Hoops Rumors Originals

Poll: Second-Best Team In West

Over the last month, a number of teams have – if only briefly – held the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets, Clippers, Grizzlies, and Trail Blazers have all been the top team in the West for at least a day, and the Thunder actually currently lead the conference by a mere percentage point.

Despite the fluctuating standings, there’s still little doubt that the Warriors are the clear-cut No. 1 team in the West. They’ve battled injuries, but with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green back in action, the Dubs are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and appear to be hitting their stride — and it’s just a matter of time until they’ll be able to insert another All-Star, DeMarcus Cousins, into their lineup too.

While Golden State’s hold on the top spot in the conference still seems strong, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious No. 2 team behind them. Last season, that team was the Rockets, who edged out the Warriors during the regular season and then pushed them to seven games in the Western Conference Finals. But Houston is currently the No. 14 seed in the West, with an 11-14 record.

While it’s still possible that the Rockets will turn their season around and make another deep postseason run, there appear to be stronger contenders for the title of the West’s second-best team. The five clubs mentioned above – Oklahoma City, Denver, Memphis, Portland, and the Clippers – are among those contenders.

The Thunder have the NBA’s best defensive rating and the West’s best net rating, per Basketball-Reference, despite missing Russell Westbrook for several games earlier this season. The Nuggets rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating despite a number of injury issues of their own. The Grizzlies have one of the NBA’s best defenses, while the Blazers and Clippers rank among the league’s best offenses.

Those aren’t the only candidates for the honor of being the Warriors’ most dangerous challenger. LeBron James and the Lakers have recovered from a slow start and are just 1.5 games back of Golden State. The Jazz, who many experts viewed as a probable top-four seed entering the season, have struggled so far, but have a talented roster and one of the most favorable second-half schedules in the NBA.

What do you think? Assuming the Warriors are still the No. 1 team in the Western Conference, which team do you consider the second-best in the West? Place your vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to make the case for your choice!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Hoops Rumors Originals: 12/1/18 – 12/8/18

Our writing team here at Hoops Rumors continually creates original content to complement our news feed. Below are the original segments and features from the past seven days:

Financial Impact Of Bucks/Cavs/Wizards Trade

While the three-team trade finalized by the Cavaliers, Bucks, and Wizards on Friday won’t have the same on-court impact as the blockbuster the Raptors and Spurs completed in the offseason, or the Sixers’ acquisition of Jimmy Butler last month, it’s a complicated transaction with many moving parts. So, as we did with those previous deals, we want to take a deep dive into all the financial and cap considerations going on for the three clubs involved in the swap.

Let’s dive right in…

How salary-matching works in the trade:

George Hill‘s $19,000,000 cap hit is the largest single salary involved in the trade. It would have allowed the Cavaliers to take back up to $24MM by itself (the outgoing salary, plus $5MM), so using it to absorb John Henson ($11,327,466) and Matthew Dellavedova ($9,607,500) together is no problem. That means the Cavs are essentially trading Sam Dekker for “nothing” and can create a traded player exception worth his salary ($2,760,095).

[RELATED: Outstanding NBA Traded Player Exceptions]

From the Bucks‘ perspective, neither of their outgoing players are earning enough to match Hill’s $19MM salary on their own, so Henson and Dellavedova need to be aggregated. Together, they earn $20,934,966, which allows the Bucks take back up to $26,268,708 (125% of the outgoing salary, plus $100K). That’s enough to absorb both Hill ($19,000,000) and Jason Smith ($5,450,000).

As an aside, it’s worth noting that the rules for the amount the Cavs can take back using Hill’s $19MM vs. the amount the Bucks can take back using Henson’s and Dellavedova’s $20.93MM are different because the rules change once the salaries cross the $19,600,000 threshold. We explain that in more depth in our glossary entry on the traded player exception.

Finally, the Wizards can use the $3,454,500 traded player exception they created in October’s Jodie Meeks trade on Dekker, whose $2,760,095 salary fits nicely and leaves just $694,405 on that TPE. As a result, Washington essentially trades Smith’s $5,450,000 salary for “nothing,” creating a new trade exception worth that amount.

