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Season Review: Bulls, Nets, Knicks

Mike Barner

Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. He currently focuses on the NBA. Before RotoWire, Mike wrote for KFFL.com.

It’s never too early to start preparing for next year’s fantasy basketball season.

One way we’ll help you do that is by reviewing each team, highlighting what went right and what went wrong in 2017-18. We’ll also take a look at the current state of the roster to see what moves they could potentially make over the summer, and what impact those could have, from a fantasy perspective.

As we continue to work our way through the reverse order of the regular season standings, it’s time to examine the Bulls, Nets and Knicks.


CHICAGO BULLS

The Good

Lauri Markkanen: The Bulls looked to be close to upsetting the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last year, but an injury to Rajon Rondo brought their season to a crashing halt. They decided to go into a full rebuild over the summer, cutting ties with Rondo, as well as fellow-veterans Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade.

The Bulls declined their option on Rondo and bought out Wade, getting nothing in return for either player. However, they cashed in their chips by trading Butler to the Timberwolves in a deal that netted them Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft.

That pick was used on Markkanen, who fits well in today’s game with his size and ability to shoot from behind the arc. The original plan may not have been to give Markkanen a huge role right off the bat, but the Bulls had no choice after Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis got into a fight in practice before the season began. The altercation left Mirotic injured and Portis suspended, moving Markkanen into the starting five.

Like most rookies, Markkanen had his ups and downs over the course of a long season. He generally exceeded expectations, though, averaging 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.1 three-pointers per contest. Markkanen didn’t provide much on the defensive end and shot only 43.4% from the field, but he still finished the season ranked 100th overall in Yahoo leagues.

Markkanen will be in line for a significant role again next year regardless of what moves the Bulls make over the summer. He’ll need to improve his shooting efficiency and contribute more defensively to take his fantasy value to the next level, but he’s still one of the better young players in the league.

Kris Dunn: When Rondo went down during the playoffs, it showed just how badly the Bulls lacked depth at point guard. They were reportedly high on Dunn heading into to 2016 draft and jumped on the chance to acquire him in the Butler trade.
Dunn’s rookie season in Minnesota was a disaster, as he shot 37.7% from the field and 61% from the free throw line in only 17 minutes per game. Known more for his defensive abilities, Dunn clearly needed to make significant strides on the other end before he could become a reliable fantasy asset.

Although Dunn was limited to 52 games this season due to injury, he showed tremendous improvement. Not only did he average 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and two steals in 29 minutes per game, but he also shot 42.9% from the field and 73% from the charity stripe. With an ADP of 164, Dunn finished the season ranked 101 in Yahoo.

One thing to keep in mind when projecting Dunn for next season is that he played most of the season without LaVine, who was still recovering from a torn ACL. When LaVine and Markkanen are both healthy, Dunn will likely see fewer shot attempts. However, he should continue to be a solid source for assists and steals next season, factoring in continued development.

The Bad

Robin Lopez: Lopez has never been a tremendous fantasy asset, but he entered this season having averaged at least 10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting at least 49.3% from the field in back-to-back seasons.

He saw significant playing time early on with Portis and Mirotic out, averaging 31 minutes per game in October and 30 minutes per game in November. His playing time started to decline after that though and with the Bulls tanking hard down the stretch, he only played in 13 games from February on.

Lopez still has another year left on his contract, but will likely see a reduced role again next season if he remains on the team. He finished ranked 198 on Yahoo and will continue to see his value limited as long as he remains a member of the Bulls.

Cristiano Felicio: The Bulls thought they saw something in Felicio after he averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 16 minutes per game during the 2016-17 season and locked him up to a four-year, $32 million deal over the summer. After the first year of the contract, it may have turned out to be a crippling signing.
Felicio struggled early in the season and quickly fell out of the rotation, playing only 10 total games in December and January. The Bulls gave him a chance to play more down the stretch, leaving Felicio to average 28 minutes over six games in April. He didn’t play well, though, averaging 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds while failing to block a single shot.

