Well before the trade deadline, NBA franchises have been very active making moves that will take their teams to the next level (New York excluded). On Dec. 10, the Phoenix Suns acquired Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, and a 2010 draft pick from the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Sean Singletary.
This trade may be the final move that gets the Suns into the NBA Finals. The Bobcats are far from the playoffs, and now have two more pieces to their puzzle. Both teams will benefit from this deal, but how will fantasy owners fare?
Let's take a closer look.
Richardson will plug nicely into the shooting guard position for the Suns. Under Larry Brown, his three-point attempts were down from 7.3 to 4.2 per game from last season. Bell was attempting 4.3 threes per game for Phoenix, and I would not expect anything less from Richardson. Amare Stoudemire and Shaq O'Neal suck in the defense like a black hole which will give Richardson plenty of spot-up opportunities.
Jason Richardson was averaging 18.7 points per game with the Bobcats which is on par with his career average. Although Richardson is surrounded with more scorers, he is also in a higher scoring option, and he has instantly become the Suns' top scoring option off the wing. Richardson will consume Bell's shots, and Grant Hill and Matt Barnes will now be deferring shots to Richardson in one-on-one situations.
There is an injury watch on Richardson, however. He has already missed seven games this season, and Coach Terry Porter has to be careful not to aggravate his knee. I anticipate Richardson playing in the low 30-minute range. If you own him, don't sell him at a discount. If you don't own him, only acquire him from an owner who is unhappy about him not being the top-gun anymore.
What about Richardson's teammates?
O'Neal and Stoudemire should continue to do what they've been doing all season. They could always count on Bell for a kick out three, but Richardson can score from more areas on the court.
Steve Nash should be fine, too. His numbers are not what they once were, but Richardson is a good catch-and-shoot player, and he will get up the wing on fast breaks.
Boris Diaw's exit means that Grant Hill and Matt Barnes will be playing more minutes. New acquisition Jared Dudley could get spot time, and Robin Lopez could get some of Diaw’s minutes, but neither are worth owning for a majority of owners.
Leandro Barbosa is the only one left to talk about. Barbosa was more of a scorer than Bell, but he is not better offensively than Richardson. The Suns could use a smaller lineup that includes Nash, Richardson, and Barbosa, or Barbosa could run the point and spell Nash.
All-in-all I wouldn't sell any Suns because of this deal, even Richardson, unless you are sure you get value in return. Matt Barnes could be the Sun who benefits the most in additional minutes, and he has decent fantasy value as an 11th to 15th man on the roster.
Raja Bell will instantly step in for Richardson and start. Diaw could come in and start, but currently the Bobcats are using Sean May who plays 15 to 20 minutes per game.
Bell is a very good three-point shooter, but he has not shown the ability to be the individual scorer that Richardson is. Regardless, Bell will see an increase in shot attempts and points and could see increases in his rebounds and assist numbers, too. Bell has not been "the guy" on a team yet, but if he is really that guy, now is his chance.
With Richardson leaving, Gerald Wallace becomes the team’s go-to guy. Wallace plays big minutes, fills up the stat sheet, and even scores threes. Currently his average is at 15.3, but it will rise into the high teens.
Part of the reason the Bobcats were comfortable making this trade is due to the emergence of D.J. Augustin. In late November when Richardson was hurt, the rookie scored over 20 points three times. Augustin gets to the free-throw line, and converts at 91.2 percent. He is shooting threes at above 40 percent—an amazing feat for a rookie. If Augustin is available in your league, grab him quick.
I wouldn't expect Raymond Felton to be quite as impacted as Augustin, but no Richardson means more shots for everyone. Felton will also be called upon to facilitate more offense, as it will be more of a team effort on O.
Back to Diaw, he is one of the most efficient players in basketball and could really explode in Charlotte. Sean May and Adam Morrison are not quite there yet, Jared Dudley is gone, and Diaw will be called upon to rebound, pass, and convert field goals at a high percentage. I have seen Diaw on many free agent wires, and if you are looking for someone with upside, he's your guy.
The Bobcats are a bad team by NBA standards, which means the players who want to step up their games will play, and fantasy owners will benefit from them. Augustin, Bell, and Diaw could all see big stat increases because of this trade.