Trade season is heating up in the NBA. Some deals have already gone down while countless others are gaining traction in the rumor mill.
The Kings got the ball rolling when they traded Luc Mbah a Moute to the Wolves for Derrick Williams at the end of November. The Kings then kept it rolling when they traded Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons, and Chuck Hayes to the Raptors for Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy, and Aaron Gray last week.
Now that the first few dominos have fallen over, any and every player that seems to be dissatisfied with their coach, isn’t playing up to expectations, or simply has an unfriendly contract is popping up in trade rumors. On top of that, other teams are looking for ways to stockpile draft picks, get future salary cap relief, or (although they’ll never admit it) go into full-blown tank mode.
Making a fantasy transaction in anticipation of a real NBA one is a risky game to play. Trading for or adding a player that will likely have an increased role with a possible new team can be a very savvy move. Furthermore, if a player putting up big stats on a bad team is in rumors that have him going to a contender with a more talented roster, selling high might be the right transaction to make.
Put simply, you should buy players that look to be going to better situations and sell those likely switching to worse.
Yes, there is a lot of risk involved. Perhaps a player you sell goes to a different team than you anticipated and becomes a go-to option on his new squad. Maybe a player you buy never gets traded or gets moved to another team than you thought he would with an even lesser role.
Like any move in fantasy sports, you could fall flat on your face. The payoff, however, has the potential to bring you fantasy glory.
Think about last season. There were fantasy GMs that managed to draft or quickly trade for James Harden before he got moved to the Rockets and became the guy in Houston (and went on to be the fifth best fantasy option of the season, according to basketballmonster.com).
Those owners probably got Harden for second- or third-round value and teamed him up with a first-round stud. If you were in a league with such a person, he or she probably took all your money.
With trade talks swirling at a fevered pace, now is a good time to keep your ear pressed firmly to the ground and adjust accordingly. On top of the usual adds/buys/etc. this week, I’ll be giving some insight into which fantasy transactions you should consider making before a real move goes down.
Let’s get to it.
Add Terrence Ross
Last week, I discussed the fallout of the Rudy Gay trade, including which players would see their fantasy value rise or plummet. One thing I clearly overlooked was the positive impact the trade would have on the value of second-year swingman Terrence Ross.
Gay left a big hole at SF, along with 18.6 shots per game and a 30.4 usage rate to be spread around. Ross clearly won’t be getting all of that, but he’s certainly getting his share.
In his first four games post-Gay (starter in the last three), Ross has averaged 12.5 shots per game with an average usage rate of 23.5. To give you an idea of how big of an increase that is, he had yet to reach 12 shots in any of the 18 games he played prior to the trade and had only topped a usage rate of 20.0 three times.
It’s one thing to get the reps, but what has he been doing with them? Well, in the last four games, he has averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.8 blocks, and 2.5 threes, while shooting .440 from the field and .455 from deep.
He makes for a hot add right now, with the potential to be a solid contributor for the rest of the season. Landry Fields, John Salmons, and Steve Novak all figure to get minutes at the position, but the job is Ross’ until further notice.
Add Alec Burks
Alec Burks has had an up-and-down season for the Jazz, mostly off the bench. He has been playing big minutes lately, however, and is starting to garner fantasy attention with solid production.
His last two games were nothing special, but in the eight games prior to that, he posted some great lines. He scored in double-figures in all eight of those contests, averaging 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 threes, while shooting a sweltering .522 from the field, .692 from deep, and .824 from the line.
He’s averaging a healthy 26.8 minutes per game off the bench for the Jazz this season and can be valuable to own when he’s rolling. At only 22 years old, he’s likely only scraped the surface of his potential and could challenge elder statesman Richard Jefferson for a starting spot or replace him due to injury before long. He’s certainly worth a flier.
Sell Tim Duncan / Tony Parker / Manu Ginobili
Experienced fantasy basketball players know that older members of the Spurs are a pain in the butt to own, so consider this section a plea to those newer to the game to get out while the getting’s good. If you own Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, you should be looking to sell whenever their stock is at a high point (after a few good games).
