The default trade deadline for most standard fantasy basketball leagues is coming up quickly, so you might only have a few days left to make an impact deal before the playoffs start in a few weeks. While every fantasy website has some kind of ranking system that helps owners to understand the worth of their players when constructing a deal, there are a few underrated trading strategies that can be the difference between a decent playoff run and a virtual Gatorade shower when successfully employed.
One such strategy is to focus on playoff schedules. In a regular week, a team usually plays three or four games (and occasionally as few as two or as many as five). Studying how many games a team plays during your league’s playoffs is a great way to get an edge.
For example, let’s say you own Stephen Curry. The Warriors only play two games in Week 22. If you’re in a tight playoff series, that means your first-round talent, a player that averages 24.1 points, 8.8 assists, and 3.4 threes, is likely to give you around 48 points, 18 assists, and 7 threes. Compare that with four games of Brandon Jennings. His averages of 16.8 points, 7.9 assists, and 2.0 threes extrapolate to roughly 68 points, 32 assists, and 8 threes. I know, I know, percentages and turnovers, but that's still a higher total than you're likely to get out of Steph that week in his three most valuable categories.
If you can trade one of your players for someone with roughly equal value, but with a better playoff schedule, it could make a huge difference in your counting stats. Complete breakdowns of the schedule are available all over the place, but there are a few key schedule facts to keep in mind.
First of all, the Clippers and Warriors both have two-game weeks during the default fantasy playoffs. As much as you might love your Curry, Chris Paul, or Blake Griffin, moving one of them for an equally or slightly less awesome player could be a savvy move. Conversely, the Blazers are the only team with a five-game playoff week. Hello, LaMarcus Aldridge and pretty much anyone else in the Blazers starting lineup.
There are five teams with an ideal playoff schedule, playing four games in all three weeks of the standard fantasy playoffs. Any player from the Hawks, Nets, Heat, Pacers, and Raptors will get a bump in value as a result and should top your list of targets.
Another great strategy for getting maximal value in a trade is to identify your team’s biggest weakness and to take the plunge in punting that category (if you’re not doing so already). Our own Bryan Mears has been writing a recurring piece on the advantages of punting in fantasy basketball all season, so hopefully you’re already well aware of this tactic. If not, it’s never too late to try.
The idea is that by giving up on one statistical category, you can focus on and become dominant in another. For example, if you punt both points and field goal percentage, Ricky Rubio jumps from mid-round value to a top-10 fantasy player. It’s not always easy to strike the proper balance, but it’s an often overlooked strategy that many have found great success with.
This Week’s Moves
Considering that this is the last week that many of you will be able to “buy” players, this is a particularly buy-heavy version of Dimes. After this week, the focus will likely shift almost exclusively to adds and drops. These are some of the best examples of the concepts discussed above, but this is obviously not an exhaustive list. Make sure you explore all the angles and don’t be afraid to swing for the fences and try something outside the box. Let’s get down to it.
Buy Dwight Howard
This might seem like a no-brainer if you’re into punting in fantasy basketball, but it’s worth making sure that everyone knows that Dwight Howard is an absolute fantasy beast if you ignore the free throw shooting. Some people forget that, because his 9.5 attempts from the line per game at a rate of .548 on the season drag his value down into the late rounds.
If your team is near the bottom of your league in free throw percentage anyway, why not give up on it altogether and find a way to acquire Dwight’s 18.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and .588 shooting from the field? His owner has probably never won a week at the line and might be sick of the 6 for 17 nights. If you take the freebies out of the equation, Dwight is a top-10 value on the season and a top-5 play since the beginning of February. Even with the free throw woes, he is at #19 on our NBA Player Rankings with a robust nERD of 8.4. Go get him.
Buy Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza is a first-round value on the season and it’s March. Yes, that Trevor Ariza. The one that was undrafted in many leagues this season and was likely dropped in others during an injured stint back in November. Over the past week, in fact, he has been the number one player in fantasy hoops. Not Kevin Durant. Not LeBron James. Trevor frickin’ Ariza.
His stat line is subtle, yet solid. On the year, he’s averaging 14.8 points, 2.5 threes, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.7 turnovers, while shooting .456 from the field, .422 from deep, and .785 from the line. The threes and steals are both top-10 outputs, but the lack of flashy numbers in the typically inflated stats (points, rebounds, assists) makes him a fairly under-the-radar fantasy asset. If you’re punting blocks, his value soars even higher.
It’s safe to say that Ariza’s early-season success was no fluke and he’s poised to stay a top-tier value the rest of the way. Don’t be afraid to dangle a more proven mid-round value player in front of his owner’s face in an attempt to pry him loose. His upside is currently through the roof and some people out there still see him as a lucky waiver wire pickup. Make them pay.
