2015-16 Fantasy Basketball: NBA Trade Deadline Prep
We’re over half way through the 2015-16 NBA season, the All-Star break is coming up soon, and shortly there after will be the NBA trade deadline. The trade deadline is February 18th, and that can often be a critical day for seasonal fantasy hoops players like ourselves.
So much can change in an instant on that day, and it’s important to review and decide a few things before the big trades start to pop off. Example: I am really happy with a 12-team league squad that I have top to bottom, so as of this very instant, I don’t want to drop any player. So, if a big trade were to go down that took a player currently on the wire from irrelevant to a potential second-half stud, I would have to make a decision on who I would cut on the spot, and that’s never ideal, but if you debate too long, someone else more prepared or with an easy decision on who to drop, may beat you to the punch. It’s very important to go ahead and review now who your most droppable players are. Also, who you may not ideally want to cut, but if something too good to pass up came to be on the 18th, you’d know that you were willing to cut ties with despite being less than enthused about it.
Look back to the 2015 trade deadline. Rudy Gobert was (stupidly) playing third fiddle in Utah, not getting enough consistent minutes to be owned in most standard sized leagues, or borderline at best. He was owned in just 30% of ESPN leagues last year at the deadline. The actual deadline is at 3:00pm EST, and last year it was after 1:00 and Utah was pretty silent. Then just an hour before the cut-off, we get a tweet from the legendary Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports saying that the Utah Jazz had traded Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As soon as the happens, Rudy goes from a borderline guy to getting big consistent minutes and a sure second half stud, which we know went just as expected. If you missed out on Gobert on deadline day last year, your competition got a big boost up on you in one quick move.
This brings us to another thing that you can do prior to the deadline: don’t waste roster spots. The days before the deadline, you should not worry about streaming nor should you be holding on to a player who is scrubtastic. Players like Enes Kanter, J.R. Smith, Jared Sullinger, Tony Parker, Andre Iguodala (all owned in 40% or more of ESPN leagues), etc.. aren’t worth holding onto over a deadline lottery ticket. By that I mean to drop those two category helpers or category killers and add a player who could see his value rise tremendously if a predicted trade were to go down. There’s a decent chance that no player has a Gobert-esque rise, but there still very easily could come a player who goes from top-150 value to top-75, and that’d be a real nice free addition for the final stretch. Take Dennis Schroder for example, he’s a borderline 12-team league option, but if he is dealt to a place he would start or if Jeff Teague were to be traded away, Schroder would instantly become a must own in all formats. Worst case, the Hawks stand pat and you drop him after the deadline passes for whatever you need off the wire, no big loss.
So, who are these players that we should view as lottery tickets due to trade rumors or assumptions? I’ll break a few down now, but know that there’s always a couple out of absolutely nowhere trades that are mixed in, so you still need to have that trigger finger ready on deadline day.
Dennis Schroder – As I mentioned above, Schroder is definitely one who could leap from a fringe player in standard leagues to a must own if he or Teague are dealt prior to the deadline. Dennis The Menace sports a per-36 stat line of 18.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 treys. His lone detriment to your team if he landed anywhere as a starter would be his poor shooting from the field where he’s shot just 42% over the last two seasons.
Brandon Jennings – Much like Schroder, we all know how damaging Jennings can be to your FG-percentage when he’s playing big minutes, but last season before he got injured, we saw the kid really excel after the team waived Josh Smith before Christmas. In the 16 games after the departure of Smoove and prior to Jennings’ injury, BJ was sizzling to the tune of 19.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.6 3-pointers, while shooting 82% from the stripe, 44% from the field and 39% from distance. If the Pistons were to move Jennings to a place like New York, Brooklyn or Utah, he’d have a chance to return to that kind of production, although the shooting efficiency is doubtful to be that high.
Alex Len – We have heard plenty of rumors about the Suns moving veteran big man Tyson Chandler the past month, and it makes sense for both parties, as Tyson is entering his final years of relevancy and the Suns are a couple years from any chance at relevancy. They signed Chandler this summer to help recruit good friend LaMarcus Aldridge, but the Suns came up just short in that race. Now all it seems Chandler is doing is slowing the progression of young big man, Alex Len. If Chandler were to be dealt and Len slid into the starting center gig playing 30+ minutes a night, he’d be a legit fantasy contributor thanks to his solid points, and big time boards and blocks. I would project him at like 13 points, 10 boards and two blocks with quality percentages.
