NBA stars like Kenyon Martin have been cleared to return from China and rejoin the NBA. (Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Fantasy Impact of Players Returning from China

Each Friday, Pippen Ain’t Easy Fantasy Basketball expert Erik Ong from ‘Give Me The Rock.com’ gives his analysis from the world of fantasy.

In a recent piece by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, former Denver Nugget Kenyon Martin is now cleared to return to the NBA. As an unrestricted free agent, Martin is free to sign with any team he chooses. That is except for his former team, the Denver Nuggets. The new collective bargaining agreement has restrictions for teams engaging former players a sign-and-trade deal to get value out of him. Martin obviously wants to aid a contender, which is the reason he has signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Martin will be backing up Blake Griffin who is expected to retain heavy minutes throughout the season. As an experienced big man, Martin may be tasked to spend some time playing center when favorable matchups permit it.

China is contesting the matter right now. So we’ll have to see FIBA’s final ruling on the matter.

K-Mart is a deep league target at best. He along with Chris Kaman, who was recently placed in “cold storage” by the Hornets, should be kept on deep league watch lists as changes in their team situations can likely result in them being productive enough to be serviceable in fantasy. Martin averaged eight points and six rebounds for the Nuggets over 48 games last season. On a good night, Martin can deliver a double-double with a steal and block.

So far, Martin has been the only one to get clearance from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Martin’s former teammates, J.R. Smith (UFA) and Wilson Chandler (RFA) and Phoenix’s Aaron Brooks (RFA) are still playing for their respective Chinese teams.

Smith, who has the best chances to follow Martin’s odyssey back home the soonest, is a good “grab and stash” candidate at this time. If you’re playing in a fantasy basketball league that has settings that permit you to hold onto a non-productive asset, Smith might just be your man to fill that slot. He’s a proven scorer and a has been known to explode and connect with a bunch of treys from downtown. Even if he’s added by a team as an “offensive spark off the bench,” which is the most likely scenario, J.R. will likely provide fantasy value exceeding that of Rudy Fernandez, Rodrigue Beaubois, or even Chicago’s Kyle Korver (as a starter). Smith has had some monster games in the Far East, and while they should be taken with a grain of salt, it’s good to note that it at least means he’s in regular season shape. Smith can easily average 15 PPG, 2.1 3PPG, and 1.2 SPG once he gets re-acclimated to the NBA and adjusted to his new team’s system.

Wilson Chandler has the capacity to make the biggest splash in fantasy when he comes back. His return is projected somewhere towards the end of March, when his Chinese team is done competing in their playoffs. At this stage in the game it can easily be forgotten that Chandler was providing second-round level fantasy value for about two and a half months last season (while still playing for New York).

Chandler brings to the table a dynamic stat line where he is often included in the popular “1-trey, 1-steal, 1-block club.” Add that versatility to his scoring ability and long range from the wings, Wilson is virtually a must-add once he clears fantasy waivers. That is, however, all on paper ath this point. Denver will likely match any offer that any team may use to lure him to join their ranks. In that scenario, Chandler will be inserted into a seemingly well-oiled, new-look Denver Nuggets team. He will return as a reserve and compete for minutes against Rudy Fernandez and Arron Afflalao. While Afflalo has been struggling lately, Fernandez has found a comfort zone working with Al Harrington and Andre Miller. There will be a cap in Chandler’s return value. Nonetheless, George Karl will find a way to integrate him and he should end up being a useful asset. Most likely playing him behind Danilo Gallinari instead. Chandler’s “add priority” is a smidge behind that of Smith’s; hampered only by Denver’s depth. He might not immediately sound a ping in standard league sonars, but should be a welcome addition in most leagues that are 14-man or deeper.

Aaron Brooks will be returning to a Suns team that’s lost and currently looking to once again find its identity. They’re desperate for a scoring threat at this point and Brooks’ ability to score in double digits and spread the defense via his three-point shooting may just be what the doctor ordered. This shortened season is already taking its toll on Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Brooks is not an instant add candidate when he returns, but at least deserves to be marked down on serious managers’ watch lists.

UPDATE: Shortly after this piece was written, Kenyon Martin has agreed to terms with the LA Clippers.

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