The Phoenix Suns finally embraced the inevitable Tuesday, as they’ve reportedly agreed upon a deal to send Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks for Greg Monroe and protected 2018 first- and second-round picks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe. That should be music to the ears of fantasy basketball owners with Bledsoe on their rosters, although the fallout elsewhere could leave owners scrambling.
Prior to Tuesday, there was no indication the Bledsoe trade saga was nearing a conclusion. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough recently told Scott Bordow of AZCentral.com, “We are open to doing a deal whenever the best offer presents itself,” which begged the question of whether Phoenix would wait until Dec. 15, when free agents who signed with new teams this summer became eligible to be traded. Now, instead of being a wasted roster space, Bledsoe will soon have a new lease on his fantasy life, although he isn’t expected to be active Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, per Woj and Lowe.
How will the trade affect fantasy owners — and players on both Phoeninx and Milwaukee? Let’s take a look.
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Bledsoe’s upside may not be as high in Milwaukee as it was in Phoenix, but fantasy owners who had him rotting on the bench for the past two weeks likely won’t care.
Alongside a high-usage point forward in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe will be playing off the ball with the Bucks far more than he did in Phoenix. Whereas he was a lock for six assists per game over the past few seasons with the Suns, he may settle into the 4-5 per game range now. He’s also headed from a team with the second-highest pace to a team with the ninth-lowest, per NBA.com, which could further limit his per-game fantasy output.
The move to Milwaukee isn’t all bad news for Bledsoe owners, though. He should find himself drawing far less defensive attention since opponents have to account for Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him settle into a 20-4-4 nightly average. Given head coach Jason Kidd’s emphasis on defense, his steals should be on the rise, too. If the Bledsoe owner in your league is panicking about the uncertainty of his new role, try flipping a hot-starter such as Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris or Thaddeus Young for him.
Bledsoe’s arrival doesn’t seem to bode well for fantasy owners who’ve been relying on Malcolm Brogdon. The reigning Rookie of the Year has posted top-60 value to date, but he may be headed back to the bench once Bledsoe is up to speed. Brogdon may still wind up playing upward of 30 minutes per night — perhaps Matthew Dellavedova falls further out of the rotation — but barring a surprise, his playing time will soon be trending downward. If you can flip him for someone off to a slow start — Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry or Jrue Holiday, perhaps? — it’s worth exploring trades now before his fantasy value takes a hit.
While Monroe’s departure opens up more minutes for John Henson and Thon Maker, they’re likely to continue splitting time, negating one another’s fantasy appeal. Maker started the first seven games of the season, but he averaged only 4.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 16.8 minutes across those starts. Henson supplanted him as the starter for the past two games, where he averaged 4.0 points on 40.0 percent shooting, 11.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks in 28.1 minutes. If you had to take a shot on one, Henson would be the target just for the value he provides as a rebounder, but there are likely higher-upside options available on your waiver wire.
At the moment, it isn’t immediately clear whether the Suns plan to keep Monroe around all season or buy him out. For now, we’ll assume he’s going to stay in Phoenix.
If that’s the case, his arrival further muddies up an already clogged frontcourt. In theory, the Suns should be committed to a youth movement, but they’ve started 35-year-old center Tyson Chandler ahead of 24-year-old Alex Len in each of their first 11 games. With Len and Monroe set to become unrestricted free agents next summer, the former may be phased further out of the rotation as Phoenix sees what it has in Monroe and whether he’s a long-term fit with their young core. Regardless, he’s no longer a must-own player now that he’ll be competing for minutes with Chandler, Len, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender.
Monroe is expected to miss at least another week with calf soreness, according to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but once he returns, he’ll put a dent in the fantasy value of Phoenix’s other four frontcourt members. Of those four, Chriss has been the biggest disappointment to date. He entered the year with an average draft position just outside of the top 100, but he’s currently sitting outside of the top 150 in terms of per-game value in nine-category leagues. Unless (until?) the Suns throw in the towel on the 2017-18 season, their overly cluttered frontcourt rotation limits the upside of any big man on the roster, including Chriss.
Those who took fliers on Mike James or Tyler Ulis, meanwhile, should be delighted with the result of this trade. The risk of Phoenix receiving a point guard in return for Bledsoe made both deeper-league stashes rather than must-adds, but the former now merits a look in leagues of all sizes. Over his eight games as a starter, James has averaged 11.8 points on 35.6 percent shooting, 4.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 triples and 1.3 steals in 25.6 minutes per game, while Ulis has chipped in 9.0 points on 38.0 percent shooting, 4.4 assists, 1.6 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 22.7 minutes per game. They’re likely to continue splitting time at the point, limiting each player’s upside, but James’ grasp on the starting job (and more minutes) gives him late-round appeal moving forward.
All ownership percentages via ESPN.com. All average draft position info via FantasyPros. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues and are current heading into Tuesday, Nov. 7.