Season Review: Suns, Grizzlies, Mavericks

Season Review: Suns, Grizzlies, Mavericks

This article is part of our Season Review series.

It's never too early to start preparing for next year's fantasy basketball season.

One way we'll help you do that is by reviewing each team, highlighting what went right and what went wrong in 2017-18 We'll also take a look at the current state of the roster to see what moves they could potentially make over the summer, and what impact those could have, from a fantasy perspective.

We'll start in reverse order of final regular season record, which means the Suns, Grizzlies and Mavericks are up first.

PHOENIX SUNS

The Good

Devin Booker: The Suns didn't have a ton of talent heading into this season, but they forfeited even more depth when they dealt Eric Bledsoe to the Bucks early in the year. Booker was already viewed as the future of the franchise, but he took on even more of a leading role with Bledsoe no longer in the fold.

Booker's averages were spectacular, as he finished with career-highs in points (24.9), rebounds (4.5), assists (4.7) and three-pointers (2.7) per game. He also posted a 31.4% usage rate, which ranked fifth in the league behind only James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins.

The only real downside to Booker's season was that he was limited to 54 games. Of course, some of that was due to the Suns being overly cautious with all of their injured players as they tanked down the stretch, but it didn't help owners, regardless of the rationale.

The Suns experimented with Booker playing some point guard this season, but that was partially out of necessity. He's best suited to be a flat out scorer on the wing and regardless of what moves the Suns make this summer, they will be building around Booker.

Josh Jackson: The No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, Jackson got off to a bit of a rocky start, but showed plenty of promise in his rookie campaign. With the Suns battling injuries and resting vets down the stretch, Jackson even found himself starting 35 games. He played well in that role, averaging 15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals per contest. Those numbers jumped to 18.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals (and 2.5 assists) per game after the All-Star break, when the Suns left no doubt that they'd entered full-on lottery mode.

For as encouraging as his late-season counting stats were, Jackson was a drag on percentages, shooting 41.7% from the field and 63.5% from the charity stripe. Neither of those numbers were completely unexpected, though Jackson only averaged 0.7 made three-pointers per game, which left him with limited fantasy value overall, especially considering he barely made a quarter of his attempts from beyond the arc (26.3% 3PT) for the season.

Looking ahead, the problem for Jackson is that he is stuck behind Booker and T.J. Warren, at least for now. Unless the Suns decide to go small and start all three next season, Jackson will have to compete with Warren for a starting spot. Currently in position to land the No. 1 pick, the Suns' future could look much different come June 21, so it's a bit too early to speculate exactly where Jackson will fit. Regardless, Phoenix has made it clear that Jackson is a key piece for their future, and it's difficult to imagine he'll be marginalized in what will likely be another rebuilding season.

The Bad

The Center Position: The Suns were a mess at center this season. There's no two ways about it. They couldn't settle on a starter, often rotating veteran Tyson Chandler with Alex Len and Marquese Chriss. Chandler started 46 games, but he'll turn 36 in October and is a shell of his former self. Alex Len may have been the most promising player of the group, but he only averaged 20 minutes per game, severely limiting his fantasy value.

Phoenix will have no choice but to address the center position this summer, and the solution could be as simple as taking Arizona's DeAndre Ayton, should he be available. In terms of their current options, Chandler has one year at just over $13.5 million left on his contract, so while the Suns would likely love to move him, finding a team willing to eat that money in this cap environment won't be easy. Len will be an unrestricted free agent and seems unlikely to return considering how little opportunity he was given to prove himself.

One player to keep an eye on his Alan Williams. Williams showed promise two seasons ago, averaging 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in only 15 minutes per contest. He was limited to just five games last year due a lengthy recovery from knee surgery, but Williams is a cheap, young piece the Suns like, and he could find himself with a bigger role next season, particularly if Chandler, Len or even Chriss are moved.

The State of the Franchise

The Suns finished with the worst record in the NBA, so they'll have the best chance at securing the top pick in the draft on May 15. With Booker, Warren and Jackson already in place, it makes sense that they'll target an elite frontcourt player. Depending on where the pick ultimately falls, Luka Doncic could be in play, but Ayton is the type of talent who could make up for the Suns whiffing on a number of big men in recent drafts.