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is notoriously bad for sitting his Big Three at the most inopportune moments (as evidenced by the $250,000 fine he received for resting his guys in a game against the Heat last year). There are plenty of fantasy hoops players who have lost close matchups or even championships because of one of these guys getting a DNP-Old at exactly the wrong time.
It’s tempting to own perennial all-stars like Duncan (nERD of 5.4, ranked 34th on our NBA Player Rankings), Parker (4.6, 40th), and Ginobili (6.6, 23rd), but I would highly recommend moving them for just about anyone who has similar value at this point in the season.
Duncan constantly defies father time by being extremely productive at the age of 37. Two weeks ago, he became the oldest player to ever post a 20-20 game, finishing with 23 points and 21 rebounds against the Hawks. Over his last three games, he has averaged an incredible 18.3 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game, while shooting .575 from the field and .818 from the line. Now is the perfect time to try flipping him for a younger body that can play more games and heavier minutes.
Parker seems to have lost a step this year. His averages of 18.0 points and 6.1 assists are nice, but it’s important to note that he has dropped in nearly every category this season and is also susceptible to random DNPs as the year wears on. His peripherals of 0.4 steals, 0.0 blocks (1 registered all season), and 0.5 threes per game leave a lot to be desired and his owners are probably best served trying to use his name and elite real-life PG status to move him for a better fantasy asset.
Ginobili is once again posting solid numbers off the bench for the Spurs, averaging 10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.5 threes in a mere 23.0 minutes per game. His 18.7 net rating is the best in the league out of everyone who has played enough minutes to qualify. That makes him an absolute asset off the bench for the Spurs, but not enough to make him someone you want on your team longterm in fantasy.
Pop won’t hesitate to sit these guys down the stretch, when the Spurs have secured a decent playoff position. Unfortunately, that’s when fantasy playoffs are in full swing and when owners will need production the most. Now is the time to make a move, while all three are rolling and have yet to get into the routine of sitting out inconsequential games.
Add Brandon Bass
In Volume 5, I talked at length about how much I hate the merry-go-round of production we get from players on teams like the Celtics, Bucks, etc. Then, like a sucker, I recommended three players from the Bucks in Volume 6.
Well, here we go again with Brandon Bass. Another Celtics frontcourt player who deserves your attention, to go along with Vitor Faverani (Volume 1, no longer holds standard league value) and Jared Sullinger (Volume 4, still very fantasy relevant and worth owning).
Brandon Bass has been on a tear over his last six games, averaging 14.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.3 blocks, while shooting .474 from the field and .821 from the line. That’s solid mid-round value for a player still available in about half of Yahoo leagues.
Rookie Kelly Olynyk is back from an ankle injury and might eventually eat into Bass and Sullinger’s minutes, but for now those two are holding down the Celtics frontcourt with authority and are worth owning in all standard leagues.
Add Jon Leuer
Wait, Jon who-er?
Don’t feel bad if you had no idea who this guy was two weeks ago. He’s in his third year in the NBA, playing for his third team, the Memphis Grizzlies. He has played 87 career games, posting averages of 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.3 blocks. Not exactly numbers anyone was running out trying to acquire.
Over his last eight games, however, Leuer has begun making a name for himself as a result of solid play in a depleted Grizzlies frontcourt. Over that period he has averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 0.9 threes. He has shot .541 from the field, .429 from deep, and .867 from the line and only turned the ball over at a rate of 1.1 per game. There are no real weaknesses in that fantasy line, making him an excellent 9-category play.
With Marc Gasol likely out for a couple more weeks, the Grizzlies seem to be taking a hot-hand approach to replacing his production. Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis have both been able to fill that role at different times, but Leuer is the one currently winning out.
Leuer started the second half for the Grizzlies on Sunday night against Minnesota in place of Koufos, suggesting that a change might be coming that sees Leuer move into the starting lineup. Regardless, he’s certainly worth owning for now until he cools off.
Add Trevor Booker
Nene has missed the last three games for the Wizards with an Achilles injury and has no firm timetable for a return. In the meantime, Trevor Booker has been starting in his place and has filled in very well.
