The NBA Lockout Is Over: What Does It Mean for Fantasy Basketball?

By now you’ve surely heard or read that the NBA lockout is all but over. This is, of course, fantastic news.

Internet fist bumpNow the question is: What does this mean for fantasy basketball this season? (Boy, does it feel good to be able to write “this season” without a cynical smirk plastered on my face and a bitter tear in my eye.) We’ll delve deeper into the fallout through the coming weeks, but here’s a quick rundown of some of the important things to keep in mind for now:

  • NBA players playing overseas: While the owners and players were cutting a deal, some NBA players decided to take their talents overseas. Though many of these players have opt-out clauses to release them back to the states in case the lockout ended, a few don’t have these opt-out clauses in their contracts. Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith (notice a pattern there?) are among the players without opt-out clauses in their overseas contracts. This doesn’t completely squash their chances of returning to the NBA at some point this season, but it means fantasy owners should think less of their potential values in 2011-12. It also means that these players’ absences open up the door for others to benefit. The good folks at ESPN have a roundup of NBA players who are playing overseas, with notes about opt-out clauses.


  • Free agency: Free agency will begin on Dec. 9, which means it’s probably a good idea to hold your fantasy drafts after that date. This also means some teams have rosters that will have a lot more uncertainty than others. The Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards each have at least five free agents (restricted and unrestricted) on their rosters. David West, Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, Nene, Chuck Hayes, Kris Humphries, Marcus Thornton, Samuel Dalembert, Andrei Kirilenko, Nick Young, Arron Afflalo and Marc Gasol are among the fantasy-relevant free agents to keep an eye on once Dec. 9 comes around. ESPN has a list of NBA free agents.


  • Less time to jell: Related to the point above, the late start to the season and the shortened preseason mean less time for rookies and free agents on the move to jell with their new teams. It also means less time for new coaches to build rapport and trust with their players. This clearly has implications for fantasy basketball: Most rookies and free agents landing on new squads should be trusted less for fantasy basketball purposes, and new coaches may rely on their teams’ tried-and-true stalwarts rather than giving too much experimental court time to their more unproven players. The latter means that sleepers should be considered with more skepticism and knocked down a bit on your draft charts. Established players and productive players on rosters that won’t change much should be valued at a premium.


  • Brief preseason: There are only 16 days between Dec. 9 (the start of training camps and free agency) and the Christmas Day start to the NBA season. This doesn’t leave much time for anything, let alone preseason games. Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect to get much insight into sleepers and the like during the miniscule number of preseason games to be penciled in. Of course, this probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, since it will prevent Anthony Randolph-esque bubbles from being pumped up.


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