NBA Free Agency Winners & Losers (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)
It seems like the Finals just ended, and already we’re past the NBA Draft and on to free agency… no complaints here! It’s been a busy couple of days already, and as always, it’s a great idea to take stock of the fantasy landscape. Let’s dive into the winners and losers of some of the biggest deals that have been completed thus far.
* Note: Trades and NBA Draft Selections were not considered here. This article addresses free agent signings only.
Gordon Hayward: 4-year, $120M deal with Charlotte
Winners: Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart
The contract may seem a bit mind-boggling considering Hayward missed so many games throughout his Celtics tenure and just never got into a groove with the team. Still, Charlotte was desperate for playmakers, and Hayward was one of the biggest available free agents. Hayward played his best basketball while with Utah, and his best season came in 2016-17, the year before he joined Boston. In that season, Hayward averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 boards, and 3.5 dimes and made his only All-Star team. He should be the go-to on offense, and he’ll almost certainly see more usage than he would have if he stayed with the Celtics.
Brown and Smart should enjoy a boost in production without Hayward in the fold, and any additional playing time or usage within the talented Boston roster is sure to improve the outlooks of those players.
Loser: Miles Bridges
The second-year man enjoyed a productive sophomore season in 2019-20, posting career highs of 13.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.5 triples while logging nearly 31 minutes a night. He impressed even more to close the season, averaging 15.6 points and 6.2 boards across the Hornets’ final 18 games, producing six 20-point games and a 20-point, 15-rebound double-double in that span. Expected to take another step forward in 2020-21, Hayward’s arrival will most likely stall Bridges’ growth, as the latter shifts to the bench and loses playing time.
Fred VanVleet: 4-year, $85M deal to remain with Toronto
Winner: Fred VanVleet
VanVleet’s contract is the largest ever for an undrafted player, and it’s tough to argue that he didn’t deserve every penny. After playing a crucial role for Toronto’s 2018-19 title team, FVV put together a career season in 2019-20, averaging 17.6 points, 6.6 dimes, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals across 35.7 minutes – all easily career-best numbers. He’s flourished in Toronto, and the culture and continuity made this his best destination as a free agent. He’s a clear winner and an easy mid-round selection in fantasy drafts.
Christian Wood: 3-year, $41M deal with Houston
Winner: Christian Wood
Wood’s big contract means he’ll appear for his sixth team in five seasons, though this will be the first instance he’s signed with the expectation of being a full-time starter. In his lone season with Detroit in 2019-20, Wood averaged career highs in minutes (21.4), points (13.1) and rebounds (6.3) while shooting respectably in all facets of the game. He really turned up the heat to close the season, averaging 22.8 points, 9.9 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.7 triples, and a block across 34.2 minutes per tilt. He parlayed those big numbers into his new deal with Houston, where he could be a huge fantasy contributor if given minutes in the high-20s to low-30s with regularity.
Montrezl Harrell: 2-year, $19M deal with Los Angeles Lakers
Even: Montrezl Harrell
I’m honestly not sure if this is a win or a loss for Harrell from a fantasy standpoint. From a real-life perspective, this is clearly a win for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but it’s tough to tell what he’ll be on the other side of the Staples Center. In 2019-20, Harrell averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 boards, and 1.1 blocks – all career highs. Harrell’s main competition for frontcourt minutes was Ivica Zubac while with the Clippers, but he’ll now be sharing time with Anthony Davis, Markieff Morris, and Kyle Kuzma among others. On the other hand, the Lakers’ bench is not ridiculously deep, and should Harrell play most of his minutes with the second unit, he could do damage similar to what he did in 2019-20. This feels more like a lateral move, so we’ll call it a draw for now.
Danilo Gallinari: 3-year, $61.5M deal with Atlanta
Losers: Danilo Gallinari, De’Andre Hunter
Gallo averaged at least 18 points, five rebounds and two triples for the second straight season while a member of the Thunder in 2019-20, though he’ll likely have more competition for scoring and rebounds on a more talented Hawks team this season. Trae Young, Clint Capela, and John Collins are all legitimate threats to eat into Gallinari’s production, and while he’ll still retain value thanks to his long-range shooting, a dip in production isn’t a stretch.
Hunter enjoyed a productive rookie campaign, started all but one regular-season contest, and averaged 32.0 minutes per contest. With Gallinari in the mix, Hunter will likely head to the bench, where his fantasy value will surely take a turn for the worse.