In those three games, Booker has averaged a ridiculous 16.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, and 1.0 block on .561 shooting from the field. That includes a game on Friday against the Hawks in which he had 24 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block and made 12 of his 19 shots from the field.
He should maintain value whenever Nene is out (which he has a history of often being), but his value could nosedive if he returns to his normal role of backing up regular starters Nene and Marcin Gortat. In eight games off the bench this year, Booker has averaged only 3.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.3 blocks on .423 shooting in 11.9 minutes per game.
You can’t expect rest-of-season value when Nene and Gortat are healthy, but he makes for an excellent spot start whenever one of them misses time. For now, he’s a hot add worth riding until something gives.
Sell Enes Kanter
Last year, Enes Kanter managed only two starts, but averaged 20.5 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 1.0 block in those games, while shooting .607 from the field and .778 from the line. It was a small sample size, but his per-36 numbers of 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks (to go along with .544 from the field and .795 from the line) suggested that he could be a true impact player as a full-time starter.
With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap both leaving Utah this past offseason, fantasy owners were licking their chops at the idea of having Kanter step into big minutes and took him in the mid to late rounds of fantasy drafts.
Kanter’s season so far has been an absolute roller coaster, to say the least. Let’s take a look:
|First 9 games
|Next 9 games
|First 4 games
|Last 3 games
Good luck trying to figure out what you’re getting from Kanter on any given night. He started the season as the Jazz’s starting C, lost his starting spot to Marvin Williams, gained it back when Williams went out with a heel injury, then lost it again.
The big problem is, he’s shown too much upside to be a total drop candidate. The last thing you need is for someone to snag him off a waiver wire just as he gets back to being a 20-10 threat. I had him as a buy low candidate earlier this season, but even I'm jumping ship now. I don't want any part of his inconsistency.
Yes, you’d be selling low at this point, but I’d still be testing the market to see what you can get after the next time he strings together a few decent stat lines.
Buy/Add Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler will soon be making his way back from a broken right fibula. He only managed to play in four games before sustaining the injury this year, but his averages of 10.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 1.1 blocks, .638 field-goal shooting, and .694 free-throw shooting from last year should have perspective owners chomping at the bit for his return.
The Knicks are in desperate need of their defensive anchor, but that hasn’t stopped Chandler’s name from surfacing in trade rumors. Several teams have reportedly called the Knicks to check on the availability of the big man. Apparently the Knicks would consider moving him if a team would agree to take on J.R. Smith as well (more on him in a minute).
The important thing for fantasy owners to consider is that no matter where Chandler lands, he’ll likely have a very similar role to the one he has had in New York. Big men like Chandler who can play exceptional defense and put the ball in the basket at a very high percentage are rare and he probably wouldn’t end up on a team where he’d have to take reduced minutes. More likely, he’ll land on a team in need of a big man or stay with the Knicks. Either way, we can expect the same thing we’re used to from Chandler.
He’s currently available in 30 percent of Yahoo leagues. Add him if he’s not already scooped up in yours or buy low while he’s still out and stash him. His original four to six week timetable is almost up and he resumed contact drills this past Friday. He’s on the comeback trail and will be a must start when he returns, regardless of the uniform he’s wearing.
Hold J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith is having an awful follow-up campaign to a season in which he won Sixth-Man of the Year. He’s had a drop-off in every major category:
Last year, he had a nERD of 2.3, which was good enough for 83rd on our NBA Player Rankings. This year, he has an awful nERD of -9.3, which ranks him at 150th on the year.
Apart from bad play, he’s been surrounded by controversy regarding drug policy violations, secret knee surgeries, “lewd” comments, arguments with his coach, and self-induced freeze outs (he only took one shot on Friday night as some sort of statement). To say it’s been a rough year would qualify as a major understatement.
So, why am I preaching hold? Because I simply don’t believe he’ll stay this bad all season. J.R. lives and dies by his shot. When it’s falling, he’s basically unstoppable and the other parts of his game get a boost as well. When his shots are clanking off the rim, however, his body language worsens and the other facets of his game drop off as a result.
J.R., like any shooter, will eventually find his rhythm. Expect his shooting percentages of .333 from the field, .330 from deep, and .655 from the line to move closer to his career averages of .423, .366, and .743 respectively. As that happens, the rest will follow.
