Free agency slows after busy first 48 hours
We’re now a week removed from the start of free agency, and most of the movement occurred within the first 48 hours. But there were still some noteworthy decisions to be made, as restricted free agents could not officially sign offer sheets until July 6. Add in trades that became official, and Thursday was a busy day in the NBA. And there are still some noteworthy free agents on the board, with some having the potential to be productive options in fantasy leagues. We’ll take a look at some key moves that occurred over the last few days. However, before that, we’ll take a look at the latest regarding Damian Lillard and his request to be traded.
-- Portland’s in no rush to make a deal
At this point, it’s well-known that Lillard would prefer to join forces with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in Miami. But even with all of his achievements in Portland, and the front office’s desire to “do right” by their star, there’s the need for Trail Blazers GM Joe Cronin to leave no stone unturned as he goes through the process of one of the biggest moments in franchise history. Unlike Bradley Beal , who (along with his agent) was able to work his way to Phoenix, Lillard doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract. And with the amount of money that he’s owed over the next four seasons, Portland will need a lot to make things work from their perspective.
Tyler Herro ‘s name has come up quite often as a player who could be headed elsewhere as part of a Lillard trade, but it was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Portland is not interested in acquiring him. And that makes sense, as they just drafted Scoot Henderson and have two other young guards in Anfernee Simons (who’s been the subject of trade rumors himself) and Shaedon Sharpe . With that being the case, a third team may be needed to facilitate a deal that gets Lillard to Miami. Brooklyn has been mentioned as a team that could be added to the equation, with Portland’s aim being to get the draft capital needed to aid in the rebuild.
While Portland has a star who wants out, they also hold the cards at this point in time. Even with the outside pressure and assumptions that the Blazers “have” to move Lillard, it would be foolish to accept a deal that gets them “pennies on the dollar” in return. While this will remain a topic of conversation until something happens, fantasy managers and basketball fans alike should remain patient, because this could take a while to resolve.
-- Still no movement on the Harden front, either
76ers guard James Harden is still a member of the franchise despite opting into the final year of his deal in order to help facilitate a trade. The Clippers have been reported to be his preferred destination, but it was also reported that 76ers president Daryl Morey is in no rush to make a move. It was reported earlier in the week that he could look to convince Harden to remain in Philadelphia, but we’ve seen issues in the past (Houston and Brooklyn) when the 10-time All-Star is set on a move elsewhere. Harden is due to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, which limits what the 76ers can ask for on the trade market, so working things out may be the best approach for the franchise.
It was reported on Wednesday that Thybulle would sign an offer sheet from the Mavericks worth $33 million over three years, but the expectation was that Portland would not hesitate to match it. Sure enough, that’s how things have played out, with the Trail Blazers ponying up to hold onto one of the league’s best wing defenders. The offensive skill set has long been an issue, but Thybulle showed signs of progress after being acquired from the 76ers at the trade deadline. In 22 games (all starts) for Portland, he averaged 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.5 3-pointers in 27.7 minutes, shooting nearly 39% from three.
Those numbers may not scream “star,” but they do represent a step in the right direction for a player who was on the back end of the rotation in Philadelphia due to a lack of aggression on the offensive end of the floor. From the trade deadline onward, Thybulle was a top 100 player in 9-cat formats per Basketball Monster. Using a top-100 pick on him in drafts may be a bit much, especially with Portland wanting to see more from Shaedon Sharpe. But Thybulle’s definitely a player who should be on draft radars not too long after that point based on his production after being traded to Portland.
With the Celtics acquiring Kristaps Porzingis from the Wizards (and subsequently giving him an extension) and still needing to figure out what a new deal for Jaylen Brown will look, it was going to be difficult for them to hold onto Williams. Sure enough, Brad Stevens pulled off a sign-and-trade, sending the burly forward to Dallas as part of a three-team deal with the Mavericks and San Antonio. Williams agreed to a four-year contract worth nearly $54 million, and the move to Dallas gives him an opportunity at achieving fantasy relevance.
Despite averaging nearly 26 minutes per game during the regular season, Williams ranked outside the top 200 in 8- and 9-cat, per-game value. He’ll be in a lineup with two ball-dominant players in Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving , but Dallas’ frontcourt isn’t on par with the one that Williams was a member of in Boston. Also of note is the 3-point shooting. Williams made 39.5% of his 3.7 attempts per game last season, shooting 43% from the corners. The hope is that he can bring more to the table as a rebounder and defender, with Williams averaging a career-high 4.6 rebounds per game last season. His Yahoo ADP should receive a bump with the trade, but it’s unlikely to be significantly higher than Williams’ number ahead of last season (139.2 per Hashtag Basketball).
Due to a domestic violence charge, to which he ultimately pleaded no contest, Bridges didn’t catch on with any team last season. The Hornets held onto his rights, which led to the athletic forward being a restricted free agent this summer. The end result for Bridges was a one-year deal worth $7.9 million. He’ll miss the first 10 games of this season as part of the 30-game suspension handed down by the NBA. Fantasy-wise, Bridges offered 3rd-round, per-game value in 9-cat formats during the 2021-22 season, sitting just outside the top 10 in totals. That said, fantasy managers shouldn’t expect an explosion from him, due largely to the addition of Brandon Miller .