Phoenix will also need to address the point guard position at some point with Elfrid Payton set to be a restricted free agent. Brandon Knight -- longtime NBA fans may remember him -- is still on the roster at more than $30 million guaranteed through 2020, but he's coming off of a missed season due to a torn ACL, and expectations should, rightfully, be low.

Having won fewer than 25 games in each of the last three years, Phoenix isn't exactly a free agent destination, but the Suns could create roughly $10 million in space by renouncing the cap holds of Len, Payton and Alec Peters. Another move or two to clear space would likely be necessary for GM Ryan McDonough to seriously pursue a young, restricted free agent like Jabari Parker or Aaron Gordon, the latter of whom is rumored to be a Suns' target.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

The Good

Marc Gasol: Simply put, this was a lost season for the Grizzlies. Injuries derailed things early on, resulting a 22-win campaign that snapped a seven-year playoff streak in depressing fashion. Even as the Grizzlies unofficially waved the white flag midway through the year, Gasol continued to be a reliable fantasy asset, playing 73 games despite rest and minutes restrictions.

Gasol experienced a decrease in scoring this year, averaging 17.2 points per game, but he helped make up for it by adding 8.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.4 blocks per contest. He also made a career high 1.5 three-pointers per game, but his increased three-point attempts contributed to a drop in overall field goal percentage (career-low 42% FG). Having centers with a high field goal percentage is key in fantasy, so Gasol's struggles really impacted his value.

Gasol finished the year with a 25.6% usage rate as the focal point of the offense, which was the second-highest mark of his career. If the Grizzlies -- read: Mike Conley -- can stay healthy next year and add some more talent to help keep defenses honest against Gasol, he could very well see his field goal percentage return to normal and again be one of the better fantasy options at center.

Tyreke Evans: The Grizzlies have had issues with depth and scoring off their bench in recent years, so they decided to take a chance on Evans, bringing him in on a one-year, $3.29 million contract. With Mike Conley (Achilles) lost early in the season, Evans ended up becoming a key contributor.

Evans showed he can put up big numbers when healthy and given an expanded role -- something he hasn't had in recent years -- averaging 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.2 three-pointers and 1.1 steals per game. He posted a 28.4% usage rate, which was the highest of his career. By also shooting 45.2% from the field and 78.5% from the charity stripe, he was one of the biggest surprises in fantasy basketball this season.

A low-dollar player in most auction formats, Evans' utility began to run out around the trade deadline, however. The Grizzlies held Evans out of a number of games while attempting to cash in on his strong first half but were ultimately unable to pry a first-round pick away from a contender. After they ultimately decided to hang on to Evans, he was subsequently limited by injuries and tank-related rest down the stretch, playing in only seven games after Jan. 22.
Evans will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he showed enough in 52 games that he won't be a near-minimum player again. The Grizzlies will likely entertain the notion of bringing Evans back, but he'll likely draw interest from teams with more attractive situations. Where he ends up will ultimately determine his fantasy utility.

The Bad

Mike Conley: Conley has had some injury issues in his career, but he went down early in the season and played in only 12 games, by far the lowest total of his career. Conley averaged a career-high 20.5 points per game the previous season and was an early selection in many fantasy leagues, carrying an ADP of 28, according to FantasyPros. Obviously, the injury derailed his season before it ever truly began, and those who invested a second or third round pick in Conley were left scrambling to fill the void.

The good news is that by the time next season rolls around, Conley will have had plenty of time to prepare for his return. He won't have any limitations heading into next season and will pair with Gasol, as well as a much-needed top draft pick, to be the focal points of the franchise. His injury history may shy away some owners on draft day, potentially making him available later than usual.

Chandler Parsons: As good as the Evans signing turned out to be, the decision to bring in Parsons before the 2016-17 season couldn't have turned out much worse than it has. After agreeing to a four-year contract worth over $94 million, Parsons has played a total of 70 games. Even when healthy, Parsons has been a shell of his former self, averaging a meager 7.1 points and 2.5 rebounds during his Grizzlies' tenure. He did show improvement in his shooting percentage this season, but it's unlikely that he'll be a fantasy contributor in most formats next season.