Jerami Grant: 3-year, $60M deal with Detroit
Winner: Jerami Grant
Grant fared well in Denver last season, posting averages of 12.0 points, 3.5 boards, 1.4 triples, and 1.2 assists per contest, mostly off the bench. He shifted to the starting lineup in the NBA bubble, where he played heavy minutes and made meaningful contributions. Now, he’ll be featured in a noticeably weaker offense, which should provide him a bump in minutes, usage, production, and fantasy value.
Tristan Thompson: 2-year, $19M deal with Boston
Winners: Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance
Thompson’s departure leaves Nance the primary backup at both PF and C for Cleveland, which bodes well for his prospects in 2020-21 after both Kevin Love and Andre Drummond were forced to miss time last season. Thompson’s arrival in Boston should provide an instant minutes boost, and while he’ll likely split time with Daniel Theis, Thompson should be the primary option at center. This is an upward move for his fantasy stock.
Losers: Daniel Theis, Robert Williams
Theis came up big for Boston in his third season, averaging career highs in minutes (24.1), points (9.2), and rebounds (6.6). He logged nearly 30 minutes per contest across 17 playoff games, though his production didn’t see much change. He’ll now have to share time with Tristan Thompson, and the minutes split is likely to hamper his value. Williams, who played efficiently in his limited role behind Theis, will have a tough time getting on the court.
Jae Crowder: 3-year, $30M deal with Phoenix
Winner: Jae Crowder
Crowder was huge for Miami in the playoffs, averaging 12.0 points, 5.6 boards, 2.6 triples, and 1.9 dimes across 31.5 minutes in the Heat’s 21 contests, including the Finals. He should slot into Phoenix’s starting five immediately, and he’ll likely provide numbers similar to his 2019-20 regular-season (10.5 points, 5.9 boards, 2.5 dimes, 2.1 threes). This is another lateral move fantasy-wise, but
Loser: Cameron Johnson
Johnson logged just 22 minutes as a rookie, and his production was meager, at just 8.8 points, 3.3 boards, and 1.9 triples per contest. The three-point specialist attempted 68% of his shots from beyond the arc, and his fantasy value was largely dependent on his outside stroke. With Crowder in the fold – a three-point sniper in his own right – it’s hard to envision Johnson taking a step forward in his second season.
Wesley Matthews: 1-year, $3.6M deal with Los Angeles Lakers
Winner: Donte DiVincenzo
DiVincenzo enjoyed a substantial minutes increase and subsequent production boost in his second season with Milwaukee, averaging 9.2 points, 4.8 boards, and 2.3 dimes across 23.0 minutes per game. With Matthews out the door, he’ll likely get more playing time and could even be the Bucks’ starting SG. That gives him plenty of opportunity to grow in his third season, and he’s worth a later-round selection in 12-team leagues this year.
Even: Wesley Matthews
It’s unlikely he sees much of a change in production with his new team, and even though Matthews was a full-time starter for Milwaukee last season, he only logged 24.4 minutes per contest. It seems more than likely he comes off the bench for Los Angeles in 2020-21, where he’ll probably see similar court time and produce numbers akin to the 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.6 triples he averaged in 2019-20.
Serge Ibaka: 2-year, $19M deal with Los Angeles Clippers
Loser: Ivica Zubac
Zubac was Los Angeles’ starter all last season, though Harrell played more minutes and provided bigger numbers off the bench. With Harrell gone, Zubac should absorb some of those minutes and production. Harrell arrived late to the NBA bubble and missed time, and he just wasn’t himself when he returned. As a result, Zubac played 23.3 minutes in the bubble versus 18.4 outside the bubble, and his 9.7 8.3 from 8.3 7.5
Rajon Rondo: 2-year, $15M deal with Atlanta
Loser: Rajon Rondo
The Hawks? C’mon man! This is an up-and-coming team to be sure, and it’s not like Rondo signed with the Cavs. But, still, this is a bit questionable considering he just won a championship with the team he left. Despite the addition of Dennis Schroder, Rondo’s path to meaningful playing time was a bit clearer in Los Angeles than in Atlanta, where he’ll compete with Kris Dunn to backup Trae Young.
Mason Plumlee: 3-year, $25M deal with Detroit
Winner: Mason Plumlee
Backing up Nikola Jokic last season, Plumlee experienced a down year in terms of his minutes and overall production, though he continued to play effective basketball, shooting over 60 percent from the floor and contributing meaningful numbers when given the opportunity. Over the course of his seven-year career, the big man has averaged 14.0 points, 10.3 boards, and 3.7 assists per 36 minutes, and with Christian Wood headed to Houston, Plumlee could be in a for a big rise in minutes as Detroit’s starting center.