Teams have one year to use their traded player exceptions, but the Cavs and Wizards will actually get a couple extra days to use theirs. Trade exceptions can’t expire on a weekend, so the expiry date for the new TPEs created by Cleveland and Washington will be December 9, 2019, since December 7 falls on a Saturday next year.

How the Ted Stepien rule affects this trade:

The Ted Stepien rule, which we explain in more detail in a glossary entry, prohibits teams from completing trades that would leave them without a first-round pick for two consecutive future seasons.

Read more

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Pacific Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Pacific Division:

Jonas Jerebko, Warriors, PF, 31 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.18MM deal in 2018
Jerebko has bounced around the league the last few seasons but he always stays within his role and provides solid contributions wherever he lands. He’s averaging 7.2 PPG while shooting a career-high 48.9% from the field in 19.8 MPG. He’s also helped on the boards (5.5 RPG). An above-average 3-point shooter, Jerebko shouldn’t have too much trouble finding another contender to sign him as their backup stretch four next summer. It could be Golden State if he’s willing to settle for the veteran’s minimum again.

Tobias Harris, Clippers, 26, PF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $64MM deal in 2015
When news leaked over the summer that Harris turned down an $80MM extension offer from the Clippers, many people wondered what Harris was thinking. He was willing to bet on himself that he could do even better as an unrestricted free agent and thus far, the odds have increased in his favor. Harris is posting career highs in several major categories, including scoring (21.0 PPG), shooting (50.8%) and rebounding (8.5 RPG) for one of the league’s surprise teams. When the superstars come off the board, Harris will be next in line for a big payday.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lakers, 25, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $12MM deal in 2018
The previous Pistons regime declined to give Caldwell-Pope a multi-year extension. He wound up signing a pair of generous one-year contracts with the Lakers but he’s been reduced to backup duty. Most of the shots he’s taken have come from beyond the arc and he’s not particularly good at it (33% this season, 34.4% for his career). Caldwell-Pope doesn’t appear to have a future with the Lakers beyond this season and will have to take a pay cut to find work elsewhere.

Dragan Bender, Suns, 21, PF (Down) — Signed to a three-year, $13.4MM deal in 2016
When the Suns drafted Bender No. 4 overall in 2016, then traded with Sacramento for No. 8 selection Marquese Chriss, they seemingly resolved their power forward spot for years to come. Instead, they wound up with two of the biggest busts in that draft. Chriss was traded away to Houston during training camp while Bender is barely seeing the court in Phoenix. He’s appeared in eight games while averaging just 5.5 MPG. Bender needs a change of scenery but he’ll have to settle for a modest deal next year until he proves he’s a genuine NBA player.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings, 25, PF (Up)– Signed to a four-year, $15.35MM deal in 2015
The Kings have a lot of young bigs but Cauley-Stein has been a fixture in the lineup. He’s posting career highs at 14.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG while generally playing the same amount of minutes as last season. Cauley-Stein came into the league with a reputation of being a quality defender and he’s posted positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus ratings each season, according to Basketball-Reference. He’ll be a restricted free agent but might be one of the few who gets a substantial offer sheet, considering Sacramento will like choose to make Marvin Bagley III their main man in the middle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Community Shootaround: Free Agents Joining James

Will The King scare away other All-Stars?

Kevin Durant seemed to suggest that during a recent Bleacher Report interview. It’s been generally assumed the Lakers will sign at least one big-time free agent next summer to join forces with James.

Judging by his comments, Durant won’t be going to Los Angeles. And he’s skeptical that Kawhi Leonard, who has stated his preference for playing in the city, will want to be James’ sidekick.

“If you’re a younger player like a Kawhi, trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn’t really make sense,” Durant said. “Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it’s how he plays the game.”

Durant’s teammate Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker are some of the other prominent players headed to free agency. Durant doubts they’ll want to deal with the extra attention and pressure that comes with playing alongside James. Kyrie Irving, another big-name free agent after the season, was eager to get away from it in Cleveland.

Another issue is that James tends to get most or all of the credit when his teams win, while the supporting cast usually gets blamed when they lose.

“He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him,” Durant said. “So I get why anyone wouldn’t want to be in that environment because it’s toxic.”

That brings us to our question of the day: Do you think LeBron James’ imposing presence will scare away top-level free agents or will they be eager to join forces with him?

Please take to the comments to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to what you have to say.

