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Category Strategy: Trade Deadline Fallout Dominates Waivers

Alex Rikleen

Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.

The league is still reeling from an active trade deadline – yes, this was a wildly active deadline, and don’t listen to people click-baiting you by pretending it wasn’t. Not only did 36 players swap teams in February (up from 23 in 2015-16), but a legitimate top-15 player (top 10?) was traded, along with several lottery players still on their rookie contracts. And player movement is not done yet – the real-life waiver wire is hot with players like Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, and Terrence Jones expected to find new homes this week.

All this movement has created lots of fantasy opportunity, so the “other suggestions” have a few more names this week. They are listed in the order that I recommend adding them, but based on overall value, not their value in that specific category. For example, in threes, I list Gary Harris first, then Nikola Mirotic, with Terrence Ross near the end. Though I expect Ross to provide the most triples of the group, I rank Harris, then Mirotic, as the most valuable fantasy adds.

Fourteen teams have four games this week, while the other 16 have three. That means schedules have as little impact on the waiver wire this week as they ever will. Thursday carries only three games, and Wednesday has 11, while every other day has between six and 10 games. Teams with games on Thursday get a tiny boost over those who play Wednesday in some formats. Thursday’s games are Bulls-Warriors, Suns-Hornets, and Trail Blazers-Thunder, and none of those teams play on Wednesday.

Finally, two 76ers are too heavily owned for the rest of this article, but are also widely available. Dario Saric should be picked up ahead of any player mentioned below. Robert Covington is more valuable than most of the players listed below, with the possible exceptions of Gary Harris, Nikola Mirotic and Cory Joseph.

Points

T.J. Warren, Suns
(Ownership: ESPN – 35%; Yahoo – 61%; CBS – 80%)

Warren is one of the biggest winners of the trade deadline. The Suns shipped P.J. Tucker to the Raptors, and the only player they received was Jared Sullinger, who they promptly waived. Tucker was injured for much of the preseason, and did not fully enter the rotation until the fourth game of the season. Between then and when he was traded, Tucker averaged 29.8 minutes per game. Warren averaged 28.4 minutes during that time, but those minutes were highly irregular, featuring 10 games with more than 35 minutes, and 12 games with fewer than 25 minutes. With Tucker gone, Warren might average close to 40 minutes a night – he hit 38 and 39 in his first two games since the trade. All those minutes are gold for a player who is averaging 16.0 points per 36 minutes, with a track record for performing better when he plays more minutes.

Brandon Ingram is another deadline winner, benefiting from the Lakers trading away Lou Williams in exchange for Corey Brewer. Brewer is unlikely to play a meaningful role in the rotation, so Williams’ 24.2 minutes per game are now up for grabs. In the first two games since the trade, Ingram is averaging 37.0 minutes and 16.5 points.

Gary Harris is still widely available in ESPN leagues, but he really shouldn’t be. In three games since the All-star break, he is averaging 22.3 points, 4.0 threes, and shooting 52.0 percent from the field.

Other suggestions: Gary Harris, Nuggets; Brandon Ingram, Lakers; Frank Kaminsky, Hornets; Terrence Ross, Magic

Three-Pointers

Kyle Korver, Cavaliers
(Ownership: ESPN – 35%; Yahoo – 70%; CBS – 57%)

Since joining the Cavaliers, Korver is shooting an astonishing 52.5 percent from behind the arc. If that lasted for an entire season, it would place him second all time, behind only Korver himself in 2009-10 -- except back then he was only attempting 2.1 triples per game. As a Cavalier in 2016-17, he is attempting 5.6 per game and making 3.0. And the longer Korver has been with the Cavs, the better his numbers have looked. Excluding his first two games, a back-to-back set, his averages improve to 54.9 percent and 3.3 made threes in 26.2 minutes. Focusing only on February, his shooting jupmed to 62.5 percent success rate and 4.0 made threes in 27.4 minutes. As the minutes have increased, so too has his production in other categories, albeit not by very much. He remains a three-point specialist, but he is increasingly viable as a source of points and as someone who doesn’t hurt a team in rebounds, steals, or blocks.

I remain skeptical of Ben McLemore – I expect Darren Collison and Tyreke Evans, followed by Buddy Hield and Ty Lawson -- will eat up most of the value in the Kings backcourt. However, McLemore’s production in the first three games since the DeMarcus Cousins trade warrants attention. He averaged 27.0 minutes, 14.0 points, 2.3 threes, and shot 48.4 percent from the field. If he can maintain this, that warrants ownership in most 12-team leagues and as an as-needed specialist in 10-team leagues.

