Two days before the 2017 NBA draft, two stunning trades shook up the fantasy basketball landscape.
First, the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to send D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick in Thursday’s draft, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Later that night, the Atlanta Hawks sent Dwight Howard and the No. 31 pick to the Charlotte Hornets for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the No. 41 pick.
Whose fantasy stocks are rising and falling after this pair of trades? Let’s take a look.
Winner: D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Brooklyn Nets
D’Angelo Russell was a fantasy disappointment this past season, finishing as the 103rd-ranked player in nine-category leagues despite entering the year with an average draft position of 56.3. He shot a disappointing 40.5 percent from the field and didn’t flash the playmaking chops that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of Ohio State two years ago, averaging only 4.8 assists in 28.7 minutes per game. With Lonzo Ball likely coming to town as the No. 2 pick Thursday, Russell’s fantasy stock was pointed firmly down had he remained in L.A.
Instead, Russell now receives a new jolt of fantasy life upon arriving in Brooklyn. Yes, he’ll have to compete for touches with fellow ball-handler Jeremy Lin, but the Nets are otherwise devoid of proven offensive talent. Russell will be the centerpiece of the Nets from day one, which means head coach Kenny Atkinson should give him a longer leash than (former Laker head coach) Byron Scott and (current Laker coach) Luke Walton did. Russell could average something in the neighborhood of 20 points, six assists and five rebounds per game this coming season, making him a post-hype sleeper of the highest order.
Loser: Brook Lopez, C, Los Angeles Lakers
Brook Lopez feasted last season as one of the few Brooklyn players capable of putting the ball through the basket on a semi-regular basis. Whereas he faced little competition for regular playing time on the Nets, he is now headed to a Lakers team with Julius Randle, Ivica Zubac and Larry Nance Jr. already entrenched in its frontcourt. With Lopez on an expiring contract, it’s unclear whether L.A. expects him to become a long-term part of the team’s future, which could hamper his ability to command regular minutes. If the Lakers fall out of the playoff race and shut down veterans to play their young guys late in the year, Lopez could go MIA at the worst possible time for fantasy owners.
Winner: Dwight Howard, C, Charlotte Hornets
At this point, you know what you’re getting if you spend a mid-round pick on Dwight Howard. He’s a nightly double-double threat—he averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds in a career-low 29.7 minutes per game with Atlanta this past season—but he’s also going to single-handedly cripple your fantasy team’s free-throw percentage. If you’re in a roto league, he’s damn near undraftable, but owners in head-to-head leagues should be encouraged by his move to Charlotte, where he’ll have a routine pick-and-roll partner in Kemba Walker.
Hornets head coach Steve Clifford was an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic during Howard’s prime years, which lends hope that he’ll be able to help the big man recapture his fantasy glory. Howard will have to contend for minutes with Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky, but with Walker rather than inexperienced Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder running the show, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year could be in for a sneaky top-75 campaign.
Loser: Paul Millsap, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks (?)
The Hawks’ decision to trade Howard doesn’t seem to bode well for Paul Millsap’s future in Atlanta. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (via Ryne Nelson of Slam Online), the Hawks are kicking the tires on a potential sign-and-trade involving Millsap, with the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets all having expressed interest. New general manager Travis Schlenk recently hinted Millsap may be on the move this summer, telling Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The reality is, he might get better offers than we can make him.” If Millsap heads to Phoenix or Denver, he’d likely become more efficient offensively, but it could come at the expense of his per-game production.
Winner: Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers (?)
Assuming the Lakers select Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick Thursday—which they’re expected to do, per Wojnarowski—Russell’s absence creates a vacuum of opportunity for him to fill. Whereas Ball and Russell may have been forced to confront an awkward balancing act had the duo entered the season as L.A.’s starting backcourt, Ball should now have carte blanche as the Lakers’ starting point guard, making him the front-runner for the most impactful rookie in fantasy. If the Lakers can flip Jordan Clarkson in a package for Indiana Pacer forward Paul George, Ball would become one of the rare rookies worth selecting with a mid-round pick.
Loser: Jeremy Lin, PG, Brooklyn Nets
A nagging hamstring injury caused Jeremy Lin to miss 46 games during his debut campaign with the Nets last season, but when healthy, it wasn’t difficult to see why the fantasy community became enchanted with his fit there. In just 24.5 minutes per game, Lin poured in 14.5 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals—similar to Russell’s sophomore-year output in four fewer minutes—to finish as the 80th-ranked player in nine-category leagues on a per-game basis.
With Russell now in the fold, Lin may operate off the ball far more frequently than he did last season, and Lopez’s departure leaves him without a natural pick-and-roll partner. Lin could still produce late-round value alongside Russell, but his top-75 upside disintegrated once the Lakers and Nets agreed to their trade Tuesday.