2019 NBA Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0

When we published the first installment of our 2019 NBA free agent power rankings back in September, there were a few more big names on track for the open market next summer. However, Karl-Anthony Towns – who placed No. 2 on that list – signed a rookie scale extension with the Timberwolves and Myles Turner did the same with the Pacers.

With those top restricted free agents off the board, there are still a handful of 2019 RFAs-to-be who show up in our top 20, but the very top of our list consists almost exclusively of players who will be unrestricted free agents.

That should make 2019’s free agent period particularly interesting. After all, even if Towns hadn’t signed an early extension with Minnesota and was still on our list, there would be little drama surrounding his free agency — the Wolves had the ability to match any offer and would have done so, if necessary.

That’s not the case for unrestricted free agents though. This year’s top FAs, including Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and Kawhi Leonard, could secure slightly longer and more lucrative contracts if they stay with their current teams, but otherwise there’s nothing stopping them from jumping ship. And there are no guarantees they won’t do so, which could make 2019 one of the most exciting NBA offseasons in recent years.

With all that in mind, our updated list of the top potential free agents for 2019 is below. Extensions, injuries, breakout years, trades, and poor performances figure to affect these rankings over the course of the 2018/19 campaign, so we’ll be revisiting the list again before the end of the season to make updates and changes.

Our list reflects each player’s current expected value on the 2019 free agent market, rather than how we think they’ll perform on the court for the 2018/19 season. For instance, older players like J.J. Redick and Brook Lopez have solid short-term value, but didn’t crack our top 20 because they’re unlikely to sign huge, long-term deals next summer. In other words, age and long-term value is important.

Here’s the second installment of our 2019 NBA free agent power rankings:

  1. Kevin Durant, F, Warriors (player option)
  2. Kawhi Leonard, F, Raptors (player option)

While Durant is probably 2019’s clear-cut top free agent, he and Leonard belong in a tier of their own as the only players who are mortal locks to get long-term, maximum-salary contracts if they stay healthy the rest of the way. They’re two-way monsters who are among the NBA’s top five players when they’re at their best. Durant is three years older than Leonard, but that won’t prevent him from securing a huge payday next summer.

  1. Jimmy Butler, G/F, Sixers (player option)
  2. Kyrie Irving, G, Celtics (player option)

If Durant and Leonard are Tier 1 free agents, Butler and Irving are in Tier 1A. They’ll surely get maximum-salary offers, but there’s uncertainty about whether they’ll get five full years at the max.

While Butler is an elite two-way player, interested teams may have concerns about his stints in Chicago and Minnesota ended. As for Irving, he has battled multiple injuries in recent years and isn’t nearly as strong a defender as the three players ahead of him on this list, though the 26-year-old’s offensive play-making and shot-making make him one of the league’s best players.

  1. Khris Middleton, G/F, Bucks (player option)
  2. Klay Thompson, G, Warriors

It’s possible I’m weighing this year’s performance too heavily here, but the truth is there may not be much difference between Middleton and Thompson in terms of their market value. Both players are excellent three-and-D wings who can knock down outside shots in bunches and handle tough assignments on the defensive end.

Middleton is a year and a half younger than Thompson and is more of a play-maker than Klay (4.0 APG vs. Thompson’s 1.8). He’s also knocking down 41.9% of his three-point attempts this year, while Thompson is making a career-worst 35.0%. Thompson may very well surpass Middleton on this list by season’s end, but for now I want to reward the Bucks swingman for his terrific start.

  1. Tobias Harris, F, Clippers
  2. Kemba Walker, G, Hornets

It seems unfair to rank Walker this low, given how good he has been for Charlotte this season. But his shooting numbers (.440 FG% and .358 3PT%) aren’t elite and he’ll be 29 when he reaches free agency. His position and size also make him less versatile than Harris, the 26-year-old forward who has posted a red-hot .508/.416/.852 shooting line this season as the scoring leader for one of the NBA’s best teams. Both of these guys will get paid big money, and would be among the top five free agents available in many other years.

  1. Kristaps Porzingis, F/C, Knicks (RFA)
  2. Nikola Vucevic, C, Magic

It’s hard to judge the relative value of these two players. One is a 23-year-old unicorn who was a lock for a five-year max before suffering an ACL tear. The other is a veteran who has taken a massive leap so far this season and is putting up career-best numbers virtually across the board. I’m giving Porzingis the edge because I think teams would still be more willing to heavily invest in him long-term, given his age and potential.