Other suggestions: Gary Harris, Nuggets; Nikola Mirotic, Bulls; Frank Kaminsky, Hornets; Ben McLemore, Kings; Alex Abrines, Thunder; Terrence Ross, Magic

Deep leagues only: Luke Babbitt, Heat

Rebounds

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls
(Ownership: ESPN – 25%; Yahoo – 68%; CBS – 64%)

When the Bulls shipped Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott out at the deadline, receiving only spare parts in exchange, they opened up a ton of minutes in the frontcourt. A lot of those minutes will go to Bobby Portis, who is a recommended deep league add. But Mirotic is another winner, and one with a better fantasy track record. In two games since the break, he is averaging 17.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.0 threes in 33.0 minutes per game. Not only should Mirotic be added, but he can go right into the starting lineup, even in 10 team leagues.

Dewayne Dedmon has flashed some fancy highlights in addition his 10.5 rebounds per game since the All-Star break. He remains a very limited player who will hurt in a lot of categories, but getting his workload up over 20 minutes consistently (22.0 since the break) makes him a viable specialist for rebounding who is also helpful in blocks.

Other suggestions: Tyreke Evans, Kings; Willy Hernangomez, Knicks; Al-Farouq Aminu, Trail Blazers; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Nets; Dewayne Dedmon, Spurs

Deep leagues only: Bobby Portis, Bulls; Kosta Koufos, Kings

Assists

Cory Joseph, Raptors
(Ownership: ESPN – 16%; Yahoo – 29%; CBS – 45%)

The Kyle Lowry (wrist) injury, which will keep him out for most, if not all, of the regular season, opens up a huge window for Joseph. Before the All-star break, Joseph was averaging only 22.6 minutes per game, while Lowry was averaging nearly 38. With Lowry spending so much time on the floor, that means Joseph was playing 10.3 minutes or fewer at point guard, leaving the vast majority of his time at shooting guard. Now Joseph will probably play well over 30 minutes per game almost exclusively at point guard. He was averaging 4.3 assists per 36 minutes before the break, despite spending much of his time off the ball. In his new role, that per-36 number should increase.

If T.J. McConnell is still available in your league, he’s probably the most reliable source of assists. He is another limited specialist, but while his non-assists contributions are limited, he doesn’t hurt anywhere other than points.

Denzel Valentine and Devin Harris are two players to watch in this category, but I can’t recommend adding either at this point, even in very deep leagues.

Other suggestions: Tyreke Evans, Kings; Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks; Ty Lawson, Kings

Steals

E'Twaun Moore, Pelicans
(Ownership: ESPN – 3%; Yahoo – 6%; CBS – 11%)

Moore is a good, not great steals add, but I want to talk about him because his value has changed more than most of the “other suggestions” below (I rank him between Harkless and Lee in terms of how strongly I recommend picking him up). When the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins in the trade with the Kings, they decimated their backcourt depth. The three departing guards/wings combined for 2,755 minutes over the Pelicans’ first 57 games, which averages out to 48.3 minutes per game. That’s a giant hole to fill, and Moore is one of the few players left to fill it. Moore is averaging 25.0 minutes per game since the trade, and I’m surprised that number isn’t higher. He’s also averaging 2.5 steals since the trade, and averages 1.1 per 36 minutes.

Tony Allen remains the elite specialist in steals, but his limitations make him hard to add for a lot of teams. If you need lots of steals in a hurry, look at him. If you need improvement, but not so desperately that you can sacrifice overall roster strength, focus on Terrence Ross or Maurice Harkless.

Other suggestions: Terrence Ross, Magic; Maurice Harkless, Trail Blazers; Courtney Lee, Knicks; Tony Allen, Grizzlies

Blocks

Willy Hernangomez, Knicks
(Ownership: ESPN – 32%; Yahoo – 46%; CBS – 68%)

Okay, so Hernangomez isn’t actually a great shot-blocker, but I had to fit him into this article somewhere. Now that Joakim Noah (knee) is out for the season, Hernangomez and Kyle O’Quinn can stop cannibalizing each other for backup scraps of minutes, and both can have a meaningful and more regular role in the rotation. O’Quinn is the better blocker of the pair, and he is listed as an “other suggestion” below, but Hernangomez is the better fantasy add. Hernangomez averages 14.9 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes. Hernangomez will probably not approach 36 minutes on nights that Kristaps Porzingis is healthy, though Hernangomez did see 34 minutes with Porzingis out Monday. When Porzingis is active, Hernangomez should reliably see workloads in the mid-to-high-20s, which is enough to give him decent fantasy value.

Other suggestions: Richaun Holmes, 76ers; Kyle O’Quinn, Knicks

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