A few things have happened since last week’s look at the first half of the league's free agency, like Jeff Teague’s offer sheet being matched by the Hawks, and Monta Ellis signing with the Mavericks, but you know that already from reading our constant stream of player news blurbs. And I’ve officially decided that I’m ready to reach for Detroit C Andre Drummond in all leagues this year, free throw percentage be damned. Here’s what’s happening with the second half of the league. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking here.
Miami – There’s not much to know about the Heat. The core will be back, they re-signed Chris Andersen, and might use amnesty on Mike Miller or Joel Anthony. Their biggest move could still be in the works, as there are reports that C Greg Oden could be on the verge of signing with the Heat. If he could somehow make it through a season, the Heat could be even better than advertised. This will likely be the last run for the Heat as we know them, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh leading the charge.
Milwaukee – Brandon Jennings isn’t happy with the Bucks and wants out, and it’s starting to look like the team will look to work out a sign-and-trade deal to move him. Monta Ellis now plays for the Mavericks, while O.J. Mayo will take his spot in Milwaukee. We still have to see how the Jennings situation plays out, while the Bucks will bring back Carlos Delfino. John Henson is having a nice Summer League, Zaza Pachulia signed with the Bucks as a backup center, while Samuel Dalembert will likely join Ellis in finding a new home in the near future. This team looks like a bit of a mess, while we expect the Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders and John Henson hype machines to be in full gear this season, as they’re going to be very important pieces of the puzzle.
Minnesota – The Wolves added Kevin Martin at shooting guard, which is kind of a big deal, since it’s been one of their biggest holes forever. Small forward Andrei Kirilenko is in Brooklyn now, while Chase Budinger is back and says he’s healthy, but the Wolves also signed Corey Brewer from the Nuggets. Expect those two to battle it out for the starting small forward job, along with rookie Shabazz Muhammad, who will most likely come off the bench. PG Ricky Rubio and PF Kevin Love should be healthy this season, while we’re all waiting to make sure that C Nikola Pekovic is able to work out a deal to return to the Timberwolves.
New Orleans – The Pelicans have been busy, acquiring PG Jrue Holiday on draft night and signing free agents Tyreke Evans and Greg Stiemsma. A starting five of PG Holiday, SG Eric Gordon, SF Tyreke Evans, PF Ryan Anderson and C Anthony Davis doesn’t look too bad. And with Robin Lopez in Portland, they’re going to probably need Davis to play a lot of center this season. And in case you’re wondering, PG Greivis Vasquez was shipped to the Kings in part of the Evans deal on July 4. Austin Rivers is coming off a disappointing rookie year, but is worth keeping an eye on in training camp, while I’d recommend staying away from Gordon (at least early in drafts), as usual.
New York – The big news out of New York is that Andrea Bargnani is now officially their problem. As a Bargnani fantasy backer over several of the last few years, I can already feel their pain. No rebounds, a decline in blocks and threes, and being constantly injured are his calling cards, but there is some hope that he can get a fresh start and finally stay healthy. I’m not holding my breath. We’re looking at a starting five of PG Raymond Felton, SG Iman Shumpert (J.R. Smith was re-signed, and could also start, but has traditionally been better off the bench), SF Carmelo Anthony (who is reportedly pushing for owner James Dolan to acquire Rajon Rondo from Boston), PF Bargnani and C Tyson Chandler. That looks like a pretty solid team in the East, which means they won’t be in the lottery, nor will they make it through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs. And you can expect Amare Stoudemire to come off the bench and be on a minutes count, as he enters (or should I say ‘continues’) the twilight of his career. And before you send me hate mail, I really don’t have any problem with the Knicks in general. I just doubt this is the offseason fans were hoping for. And the fact they appear to be on the verge of adding Metta World Peace probably isn’t doing much to make them feel any better.
Oklahoma City – It can be argued that the Thunder didn’t really need to do much in free agency, and I tend to agree. Kevin Martin is gone (Minnesota) so it’s time for Jeremy Lamb to get his shot. He tore it up at Summer League and will be a favorite fantasy sleeper this season. With PG Russell Westbrook, SG Thabo Sefolosha & Lamb, SF Kevin Durant, PF Serge Ibaka and C Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder are going to be very good once again, but they’re surely regretting the trade that sent James Harden to Houston these days, not to mention the one that sent Jeff Green to Boston for Perkins. And given the ineffectiveness of Perkins since coming over from the Celtics, the Thunder are praying that rookie Steven Adams is ready to go, and that Hasheem Thabeet will somehow show some improvement in his third season.
Orlando – The Magic will likely not have Hedo Turkoglu or Beno Udrih back this season, while they’re also unsure if Glen Davis will be ready for training camp due to his foot surgery. They’re also attempting to transform rookie SG Victor Oladipo into a point guard, which could mean a bit of a timeshare for incumbent Jameer Nelson. Look for an opening-night lineup of PG Nelson, SG Arron Afflalo (or Oladipo), SF Moe Harkless, PF Tobias Harris and C Nikola Vucevic. Harkless, Harris and Oladipo are going to be favorite fantasy sleepers this season, but this team doesn’t appear to be going anywhere fast, unless Oladipo can surpass the hype he’s already generating. And if you want Oladipo in fantasy, I hope you’re not in a league with an IU fan, or you’ll have to overpay for him.