It will be interesting to see how motivated the Knicks are to get Porzingis back on the court this season — if he returns and looks great, he might inadvertently sabotage the Knicks’ tanking efforts while increasing his appeal to rival suitors.

  1. Nikola Mirotic, F, Pelicans
  2. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Warriors

Between these two bigs, I’m giving Mirotic the edge over Cousins, since an Achilles injury is one of the most difficult ailments for an NBA player – particularly a center – to come back from. It’s certainly possible that Cousins could move into the top 10 by season’s end. For now though, he’s still rehabbing that Achilles injury in an effort to get back on the court, while Mirotic is posting career-best numbers (18.9 PPG, 10.0 RPG, .465 FG%) as the stretch four in New Orleans.

  1. Harrison Barnes, F, Mavericks (player option)
  2. Marc Gasol, C, Grizzlies (player option)
  3. Al Horford, C, Celtics (player option)

I’ve grouped these three players together because they all fall into a similar boat, as their massive player options for 2019/20 may dissuade them from actually opting out and becoming free agents. While they could do very well for themselves on the open market, they might not be able to exceed the amount of those option salaries on new deals. Barnes’ and Gasol’s options are both worth $25MM+, while Horford’s is worth $30MM+.

As for their rankings, Barnes gets the edge due to his age and his versatility. Gasol is having the best season of the three, but will turn 34 in January, limiting his ability to get a long-term contract. Horford is in a similar position, as he’ll be 33 by next July.

  1. Eric Bledsoe, G, Bucks
  2. D’Angelo Russell, G, Nets (RFA)
  3. Terry Rozier, G, Celtics (RFA)

Of these three point guards, Bledsoe is having the best season so far, running the point for one of the NBA’s top teams and scoring more efficiently than ever (.519 FG%). He’s also a strong defender and will still be on the right side of 30 when he reaches the open market.

Rozier and Russell are trickier players to assess. Rozier has taken a step backward in 2018/19 after proving his worth down the stretch last season. Russell is having his best season, but still hasn’t made huge strides toward stardom, and continues to face questions about his defense. Given the nature of restricted free agency, I think they’ll both do very well on their next contracts.

  1. Julius Randle, F/C, Pelicans (player option)
  2. DeAndre Jordan, C, Mavericks

Randle gets the nod over Jordan here due to his youth and the fact that he still has room to improve. Still, despite his abilities as an inside scorer and rebounder, Randle won’t become a truly elite free agent unless he develops more as an outside shooter or rim protector.

While Jordan’s rim protection was once his calling card, he’s blocking just 1.1 shots per 36 minutes over the last two seasons after averaging 2.3 up until that point. As he enters his 30s, he’s no longer the defensive anchor or Defensive Player of the Year candidate he used to be, though he’s still a solid interior defender. His improvements at the free-throw line also increase his value — he’s making foul shots at a 75.8% rate this year after flirting with 50% for most of the rest of his career.

Also receiving strong consideration (in alphabetical order):

Disagree strongly with any of our rankings? Feel like we omitted any players that should be in the top 20? Weigh in below in the comment section to let us know!

And for more names, be sure to check out our full 2019 free agents lists, sorted by position/type or by team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors’ 2018/19 NBA Reverse Standings

Throughout the 2018/19 NBA season, Hoops Rumors will be maintaining a feature that allows you to keep an eye on what the 2019 draft order will look like. Our 2018/19 Reverse Standings tool, which lists the NBA’s 30 teams from worst to first, will be updated daily to reflect the outcomes of the previous night’s games.

Our Reverse Standings are essentially a reflection of what 2019’s draft order would look like with no changes to lottery position. We’ve noted each club’s odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick, based on the league’s updated lottery format.

[RELATED: How New Lottery Odds Will Affect NBA’s Race To The Bottom]

In instances where two non-playoff teams or two playoff teams have identical records, the order in our standings isn’t necessarily definitive — for draft purposes, the NBA breaks ties via random drawings, so those drawings would happen at the end of the year. Of course, the 14 non-playoff teams all draft before the 16 playoff teams, even if some non-playoff teams have better records than playoff teams. Our reverse standings account for that.

