By now you’ve surely heard or read that the NBA lockout is all but over. This is, of course, fantastic news.
Now 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.
- Amnesty clause: The labor deal includes an amnesty clause, which will allow each NBA team to rid itself of one player and wipe his salary from their cap. This means players with regrettable contracts will likely be cut from their current teams. Expect Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Roy and Rashard Lewis to be among the bigger names affected by Santa’s not-so-giving cousin. Keep an eye on these players and where they might land after being cut loose. ESPN and Grantland have helpful lists of the players most likely to be let go by their teams thanks to the amnesty clause.
- Less rest between games: Sixty-six games squeezed into a shorter season means there will be some busier-than-usual weeks for NBA teams. This could be interpreted as a negative for older players (though playing fewer games might balance that out), who will have less rest between games. It also means that players who get banged up during the course of the season and play through nicks and bruises may need a few more days than usual to get fully healthy again.
- Getting back into the swing of things: The limited time players will have to work themselves back into game shape and get comfortable with new teammates will lead to a rough start to the season for most, if not all, NBA teams. Expect inconsistent and frustrating performances, but fight the temptation to make too many drastic roster moves in the early going. Patience will be the name of the game. We’re all going to be familiarizing ourselves with a fresh NBA landscape very soon, in accelerated fashion, after a lengthy layoff. It may not be transpiring the way we planned for or wanted, but it’s finally happening — and if I remember correctly, the NBA is where some cool stuff takes place.
- The list of all the 2011-12 NBA team previews written on this site. Each preview points out free agents and players locked into overseas contracts.
- The specifics of the NBA’s proposed labor deal, as told by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
- A roundup of information on the new NBA agreement, courtesy of Royce Young of CBSSports.com.