This article is part of our NBA Trade Tracker series.
During the NBA Finals, fans were treated to not one, but two trades. You can read my take on the first trade involving Ersan Ilyasovahere. In the second trade, the Charlotte Hornets traded Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes.
Here's a breakdown of how the trade impacts the fantasy value of the players involved:
Stephenson's only season in Charlotte was a well-documented disaster. After a successful four-year stint in Indiana, culminating in Stephenson finishing the 2013-14 season as the 75th best fantasy player. He signed with the Hornets and struggled to find success playing next to Kemba Walker, finishing as the 269th ranked fantasy player in 2014-15.
Stephenson never successfully made the transition from his role as Indiana's de facto point guard to a role playing off the ball as the Hornets' third option on offense. In addition to the bad fit, his transition was also hampered by toe, knee, and pelvis injuries.
There are concerns with Stephenson's fantasy value that go beyond the fact that he has one sub-par season, though. Even in his best fantasy season, 2013-14, Stephenson's only above-replacement categories were rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage. He doesn't contribute much in three-pointers or the defensive categories, which means Stephenson has to receive a lot of playing time and possessions (with the ball in his hands) to have standard league fantasy value.
I'm a staunch Stephenson supporter, but even I can't make a case that the Clippers are a good fit for his fantasy value next season. Consider all of the things that will be working against him in Clipper Land next season:
- The Clippers already have several ball-dominate guards on the roster which will limit the time Stephenson has the ball in his hands, even if he gets playing time.
- We know of at least one case where the Clippers struggled to help a player recover from an injury.
- Doc Rivers has already said he doesn't plan on starting Stephenson.
- Doc Rivers' record of acquiring and putting players in a position to succeed isn't exactly the envy of the league.
This projection would put Stephenson well outside the top-200 players in fantasy. While I don't think we've heard the last from the player they call "Born Ready", I'm not ready to invest in Stephenson for next season. Unless the team clears room for him to handle the ball a lot, the upside simply isn't there.
I also don't except Stephenson to impact any of the other relevant fantasy players on the Clippers. He's too low in the pecking order to do so right now. If Jamal Crawford is traded or released and Austin Rivers departs in free agency, Stephenson would still have to contend with the fact that Chris Paul would be dominating the ball whenever he is on the court. It's hard to see a path to success for Stephenson in fantasy next season unless a lot changes and Doc Rivers finds some inspired ways to make Stephenson a high-usage player.
If there was a coveted free agent from last offseason who had a worse season on their new team than Stephenson did with the Hornets, it was Hawes' pooping of the bed with the Clippers. Coming off of a 2013-14 season where he ranked as a top-50 fantasy player, Hawes managed to play only 17 mpg for the Clippers last season, and he was even handed multiple DNP-CDs in the playoffs, on his way to finishing 2014-15 as the 286th ranked fantasy player.
Unlike Stephenson, however, Hawes' path to fantasy relevance is a much easier row to hoe going into next season. Hawes' ability to contribute three-pointers and blocks, a rare combination, make him a valuable fantasy option when he gets playing time.
If Hawes is able to carve out a role in the Hornets' rotation where he plays 26-30 mpg, it's quite likely that he will return to fantasy relevance in standard leagues next season. Even if we assume he'll only carve out 26 mpg, Hawes' stat line with the Hornets should look something like this:
This projection would have ranked Hawes as the 113th ranked fantasy player last season thanks to his above-replacement-level contributions in three-pointers, blocks, and a free throw percentage that won't kill you. With a playing time projection of 30 mpg, he would have been the 78th ranked fantasy player last season.
Clearly there should be some tentative optimism surrounding Hawes as a buy-low fantasy option heading into next season, and if we get word that the Hornets plan on using Hawes as their starting power forward, he'll probably be a worthwhile risk to take in the final rounds of a fantasy draft due to his upside. However, until we know more about his role in the Hornets' rotation, I wouldn't recommend reaching for him.
The truth is that the Hornets could go a number of different directions with their frontcourt rotation next season as they have Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, Marvin Williams, and now Hawes under contract to play alongside Al Jefferson. While some of these players are more proficient with their per-possession production than others, the old fantasy basketball axiom still applies here: minutes are the most important stat in fantasy basketball. If you have to draft one of these guys, pick the player who is projected to get the most playing time, something we won't likely have a feel for until closer to the preseason.
Barnes is reportedly unlikely to play for the Hornets in 2015-16, as they're expected to buyout the guaranteed portion of his contract and allow the veteran to become a free agent. He had a surprisingly productive fantasy season in 2014-15, finishing ranked 108th in per-game fantasy value. However, like Stephenson, Barnes needs an extremely high amount of playing time to have standard league fantasy value, and we won't know what his prospects for getting that type of playing time in 2015-16 will be until he signs with a new team.
Would you like to know the projected fantasy value of these players at a different levels of playing time? Please leave a comment below, or contact me on Twitter @MarcFRoberts.