Harrison Barnes – Barnes is somehow already owned in 60% of ESPN leagues, I’m not really sure why exactly, but that’s what we’ve got. The Warriors are looking to win a second title, and Barnes is a nice piece for them, but he’s a free agent this off-season and the likelihood that he stays is slim. So, can the Warriors afford to let him walk for nothing? Yeah, they probably can, but if the right offer comes, Barnes could become a starter one a team where he’s not an afterthought on offense and have a semi-breakout second half. Even then we’re likely just talking like top-75 value, but if you get him off the wire, that’s fine. Think 2013-14 Luol Deng type numbers but with more 3-pointers, if he lands in a good spot.
Mario Hezonja – There’s been plenty of rumors about Magic wingman Tobias Harris. Since the team has really found a nice piece in Evan Fournier and drafted Mario Hezonja fifth overall in the 2015 draft, plus the emergence of second-year player, Aaron Gordon who plays both the 3 and 4, Tobias who they just re-signed seven months ago appears much more expendable. If Harris were to be moved, Hezonja would be looking at a much better every day role with the team, and could find himself valuable in fantasy land. Hezonja has a lot of growing pains to work through, but there’s no doubt he has a legit shot on him and the ability to take the ball to the rim well. He still makes a lot of sloppy turnovers and takes some bad shots, but that’s all part of being a rookie, although that doesn’t get a pass from coach Skiles.
Markel Brown – The Nets are hoping they can find a taker for Joe Johnson, but that’s not going to be easy. They have also tossed around the idea of buying out his contract, but not sure that’s what the billionaire owner will choose to do. If either of those does go down, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would have originally been the guy to grab, but with RHJ injured, Markel Brown would be thrust into a bigger, likely starting role. Brown is a super athletic winger out of Oklahoma State who was often overshadowed in college by teammate Marcus Smart, but he was a really good player. The past couple games we have seen Brown get more minutes for Brooklyn, and I honestly have been telepathically pleading with the Nets to give Markel more minutes than they have been wasting on Bojan Bogdanovic, but until possibly now, it has all been for not. Brown is a superior athlete and defender that Bojan, and aside from just being the better player, he has much more long-term upside and potential relevancy to the Nets future than the likes of Bogdanovic and Wayne Ellington. Brown could be a lite-version of what DeMarre Carroll was last season if he were to start getting closer to 30 minutes a night.
Justise Winslow – I haven’t heard much on this front, it’s more just selfish hope that the Heat are thinking the same way that I am — doubtful. We all watched in shock as Winslow fell on draft day to the Heat at 10th overall last summer, and we know today as much as we did then that they got a real steal (no, not the awful Hugh Jackman rock’em sock’em robots flick). While Winslow has been getting over 30 minutes the last month, his usage rate is a lowly 12%, while Luol Deng sports a much more attractive 21% rate. They really need to trade away Deng, who was their answer to the gigantic void left by the loss of LeBron James, and let Justise run free in the offense.
Jerian Grant – There’s a few kinks in the hose on this one. The Knicks would need to trade Jose Calderon away and not acquire a point guard like Brandon Jennings or Dennis Schroder before the deadline for Grant to see his value rise. If the Knicks have hopes of making a push for the 7 or 8-seed in the East, they may be too focused on winning now than increasing the role and experience of their 2015 late-first round pick, Grant. I always find situations like this mind boggling. There’s no chance a team like New York will ever knock off a team like Cleveland, Toronto, Chicago or others, so why is winning now a goal? You should be focused on getting your potential future pieces Kristaps Porzingis and Grant more court time, to learn on the job and build chemistry rather than floating along with 34-year-old Jose Calderon leading your troops down a waterfall. I loved Grant’s game out of Notre Dame, and he has some real talent to build on. If he were to become the starter, you could expect some shooting woes, but a line of like 12 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.5 RPG and over a steal a night with some inconsistencies along the way naturally.
This is just a handful of guys who could see rises in fantasy value after trades, and none of these are sure to go down, nor are any players safe from being dealt without warning. It’s a cold hearted business, and you never know what’s going to go down on deadline day. All it takes in one spontaneous call to a team’s GM with the right offer to make them consider moving a player that we aren’t expecting to go anywhere.
Some of the bigger names that we have heard mentioned in trade rumors over the past couple weeks: Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay, Tobias Harris, all of the big men from the Nuggets except Nikola Jokic, Harrison Barnes, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Jeff Green, Omri Casspi, Terrence Jones, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, Brandon Jennings, Jamal Crawford, Kevin Martin and surely more will come in the next week up to the deadline. Be prepared to react when the fireworks go off.