The NBA trade deadline is February 18, and this year there are several big names out there in the rumor mill. Amare Stoudemire couldn't work out a contract extension so he could be on his way out of Phoenix, the Mavericks are said to be after Kevin Martin, Al Jefferson has been addressing trade rumors in the media, and that's not even mentioning players like Chris Bosh or Carlos Boozer who could become free agents this summer and whose teams might want to move now to avoid ending up empty-handed later on. With the country-wide financial problems that have seeped into the NBA more teams may have an impetus to make deals for financial reasons as well, which adds to the likelihood that we could see some big names changing addresses in the next few weeks.
Moreover, this trade deadline is the last chance teams will have to clear cap space in preparation for the class-of-2003 free agency sweepstakes this summer featuring LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. In short, it will be absolutely shocking if there aren't some pretty big deals swung by the deadline.
So, how do you as a fantasy owner prepare for this? Well, the speculative owner could start to hoard some of the players whose values would seemingly increase if they (or a teammate) were traded. For instance, the article above suggested that Stoudemire might be traded to New Jersey. While he would miss Steve Nash's passing and likely shoot a lower percentage from the field, a move to Jersey would undoubtedly mean many more scoring opportunities for Stoudemire and the chance to get back up over 25 points per game. Likewise, if Boozer were traded then suddenly Paul Millsap's value would go through the roof. None of these trades are guaranteed, but an owner that needs a home run might take the chance that he guesses right on an upcoming move and try to get ahead of it.
Likewise, you should also consider which players might be hurt by a trade. For instance, if Al Jefferson were dealt to a team with championship aspirations he definitely wouldn't get to shoot nearly as often as he does as the only consistent option in Minnesota. So, you might consider dangling Jefferson in a deal for a Pau Gasol-type that isn't moving.
Finally, you can keep your eyes and ears open for the first hint that a trade has actually gone down. Once a deal happens, and the pieces are in motion, there is often a window of time when people haven't identified which back-ups are now starters or which starters are now back-ups. That's a great time to jet to your free agent wire and speculate, because that's where late-season gold is often found.
Situations to Watch and Quick Hits
Garnett back in a knee brace: Kevin Garnett returned from a 10-game absence with a huge white brace/pad on his injured knee. He was obviously moving gingerly in his first game back and was consistently outjumped for rebounds (he only had four boards), and he seemed to wear down over the course of the game (only two points after halftime). Although Garnett grabbed even fewer boards (two) in his second game, he was visibly moving better and finished strong with seven points in the last five minutes to go with several big defensive plays. The next four games will really reveal how Garnett is doing, as the Celtics have two straight back-to-back combos for four games in five nights starting on Thursday.
Ellis injured, but has look-alike: Monta Ellis has a sprained ankle as his body finally protested the ridiculous minutes he's played this year. Ellis has more complete games than most baseball pitchers get in a year, which isn't really a great sign for a slight guard with an aggressive game that includes lots of contact. Warriors coach Don Nelson has apparently decided to plug rookie Stephen Curry into Ellis' slot and pretend that they are the same person. Curry has now notched 48 or more minutes in three of his last five games, and in two games without Ellis he has scored 28.5 points with 4.5 assists, 3.5 boards and 2.0 steals.
Maggette feeling Melo: If I told you that a player was averaging 29 points with 7.3 boards and 3.9 assists, your first guesses for that player's identity would probably be Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant. Instead, these are Corey Maggette's averages for the month of January. Maggette has been scorching since moving into the Warriors' starting lineup, shooting 57 percent from the field and a category-winning 11.1-of-12.2 from the line for the month as well.
Roy's Absence is Miller's gain: With Brandon Roy struggling with a hamstring injury over the last week, Andre' Miller's value has gone through the roof. I watched Miller carve up Rajon Rondo last week to the tune of 28 points/eight assists/eight boards, and in his last six games Miller's averaging 18.3 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 boards and 1.1 steals.
Martin jump-started: Kenyon Martin's seasons got jump-started a few weeks ago when Carmelo Anthony was injured, and even with Melo back Martin continues to shine. He averaged almost 15 points and 14 boards over the last week and has notched a double-double in nine of his last 11 games.
One Gordon out, one on way back: Eric Gordon has missed the last three games with a sprained left big toe, and is day-to-day this week. Meanwhile, Ben Gordon (groin) practiced on Monday and could play on Wednesday. Ben says there is still some pain, but is listed as a game-time decision against the Grizzlies.
