The Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns pulled off a trade Tuesday that has significant fantasy implications. Basically, the Charlotte Bobcats gave up their best player for a couple role players Terry Porter didn’t want. Larry Brown is working his franchise-killing magic once again.
Points in the Paint already did a fine job breaking down some of the fantast winners and losers from the trade. But I love adding numbers to the mix, so here is my take.
The aforementioned Bobcats’ best player is Jason Richardson, a scoring machine who led the league with 243 3-pointers last season. Many fantasy owners have a lot riding on the performance of Richardson, who has bounced back nicely after missing seven games earlier this season following arthroscopic knee surgery.
Richardson is averaging 18.7 points on 44 percent shooting, 1.9 3-pointers, 2.6 assists and 1.0 steal per game. Lower than his expected numbers, but the injury has affected them somewhat. He’s averaging 19.8 points since returning from the injury.
So how does the trade impact his numbers now that he lands on a team with a pair of frontcourt players who demand the ball (Amare Stoudamire and Shaquille O’Neal) and one of the best passers in the game (Steve Nash)?
Frankly, this deal only helps Richardson tremendously. Nash knows how to get shooters the ball and Richardson will benefit from all the double-teaming opponents will do against Shaq and Amare inside.
Richardson won’t jump to a whole new level of value. He’ll score around 20-22 points per game nail a bunch of 3’s, perhaps even exceeding last season’s total. He’ll post mediocre percentages and throw in some steals. Pretty much what you drafted him for.
The one facet that may improve dramatically is his FG%. He shot a respectable 44 percent last season but playing on a more balanced team may allow better shot selection. If he pushes that percentage up to 46 percent, he’s a Top 30 player.
One aspect worth noting is that the Suns play a quicker tempo than the Bobcats, who are just 27th in the NBA with 90 possessions per game. It’s not unreasonable to anticipate a slight bump in steals, assists and rebounds.
Richardson has become slightly more valuable, but he was likely already one of your top three or four players, anyway.
The most interesting facet of the trade is the unpredictable ripple effect it will have on the rest of the Suns roster. Nash, Stoudemire and O’Neal are unaffected in terms of value. It wouldn’t appear that Richardson will be taking shots away from those guys, but the rest of the team could suffer.
Raja Bell and Boris Diaw – both of whom were traded to Charlotte – were averaging a combined 14.5 shot attempts per game and logging 59 minutes per game. Richardson averaged around 18 shots per game last season and will log somewhere between 35-38 minutes per game.
So the candidates for a reduction of shots and playing time are Grant Hill, Matt Barnes and Leandro Barbosa. One of these players’ values will be altered dramatically in a negative sense. There are reasons for/against each player retaining his value:
For Barbosa: If this acquisition does in fact mean the Suns are going to start running more, Barbosa is the ideal guy to get more playing time because it suits his abilities. Also, Phoenix has repeatedly said they are trying not to wear down Hill, who may not be able to physically handle major minutes as a backup point-forward.
Against Barbosa: He’s been terribly inconsistent and getting just 22 minutes per game as-is. The Suns may be better off letting Hill handle the ball while Nash is on the bench and have Barnes backing up Richardson.
For Barnes: He’s been the team’s best emerging fantasy asset, burying 2.2 3-pointers per game and shooting 47 percent. He putting up nearly six rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Why mess with a guy who is playing well?
Against Barnes: He’s pretty much Richardson-lite. A 3-point shooting machine, except without the freakish athleticism that lets the actual J-Rich get to the hole and play solid defense. So if you have Richardson, why keep playing Barnes?
For Hill: He’s the second-best ballhandleron the team and, unless the Suns want to play Nash 48 minutes per night, the second-best candidate the run the offense. His mid-range game will fit in nicely with the two post-players and Richardson’s long-range game.
Against Hill: His body can’t handle logging heavy minutes and from an offensive standpoint, Barbosa and Barnes are just better players right now. According to John Hollinger’s PER ratings, Barbosa ranks 124th and Barnes is 138th while Hill is at 228th – just behind Acie Law.
One thing is for sure, none of these guys will increase in value. I would hang on to both Barbosa and Barnes to see how the rotation shakes out. Hill was borderline ownable before the trade and now think it’s safe to cut him loose.
Jared Dudley also went from Charlotte to Phoenix. A late first-round draft pick in 2007, Dudley had carved out a niche as a frontcourt role player averaging about 21 minutes per game this season.
Nothing about Dudley jumps out at you, but if he can find a spot in the rotation playing forward behind Stoudemire, Barnes and Hill, he could benefit from playing alongside Nash and Richardson.
Dudley’s career numbers indicate he could help a little in rebounds and steals if given enough time. But it’s hard to imagine him getting enough to make him valuable in all but the deepest of leagues.
As far as the Bobcats go, there are 18 shots per game Richardson will no longer be taking and list of beneficiaries is going to make a lot of owners happy.
Gerald Wallace played well before and during Richardson’s tenure, so he’ll be fine. Raymond Felton and his career .397 FG% should be shooting as few jumpers as possible. Emeka Okafor may see a few more offensive opportunities, but he’s still mainly a boards and blocks guy.
But the real winner seems to be rookie D.J. Augustin, who has emerged into a solid option after a slow start to the season. He is averaging just 9.9 shots per game, but scored 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting following the trade on Wednesday night.
While Richardson was sidelined due to injury earlier this season, Augustin played 30-plus minutes in seven straight games and averaged 18.1 points, 5.4 assists and 2.4 3-pointers per game.
Richardson got back to full strength and Augustin played less than 30 minutes in five straight. The day Richardson gets traded, Augustin plays 38 minutes and his best game of the season. Sense a pattern? The kid is set to explode.
Augustin is not perfect. At just six feet tall, he’s going to have a poor FG% (.418 this season) and a lot of turnovers (2.5 per game thusfasr). But he’ll provide a ton of 3-pointers, assists and a strong FT% to go with a helpful amount of steals.
Expect Bell and Diaw to have immediate roles for the Bobcats.
Bell is a favorite of Brown. He is nowhere near the fantasy player he was during the Mike D’Antoni days in Phoenix and is a fringe player only worth owning if you’re in desperate need of 3-pointers.
Bell’s statistics indicate that even a major bump in playing time are not going to add a tremendous amount of value, especially on a team that does not have a fast-paced offense.
Diaw is a much more intriguing option. The Bobcats only frontcourt presence is Okafor, who is best at playing under the basket. Diaw is better outside the lane as a passer from the post and may be a nice compliment. He’s certainly a better alternative than the perennially fat Sean May.
It’s worth noting the Diaw’s per minute numbers have not changed all that much since his breakout season of 2005-06. His minutes have dropped from 35.5 that season to 31.1 the following season, 28.1 last season and 24.5 in 22 games this season.
His foul rate and turnover rate have actually decreased, so his role became limited solely because the Stoudemire returned to prominence and the teams acquired O’Neal.
If Diaw gets between 30 and 38 minutes per night – which is no guarantee as there have always been questions about his conditioning – he will skyrocket in value.
It’s not a stretch to think he could averaged 12.0 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Plus, he’s eligible at both center and power forward.
If you’re on the hunt for a second center or just need a versatile big that can help you in numerous categories, Diaw may be the guy. In fact, he may the only player in the trade who has gone from fantasy irrelevance to demand.