Here's another reason fantasy hoops is awesome: It makes the just-completed NBA trading period seem interesting.
Don't get me wrong. The NBA trade season as a whole was, of course, a dud of Mark Eaton standing proportions. (This as opposed to Eaton sitting.) The biggest deal -- Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors -- went down three weeks ago. And of course many fantasy owners are understandably disappointed that, after all the empty speculation, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors are still on the same team, and Eric Bledsoe still isn't a starting point guard somewhere.
Nevertheless, as fantasy owners, the recent roster machinations do give us things to talk about, and things to think about. To us, they are at least mildly interesting. For instance, how much of a hit in value does J.J. Redick take with his move to the Milwaukee Bucks? Can Jordan Crawford regain fantasy relevance with the Boston Celtics?
And finally, are the Houston Rockets serious?
Thomas Robinson, just acquired by the Rockets from the Sacramento Kings, is starting to attract attention in ESPN.com leagues. The fifth overall pick is now rostered in close to 15 percent of leagues. But here's the thing: That starting lineup the Rockets rolled out the other night when they rallied past the Oklahoma City Thunder? The one with Carlos Delfino (at least technically) at power forward? It sounds like that's going to stick.
The Houston Chronicle offers a succinct explanation of what the team sees in the James Harden/Jeremy Lin/Chandler Parsons/Omer Asik/Delfino five-some. Also keep in mind that, even if his professional development was inhibited by the Kings' dysfunction, Robinson is still considered something of a project.
Naturally, things could change, but at this moment I'm thinking that Delfino -- 40.9 percent shooting and all -- is the Rockets player worth adding now that the trade deadline has passed. As of Friday, he's available in nearly 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Week 18 at a Glance
"R" matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their opponents' numbers in those categories, and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the right lists the team's total number of games scheduled ("G") as well as home games ("H"), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
Coming out of the break, the schedule slows. Only 12 NBA teams have four games in the week ahead, while two teams -- the Portland Trail Blazers and Celtics -- play just twice.
I probably should have noted this before, but the free-falling Orlando Magic are now a prominent team of interest to any schedule-watchers. Unlike, say, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Magic don't leap out in any season-long opponents' statistics. But they're getting there. With the injuries to Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson, and now with Redick's departure, this is an inexperienced and undermanned group. In their past five games, Magic opponents have lit it up to the tune of 109.4 points and 9.4 3-pointers per game. That's likely a sign of things to come. The Magic and Bobcats are two matchups you absolutely want your players active for.
Players to Watch
Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies (DAL, @MIA, @ORL): Speaking of subtle trade impacts that interest mainly just fantasy owners, there's the re-emergence of Allen. Since the unloading of Gay, Allen seems to be gaining a bigger role with the Grizzlies ... or perhaps not. Allen's numbers following the Gay trade are notably better -- 11.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals -- but he's not seeing additional minutes, and he's not taking more shots. He's just making shots. Allen is connecting at a stellar rate of 62.3 percent in February. Even if we assume Allen is taking it to the hole more frequently of late, he won't maintain that field goal percentage. But then again, Allen's fantasy value starts and ends with steals. As long as he keeps getting a couple takeaways a night, he'll be worth rostering in leagues of at least 12 teams. With that in mind, Dallas Mavericks opponents are tops in steals. However, for what it's worth, Magic opponents are only 27th in this regard.
Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Houston Rockets (MIL, @ORL, DAL): As noted, Delfino is shooting just 40.9 percent for the season, and in February he's a dreadful 31.3 percent (15-of-49) from the field. Despite those struggles, Delfino as a starter is realistically worth better than 2.0 3s and around 1.5 steals. If FG percentage is a strong category for you, perhaps you can withstand his inaccuracy. Another Rockets player I'm watching is Francisco Garcia, whom they acquired with Robinson. While Garcia was included in the deal because of his expiring contract, he seems like a good fit for the small-ball lineup. For now, he's worth a flier in large leagues of at least 14 teams, but if the oft-injured Delfino should have to miss any time, Garcia could be a very intriguing play. As for this schedule, it's a go for Delfino. In addition to being first in steals, Mavs opponents are fifth in triples. And as mentioned, Magic opponents are raining buckets from downtown.
Moe Harkless, SF, Orlando Magic (@PHI, SAC, HOU, MEM): If you're in need of steals and missed out on Delfino and Allen, Harkless is probably your next best bet in free agency. In fact, Harkless could end up being a great add for the rest of the season. In his second stint as a Magic starter, the 19-year-old rookie is averaging 11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocks. On top of that, he's coming off a season-high 20-point performance against the Mavericks on Wednesday. While his production in the hustle categories alone gives you an idea of his potential, Harkless' poor percentages (46.4 percent from the field and just 56.3 percent from the line) are an indicator of how far he has to go. Obviously, you're rolling the dice with Harkless. As far as this set of games goes, the quantity is there, but only Rockets opponents are above average in steals.
Gerald Henderson, SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats (@LAC, @UTA, @SAC): Henderson isn't an exciting player for fantasy. In fact, he's a pretty good example of a point I tried to make last fall, one that John Cregan recently and helpfully boiled down to this: points are overrated. Now, Henderson can score. In fact, he's reached double digits in all nine games this month. But during this span, his averages are 15.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals, which is ... OK. That said, one category in which Henderson can truly help you is at the line. For the season, he's shooting 80.9 percent on 3.8 attempts per game, and he's been getting to the stripe a bit more of late, too (4.8 attempts in February). With Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers and Bucks opponents all above average in free throw attempts, Henderson seems worth adding and starting in leagues of at least 12 teams.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played, and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.