A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs.
Today, let’s talk about some veterans that entered Unrestricted Free Agency in early July and address their fantasy futures and situations. For whatever reason – be it talent, lack of opportunity, chances to rack up minutes, good and bad environments, etc – these are some players that can be very valuable on very particular roles for real-life teams, but not so much for their fantasy GMs… and also the exact opposite way in other cases. In other words, monitoring how those are handled by their new front offices and coaches leading up to tipoff night will be crucial to know how viable they will be in terms of their fantasy basketball value.
Let’s look at some veterans that can be considered losers in the fantasy realm who most probably won’t help their fantasy GMs, and explore their situations going forward to build their negative case.
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Veteran Free Agency Losers – 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball
Raul Neto, PG – Cleveland Cavaliers
Last season I was really into Raul Neto. He became a weekly fixture in my deep-league WW target pieces. He was that good for fantasy GMs doing it in large player-pool leagues needy for options on a week-to-week basis and trying to get the smallest of edges over their competition. Neto is now out of Washington, which makes sense given the Wiz’s recent transactions and his probably-blocked pathway toward playing time, but it’s not that Cleveland will offer a much better option for him.
The Cavs are definitely set at both starting guard positions with Garland and LeVert going nowhere. That, of course, is leaving Collin Sexton out of the equation already, which is a stretch and debatable in terms of the LeVert-Sexton skill-set debate. Anyway, one of those two is going to start, and the other one is going to get the bulk of the rotation minutes at the two-guard spot.
The problem with Neto is that Ricky Rubio is back – and he’s also one of my Veteran FA Winners; check that column out when it’s out. Rubio was extraordinary in Cleveland last season even though he just played 34 games before getting injured for the season. He averaged 30.9 FPPG and 1.08 FP/min with gaudy numbers. Neto, in Washington, put up 15.8 FPPG and 0.81 FP/min last year in 70 games. Neto, by the way, has never played to even an NBA-average level on an efficiency (FP/min) basis for fantasy GMs.
Neto is a good player for the Cavs to have around just in case Rubio’s recovery drags a bit, but if that happens I wouldn’t even rule out the addition of another PG to the roster. Neto is good, but he’s limited also. He posted a 7-2-3-1 line last year with most of his appeal coming from the near-total avoidance of TOs at just 1.1 TOPG (he had fewer than one in all prior five seasons). He’s good only when leading a team/unit because he flat-out can’t shoot or work off the ball to save his life, but that role might not be available for him in Cleveland next year.
Nicolas Batum, SF – Los Angeles Clippers
Batum re-signed with the Clippers and that, to my real-life NBA analyst’s eyes, is the best thing he could have done. On that front and from that angle, it’s a (very) winning move by the French, who stayed put in one of the strongest teams of the League entering the 2023 campaign and a clear title contender if everybody returns healthy and available from the long summer.
Now, for fantasy purposes, Batum might be entering murky waters while staying in Hollywood. The Clips are expected to bring both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard back and ready to play for most of the regular season and into the playoffs – yes, even accounting for the whole “load management” stuff. That’s two starting slots off Batum’s reach with those two playing on the wings. Batum is not even big enough to play some sort of small ball center, so you can also rule that out.
What’s left? Well, the second unit should be Batum’s best and most viable option to get minutes next season, but even that might be hard to come his way. Marcus Morris is still in tow, and the Clips also drafted Moussa Diabate, have Robert Covington (huge decline, though), and also the likes of Luke Kennard, Amir Coffey, or Brandon Boston Jr. taking good minutes and providing precise tools and options when needed.
Batum has been in LAC a couple of seasons and never played fewer than 24.8 MPG splitting time starting and on the bench (he started 54 of 59 games last year, though, given the Clippers’ injury woes). He is now a bona fide pine-rider with limited upside, such as he was in 2020 and (partly) in 2021. Those two years he averaged 15.9 and 20.9 FPPG respectively, and it’s been more than five seasons since Batum posted an above-average efficiency mark when he did so for the last time in 2017 (1.01 FP/min) starting all 77 games he played in Charlotte. Good old times, those ones…
Otto Porter Jr., SF – Toronto Raptors
The Warriors have definitely turned into title-winning producers for whoever signs with them. Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II, Otto Porter,… everybody wins, including the franchise, so no complaints are ever heard coming out of the Bay! With a ring on his finger and GSW approaching massive payroll numbers quickly, Porter is moving on with the Frisco franchise passing on re-signing him.
Of course, Porter has been around for almost 10 years and finally got his ultimate dream, so it’s not that going to Toronto or elsewhere is going to be crucial for his career going forward. Even then, Porter will still be playing his age-29 season next year, which probably no one is able to process as he’s been in the league since 1993 at least.
Porter is going from a bench role to… well, another bench role, only now north of the border. Porter started only 15 of his 63 games played last season and averaged 22 MPG, a constant for him in the past three seasons splitting time between Chicago, Orlando, and Golden State. Porter’s starting days are clearly over, let alone in a packed team such as Toronto. That’s not bad, but we’ll see if his role gets even more limited in terms of what he’s asked for in the Six.
Otto has averaged between 21 and 22 FPPG in three consecutive years though he’s played only 105 games in those three campaigns combined. His efficiency is not bad; he’s slightly above the league average mark on a FP/min basis. He’ll need to raise his three-point shooting percentages (37% in back-to-back years) to those of his early career (43%+ in 2017 and 2018) to consider him a valuable fantasy player at something. Good rebounding and steals upside, yes, but he’s sitting behind all of Anunoby, Barnes, Siakam, Thad Young, Chris Boucher, and maybe one or two more players in the pecking order entering September’s training camp.
Robin Lopez, C – Cleveland Cavaliers
Another solid WW target in years past, the Robin of the Lopezes is joining Cleveland ahead of next season. Costco Brook, as he’s known in Brooklyn, has played for four different teams in the past four NBA seasons, no less, and he’ll make that five-in-five when the ball gets rolling next year. That said, he’s squeezing the last drop of basketball inside of him while enjoying his final days, so that’s cool.
Lopez is a consummate veteran. He is not a starter anymore because of a lack of production, age, or a combination of the two, but he’s definitely someone franchises like to have around their youngest players to nurture them. That said, Lopez’s production has been going down for a while since he peaked in the 2015-17 span. Lopez has put up back-to-back seasons of just 0.84 FP/min and he even had a worse one in Milwaukee prior to that when he finished at a putrid 0.76 FP/min average.
Lopez has turned more into a little-things type of player than a stat-sheet padder. That, obviously, is a fantasy basketball killer because we need those stats to flash. Cleveland drafted Old Mobley last season and added Young Mobley this summer. They also still have Kevin Love (small ball center), Ed Davis, and Jarrett Allen on the roster. There will be minutes for Lopez here and there, and it’s not that Orlando had a less crowded big-men stable, but the situation doesn’t scream fantasy sleeper to me.