Wade scorching, Carter with signs of life: Last week I predicted that Wade might bounce back a bit from his poor shooting from the field (~44% FG) but that he likely doesn't finish the season above 46 or 47 percent. Since then, Wade has been sizzling from the field (51-for-91) to raise his average up to 46.6 percent already. Meanwhile, Vince Carter has made 18-of-38 from the field in his last three games which is a big step in the right direction for him as well, though he still has a long way to go to hit 40 percent shooting on the season - so my prediction of less than 42 percent still looks reasonable. We'll check back on these two, as well as my other predictions (Rondo, Pierce and Duncan) as the season goes along.
Philly line-up shake-up: Last week the 76ers moved Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young to the bench and replaced them in the starting lineup with Elton Brand and JRue Holliday. This news is worst for Williams, who was looking like a fantasy breakout player before the team added Allen Iverson to the fold but now struggles to score in double figures consistently, let alone register assists. Young actually responded well to his new role, notching consecutive 20-point efforts in his first two games off the bench. Brand has had mixed results as a starter, with one 23-point/eight-rebound/four-assist game then two other contests where he combined for only 22 points/10 boards/three assists. The other big loser in all of this is Andre Iguodala, who has gotten fewer touches next to Iverson and had only 16 points combined in the first two games with the new lineup before finally notching a 22-point effort on Monday. Philly Coach Eddie Jordan has shown that he's not shy about shaking things up, so if the current configuration isn't good for your players take heart... by next week it could all be different again.
Avoiding the Nets: Sometimes you can find fantasy jewels even on terrible teams. Then, you have cases like the current Nets where not only are they losing but they are now getting blown out on a nightly basis. They've lost seven straight by double-digits, and in the last week they've lost three games by a combined 89 points. As such, you can't even trust their good players like Brook Lopez because he's only playing three quarters a game. Also, when someone like Devin Harris gets hurt there's absolutely no impetus to rush him back. Bottom line, if you can get any kind of value for your Nets I would suggest getting them off your team ASAP.
Splintering in Sacramento: The Kings were one of the surprise good stories of the early season, but they've now lost 14 of their last 16 games including six of seven by double figures. As discussed above with the Nets, the scoring differential is more important to fantasy owners than who wins, as blowouts are bad for business. For the Kings, the blowouts have corresponded to the return of Kevin Martin, who seems to have disrupted the flow of the other players without bringing his own characteristic skills to the table. Martin has scored in single digits in three of the last four games and is shooting only 23-of-68 from the field since his return, which could suggest that his wrist is still not right. Super-rookie Tyreke Evans is still playing well, but just about everyone else on the team is hitting a lull. There are trade rumors swirling that Martin could be sent out of town, and if that happens look for the young players Kings to make fantasy comebacks.
Corey Brewer (45% owned): Brewer has been trying of late to join former teammates Joakim Noah and Al Horford as productive fantasy players. Brewer is averaging 18.7 points, 4.3 boards, 3.3 assists, 2.3 steals, 2.3 treys and 1.3 blocks for the Timberwolves the past week. His versatility gives him good "Garbage Man" potential, and he has played a larger role in the offense of late which makes him a more dangerous option if he can keep this up.
Carlos Delfino (41% owned): Delfino has stepped up his game since Michael Redd went down for the year, and in the last five games, he's either reached 20 points or double-digit rebounds in each. Over that stretch he's averaging 18.8 points, 8.2 boards, 3.4 boards and 2.0 steals.
Drew Gooden (29% owned): Gooden has been an efficient double-double machine of late, and I picked him up myself in one league where I really needed rebounding. Needless to say, I got great joy from his 15-point/18-rebound effort on Sunday.
Daniel Gibson (10% owned): We have a Boobie sighting! With Mo Williams and Delonte West both out injured, Gibson has moved back into the starting lineup for the Cavs and knocked down seven treys in two games. Gibson is shooting nearly 48 percent from long range this year, so with starter minutes he could make a good long-distance spot starter/role player.
Arron Afflalo (8% owned): Afflalo has been red-hot from downtown of late, knocking down 3.3 treys while scoring 16 points per game over the last week. He is battling with J.R. Smith for the key sixth man/wing scorer role for the Nuggets, and in recent games Afflalo appears to be winning.
Marco Belinelli (3 % owned): Belinelli has had an interesting week, with three solid double-digit scoring efforts (15 ppg, 54% FG, 1.7 3-ptrs/game) surrounding one goose egg in only three minutes of playing time. Assuming that game was some sort of fluke, Belinelli looks like a decent scoring/3-pointers role player in Toronto.
Article first appeared 1/26/10