One of the best fantasy players in the game has moved again, finding a home with James Harden in Houston. While playing in LA exposed Howard on a larger scale for being a very bad free throw shooter, he was still a great fantasy player for owners. He's an efficient scorer because he takes all of his shots around the rim. He has led the league in rebounds per game in five of the last six years, and grabbed 14.1 per game in the year he didn't lead the league.
He's going to continue to block a lot of shots and should be right around where he was last year in scoring, maybe a bit better. One thing fantasy owners need to realize is he is going to help in every category big men are supposed to, but his free-throw shooting can be crippling to a roster's percentage, especially if teams continue to use the Hack-a-Dwight strategy.
Value Change: None. Dwight really can't do much better statistically than he does -- other than free throws.