Traded first-round picks are included via footnotes. For example, the note next to Cleveland’s pick says that the Cavaliers will send their pick to the Hawks if it’s not in the top 10. As of today, Cleveland has the NBA’s fourth-worst record, meaning that pick wouldn’t change hands.

Our Reverse Standings tracker can be found at anytime on the right sidebar under “Hoops Rumors Features” on our desktop site, or on the “Features” page in our mobile menu. It’s a great resource not just for monitoring a team’s draft position, but also for keeping an eye on whether or not traded picks with protection will be changing hands in 2019. So be sure to check back often as the season progresses!

Note: Mobile users are advised to turn their phones sideways when viewing the Reverse Standings in order to see team records and lottery odds.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Southwest Division

Over the course of the 2018/19 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

The NBA’s Southwest division continues to defy expectations as the 2018/19 season nears its one-third mark. Dallas and Memphis were expected to sit at the bottom of the Southwest this year, but the Mavericks currently have a better record than their fellow Texas teams in San Antonio and Houston, while the Grizzlies are in first place in their division. The unpredictability has resulted in some unexpected trade candidates.

Here’s our latest look at a few possible trade candidates from the Southwest…

Carmelo Anthony, F
Houston Rockets
$1.51MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019

It has been three weeks since the Rockets confirmed they’d be parting ways with Anthony, but the veteran forward remains in limbo. It’s possible that Houston is putting off releasing Anthony because there’s concern he’ll be claimed off waivers by a team he doesn’t want to join — or perhaps the Rockets, who already have one open roster spot, don’t want to have to replace him on their roster, which would increase their projected tax bill.

However, it also seems likely that the Rockets are waiting until December 15 before making any final decisions on Anthony. That’s the date he’ll become eligible to be traded.

It’s not clear whether there are teams in there with immediate interest in acquiring Anthony, but if there are, a trade should be simple enough — because he’s on a minimum-salary contract, the 34-year-old can be acquired using the minimum salary exception, negating the need for salary-matching, and Houston certainly won’t be asking for anything of value in return.

If there has been no resolution on Anthony by December 15, that resolution should come shortly thereafter, as the Rockets assess whether there’s a deal to be made for the 10-time All-Star.

Pau Gasol, C
San Antonio Spurs
$16.8MM cap hit; $16MM salary for 2019/20 partially guaranteed ($6.7MM)

The Spurs are only two games out of a playoff spot in the West, but their 11-14 record places them 14th in the conference. They’ve dropped 12 of their last 17 games, including three recent losses by 30 or more points. If this slump continues, there’s a real possibility that selling will make more sense than buying at the trade deadline.

In that scenario, Gasol could become a trade chip. Typically, a 38-year-old who is earning $16.8MM and recovering from a stress fracture is an albatross, but if Pau gets healthy, he should have some appeal in the right situation.

Gasol’s partial guarantee for next season makes his contract a bit more manageable, and he’s the sort of veteran who could fit into just about any situation, playing 15 minutes or so off the bench. Again though, he has to get back to 100% first before he’ll have any value, and at his age, that’s not necessarily a given.

Dennis Smith Jr., G
Dallas Mavericks
$3.82MM cap hit; on rookie contract; eligible for restricted free agency in 2021

There have been no reports this season suggesting that the Mavericks are mulling the possibility of trading Smith, but Luka Doncic‘s emergence has increased the pressure on Dallas’ 2017 lottery pick. While it may be too early to dub Doncic the Mavs’ next franchise player, the early returns on this year’s No. 3 selection suggest that he should be the team’s primary play-maker for years to come.

If that’s the case, the Mavericks will need to determine whether Smith makes sense alongside Doncic for the long term. If management believes the two youngsters can coexist and thrive together, there’s no reason to do anything with DSJ except look ahead to his next contract. If there are doubts about the pairing, the Mavs should start thinking about a potential deal.

After all, outside of perhaps Wesley Matthews‘ expiring contract and one or two others, the Mavericks don’t have a ton of attractive trade chips. Smith would be a big one, and if moving him allows the franchise to acquire another long-term piece that fits better alongside Doncic, it’s worth considering.