The State of the Franchise

With Conley and Gasol, the Grizzlies are already working with a solid, if not aging, foundation. There was some discussion after they didn't trade Evans that they could potentially try to bring him back next season, but it's unclear how much interest there truly is on both sides.
Rookie Dillon Brooks is someone to keep an eye on leading up to next season, as the second-round pick showed he can provide an offensive spark and was one of the few bright spots in 2017-18. In the 38 games in which he played at least 30 minutes last year, Brooks averaged 13.5 points and 1.4 three-pointers per contest. If Evans doesn't return and the Grizzlies decide to take a big man with their first-round pick -- Memphis has the second-best lottery odds -- Brooks could have a significant role next year and be worth taking a flier on late in drafts.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

The Good

Dennis Smith, Jr.: The Mavericks desperately needed an injection of youth and talent to their roster and they got just that from Smith in his rookie season. The NC State product averaged 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, one steal and 1.5 three-pointers in 30 minutes per game. Injuries limited Smith to 69 games, however, and he does need to work on his percentages, finishing at 39.5% from the field and more concerning 69.4% from the charity stripe.

The Mavericks lacked scoring weapons outside of Harrison Barnes, so it's not surprising that Smith led the team with a 28.7% usage rate. Regardless of what the Mavericks do in the draft or free agency, he will be one of the centerpieces of the roster for the foreseeable future.

The problem when it comes to fantasy are his unsightly percentages. Having a point guard who shoots less than 70% from the free-throw line is a good way to dig yourself a hole you likely won't be able to climb out of. Until he shows he can shoot for higher percentages, Smith not worth much more than a mid-round pick. Smith still has a ton of room to improve, though, and there's a long list of very good point guards who struggled with efficiency early in their careers.

Dwight Powell: The Mavericks had a lot of issues up front -- namely, the lack of a true center -- which left Powell to average a career high 21 minutes per game. He didn't play much at the start of the season but logged at least 23 minutes per contest in each of the final three months.

Powell's best month of the season came in February when he averaged 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 61.8% from the field. To no surprise, he also averaged 29 minutes per game in that month.

Powell is one of only eight Mavericks signed through next season -- and that's if you assume Dirk Nowitzki will be back next season, which all signs point to being the case. Dallas will have a high pick in the draft and is one of only a handful of teams with significant cap space, so a lot of Powell's value for next season will depend on what other moves the Mavs make, or don't make, this summer. The expectation is that the Mavs will be aggressive on the market, with players like Julius Randle, DeAndre Jordan, Aaron Gordon, DeMarcus Cousins and Will Barton looming as potential targets.

The Bad

Nerlens Noel: This season was a disaster for Noel, who missed time with a thumb injury and was later suspended near the end of the season for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy. He ended up playing in only 30 games and averaging 16 minutes per contest.
Noel can still protect the rim and rebound at a decent rate when the minutes are there, but he certainly couldn't have dreamed up a worse scenario in a contract year. He reportedly turned down a big offer from the Mavericks last summer, but at this point it's very much unclear if either side has much interest in extending the partnership.

The 24-year-old's value may be an at all-time low, but he still has some upside if he lands in a better basketball situation.

Seth Curry: Curry showed signs that he was breaking out two seasons ago, averaging 12.8 points and two made three-pointers in 29 minutes per game. He shot an excellent 48.1% from the field while also averaging 1.1 steals per contest and was expected to start heading into this season.

Unfortunately, Curry suffered a leg injury that eventually required surgery, keeping him sidelined for the entire season. His absence left a significant offensive hole in the Mavs' lineup that contributed to an all-around poor offensive season.

Curry should be fully recovered heading into next season, but he's an unrestricted free agent whose fantasy value is tough to gauge until he signs a new contract, whether it's in Dallas or elsewhere.

The State of the Franchise

Drafting Smith was a big help, but the Mavericks still have a lot of work to do before they get back to the Western Conference playoffs. They'll have another high pick in the draft and will need to target size up front, either with that selection or through free agency.

Dirk Nowitzki said he plans to return next season, but he's long past his days of being a significant fantasy contributor. The Mavericks are also one season away from clearing Wesley Matthews' big contract off the books, so it's possible they hold onto their chips and endure another rebuilding year before going all-in on free agency in 2019.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Barner
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. In 2018, he was a finalist for the FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Mike also won the 2022-23 FSGA NBA Experts Champions league. In addition to RotoWire, Mike has written for Sportsline, Sports Illustrated, DK Live, RealTime Fantasy Sports, Lineup Lab and KFFL.com.
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