Livescore Thursday, April 25

The 2022-2023 NBA season is officially over, with the Denver Nuggets being crowned as NBA Champions for the first time in franchise history. Now that the offseason is underway, teams across the league will assess their cap situation, vet new talent in preparation for the NBA Draft and look for opportunities to improve their rosters through trades or free agency. Fred Van Vleet declined his player option for the ’23-’24 season, which makes him an unrestricted free agent, and any player who has a player option will have to decide by Thursday, June 29.

The fantasy basketball season will be here before you know it, and as we await the subsequent events the NBA has to offer, here are a few burning questions at the season’s end.

How long will Ja Morant be suspended?

Merely speculation here, but I’m assuming he’s going to be suspended for no less than 30 games. I’ve seen anywhere from 20 games to an entire season, but knowing that he already received an eight-game suspension for his off-the-court antics, the next one will be more significant. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver waited until the conclusion of the NBA Finals to announce Morant’s suspension, so we should know any day now.

From a fantasy perspective, Desmond Bane becomes a third-round draft pick, as he will surely see a boost in usage without playing alongside Morant. Bane averaged 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists without Morant in the lineup in the ’22-’23 season, and I’d expect him to score more points since he’ll become the primary scorer for the Grizzlies entering the season. Bane finished just outside the top 30 in per-game value, so there is legitimate top-25 upside here.

An extended Morant absence would also raise Tyus Jones’ value heading into next season. He’d be worthy of a sixth- or seventh-round pick because he’ll be a strong contributor to assists and steals if playing close to 30 minutes per night. Jones carved out a valuable role for fantasy managers down the stretch this past season, and without Morant in the lineup, he posted 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. Jones is one of the best backup point guards in the league, and he’ll be in a contract year which should only add to his motivation to perform going into the ’23-’24 season.

Morant’s draft value is contingent on the number of games he’ll miss. He’s likely to fall in drafts this offseason, especially once the suspension details are announced. But don’t overdraft him because of his name or the highlight-reel plays he makes. While he still offers a lot for fantasy managers needing points, rebounds and assists from the guard spot, he’s only finished inside the top 50 once in his four-year career. He finished 80th in per-game value last season, and his high turnover rate and middling free-throw percentage continue to bring down his viability in fantasy.

It’s only a matter of time before Ayton is dealt. The Indiana Pacers made a substantial offer to Ayton in the 2022 offseason, but the Suns surprisingly matched that offer. Ayton didn’t demand a trade this season, and despite the drama lurking in the background, he was a solid fantasy player. He finished the season 51st in per-game value.

You won’t see me arguing about 18-and-10 production on 59% shooting. That was an unmotivated and disgruntled 18 and 10, mind you, because Ayton addressed the media a few times throughout the season regarding his lack of involvement in the offense, not getting touches and having open disagreements with former HC Monty Williams.

Well, current Suns’ HC Frank Vogel is ready to help “restore” Ayton to his All-Star caliber form, but I think it’s too little, too late. The Blazers have been the first team linked to Ayton this offseason, per Yahoo Insider Jake Fischer, but — with the safe assumption that Kevin Durant and Devin Booker are off the table —outside of sending Chris Paul alongside Ayton, Phoenix doesn’t have much to entice the Blazers into a deal.

I think we’ll see more trade interest in Ayton towards the NBA Draft and into free agency, but I tend to follow the local beat writers here, and all signs are pointing to Ayton not being in a Phoenix Suns uniform next year — with the destination TBD.

My best guess is yes. Trae Young’s name has been brought up in trade rumors more than Collins’ – which is surprising considering how long Collins has been on the trading block and with Young signed through the 2026-2027 season. Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report said, “I think there’s more smoke with Kyrie (Irving) than Trae Young right now. From what I’ve heard, there’s nothing brewing with Trae Young and the Hawks.”

The real smoke might be from all the cash the Atlanta Hawks are burning in salary — with six players making over $17M heading into next season.

And guess who is one of them? Collins.

Collins’ skillset is still optimal for fantasy purposes. He’s a stretch four who can guard multiple positions and has solid shooting splits. The problem is that he’s coming off his worst fantasy season since his rookie year, finishing out of the top 100 at 102.

A change of scenery would be welcome for Collins as his role has seemingly diminished, and it’s not like he hasn’t voiced his displeasure in the past. He’s another player I’m expecting to be moved this offseason. And hopefully, for fantasy managers, he’ll be dealt to a team that can maximize his potential as the top 50 player he’d been the previous four seasons.

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