Buy Deron Williams
Deron Williams’ stock has plummeted over the last few seasons and we’re a long way from when we used to place him in the conversation among the best point guards in the league. He can still be dominant though, as we saw last season when he lit up the league after the All-Star break to the tune of 22.9 points, 8.0 assists, and 2.8 threes per game over the final 28 contests after a relatively lackluster and injury-riddled first half.
The Nets are in the thick of the playoff hunt and D-Will will have to conjure up some of that late-season magic again to give them a legitimate shot at living up to their astronomical payroll. He was looking eerily similar to last season heading out of the All-Star break again this year, averaging 23.0 points, 6.7 assists, and 2.7 steals in his first three games back. The three games since have been less impressive, but the numbers are skewed by large blowout margins and the reduced minutes that starters typically encounter in such games.
Given his relative struggles so far this year (lowest scoring and assist averages since his rookie season), he can probably still be bought pretty low. As previously mentioned, the Nets have an ideal 4-4-4 playoff schedule, which makes Williams an even better asset than normal. With the buy-low opportunity still present, the favorable schedule in place, and the history of second-half breakouts well documented, Williams makes for a fine target at the deadline.
Buy David West
Another team with an ideal 4-4-4 playoff schedule is the Indiana Pacers. While Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson dominate most of the headlines for the Pacers, it’s perhaps David West that represents one of the best trade deadline targets in fantasy hoops.
Over the past month, West has posted early-round value and barely anyone has noticed. Over his last 15 contests, he’s averaged 16.9 points, 6.5 boards, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.8 blocks, and 1.5 turnovers, while shooting .548 from the field and .797 from the charity stripe. That kind of solid and consistent production might not jump off the page, but it can be a major asset come playoff time. He has yet to miss a game this season and he’ll continue to be a key cog for the Pacers as they try to secure the East’s top playoff spot down the stretch.
Buy Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague started this season off hot, but has struggled with consistency since, dropping off to the point that he's a late-round value on the year. The career-best 16.3 points are nice and the 7.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game certainly help the cause, but the .427 shooting from the field, .275 from deep, and the 3.1 turnovers per game are killing his value. He looks to be turning it around though, so now would be a good time to swoop in and take him away from his disheartened owner.
Over his last four games, Teague has averaged 27.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.0 three per game, while shooting .577 from the field, .500 from deep, and .793 from the line. He might not be able to sustain things at that clip, but the Hawks are severely depleted with injuries, and Teague is one of the most talented players left on the roster.
With the Hawks being another team with the perfect 4-4-4 schedule, Teague represents one of the best point guard options to target in a deadline deal. The recent shift to shooting guard to play alongside Shelvin Mack seems to have sparked something in Teague and prospective owners would be wise to get him now. His assists might drop, but his turnovers, percentages, and scoring look to be on the rise. The upside is there if you can handle the occasional dud.
Buy DeMar DeRozan
The Toronto Raptors are yet another team with an excellent 4-4-4 playoff schedule. That makes a guy like Kyle Lowry a top target, but likely an unattainable one with the way he’s been playing this season. Perhaps DeMar DeRozan could be an even better acquisition, as he stands out as one of the best players at the rather shallow shooting guard position over the past month.
Over his last 13 games, DeMar is posting second-round value on the strength of 26.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.8 three-pointers, and 1.9 turnovers per game, while shooting .459 from the field and .861 from the line.
He has a reputation for being a high-volume shooter and scorer and not much else, but he’s currently contributing in a number of ways and showing that he was worthy of his big contract and All-Star selection. He’s poised to continue getting big minutes (almost 42 per game over the last two weeks) and will be a big part of the Raptors’ bid to win their division, so see what it takes to shake him loose from his current owner.
Buy Kawhi Leonard
It might be hard to pry Kawhi Leonard away from an owner that just spent a month waiting on him to return from injury, but considering that Leonard is a perpetually underrated fantasy stud, there’s still a chance you might be able to get something done.
Kawhi is one of those fantasy guys that often gets overlooked because he doesn’t jump off the page with high point, rebound, or assist totals. The thing that makes Kawhi such a fantasy beast is that he has basically no weaknesses in his stat line. On the season, he’s averaging a cool 11.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 threes, and a low 1.3 turnovers per game, while shooting .519 from the field, .348 from deep, and .765 from the line.
Again, these aren’t averages that stand out at first glance, but they’re good enough for early-round value on the season because of the high steals and field goal percentage and low turnovers. Over the three games since his return from injury, he’s been even more stellar, averaging 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 1.7 blocks, and 2.0 threes per game, while shooting .556 from the field, .545 from long range, and 1.000 from the charity stripe. He’s a huge difference maker and well worth shopping for at the deadline just in case his current owner is sleeping on just how valuable he really is.
