Special to Yahoo Sports
Each year, the NBA trade deadline brings outsized expectations of mass upheaval, superstars changing cities and teams jumping from fringe-contenders to true title threats.
Sometimes, those expectations are met.
Suffice it to say the 2022 deadline lived up to the hype — particularly if we’re counting the slew of big-time deals completed in the days leading up to Thursday’s 3:00 PM ET pencil down! for the league’s 30 front offices. Earlier this week, we dove into the fantasy implications of Caris LeVert landing in Cleveland, CJ McCollum finding his way to new orleans and the Domantas Sabonis-Tyrese Haliburton swap. But Thursday’s sprint to the finish provided us with a handful of other juicy deals to dive into, headlined, of course, by the Nets-76ers mega-deal sending james harden to Philadelphia and Ben Simmons to Brooklyn.
Let’s take a look at all of Thursday’s major trades and discuss the subsequent fallout fantasy managers should prepare for.
Nets receive: Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, Seth Curry, 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), 2027 first-round pick (top-8 protected)
fantasy fallout: By the time Thursday morning arrived, it was obvious both Philly and Brooklyn were locked in standoffs with their respective disgruntled stars. If this trade didn’t materialize, Simmons likely would’ve been prepared to sit out the entire 2021-22 season, while Harden looked to be bordering on complete disinterest.
Instead, the teams found a lifeline and were able to swing a deal that, arguably, moves both closer to title contention. In Philadelphia, Harden meets with Daryl Morey and teams with Joel Embid to form a lethal duo surrounded by a strong cast of role players in Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle. Giving up Curry hurts, and we’ll see what those future picks turn into. But bear in mind that the Sixers were getting absolutely nothing from Simmons, so in terms of immediate impact, they essentially upgraded from Curry and Drummond to Harden.
It’s difficult to say how much of Harden’s recent statistical decline was due to his frustration with the Nets, but the Sixers clearly were not dissuaded by drops in scoring (22.5 PPG) and efficiency (41.4% FG) this season. At the very least, his fantasy value from him should sustain, though there’s a good chance the change of scenery reinvigorates Harden and leads to better production down the stretch.
While the Sixers have another ball-handler in Maxey and a high-usage star in Embiid, at the end of the day, Harden is Harden. He didn’t force his way to Philly to play off the ball. It’s worth noting, too, that despite this feeling like a look and down year by Harden’s standards, the 32-year-old still ranks sixth in total value and fifth in per-game value (8-cat).
Embiid’s fantasy value may take a slight hit, but this is firmly his team and at this stage, he’s a better player than Harden, so it’s hard to imagine much of a decline. Maxey is the player I worry most about, followed by Harris. Both will still be startable, but how Harden’s presence — and 28.4 percent usage rate — impacts Maxey, in particular, will be worth monitoring.
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On the other side of the deal, the Nets made out well for a team that had lost all leverage with Harden, who was likely to flee to Philadelphia in free agency this summer had the deal not gone down. Given everything that’s happened since that fateful second-round series against Atlanta, there’s no denying Simmons is a risk. He hasn’t played in an NBA game in nearly eight months, and — fair or not — questions about his mental makeup of him are n’t going to fade away anytime soon. But all indications are that he’s been staying in shape and is excited about the prospect of teaming up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving inBrooklyn.
In terms of style, Harden and Simmons couldn’t be more different, and it was clear the Nets needed a shake-up. If Simmons is ready to play — my guess is he debuts after the All-Star break — the deal could keep the Nets in title contention. Simmons should help immensely on the defensive end while still providing secondary playmaking — especially on nights when Kyrie Irving is unavailable (after Thursday night’s game at Washington, Irving will only be eligible for nine more regular-season games). A season ago, Simmons finished 66th overall in per-game value (8-cat).
Compared to Simmons and Harden, Curry and Drummond feel like footnotes, but they’ll both be important depth pieces for a Nets team that’s been forced to play guys like Cameron ThomasKessler Edwards and Blake Griffin big minutes in recent weeks. The Nets gave away the more-talented player in Harden, but the result may be a more well-rounded roster.
Fantasy-wise, the most obvious beneficiary is Simmons — or, rather, fantasy managers who’ve been stashing Simmons (he’s rostered in 90% of Yahoo leagues). He may need a decent amount of ramp-up time, but adding Simmons, who’s fully vaccinated, to the mix for the home stretch of the fantasy season is a huge boost.
Both Curry and, especially, Drummond will likely become more valuable in Brooklyn. Curry was already playing big minutes in Philly, but he was the clear fourth option on most nights. With Durant currently sidelined and Irving set to miss two-thirds of the Nets’ remaining games, Curry will be relied upon as a primary scorer much more often.
Meanwhile, Drummond may have a chance to step in as the starting center right away. The Nets seem to be iffy on Nicholas Claxtonwhile both Claxton and LaMarcus Aldridge have each struggled to stay healthy this season. Fantasy managers know what Drummond (73% rostered in Yahoo leagues) is capable of when the minutes are there.
Wizards receive: Kristaps Porzingis, second-round pick
Mavericks receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans
fantasy fallout: This is one of the most depressing deadline deals in quite some time. The Mavs sold extremely low on Porzingis and brought in two bad contracts in the process. Porzingis’ fantasy managers shouldn’t panic quite yet, but the Wizards are clearly tanking and will be just fine with Porzingis taking as much time as he needs to work back from his current knee injury. When he’s healthy, he’ll be the go-to guy in Washington, but just how many games he’ll play the rest of the way is a serious concern.
Dinwiddie had clearly worn out his welcome in DC, but the move to Dallas is a lateral one, at best, for his fantasy value, which has tanked in recent weeks. Over his last 10 games, Dinwiddie is averaging just 8.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 26.6 percent from the floor. Not much to get excited about here.
Celtics receive: Derrick White
Spurs receive: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, 2022 first-round pick (top-4 protected), 2028 first-round pick swap (top-1 protected)
fantasy fallout: The Celtics definitely got better by adding White and bringing back Daniel Theisbut the 2022 first-round plus a 2028 pick swap is a ton to give up for a player who ultimately doesn’t move the needle all that far. Early indications are that White will serve as the first guard off the bench, so the move looks like it will end up being a slight downgrade for his value. In many ways, it’s similar to the Celtics bringing in Evan Fournier at the deadline last season — only this time, White is under contract through 2024-25.
For the Spurs, several young players will be worth keeping an eye on. Devin Vassell, Lonnie Walker, Langford and rookie Josh Cousin could be productive options in deeper leagues.
Hornets receive: Montrezl Harrell
Wizards receive: Ish Smith, Vernon Carey
fantasy fallout: Harrell got off to a fantastic start to the year and looked like he might be one of the steals of draft season. But his production of him has since normalized, and he currently ranks 124th in per-game value (8-cat). That won’t change in Charlotte, where he’ll be part of a talented frontcourt rotation that features Mason Plumlee, PJ Washington, Miles Bridgesand Jalen McDaniels (when healthy). Bridges should be safe, but the result of the trade could be decreased value for all three of Plumlee, Washington and Harrell.
Meanwhile, the Wizards’ roster is essentially stripped down to the bones, so there’s fantasy value to be had. No Harrell means 20-to-25 minutes per night are freed up for Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and, of course, Porzingis. How many games Porzingis plays will ultimately determine how much upside Bryant and Hachimura have going forward.