The second overall pick in last month’s draft, one would assume that Miller will get every opportunity to show what he can do alongside LaMelo Ball . And that’s before we consider the statuses of P.J. Washington and Kelly Oubre , who are both free agents at this point in time. Add in the presence of Gordon Hayward , and it may be difficult for Bridges to get the run needed to have any chance of approaching his 2021-22 production next season.
Still on the board
As noted above, Washington remains a free agent. Since he’s of the restricted variety, the Hornets will be able to match any offer sheet that he signs. In 73 games played, Washington was a 9th-round player in 8- and 9-cat formats, fair value for a player who had a Yahoo ADP of 98.8. What’s strange about him still being available is that the 2022-23 season was Washington’s most productive as a scorer, as he averaged 15.7 points per game. However, this was done with Bridges not in the fold, and Oubre (48 appearances) and Hayward (50) combining to appear in 98 games.
Washington has the potential to be a top-100 player, but will he land in a situation where he can start? Adding Miller to the mix and getting Bridges and Cody Martin back stands to create quite the logjam at the forward positions. Fantasy managers who may be fond of Washington should be rooting for a move elsewhere, especially if he can land with a team that has a need to address at power forward.
Unlike Washington, Oubre is an unrestricted free agent. The negative for him last season was availability, as the Tsunami Papi was limited to 48 games (40 starts) by injury. And it’s worth noting that since he appeared in 81 games during the 2017-18 season, Oubre has appeared in at least 65 games just twice. When on the court, Oubre provided top 100, per-game value in 9-cat formats. He averaged a career-best 20.3 points per game while also putting up 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 2.3 3-pointers, shooting 43.1% from the field and 76.0% from the foul line. However, his issue for next season (should he return to Charlotte) is similar to that of Washington.
The Hornets have added multiple forwards to the roster, be it through the draft or players returning from injury or suspension. And at this point in free agency, will there be another team willing to offer Oubre a role similar to the one he enjoyed last season? When on the court, he outplayed his Yahoo ADP (138.5), but fantasy managers should not expect similar production in 2023-24.
After a stellar performance in a win over the Lakers on Christmas Day, Wood was asked about the possibility of inking an extension with the Mavericks. On that day, he became eligible for an extension worth $77 million over four years, but it was reported by multiple outlets that it was unlikely Dallas would make that move. The production would slip from there, with it becoming abundantly clear that Wood did not represent the frontcourt upgrade that the Mavericks were in desperate need of. He still hasn’t agreed to a deal as an unrestricted free agent, and Dallas has added the aforementioned Williams, Richaun Holmes , and first-round pick Dereck Lively II to its frontcourt while also re-signing Dwight Powell .
So where does this all leave Wood? His best seasons as a pro have come as a member of bad teams, and the damage done last season came as a reserve, with Wood being able to play the majority of his minutes against opposing bench units. He finished last season as an 8th-round player in 8- and 9-cat formats, but that production was still lower than his Yahoo ADP of 61.7. To have a shot at reaching that number, Wood will have to catch on with a team that lacks consistent options in the frontcourt.
It was reported early in free agency that the Warriors would have an interest in signing Saric, an experienced big who’s comfortable playing away from the basket. But he remains on the open market, likely in search of a more lucrative deal than the veteran’s minimum. In 57 games for the Suns and Thunder, he averaged 6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.8 3-pointers in 14.1 minutes. While he’s certainly capable of providing additional depth to a contending team, Saric is unlikely to be a fantasy asset at this stage in his career.
His best fantasy season was the 2017-18 campaign when Saric provided 7th-round, per-game value as a member of the 76ers. Saric started 70 of the 73 games he appeared in that season, playing nearly 30 minutes per outing in what is his lone top-100 fantasy campaign. Unless the unexpected happens and he lands a starting role, fantasy managers don’t need to plan on selecting Saric in most leagues.
While Coby White was signed to a new deal early in free agency, Dosunmu (who’s a restricted free agent) remains on the board. It was reported by Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer earlier this week that the Raptors are interested in Dosunmu, even after they signed Dennis Schroder to take over as Fred VanVleet’s replacement. Toronto has a need for additional depth at point guard. Former first-round pick Malachi Flynn hasn’t panned out, struggling to the point where he was passed in the rotation by Jeff Dowtin .
But what would a potential return to the Bulls look like? While the team appears to be operating under the assumption that Lonzo Ball (knee) will not play at all next season, they’ve re-signed White and added Jevon Carter to the roster. Add in Alex Caruso , and it could be difficult for Dosunmu to get the minutes needed to have any fantasy value next season. And this doesn’t even take into consideration how much Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan stand to have the ball in their hands as the Bulls’ top scorers.