Although the Bulls are likely stuck with Felicio based on his contract, a lot of crazy things would have to happen first before you would even consider drafting him next year.

The State of the Franchise

After trading Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans, the Bulls will now have two first-round selections in this year’s draft. That’s clearly the method by which they want to build the team, which is probably a good idea considering their luck with signing marquee free agents even when the team was in the playoffs every year. As of right now, Lopez has the highest salary next season at just over $14.3 million, followed by Omer Asik ($11.3 million) and Felicio. No other player is signed for more than $4.6 million.

The Bulls must decide what to do with LaVine, who is a restricted free agent. Considering they gave up their best trade asset in Butler to get him, it makes little sense that they would let him get away. They also need help at small forward, which is a position they could try to address in the draft or in free agency.

BROOKLYN NETS

The Good

Spencer Dinwiddie: The Nets were bitten by the injury bug early, losing Jeremy Lin (knee) in the first game of the season and D’Angelo Russell for a significant stretch due to a knee injury shortly thereafter. With limited options remaining, Dinwiddie was thrust into a starting role.

He made the most of his opportunity and started 58 of the 80 games that he played in this season. Dinwiddie set career highs pretty much across the board, averaging 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds. 6.6 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.8 three-pointers per game. He was a drag on field goal percentage, however, at just 38.7%.

Dinwiddie went undrafted in most leagues and ended the season ranked 31st overall in Yahoo, finishing as one of the most valuable in-season pickups in fantasy. Dinwiddie has a (quite complicated) non-guaranteed deal for the minimum next season as well, so that will surely become guaranteed at some point this summer. With both Russell and Lin on the books for next year though, we may not see Dinwiddie match his stellar production.

DeMarre Carroll: Carroll had a terrible season in 2016-17, averaging 8.9 points and 3.8 rebounds with the Raptors. He played 26 minutes per game, but only had a 15.6% usage rate on a team focused around Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
After what amounted to a salary-dump trade, Carroll stepped into a more prominent role on the rebuilding Nets, resulting in a career high 19.8% usage rate. He also averaged 6.6 rebounds per game, more than a full rebound higher than his previous career best.
With an ADP of 194, Carroll far exceeded expectations by finishing ranked 108 on Yahoo. He is still under contract for one more year at $15.4 million, which is probably too expensive to trade. However, a lot of things fell Carroll’s way this year, including the injuries to Russell and Lin, along with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson missing 14 games. Those are three important players to the Nets’ offense whose healthy returns could relegate Carroll to a smaller role.

The Bad

Jeremy Lin: Lin signed a three-year, $38.3 million contract with the Nets in 2016 but has played in only 37 games since arriving in Brooklyn. Lin did have a 26.6% usage rate in the 36 games he played in the 2016-17 season and even with the addition of Russell, he was expected to have a significant role in the offseason this year before being injured.

Lin might be a player who owners forget about heading into next year’s fantasy drafts. The Nets are not a free agent destination and they don’t own their own pick in the first round this year, so Lin could still have a significant role if he can stay healthy. Of course, that’s a big if, but he might be worth a flier later in drafts.

Jahlil Okafor: The Nets struggled at center, leading them to take a chance on acquiring Okafor, who was buried behind Joel Embiid with the Sixers. Okafor had only played two games before being dealt to the Nets and looked to be in line to at least have an opportunity to prove himself off the bench.

That never came to fruition, though, as Okafor came in out of shape and went on to average 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in just 13 minutes per game. He was firmly behind rookie Jarrett Allen in the pecking order and it seems unlikely that Nets will bring him back as he enters free agency this summer.

State of the Franchise

The Nets enter yet another draft without their first-round pick, but they were at least able to pick up the Raptors’ first-round selection as part of the Carroll deal. Next season will likely be another rebuilding year, but the spectre of The Trade will finally be lifted, which should bring a boost to GM Sean Marks’ plan.

