This article is part of our In-Season Strategy series.
Those hoping for some fireworks at the trade deadline got their wish in spades this year, with an increasingly desperate Cleveland Cavaliers responsible for a significant chunk of the excitement. The defending Eastern Conference champs opted for a significant one-day makeover the likes of which aren't typically seen in the NBA. They did so while cutting their losses on the assets that were part of a controversial offseason move of Kyrie Irving to the conference-rival Celtics.
A Miami Heat legend also made an unexpected homecoming, while a couple of former first-round point guards experienced a change of scenery. What's the fantasy impact of the mass movement of pieces? Let's dive into each major transaction further to break that down:
The most significant component of the Cavaliers' massive one-day overhaul was this one, but for the moment, it's hard to foresee much of a net gain for any of the players involved, with one exception.
Thomas does land on the fastest-paced offense in the NBA, but given his performances thus far and the presence of Lonzo Ball (knee), it remains to be seen how significant his impact can actually be for the balance of the season. Ultimately, he may have to settle for a high-usage second-unit role along the lines of the one he assigned with some success in his Suns days. Speaking of Ball's eventual return to action, it's worth noting that Thomas has also logged time at shooting guard in the past, but his lack of size would certainly make him a defensive liability. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is undeniably struggling at the two, but the 6-foot-5 Josh Hart meets the physical requirements of the position far better than the diminutive Thomas.
Frye presumably slides into Nance's old spot in the three-man power forward rotation that's helmed by Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma, but it's unlikely he approximates the 22.0 minutes per game that Nance was averaging through 42 games. At 34 years of age, Frye was seeing just over 12 minutes per contest with the Cavs and hasn't eclipsed the 20-minute mark for a season since the 2013-14 campaign in Orlando.
Clarkson could be poised for a similar workload to the 23.7 minutes he was seeing per game in Los Angeles, though will see a notable reduction in pace of play. Then again, the disarray on the Cavs' defense has been such that they've been involved in plenty of high-scoring shootouts where they've been forced to remain aggressive – a set of conditions that Clarkson is certainly accustomed to. One potential silver lining for Clarkson is that he'll potentially see more time at point guard – a position that he thrived in early in his career.
Nance is the one player of the four that could be in for a relatively extended run as a starter right from the beginning of his tenure with his new club. Kevin Love (hand) remains sidelined for the next several weeks at a minimum. Plus, with Jae Crowder also having left town Thursday, the starting power forward job is presumably Nance's for the moment. He's demonstrated an ability to provide solid scoring and rebounding numbers in past intermittent first-unit opportunities. Although, given who he'll share the floor with, his primary contributions might still come on the glass.
This move could pay some nice dividends for Hood's fantasy owners before season's end. The 25-year-old is already sporting career highs in scoring (16.8), shooting percentage (42.4), three-point percentage (38.9), made three-pointers (2.6) and shot attempts (14.2). He also sees a decent bump up in pace of play with his move to Cleveland. Moreover, J.R. Smith appears to be one of the more vulnerable incumbents in the NBA at his starting position, as his highly spotty shooting and subpar defense has been a liability more often than not this season.
Rose will be released by the Jazz, allowing him to try to find a new home with a playoff contender. The veteran guard averaged a serviceable 9.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists over 16 games with the Cavs. Assuming his ankle problems are behind him, he could offer some decent fantasy value in the right situation.
Much like his former Celtics teammate Isaiah Thomas, Crowder was ultimately somewhat of an odd fit in Cleveland, essentially seeing his numbers drop across the stat sheet as compared to his prior two seasons in Boston. But, at just 27 years old, he still has plenty left in the tank. Despite landing on a much more defensive-minded and slower-paced squad in Utah, Crowder has a chance to often face off against second-unit players while presumably backing up both Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles at power and small forward, respectively. That situation could afford him the opportunity to churn out some solid scoring and rebounding numbers in particular.
Hill should have an opportunity to immediately man the starting point guard role for the Cavs, seeing a nice boost in potential assist opportunities while sharing the floor with LeBron James and, eventually, Kevin Love (hand). Hill saw his playing time fluctuate during his stint in Sacramento this season, but he's likely to retain a firm hold on starting job in Cleveland. Although, the talented Jordan Clarkson, also acquired Thursday, could push for playing time behind him. Hill is already rewarding fantasy owners with a strong shooting effort this season, including a career-high 45.3 percent success rate from distance, but it remains to be seen how much scoring responsibility he'll carry in Cleveland's system.
Shumpert's prospects in his move to the West Coast are a lot murkier. He dealt with a significant knee injury earlier in the season and is reportedly suffering from plantar fasciitis at present. Always much more renowned for his defense, Shumpert also has fallen into an even further reduced role on the offensive end of the floor over his time in Cleveland, so it's difficult to get too excited about him fantasy-wise for the moment.