While I don’t expect Smith to go anywhere this season, we’ll be monitoring this situation going forward.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Fantasy Hoops: Spread The Floor, It’s The Brooklyn Way

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson‘s season continues to be a disaster. The fourth-year wing was expected to make a leap this year, but so far, injuries and inefficient play have defined his season, and the Nets’ style of play doesn’t suggest his real-life or fantasy stock is going to improve drastically anytime soon.

Brooklyn is one of many clubs emphasizing the long-ball — only four teams attempt a higher percentage (39.0%) of their total field goals from downtown. This style doesn’t play to Hollis-Jefferson’s strengths. He’s shooting just 15.8% on 19 attempts from behind the arc this season (22.7% on his career) and it’s fair to wonder whether he will ever be able to incorporate this facet into his game at anywhere near a league-average level.

There are some positives for the former No. 23 overall pick. The athleticism is there and his raw talent gives him the ability to overcompensate for being out of place on the defensive end. He’ll have games, like his 14-point, 11-rebound effort against Utah last week, where you can see the potential that made him a first-round pick.

Back when my undergraduate days were dwindling down, I was interviewing for positions and one potential manager gave me some advice that I carry with me to this day: Potential gets you in the door; it doesn’t pay your rent. Hollis-Jefferson’s potential got him in the building, but examine his resume and it’s not clear that he’ll ever be able to produce to the level that the Nets need him to.

It’s year four in the NBA for RHJ. He has had an internship in offensive moves, a defensive principles co-op, and little experience in truly meaningful NBA games. Although he established career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentage during the 2017/18 season, it appears a bit of regression has hit him this season.

He’s still out of place way too often on the defensive end. However, with Brooklyn struggling again (8-18 on the season), he should continue to see opportunities to improve in this area in addition to his offensive game as Brooklyn attempts to unlock his full potential. The Nets, like fantasy owners who drafted him, are hoping to see progress soon.

Coach Kenny Atkinson put RHJ in the starting lineup against the Sixers in late November and the results since then haven’t been great. During his first 16 contests, he played 21.1 minutes per game and shot 40.0% from the field with a plus/minus of -0.7. Since being inserted into the starting five, he’s seen 28.0 minutes per game, making 42.8% of his attempts, and hasn’t ended a game a single start with a positive plus/minus (-6.3 over this stretch).

Joe Harris returned from injury this week and scored 19 points starting alongside Hollis-Jefferson, D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe and Jarrett Allen. All four players are better fantasy options than RHJ, though he and Crabbe are rather close in value.

Neither Crabbe nor Hollis Jefferson is a must-own in re-draft leagues. Crabbe is a streaky shooter who’s seen more opportunity since Caris LeVert injured his foot and his higher ceiling gives him the edge if I were picking between the two inconsistent players.

The environment in Brooklyn isn’t as fantasy-friendly as it has been in year’s past. The Nets are playing a slower brand of basketball this season, ranking 24th in pace of play after finishing 6th last season and first the season prior. Fewer possessions mean fewer opportunities to go around.

The rotation appears fluid. Spencer Dinwiddie should be owned in all leagues, though he could become a candidate to be traded. DeMarre Carroll looms as a potential contributor but he’s not an inspiring fantasy option and the team could look to give its younger players more run as the season progresses.

One candidate for an increased role is Rodions Kurucs. The 2018 second-round pick isn’t close to warranting a fantasy roster spot right now, but he’s someone to keep an eye on. He saw 28 minutes over his last two appearances, scoring a total of 20 points on 17 shots. He’s 6-of-20 on three-pointers this year, which isn’t great, but it’s a huge upgrade over Hollis-Jefferson. Should the Nets decide to phase away from the RHJ project, Kurucs could be the guy to benefit.

It’s likely the Nets continue to give Hollis-Jefferson a chance this season to prove he belongs in their long-term plans. He and the franchise couldn’t come to an agreement on an extension before this year’s deadline and they’ll want to get as much data on him before he hits restricted free agency next summer.

Brooklyn hopes that RHJ will produce more as the year goes along, as do fantasy owners. However, as we pass the quarter mark of the season, it appears as if the Nets will be looking at other options—ones that better fit the style they want to play—at the end of the season. Fantasy basketball owners shouldn’t wait that long to scour for Hollis-Jefferson alternatives.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.