One player to keep an eye on heading into next year is Allen, who steadily improved throughout his rookie season. Allen only played at least 30 minutes in a game four times as a rookie, but he averaged 11.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in those contests. If the Nets give him more playing time in his second season in the league, he could end up being a valuable fantasy asset who is available in the later rounds of many drafts.

NEW YORK KNICKS

The Good

Enes Kanter: The Knicks finally moved on from the Carmelo Anthony era, trading him to the Thunder in a deal that netted them Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft. He joined a crowded frontcourt that included Joakim Noah, Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez, but ended up starting 71 games.

He finished with the best season of his career, averaging a double-double (14.1 points and 11 rebounds) for the first time. He’s not the prototypical shot-blocking center, but he was certainly an asset by shooting 59.2% from the field and 84.8% from the charity stripe. His stellar numbers helped him finish the season ranked 61 on Yahoo after having an ADP of 127.

The Knicks have already made one significant move this summer, firing Jeff Hornacek and hiring David Fizdale to be the new coach of the team. Kanter has a player option at $18.6 million for next season and with how well he played, there is a chance he declines that in favor of a long-term deal. Where he ends up will go a long way to determining his fantasy value.

Michael Beasley: Beasley hasn’t lived up to expectations after being drafted second overall in 2008 and has struggled to remain fantasy-relevant, averaging 9.4 points per game or fewer in three of the last four seasons entering this 2017-18. After a successful stint in Milwaukee, Beasley signed a one-year deal with the Knicks, who became his fourth team in as many years.

Beasley actually ended up with a significant role on the Knicks due to injuries to several players, finishing with a 26.9% usage rate. He averaged 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 three-pointers per game, making him a viable fantasy option despite his limited contributions in assists, steals and blocks. Throw in his 50.7% field goal percentage and 78% shooting from the free-throw line and he finished the season ranked 160 on Yahoo.

He’ll be a free agent again this summer and will likely come off the bench wherever he decides to sign, so he’ll likely need to have some players get injured ahead of him again to provide similar value.

The Bad

Kristaps Porzingis: After Anthony was traded to the Thunder, it was clear the Knicks were ready to hand over the reins to Porzingis. He posted a 31.2% usage rate, helping him average 22.7 points and 1.9 three-pointers per contest. He did see his field goal percentage drop to 43.9%, but he also had a career high 2.4 blocks per contest.

His season unfortunately came to abrupt halt after only 48 games due to a torn ACL. He may not play again until 2019 and will likely be on a minutes restriction even when he does return. Since he could play less than half the season, his value next year will take a significant hit, regardless of what other moves the Knicks make in the offseason. If you play in a head-to-head league, however, Porzingis could be someone that helps your squad if you are fortunate enough to make the playoffs.

Joakim Noah: Noah’s tenure in New York has not gone well to say the least. He missed the beginning of this season while suspended for violating the league’s anti-drug policy and was subsequently buried behind Kanter and O’Quinn on the depth chart. He played only seven games, averaging six minutes per contest. He then reportedly got into an altercation with Hornacek and left the team.

Noah never did return, but he’s still under contract for two more years at $37.8 million. Now that Hornacek is gone, he could get a fresh start under Fizdale, but Noah’s best days are well in the rear-view and he could end up as an east coast version of Luol Deng.

The State of the Franchise

The Knicks were a fringe playoff team, at best, when Porzingis was healthy, so with him set to miss a significant portion of next season, all signs point to yet another rebuilding years. If Kanter does pick up his option, they won’t have much cap space, either.

Tim Hardaway Jr. was limited to 57 games this season due to his own injury issues, but he averaged 17.5 points and 2.3 three-pointers per contest when he was on the floor. His 23.8% usage rate tied the highest mark of his career and it could be even higher next season, especially if Porzingis’ absence extends beyond the All-Star break. Without the franchise cornerstone, Fizdale will have his work cut out for him from Day 1, but the hope is that New York is able to land a long-term running mate for Porzingis in the draft.

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