Philadelphia – Rookie Michael Carter-Williams is going to take over the point guard reins from Jrue Holiday (Pelicans), while the wing positions will likely be comprised of Evan Turner and Jason Richardson (who has trouble staying healthy and had knee surgery that will keep him out for the first couple months, leaving Justin Holiday as the possible starter at SG - Yikes). Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and Moultrie will share time at power forward, while Hawes and rookie Nerlens Noel will handle most of the minutes in the middle. This team could be very good in a few years, but losing Holiday and the prospect of starting two rookies (and Turner) is a little scary for the upcoming season. But hey, at least the Andrew Bynum nightmare is over. Then again, a new one could be on the horizon if Royce White doesn’t show up ready to play. The Sixers still don’t have a head coach, adding to the confusion, while big man Moultrie will be worth keeping a close eye on in training camp, if he can get himself into shape.
Phoenix – The Suns failed to make a splash in free agency, but did add dynamic guard Eric Bledsoe, which is a good thing. He can play both guard spots and will be another popular fantasy sleeper this season. The starting five looks like PG Goran Dragic, SG Bledsoe, SF P.J. Tucker/Michael Beasley/Caron Butler, PF Luis Scola (or Markieff Morris) and C Marcin Gortat. The Polish Hammer probably isn’t happy the Suns drafted C Alex Len, and there’s a decent chance Gortat could be traded before the season starts. Despite the addition of Bledsoe, the Suns still look like a mess, for the most part. PG Kendall Marshall could also be fantasy relevant at some point, if Dragic fails to impress the Suns’ brass (again).
Portland – The Blazers had a nice draft by adding rookie guards C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe, while also picking up free agent swingman Dorell Wright. Look for a starting five of PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge and C Meyers Leonard or Robin Lopez, who was acquired via trade. McCollum is going to see a lot of minutes as a rookie, while Wright could make a nice splash off the bench. Batum will once again be primed for a breakout season, but it feels like I write that every year. Even when he’s not great, he’s still a very solid fantasy player. McCollum is one of my favorite rookies and appears to be in a good spot for production in Portland.
Sacramento – The Kings picked up PG Greivis Vasquez and used the No. 7 pick on SG Ben McLemore. Both of these moves are bad news for Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton, while Tyreke Evans is now in New Orleans. McLemore dinged up his knee in Summer League, but it doesn’t sound like a big deal. With a potential starting lineup of PG Vasquez, SG McLemore, SF John Salmons, PF Carl Landry/Patrick Patterson/Jason Thompson, and C DeMarcus Cousins, and a bench including Thomas, Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Kings are at least going to be an interesting team to study this season.
San Antonio – The Spurs, who were a few seconds away from winning it all last season, didn’t need to do much in the offseason, but they still managed to add Marco Belinelli, re-sign Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter, and add big-man help in the form of Jeff Pendergraph. There is going to be quite a logjam at shooting guard with Danny Green, Ginobili and Belinelli all on board, which is bad news for the minutes of Green, who was great in the playoffs. But a starting five of PG Tony Parker, SG Green, SF Kawhi Leonard (full breakout season coming), PF Tim Duncan, and C Splitter, the Spurs should once again be a team no one wants to see in the playoffs. I will not be touching Manu this year unless he’s available near the end of my drafts.
Toronto – The Raptors are looking at a starting five of PG Kyle Lowry (bounce-back year coming), SG DeMar DeRozan/Terrence Ross, SF Rudy Gay, PF Amir Johnson and C Jonas Valanciunas. Things appear to be looking up, although we’ll have to see how the bench, consisting of Steve Novak, Landry Fields, Tyler Hansbrough and Aaron Gray, contributes to what the starters offer. This could finally be the year Amir breaks out, while Valanciunas is going to be a very popular fantasy pick and is poised for a breakout season with Andrea Bargnani in New York. The Raptors also appear to love point guard Dwight Buycks, and there’s a chance the unknown player could end up being Lowry’s backup this season.
Utah – The Jazz lost Paul Millsap to the Hawks and Al Jefferson to the Bobcats, and added Brandon Rush, along with rookies Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert. A starting unit of PG Burke (favorite for ROY, but struggling through Summer League), SG Alec Burks (breakout candidate), SF Gordon Hayward, PF Derrick Favors (with Millsap gone, he’s going to go off) and C Enes Kanter (ditto with no Big Al) looks pretty solid on paper. They’ll miss Jefferson and Millsap, and even if Burke has a great rookie season, this still doesn’t look like a team heading anywhere fast. But I wouldn’t mind owning most of the starters this season in fantasy.
Washington – With PG John Wall, SG Bradley Beal and rookie SF Otto Porter, the Wizards have one of the most exciting young teams in the league. Nene’s health is a concern at power forward, while backups Trevor Booker, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton don’t look too exciting as of now. Emeka Okafor had a nice bounce-back season, but I still have some trust issues with him, while Kevin Seraphin has yet to live up to the hype. The Wiz still have some rebuilding to do with their big men, but their Big 3 of Wall, Beal and Porter might be the best young trio in the NBA. But with Porter likely sharing time with Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza, fantasy expectations should be kept in check.