Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's going to be a very interesting summer around the NBA because we will likely see a lot of new and important faces in new places. For those fantasy owners in NBA keeper leagues, this off-season should prove quite confusing. That's because this batch of NBA free agents is the one that people have been talking about for years. And they're about to be released from the bonds of their current contracts.
The top prize is Cleveland forward LeBron James, but he's not the only superstar available. Beside "King James" the long list includes: Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, David Lee, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and Yao Ming.
And the question we are all asking is, "Where will they all land?"
It won't matter from a fantasy standpoint where James or Nowitzki or Wade end up, they'll get their points, rebounds and assists no matter what. That's because they are the focal point of their offense and can be the distributor as well as the primary scorer. For others, however, it will be important to see where they end up.
For instance, Stoudemire has spent his entire career in Phoenix and for most of it, he's been paired with the best passing point guard in the league - Steve Nash. In the five full seasons that the two have been together, Stoudemire has never averaged less than 20.4 ppg (he did average 8.7 ppg in 2005-06, but played just three games due to injury). What he would do on a team like the Washington Wizards or the Philadelphia 76ers, teams without a solid point guard would be an interesting dilemma for a fantasy owner. Therefore, an owner would want to know where he is going before committing to keeping Stoudemire.
Utah power forward Carlos Boozer has had his best seasons with Deron Williams as his point guard. Will he do as well if he's in a different town with another points guard?
Joe Johnson is the "go to" guy in Atlanta despite all the talented players on the Hawks roster. If he goes to a team that already has "star power", will he score as well?
We has seen that happen in the past, stars who change their game to blend in for the good of the team. It's great for the team, but not for the player's fantasy value. Just this year, Ron Artest left Houston where he averaged 17.1 ppg last year, to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. He's now the third or fourth option instead of being the No.2 option for the Rockets and is averaging 11.2 ppg. If you kept Artest last summer, you are not a happy owner.
Or how about Kevin Garnett owners after he was traded from the T-Wolves to the Celtics in 2007. He went from a perennial 20+ point scorer, 12+ rebounder to a guy averaging 14.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg this season. Yes, he won a championship, but not for his fantasy owners who likely were disappointed with his statistics in Boston.
If Lee ends up on a team with a strong rebounding center, will he be able to score 20.3 ppg and haul down 11.7 rpg as he did this season?
Besides teammates, you also have to consider "tempo" when looking for a good fantasy home for your star player. Going to a team like Phoenix (110.2 ppg), Golden State (108.8) or Denver (106.5) gives you a lot more opportunities to shine than in New Jersey (92.4) or Detroit (93.9).
It's gonna be a long, hot, intriguing summer.