Heat acquires Dwyane Wade from Cavaliers for 2018 second-round pick
The aforementioned flurry of moves in the Cavs' backcourt resulted in Wade unexpectedly heading back to South Florida for what could be his swan song. The veteran was a decent fit with the Cavaliers, averaging 11.2 points on 45.5 percent shooting across 23.2 minutes in 46 games. However, he now projects for a significant boost in usage and playing time in his familiar Miami digs, as Dion Waiters' season-ending ankle injury has turned the starting two-guard role a revolving door of sorts recently. Both Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington appear ideally suited for coming off the bench and exploiting fellow second-unit players, while Wade should have no trouble fitting right back into Erik Spoelstra's system and may see 30 minutes on some nights.
Suns acquire Elfrid Payton from Magic for 2018 second-round pick (via Grizzlies)
It's a productive move for the two non-contending teams, as the Magic get something for the 2014 first-round pick before he hits free agency this summer, while the Suns shore up their backcourt with some quality depth at a minimum. Head coach Jay Triano has found some success with a recent move of Devin Booker to the point and Josh Jackson as the starting two-guard, but the former is currently dealing with a nagging hip strain. With a shot that's improved every season and solid skills as a facilitator, Payton projects as a much more productive option behind Booker than Tyler Ulis, potentially affording him some decent playing time down the stretch. However, given what could be a reduced role overall, the move may shape up as a net negative for Payton's fantasy prospects.
Back in Orlando, meanwhile, veterans D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack are left to man Payton's old role, with Augustin apparently getting first crack at the top job. He looked the part against the Hawks on Thursday, collecting 18 points, nine assists, three rebounds and two steals across 35 minutes. With four seasons of double-digit point averages and a pair with more than six assists per game in his long career, Augustin carries solid upside if he hangs on to the job for the balance of the campaign.
Knicks acquire Emmanuel Mudiay from the Nuggets for 2018 second-round pick (via Clippers)
Another former first-round point guard, Mudiay saw his playing time take a significant hit in Denver this season due to Jamal Murray's ascension into the top job. He demonstrated some slight improvement in his shot, eclipsing the 40.0 percent mark from the field for the first time in his two-plus seasons. With veteran Jarrett Jack currently manning the starting point guard position in the Big Apple, Mudiay will likely battle with rookie Frank Ntilikina for playing time to begin with, but a move up the depth chart isn't out of the question. Mudiay's situation will be one to monitor, given that Jack's hold on the top spot could be tenuous.
Nuggets acquire Devin Harris from Mavericks for future second-round pick (via Portland)
The veteran breaks free from the backcourt logjam in Dallas and lands as the presumed primary backup to Jamal Murray in Denver. He'll be in for a potential bump in minutes over the 18.3 he averaged with the Mavs through 44 games, affording him some back-of-the-roster utility for fantasy owners in deeper formats.
Mavericks acquire Doug McDermott from Knicks
McDermott has flashed some shooting chops when given the opportunity over his first three-plus seasons, and he could be in for expanded opportunity as Harrison Barnes' primary backup in Big D. He's already averaging a career-best 46.0 percent from the field in his first 55 games, with a slight bump in minutes over the 21.3 he logged in New York certainly plausible. Moreover, he carries enough size on his 6-foot-8 frame to man the four if necessary, which could open up some additional playing time.
Ennis has logged over 23 minutes in each of the last two seasons in Memphis, providing some decent but uninspiring scoring and rebounding numbers. His overall production could take another slight plunge in Motown, where the likes of an improving Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard all stand in his way for potential playing time. Ennis' fantasy value is already relatively capped and this change of scenery appears to downgrade it even further.
Johnson's role is expected to be minimal at best after being traded for the second time this season. The Grizzlies already have a crowded frontcourt, making it difficult to envision any tangible opportunity for Johnson this year.
Heat acquire Luke Babbitt from Hawks for Okaro White
Babbitt returns to South Florida, where he spent last season and averaged a modest 15.7 minutes across 68 games. He's shown floor-spacing ability over his seven-plus seasons, but has never averaged over 18.0 minutes in any campaign. Miami is also stacked at power forward, leaving Babbitt with a very narrow path to playing time.
White, who is recovering from foot surgery, will reportedly be waived by the Hawks.
Nelson's stay in the Windy City was brief, as he'd been traded there earlier in the week by the Pelicans. In Detroit, he'll have a chance to serve as backcourt depth behind the likes of Ish Smith, Langston Galloway and the recovering Reggie Jackson (ankle). That doesn't project to leave him with an abundance of playing time, with a drop from the 20.9 minutes he logged with New Orleans a likely scenario.
Reed, who is serving a six-game suspension for an off-the-court incident, is expected to be waived by the Bulls.
Kings acquire Joe Johnson from Jazz
Johnson will reportedly seek a buyout from the Kings in an effort to land on a contender. The veteran was averaging a career-low 21.9 minutes across 32 games in Utah this season. He'll likely be destined for a similar workload wherever he ends up.
Other moves Thursday
Trail Blazers trade Noah Vonleh and cash to Bulls for rights to Milocan Rakovic
Wizards trade Sheldon Mac to Hawks for non-conveyable second-round pick
Kings trade Malachi Richardson to Raptors for Bruno Cabocolo, who's expected to be released