NBA action in late June is fantastic!
For the second time this week we have a blockbuster trade in the NBA ahead of the highly anticipated 2023 NBA draft Thursday night. The Boston Celtics acquired another impact player for their championship-contending roster in Kristaps Porzingis while also adding some capital for next two drafts. The Washington Wizards received tangible value for Porzingis, who could have opted out of his contract and became a free agent if he wasn’t traded. The Grizzlies snuck in at the 11th hour to help facilitate the deal and came away with a backcourt starter in Marcus Smart that fits their “Grit ‘n’ Grind” system. Let’s take a look at the fantasy implications of this three-team deal and how each player might perform next season.
The addition of Porzingis changes the dynamic of the Celtics’ offense. He is a 7-foot-3 scorer who can create his own shot and also work off-ball on assists from teammates. Boston has largely relied on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to create looks for themselves with perimeter shooters around them to help if the defense collapses. With Porzingis in the fold, opposing defenses will have to consistently account for another player, which should make Tatum’s and Brown’s lives easier.
While Porzingis should get higher-quality looks in Boston, he might see the lowest volume of his career. Porzingis was the second option to Luka Doncic on the Dallas Mavericks and was a co-lead option on the Wizards alongside Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma. During his two full seasons in Dallas, a high percentage of Porzingis’ shots were assisted (71.9% of his 2-pointers and 97.1% of his 3-pointers), whereas last season in Washington those numbers dropped to 62.2% and 94.9%. Interestingly, Porzingis’ field goal percentage on 2-pointers (51.5% in Dallas to 55.9% last season) and 3-pointers (34.5% in Dallas to 38.5% last season) both increased with the Wizards. This implies that Porzingis might prefer setting up his own shots to being fed by a creator like Doncic. He should have more assist opportunities as part of the Celtics’ motion offense and produce numbers similar to the ones he had with the Wizards (2.7 APG).
Porzingis should get more opportunities to create his own shot against imbalanced defenses. I project his stat line in Boston to be a mix of his past two stops, with scoring volume similar to his time with Doncic in Dallas (around 20 PPG), and shooting percentages and assist opportunities similar to his seasons with the Wizards (around 50% FG%, 38% 3P% and around 3.0 APG). Defensively, Porzingis should remain one of the better shot blockers in the league (1.5-2.0 BPG) and has the chance to build on his career-best mark of 0.9 SPG.
Meanwhile, the Wizards received two potential starters in Tyus Jones and Danilo Gallinari (on expiring deals) as they continue to rebuild their franchise. Washington also acquired Chris Paul in the Beal trade but while there are major question marks as to whether Paul will ever play for the Wizards, Jones and Gallinari have the potential to start for Washington next season. This plays well into the Wizards’ plans and both are also starting-caliber veterans that can thrive on a team without a lot of high-end talent.
Jones has played behind Ja Morant for the past several seasons, but his splits as a starter during Morant’s absences show he is ready to become an every-game point guard for Washington. Jones averaged 16.4 PPG (50.5 FG%, 77.8 FT%), 8.1 APG, 4.0 RPG, 2.0 3PG, 1.9 SPG playing 33.2 MPG in 22 starts last season. Those numbers would be a reasonable expectation for him if he starts for the Wizards this season.
Gallinari is coming off an ACL tear which cost him the entirety of last season, but his game is established at this point of his career. His production will increase with minutes, but his per-36 minute numbers since 2015-16 have generally been in a range of +/- 3 points from his averages of 20.3 PP36, 6.2 RP36, 2.5 3P36, 2.5 AP36 on 43.7 FG%, 39.5 3P% and 89.7 FT%. Gallinari is a shooter-scorer combo forward who has some similarities to Porzingis, Kuzma and Deni Avdija. Avdija the is most likely to stay with Washington but it isn’t clear how the Wizards’ rotation will shake out. If Gallinari receives the same playing time as he did over the past four seasons (27.5 MPG), his per-36 numbers would translate to 15.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 1.9 3PG. However, injuries will continue to be a factor as Gallinari has missed major portions of seasons throughout his 16 years in the league.
The Grizzlies acquired a 3-and-D wing that can also play at guard in Smart. He is a tough, gritty defender that can knock down the 3-pointer and a playoff-tested veteran for a young team that will be without Morant for the first 25 games of the season. The Grizzlies chose to move on from Dillon Brooks after last season and Smart is an upgrade on both offense and defense. Smart has developed into a better 3-point shooter and has shown that over the course of his career. He has averaged 15.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG and 2.3 3PG (on 35.8 3P%) in 35.3 MPG over his past three postseasons (46 games). Smart could see a higher usage rate in Memphis, particularly with Morant out, so his postseason numbers are a baseline projection with his scoring and assist volume likely to increase well.
Expect this trade to have major fantasy basketball implications for all of the players and teams involved come October, which is a rarity this early into the NBA offseason.
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