Deron Williams Moves East
I was all set to write today about the importance of having players with a history of staying healthy down the stretch. I had no desire to lead with more Melo-drama (old news at this point) and didn't really think there would be any other huge trades before the Thursday deadline. In fact, my lead for this article was already written with a nice anecdote about how I had the flu last week and tying that into NBA players trying to play hurt. The lead is the hardest part of the article to write, so with that done I was ready to hammer out the rest of my story, when I glanced at my Twitter feed (@ProfessorDrz) and noticed I had 99 updates in the last 10 minutes. So, I click to see what happened and find myself reading this tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski: "Utah has agreed to trade All-Star point guard Deron Williams to Nets in multi-player package, Yahoo! Sports has learned. Deal is done."
Boom Goes the Dynamite.
So, while health is still a key and I may still write about that another week, instead let's have some fun looking at how fantasy fortunes have shifted in Utah and New Jersey (and I'd better write quickly, before I get another tweet that changes the game before my deadline).
The Nets gain Deron Williams in exchange for Derrick Favors and Devin Harris. My first thought is that Williams' value shouldn't change much in New Jersey. He'll be outside of the structured pick-and-roll offense that he has run his entire career in Utah, but he'll still be the primary offensive initiator with the ball in his hands in New Jersey. But the biggest beneficiary in New Jersey is likely Brook Lopez, who (unlike Al Jefferson in Utah) has the skill set to play off of a dominant point guard. Lopez can score with his back to the basket, but also has a solid jumper and should make a fine pick-and-roll/pop partner for Williams. The mystery of Lopez's lost rebounding ability could remain unsolved, but Favors was a solid rebounder at PF so perhaps his absence will help Lopez sniff the glass again. Who knows?
Another intriguing upgrade in New Jersey could include Brandan Wright (rumored to be heading to New Jersdy along with Dan Gadzuric in exchange for Troy Murphy), who has shown some flashes of the talent that made him a top pick a few years ago and could benefit from Williams' playmaking. Of those that were already in Jersey, Anthony Morrow likely gets the biggest boost as a pure scorer who now has an upgraded point guard to work with. Kris Humphreys could also be worth a look as the presumptive starting power forward, since he was already averaging close to a double-double in less than 26 minutes over his last 10 games.
As for the changes in Utah, it is harder to predict because in the last few weeks they have lost their iconic head coach and now their franchise point guard. There is absolutely no stability right now, which means that more changes (dramatic or otherwise) could still be in the offing. If we assume the big dominoes have already fallen, it would seem to me that Al Jefferson could be a beneficiary. Even though new coach Tyrone Corbin is still running a similar offense, Devin Harris is not nearly as good of a distributor as Williams was. As such, it would seem Jefferson's strongest skill (1-on-1 offense) could get more run now. Also, Favors is a big, defensive-minded athlete that can also clean the boards. If he gets any time next to Jefferson, that would seem to cover some of Big Al's defensive weaknesses while also letting him take more shots than he can next to Paul Millsap or Mehmet Okur. Harris could also be in for a slight boost in assists and field goal percentage if he buys into the point-guard-heavy Jazz offense.
Overall, this is a fun trade that could have ripple effects on both teams. And you also have to love that Nets owner, Russian billionaire Mikhael Prokorov, seemingly drove up the price that his rival team had to pay to acquire Carmelo Anthony and then made a move for an arguably better player at arguably a lesser cost two days later. There is a general feeling that Prokorov manipulated this whole thing like Keyser Soze, and if nothing else, has already stolen Melo's thunder on the day he was to be introduced. No matter what your opinion on that, this has already been one of the more interesting trade deadlines in years, and we've still got more than 24 hours left to see if we get more fireworks.
Around the League
• End of Melo-drama: I wrote more than a month ago I was ready for the Carmelo Anthony saga to end. I blogged more than six months ago that Melo was most likely to be a Knick before the season was out. That wasn't groundbreaking, though, since pretty much everyone expected him to end up there. Now he is. So, what does this trade mean on the fantasy front? For the main Knicks, I don't know that it dramatically changes their values. Amar'e Stoudemire has deemed he and Melo "options 1 and 1A" and has also endorsed this "Stat and Melo" song as the "best track out there". In the Mike D'Antoni offense, there should be plenty of shots to keep both happy. The most intriguing prospect to me is Chauncey BIllups, who now finds himself in the coveted slot of point guard in the D'Antoni offense. This is the offense that took Steve Nash from borderline All Star to two-time MVP, and recently has taken Raymond Felton from off-the-map to almost-All-Star. If Billups has a similar uptick, he would be one of the most valuable fantasy assets in the league over the last two months.
