Culture of Hoops

Fantasy Basketball: Shooting Guard Shuffle

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and the Oklahoma City Thunder recently engaged in a three-team trade. In the core of the deal are Cleveland’s Dion Waiters, as well as New York’s J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. Waiters lands with the Thunder. Both Smith and Shumpert are shipped to the Cavs. What does New York get out of this? They receive Alex Kirk, Louis Amundson (from Cavs), and Lance Thomas (from Thunder) – all of whom have unguaranteed contracts. Cleveland will also receive a protected first-round pick from the Thunder. The Cavs in turn are sending their 2019 second-round pick to the Knicks.

Now, how does this deal affect fantasy basketball? Well, first of all, you’ll have to delve in what it represents as opposed to just looking at it in terms of who are the faces finding themselves in new places.

The Knicks are setting themselves up to be a big player in the free agency market this summer with the cap space they’ve freed up by shedding J.R.’s deal. This is also a sign that they are probably not going to be contending in the 2014-15 season. Despite the clamor from many fans, Derek Fisher may not be on his way out (just yet). This situation now sets the stage for the team to harness some of its younger players. Guys like Cole Aldrich, are already finding themselves with good opportunities. The most direct beneficiary of the deal on the Knicks’ end is Tim Hardaway Jr. who will likely see a ton of minutes and get lots of chances to shine and at the same time make mistakes. Both of these players are worth a look in standard leagues and at this point, have earned must-grab status in deeper leagues.

As far as the Thunder are concerned, this is an “insurance policy,” if you can call it that, for the expected eventual departure of Reggie Jackson (whose asking price they likely won’t want to pay) in free agency. They have had a clear history of sticking to their budget. Remember James Harden? Yeah, he was their instant offense off their bench. Now he’s an M.V.P. candidate. That said, when it comes to money, it’s difficult to judge a team’s management. It is, after all, still a business. But Dion Waiters? Come on! What were they thinking? This dude has been throwing fits about not starting, since forever. He thinks he’s better than Kyrie Irving!!! While confidence is nice to see, especially coming from a scorer, there is a fine line between confidence and being out right delusional. Can they reel him in and get his expectations aligned with the team’s? We’ll have to wait and see. He’ll slowly be integrated into the rotation and won’t gain much fantasy value immediately. Scott Brooks is known for his clear vision of minutes for his guys, with that said Waiters can be left in the fantasy FA pools for now. Reggie Jackson, should be stashed in keeper leagues for his upside, but can be dropped in standard leagues for some hot free agents, given his eventual loss of minutes to Waiters this season.

On Cleveland’s end, they need two specific things, a guy who can spread the defense because of his ability to shoot threes and someone (other than LeBron) who can be a good defender on the perimeter. They got what they were looking for, but split into two players. Smith, as we all know, can knock down those long bombs, and Shumpert can be a pesky defender who can harass opposing ball handlers. Shifting to the Cavs caps Smith’s ceiling this season, but given that he was already floundering in a puddle of disappointment, it could actually improve his currently dismal fantasy value, albeit by just a bit. He’s been a headcase in the past and David Blatt will now have another ego to deal with. He should fare better than Waiters did, but still remains just a deep-league add target for now. If you’re looking for treys, go for Tim Hardaway Jr. for now.

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