We've got less than two days until the NBA trade deadline, mere hours away from seeing if real-life general managers and owners will continue to reshuffle the statistical deck.
The deadline, and the player movement that can accompany it, is the second-to-last chance during the NBA season for fantasy owners to drastically alter their team's fortunes. (The final chance being the trade deadline in their respective fantasy leagues.)
It's a nervous time for fantasy owners, because the trade deadline can giveth, but it can also taketh away. And savvy owners need to try to read the tea leaves and anticipate where players might be headed.
We've already witnessed the impact of a fairly major trade on three teams' statistical outputs. The deal involving Rudy Gay and Jose Calderon had a ripple effect that could turn a fantasy playoff series or nudge a team across the finish line in a rotisserie situation.
Gay became a 20-point scorer again. Kyle Lowry got out of a time share at point guard. More minutes opened up for Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani (also being showcased for a potential trade). DeMar DeRozan altered his game to fit in with Gay; it remains to be seen if this is a positive long-term development.
In Memphis, Jerryd Bayless landed on the fantasy radar, while Mike Conley and Marc Gasol picked up their scoring. In Detroit, Calderon got a point guard gig to himself and Kyle Singler began to show he could be a fantasy asset. (I believe Calderon's play is also having a positive effect on Detroit's overall offensive output.)
Terrence Ross got buried deeper on Toronto's bench. Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight lost some minutes and assist opportunities. Worst of all, Ed Davis went from nearly 30 minutes a game to less than 10, kneecapping a promising fantasy breakout.
I, having drafted Gay in more than one league, was hanging onto him, rebuffing trade offers, and lighting some candles in the hope he was dealt out of a situation that had run its course. (Though I'm still not sure how you get rid of O.J. Mayo and Gay within a year, and hope to retain your outside punch.)
My patience has largely been rewarded; although Gay's field goal percentage has dropped (38 percent during the past 15 days), his improvement in the volume categories has been dramatic.
You need to pay attention to trade rumors. It's up to you to try to stay ahead of the other owners in your league to capitalize when -- and sometimes before -- trades are announced.
These deals don't affect only star players. They can also promote waiver-wire players into prominent rotational roles in the blink of an eye.
Let's take a look at some of the rumors, and the effect some of the deals could have if they come to fruition.
I've ranked the probability of a deal using the "WarGames" Defcon system; Defcon 1 means a deal is imminent, while 5 means a deal probably won't happen. I'm basing these rankings on nothing concrete, just an overall feel after following rumors the past few days.
(To help add some perspective on the effects of a player's departure, I'm going to include his Player Rater "past-15" score, along with his usage rate and PER.)
Smith is in his walk year, he wants the max, and Atlanta seems hard-pressed to fork over five years and $90 million. Instead of letting the rumors negatively affect his play, Smith appears to be elevating his game, probably realizing his best chance at getting maxed out will happen with another franchise. His insistence on a max deal is also limiting the amount of trade partners, but it looks like something will happen.
I'd keep an eye on Phoenix, Brooklyn and Milwaukee. If I own Smith, I'm hoping he heads to Phoenix, where he could possibly increase his usage rate to 27 or 28 percent. Houston would also be ideal, as Smith would fill the one hole in a fantasy-rich rotation.
If (when) Smith leaves, if Atlanta receives spare parts/drafts picks in return, it will open up touches for Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. My dark horse waiver-wire candidate to breakout? Anthony Tolliver, who has shown in the past that he's capable of fantasy-worthy stretches of play, and his ability to hit the 3-point shot makes him a tantalizing prospect.
There could also be an opportunity for a high-motor player like Ivan Johnson; he threw up a nice double-double a couple of weeks back (12 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block).
No one else is as close to being dealt as Smith.
J.J. Redick, SG, Orlando Magic
PR15: -0.30 (he missed some games; for the season, Redick is at 6.63)
Usage rate: 20.7 (23rd in NBA)
PER: 16.77 (career high)
Rumored destinations: New York, Boston, Milwaukee, Indiana, Chicago
If I own Redick, I'm hoping he sticks in Orlando. I'd rather have him getting more touches on a rebuilding team than coming off the bench for a contender. I think if he goes anywhere, Milwaukee is the likeliest spot for him to retain value (assuming Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis is dealt). If Redick leaves, keep an eye on E'Twaun Moore.
Moore is the odd man out in Orlando's backcourt rotation, but he could be in line for 28 to 30 minutes a night if Redick leaves. I've liked the fantasy numbers Moore has flashed in limited action, and he could be a boon to teams in deep leagues in need of across-the-board production and multipositional eligibility.
If Chris Paul appears committed to re-up in Los Angeles, the Clippers would be wise to sell high on Bledsoe, who right now is teeming with Kevin Kolb/Matt Flynn/Matt Cassel-type buzz. But if the Clippers don't get a decent offer (sorry, irrational Celtics fans, I can't see them giving up Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett), or if they have concerns about Paul's knee, they have no pressure to deal him at this point.
By the way, any player coming back to Los Angeles in a trade is going to suffer a hit in value. The Clippers are deep at multiple positions, and any impact player coming in (unless Jordan leaves as well) will be in line for a reduction in minutes.
If Bledsoe leaves, it will open up opportunities for Chauncey Billups, who is starting to round into form (21 points, 5 3-pointers, 4 steals versus the Lakers last week).
The Jazz are carrying too many talented forwards for their own good. With Millsap and Al Jefferson's contract situations coming to a head, it would seem that a trade should be imminent.
Jennings is playing a little bit of a "will he, won't he" game here. He hired a new agent, usually a sign of someone looking for a big offer sheet in restricted free agency. But as of yesterday, he's backing off some incendiary statements where his camp claimed "irreconcilable differences" with Bucks management.
Both Jennings and Ellis have been linked to trade rumors. If I'm John Hammond and I have to unload one player, I'm trying to deal Ellis.
So who steps in if Jennings or Ellis is shipped out of town?
Well, one of the more underrated fantasy guards of the past few seasons happens to be sitting on Milwaukee's bench. That's right, Beno Udrih is rested and ready to go.
Udrih helped me win my share of leagues when he was at his 30-minute-per-game peak in Sacramento. Every season, Udrih languishes on the wire, but can ramp up his numbers at a moment's notice. He's efficient and does a little bit of everything.
If Pierce goes to another team, his value takes a hit. Pierce has done it all in Rajon Rondo's absence, averaging a Herculean 17.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game this month. He's got nowhere to go but down if he leaves.
The word is that if Pierce goes, Garnett could defect as well. If Danny Ainge pushes the self-destruct button on this team, a lot of production opportunities will open up on the Celtics' roster. Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Avery Bradley and even Brandon Bass could put up serviceable numbers down the stretch.
I'm not going to pile on Howard; let's just leave it at this: This is shaping up to be another semi-lost season for Superman. He's not happy within Mike D'Antoni's system, he's a pending free agent, and is butting heads with Kobe Bryant.
I don't think a deal is likely, but if Brooklyn is willing to part with Brook Lopez, something could happen. And Lopez would be a fantastic fit within D'Antoni's system.
J.J. Hickson, PF/C, Portland Trail Blazers; Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, Toronto Raptors; Kris Humphries, PF, Brooklyn Nets; Eric Gordon, SG, New Orleans Hornets; Carlos Boozer, PF, Chicago Bulls; Jordan Crawford, SG/PG, Washington Wizards; Marcin Gortat, C, Phoenix Suns; Luke Ridnour, SG/PG, Minnesota Timberwolves; Ben Gordon, SG, Charlotte Bobcats