• Which Tar Heel runs point? and other questions in Denver: I wrote an article last month pointing out that Carmelo Anthony's presence (or lack thereof) didn't seem to play a huge part in how effective the Nuggets offense is. Well, here's where that theory gets tested. Everyone's eyes are on New York, but if I'm right we should see some big fantasy production coming out of Denver moving forward. Let's start at point guard, where former Tar Heels Felton and Ty Lawson are now fighting for the lead role in Denver. Felton was a near All Star, but Lawson has been huge every time he's gotten the opportunity in Denver and opened up the post-Melo era with an impressive 21-point/7-assist/6-steal/5-rebound effort in an easy win over the Grizzlies. Felton could be traded again, but if not, I think at best he's looking at a time share. Among the other Nuggets, I've been holding onto J.R. Smith all season specifically for what he might do once Melo was gone. He didn't disappoint in his "debut" with 26 points and six treys, but he's the most inconsistent player alive so it's hard to depend on that. I have to feel that Wilson Chandler's production will be hurt leaving D'Antoni-ball, but I could see Danilo Gallinari still thriving as a scoring forward in Denver next to Nene.
• Randolph rebirth in Minny? In the quietest portion of the blockbuster, Anthony Randolph was traded to the Timberwolves. I think Randolph is one of the most talented players in the NBA, but he's now been benched and eventually traded from two straight teams and now hopes to resurrect his career in Minnesota. The bad news is that Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis likes structure and runs a triangle offense that might be challenging for a free-spirit like Randolph. On the bright side, Michael Beasley (another super-talented forward with questions about his mental prowess) has thrived in Minnesota this year. I'm certainly keeping an eye on Randolph now, and would even pick him up if available, but I'd be lying if I said I knew for sure how this was going to turn out.
• Evans on the shelf at least three weeks: Tyreke Evans is out for at least the next three weeks as he undergoes "extra corporeal shockwave treatments" to help him deal with plantar fasciitis. I've been saying for months now you should trade him if at all possible, but now it's too late. On the bright side, the Kings haven't (yet) shut Evans down for the year so it's possible he could still return this year. Personally, I'm not optimistic. The Kings are going nowhere, and I just can't see what they'd have to gain by brining him back.
• Noah back: Joakim Noah will start on Wednesday against Toronto after missing 30 games following right thumb surgery. He will initially play only 6-to-8 minute intervals as he works his way back into playing shape, and also will have to fit back in on a Bulls frontline that now features a healthy Carlos Boozer. Noah's numbers may drop a bit even once he's fully integrated, but for those that have been waiting for him for more than two months this day still couldn't have come fast enough.
• Rumored Landry/Thornton swap near done: The Kings and Hornets are Carl Landry to New Orleans in exchange for Marcus Thornton. Thornton would get a nice upgrade with the trade to the Kings because he'd get the chance to play immediately with Tyreke Evans injured. And if Evans doesn't return this year, which at least has to be considered, Thornton could end up being a cheap late-season star.
• Other rumors still swirling: A casual perusal of any NBA rumor page will find names like Gerald Wallace, Zach Randolph, Marcus Camby, O.J. Mayo, Nate Robinson, Mike Miller and Shane Battier among those most mentioned as potentially getting a new address in the next day or two. And that's not even including potential buyout candidates like Rip Hamilton or (depending on whether he was officially traded to Golden State yet or not) Troy Murphy. And of course, as we just saw with Williams, huge trades can develop and be pulled off before the rumor mill even gets a whiff. In other words, with a day still left before the trade deadline passes, keep an eye out for more potential game-changers heading to new locales.
• Kris Humphries (54% owned): As mentioned above, Humphries would seem to be in for a larger role in New Jersey next to a better point guard. Since he was already rosterable as a nightly double-double threat, he's probably worth a pick-up if he's available.
• Anthony Randolph (37% owned): As mentioned above, there's no way to predict what Randolph may or may not do in Minnesota. But he fits the mold of a potential garbage-time all star: bad team, lots of talent, lots to prove, and has taken advantage of garbage time in seasons past.
• Ekpe Udoh (1% owned): Udoh was the sixth overall pick this year, and missed the first several months of the season with a wrist injury. He's extremely raw, but is an athletic shotblocker from the forward position on a Warriors team with little defense up front. He has been playing about 25 minutes per game of late, and if his minutes continue, he has Serge Ibaka upside. More of a long shot/project than a sure thing.
• James Johnson (0% owned): This is extremely speculative, but Johnson (who was recently traded from the Bulls to the Raptors) was a solid NBA prospect and had played well in the D-League this year. The Raptors recently lost Linas Kleiza for the year and are in full-on youth mode, so it's possible Johnson could get some run down the stretch.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio every Friday afternoon at 12:30 PM EST on Rotowire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 147, Sirius 211.