If, by chance, Smith happens to get traded to another team, the returns could be even better. Any team trading for him would likely do so in hopes of acquiring a scoring spark. If put in a situation where his role is well defined and he’s freer from the distractions that are mounting in NY, he could regain his old form. As a fantasy owner, don’t jump ship just yet.
Sell Kyle Lowry / Buy Greivis Vasquez
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is clearly set on mowing down the roster he inherited in order to plant his own seeds and grow a new one. He traded Andrea Bargnani this past summer, moved Rudy Gay last weekend, and before that transaction was even finalized, he was rumored to be in talks with several teams to move PG Kyle Lowry.
Lowry has been having a great season, averaging 14.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.7 steals, and 2.0 threes per game. He has been one of the main cogs of the Raptors offense and has been returning early-round value for fantasy owners who selected him in the middle rounds of drafts this preseason. His nERD of 5.9 currently has him at 30th on our NBA Player Rankings.
With Lowry now likely to be traded in the coming weeks, it would be a good move to trade him for someone of equal value while you still can. He was bordering on sell high as it was, due to a reputation of being fairly injury-prone. Now it would probably be silly not to sell him.
If he stays in Toronto or moves to a team that desperately needs a PG, the best you can hope for is the same production you’re getting now, possibly less. If moved to a contender or a team in need of a backup PG, however, Lowry could wind up seeing fewer minutes and a reduced role. At that point, you won’t be getting early- to mid-round value in an exchange.
In other words, there isn’t really a scenario where Lowry could give you more than he already does with the Raptors, but the chance is there that he gives you less. Send out some trade offers now in anticipation of a move and get ahead of the game. If he does get moved, Greivis Vasquez would assume the starter role and carry the lion's share of PG minutes like he did in an impressive campaign in New Orleans last season (in which his 9.0 assists per game was the third highest average in the whole league). He makes a good speculative add/buy and stash at this juncture, while we see how these Lowry trade rumors pan out.
Add Omer Asik
Way back in Volume 2, I told you it was safe to drop Omer Asik as long as he’s playing in Houston’s crowded frontcourt and backing up Dwight Howard. Asik is clearly not in Houston’s future plans and has averaged only 4.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks in 18.3 minutes per game this season.
Lucky for him and prospective fantasy owners, a trade is finally imminent. Rumors of a move have been swirling since Dwight first showed up in town this past summer and Asik expressed his displeasure with being relegated to a reserve role. Despite numerous reports about where he was likely to land, nothing actually materialized.
Well, we’re finally at the point where it looks like something is going to happen. It has been reported that Houston is set on making a move by Wednesday or Thursday of this week in order to put all this mess behind them. As of December 15th, teams can now include players that were signed this past offseason in trades, thus opening up many more trade scenarios and options for the Rockets.
If Asik gets moved to a team where he can be the starting C, he should have a chance to reproduce his averages of 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 1.1 blocks, and .541 shooting from the field that he had last year. Those are great numbers for a fantasy owner in need of help at the C position, so he's worth an add and stash until we see how this plays out.
Add Brandan Wright
Brandan Wright was garnering a lot of buzz this past preseason before going down with a fractured left shoulder. People saw him as a promising young big with good shot-blocking ability that could take a good portion of the minutes at the C position for the Mavs.
The shoulder injury had kept him out this entire season to date until he made his debut on Saturday night versus the Bucks. He made the most of his 18-plus minutes off the bench, scoring 19 points on 9 of 10 shooting and adding 6 rebounds.
During that game, Mavs C Samuel Dalembert never even left the bench, despite having averaged 22.3 in 23 games prior. It seems as though the Mavs might be ready to go with Wright as the primary backup to DeJuan Blair, seeing as how Dalembert had been struggling mightily for several games.
Wright is worth adding now for his upside and the chance that he could lock into big minutes moving forward. The rotation of big men in Dallas should become clearer after a few games and we’ll be able to see Wright’s true worth when that happens. His per-36 numbers from last year of 17.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks show the signs of a special talent, so hopefully we’ll get to see him live up to the hype.