Buy / Add Markieff Morris
This is the third time I’ve recommended Markieff Morris this season, but now it finally looks like it’s going to stick. He has jumped in and out of the top-100 fantasy players all season with consistency clearly being the biggest knock on him. Since the All-Star break, however, he has posted solid mid-round value and is showing no sign of slowing down.
Over his last seven contests, he has posted averages of 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks, 0.4 three-pointers, and 1.9 turnovers, while shooting .561 from the field and .780 from the line. He has been coming off the bench all season long, but he’s still getting a healthy 29.8 minutes per game since the break and might even be in line for some Sixth Man of the Year votes when the season comes to a close.
His ownership levels are creeping up to 60 percent, so he might not be available to add anymore (although he absolutely has to be added if he is). If not, he might be worth sending out a trade offer for. He’s clearly trending up and could be a big, underrated fantasy asset going forward.
Add Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton has been one of the few bright spots for the Milwaukee Bucks this season, but he has been a victim of Coach Larry Drew’s confusing rotations. He has been in and out of the starting lineup, seemingly at random, and has had little chance to sustain productivity and consistency. All that changed last week, however, when the Bucks bought out the contract of veteran forward Caron Butler.
With little left to stand in Middleton’s way, he has responded over his last four games by posting the early-round value that he’s shown flashes of being capable of all year. Over that period, he has averaged 16.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.0 threes, and a mere 1.5 turnovers per game, while shooting a blistering .591 from the field, .533 from deep, and .857 from the line.
He’s started in each of those games, but has still only averaged 25.5 minutes per contest, meaning there’s still plenty of room for improvement. There’s almost no one on the roster threatening his starting spot and the Bucks would be silly not to spend the rest of this season developing their youngsters. Look for Middleton to finish off the year strong, making him a must-own player at this point in the season.
Add Darren Collison
Darren Collison filled in admirably for Chris Paul while he was out with a shoulder injury earlier this season. Collison was a must-own player during that period, but was then promptly droppable once Paul returned to the lineup.
The Clippers are currently pretty hobbled with J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford on the shelf, so Collison has assumed starter duties alongside CP3 at the shooting guard position. In 20 games as a starter this season, Collison is averaging 13.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 treys, while shooting .472 from the field, .446 from long range, and .906 from the stripe, making him a player worth owning once again. Crawford might only miss a small chunk of time, but Collison should be owned everywhere while he’s out.
Add Tony Allen / Courtney Lee
Tony Allen, when healthy, has been worthy of ownership in standard leagues this year, based on his excellent shooting numbers (.523 from the field on the year) and elite defense and steals (1.8 per game). The problem is, Allen recently missed a month and a half due to a wrist injury, which forced the Grizzlies to trade for Courtney Lee from the Boston Celtics.
In his 23 games as a starter since joining the Grizz, Lee has posted averages of 13.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.3 three-pointers, and a negligible 0.8 turnovers per game, while shooting .498 from the field, .385 from deep, and .912 from the line. That obviously made him worth owning while Allen was out, but his value was expected to take a hit when the Grindfather returned into what most people believed would be a timeshare situation.
The interesting thing is that both guards have posted mid-round value in the five games since Allen’s return, making them both worthy of ownership. Just take a look at what the two have done over that period, with Lee staying in the starting five and Allen coming off the bench.
Obviously Allen’s shooting numbers can’t stay that hot, but it’s worth noting that he seems to be completely over his wrist problem. Basically, which player you pick up depends on your current needs. Lee will give you more offense, while Allen’s likely to improve your percentages and boost your defensive stats. Eventually one of these two should emerge as the one to own, but for now there’s nothing wrong with employing either of them. At the very least, keep an eye on how it plays out.
Add Josh McRoberts
There’s not much to say about Josh McRoberts, other than the fact that he is unappreciated and should be owned in more than a third of the leagues out there as he currently is. He’s not flashy and won’t tip the scales for you in any one particular category, but he certainly does more for a team than some players with far higher ownership rates do.
Over the last 30 days, McBob is a top-50 fantasy player on the strength of 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.7 three-pointers, and 1.2 turnovers per game. Add in the .474 shooting from the field, .396 from long range, and .867 from the line and there’s little not to like about his line. The assists from the center position are second only to Joakim Noah over that period and the threes trail only Kevin Love, Channing Frye, and Dirk Nowitzki.
His stats are understated, sure, but don’t sleep on a guy that can give you solid production across the board and not kill you in any one category. Glue guys like McBob are constantly overlooked but show up on a good many fantasy championship rosters.