Nick Whalen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
With the Kyrie Irving/Isaiah Thomas blockbuster officially in the books, the dust has finally settled — for now, at least — on one of the most eventful offseasons in recent memory.
After a number of All-Stars and All-NBA-caliber players changed teams, the power dynamic has shifted even more in favor of the Western Conference, though the top of the East remains stocked with formidable contenders.
Below, we’ll take a look at the most impactful moves around the league this summer and analyze the fantasy implications they might entail.
Chris Paul to Houston
Two of the NBA’s best playmakers in one backcourt will be a nightmare for opposing defenses, but from a fantasy perspective, both Paul and Harden could end up losing individual value.
When the pair is on the floor together, Harden will likely spend more time off-ball, which could lead to drop-off in assists. That said, Harden is a dangerous catch-and-shoot threat, and the attention Paul commands should put him in good position to operate without defenses keying on him at all times.
Paul’s numbers have a better chance to remain steady, but he, too, will surrender touches to Harden. The expectation, however, is that Mike D’Antoni will stagger his two superstars’ minutes to some degree to ensure either Paul or Harden is handling the ball at all times.
Gordon Hayward to Boston
Hayward goes from one great basketball situation to another, though in Boston he’ll share the spotlight with Kyrie Irving. Even with Irving presumably serving as the Celtics’ primary initiator, Hayward will be featured in the offense, and a drop-off in overall production doesn’t seem likely.
Paul George to Oklahoma City
Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis to Indiana
After a slow start to last season, George’s numbers returned to All-NBA form in the second half, but adjusting to playing alongside a high-usage point guard could prove to be a significant challenge. George has played with All-Stars in the past, but he’s been the unquestioned No. 1 option for most of his career. Westbrook, on the other hand, played in the shadow of Durant for several seasons before going supernova in his first year running the show solo.
An excellent spot-up shooter and slasher on the wing, George should fit in well — at least on paper. Just how willing Westbrook will be to defer to George will ultimately determine the duo’s ceiling.
Kyrie Irving to Boston
Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic to Cleveland
While this trade owned the headlines for much of August, the actual on-court impact may not be all that significant. Irving is younger, but he’s a similar, high-usage player to Thomas. Getting out from under LeBron James’ shadow could result in a boost for Irving, but he won’t be a one-man band in Boston either.
Meanwhile, Thomas moves into the shadow of James, essentially stepping right into the spot vacated by Irving. While a regression in scoring after a career year seemed likely regardless, Thomas’ lingering hip injury stands as the biggest question mark. If healthy, he should be among the league’s most productive point guards, but if his recovery drags into the winter months, his value becomes much more clouded.
Dwight Howard to Charlotte
Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee to Atlanta
Howard wasn’t necessarily a disappointment in Atlanta, but the Hawks have clearly shifted directions toward a rebuild. In Charlotte, he’ll once again have a clear path to a starting spot, but the days of an offense being structured around Howard have long passed. He should continue to provide value as a rebounder and shot-blocker, but his free throw percentage and lack of assists and three-point production diminish his overall fantasy utility.
Jimmy Butler to Minnesota
Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn to Chicago
Coming off of by far the best season of his six-year career, Butler will suddenly go from best player on a bad team to one of the best players on a good team. Playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins will require an adjustment, but the presence of Tom Thibodeau should help ease Butler’s transition.
Butler may be the Wolves’ best player right now, but the offense will still run through Towns. That, coupled with Wiggins’ shoot-first nature, could result in a slight reduction in scoring for Butler, though his other categorical numbers should remain relatively constant.
D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn
Brook Lopez to L.A. Lakers
In one of those rare, mythical trades in which both teams benefit, the Nets traded their best player — who also happens to be a free agent next summer — for a young, talented asset in Russell. For their troubles, the Lakers were also able to unload Mozgov’s atrocity of a contract, which will pay him $48 million over the next three years.
While Lopez’s production could take a step back alongside a better supporting cast, both Mozgov and Russell stand to benefit. Russell will have to earn his way into the starting lineup, but he’s easily the Nets’ highest-upside player in both the short and long-term. Mozgov is what he is at this point, but Brooklyn’s next-best option at center is rookie Jarrett Allen, who’s still early in his development.
Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson to Minnesota
Butler is the headliner, but the Wolves also added talent at point guard and power forward. Teague has long been one of the league’s steadiest floor generals, but he’ll be a firm fourth option in Minnesota and is at risk of dipping below 15 points per game for the first time in five seasons. His assists numbers could also fluctuate with Butler and Towns both more than capable of playmaking in the halfcourt.
Ricky Rubio to Utah
The Jazz replaced George Hill with a solid veteran in Rubio, who will step in as the starter after averaging a career-best 9.1 assists per game last season. While Rubio also boasts strong rebounding, steals and free throw percentage numbers, he’s a sub-38 percent field goal shooter for his career and is yet to demonstrate much improvement from beyond the arc (30.6% 3PT on 2.6 3PA/G last season).
Danilo Gallinari, Milos Teodosic to L.A. Clippers
The Clippers lost their best player over the summer but gained depth all over the roster. When healthy, Gallinari is a lethal scorer who shoots the three well, while Teodosic might already be one of the best passers in the league before he even plays a game. Both players are risks — Gallinari for health reasons and Teodosic for his lack of experience — but they’ll each be key contributors for a team hoping to remain in the top six out West.
Paul Millsap to Denver
On paper, Millsap is an ideal fit next to Nikola Jokic in the frontcourt, and his presence should immediately open things up for what was already one of the league’s best offenses last season. After being the No. 1 option in Atlanta last season, Millsap may not be asked to carry as much of an offensive burden for the Nuggets, but he’s been among the steadiest players in the NBA over the last half-decade, so a significant decline in fantasy value should not be expected.