Fantasy basketball: What to be prepared for leading up to Thursday's NBA trade deadline

I'm not so sure about this one.

This deadline, I mean. I'm not feeling any widespread "fire sale" vibes.

And "fire sale vibes" are what my fantasy radar historically detects by Tuesday a.m. of NBA trade deadline week. And you need that first fire sale to set the others in motion. And that's what rocks valuation in Fantasyland at the deadline.

In the age of the Play-In and flattened Lottery odds, there's never been less incentive to make irrational moves in pursuit of long-term hope.

Because here's the thing: I think GMs have finally figured out what I bitterly computed a decade ago. Unless you're operating in one of the four-to-five destination cities in the NBA... cap space is worthless. A panacea inside of a myth... like the Rookie Wall, vegan cupcakes and the second season of The Wire.

If you're not in New York (all boroughs), Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta or what I refer to as "The Shire of Golden State"? Super-duper-star is not coming through that door.

Let's focus on the semi-tactile. Inoculate our fantasy minds from deadline anxiety and panic moves. Let's do what I do with my progeny to help deal with the Sunday Scaries: make a list of navigational rules for the sea of short-term anxiety that lies ahead.

1. The ramifications of the predictably unpredictable -- the most recent Kyrie Irving Event -- are already 75% contained/assessed.

It's over! Kyrie Irving has had his deadline moment. It's as if Vesuvius decided to erupt in 78 AD instead of 79 AD. And again, the real, tactile, long-term fantasy ramifications are already 75% contained.

But whatever you do?

2. Don't be bamboozled by Brooklyn's deep-fake box scores this week.

Unless Spencer Dinwiddie is flipped to another team or Kevin Durant is (improbably) dealt? Don't let yourself get all-consumed by Cam Thomas' Kyrie cosplay. His past two games? Those 91 dopamine-saturated points? The 52 field goal attempts? The 11 3s?

A Usage Rate comet. Summer League in February. It will be all over by All-Star Weekend.

Don Nelson spent three decades proving that if you give any NBA/D-League/G-League shooting guard 35 minutes, a high pace, an everlasting green light, and a Usage Rate over 40...you will produce a Cam Thomas-type effect.

And the world needs dreamers. If this was the Nets roster for the duration? I'd be beyond bullish on the numbers in the Nets' Feb. 6 box score.

But I've been following the NBA with magnesium-hot intensity for three decades. I still watch 10-15 hours of NBA basketball a week. (And that doesn't count my time invested in the Washington Wizards, which I consider more of a personal test of will.)

3. Act upon the deadline dynamic in your league. Don't wait to be acted upon.

So, if you've picked Thomas up?

Saturate your fellow managers' in-boxes with statements like: "I am not trading Cam Thomas. No way, no how. Please leave me, Cam Thomas, and his 47 points on 29 FGA alone. You can wave to us at the victory parade."

See what happens. See what you might be able to get. Stir the pot. Don't blush at the notion of doing the first deal.

4. You want to do the first deal.

Like in the actual NBA, whoever makes the first big deadline deal extrapolates an advantage.

Everyone else will react to you. And being competitive types, they will have deadline FOMO. They will want to be seen as smarter... but you've already proven you're smarter! Because you're already done dealing! Resplend in your genius! (Except for a brief stage we will discuss at the end of this monstrous article.)

You're in their head. The harder your competitors try to beat your deal? The more it reduces their chances of making any deal of consequence. (Except for the aforementioned stage.)

5. The likeliest trigger of meaningful NBA deadline action: Kevin Durant pacification.

Can/will Brooklyn appease whom I assume to be a rightfully (and at present quietly) vexed Durant by adding a true No. 2 option before Thursday, 3 p.m. ET? Or, failing that, a couple of No. 3 options?

There's this less-reported conspiratorial notion that behind the scenes, Durant is whispering, "I will not wait for a trade until the summer" to Sean Marks. To my eyes and ears -- and they have been wrong before -- that doesn't ring true. (I know there's a counter-narrative to this, but I still believe in Durant's eternal capacity to wall off all the noise -- even the noise he's generated -- and play transcendent basketball.)

But if that doesn't happen? Remember that Brooklyn invested historic highs of capital to create a Big 3 for the ages... that imploded spectacularly.

If I'm the Nets, I go all-in right darn now.

I've got Durant. I've got Pantheon-level John Muir Mustang Jacques Vaughn at the helm. I've got the very underrated Nic Claxton, underrated Royce O'Neale, and the properly- gauged Joe Harris and Yuta Watanabe. I've got Dorian Finney-Smith's lockdown D. A Dinwiddie reunion.

And I've got some additional draft picks.

So right now, I reclaim some control of my franchise's basketball destiny, do some old-school maneuvering, and let the chips fall. (Because that would be refreshing to see.)

6. If I'm Sean Marks, my first phone call is an international call.

From now until 3 p.m. ET Thursday, the most tangible, meaningful impact fantasy-value altering deals are under Masai Ujiri's control. It just depends on what his deadline strategy entails. Which I'm sure he landed on months ago.

7. Don't just think about who might get dealt... think about shifts in fantasy value.

Pascal Siakam's value will drop the minute he leaves Toronto. Raptor rotational conditions are calibrated to amplify his volume-based value. Siakam would still be a valuable fantasy player in Brooklyn... just not as valuable.

Fred VanVleet is likely a hold. It's hard to divine what team would boost his fantasy prospects. (Well, I can think of one, give me a minute.)

O.G. Anunoby is the Raptor due for a boost. His discontent revolves around his lack of touches. Say rumors prove true, and he's dealt to New Orleans. Smart money says he retains his defensive counting stats while getting extra five-to-seven points in Usage.

8. Don't count on Chicago doing much.

So far, I don't detect the marriage of desperation and assets required to commensurate a Zach LaVine swap. And the fantasy impact of any Bulls-based deal only goes down from there.

9. Danny Ainge is the O.G. Deadline Smoke Monster.

In fantasy or reality? Danny Ainge is the GM that does everything a GM is supposed to do. Danny Ainge does not care about karma. He is the shark of sharks. Year in and year out, he is the noisiest spoon, stirring and clanking around the pot.

Do not take any fantasy action based on any rumor coming out of Utah. Do ask yourself: is the Play-In worth it to Ainge? Or does moving Mike Conley to one city that might boost his value make more sense? Oh, which reminds me...

9b. Kyle Lowry is an underrated fantasy storyline to follow.

I doubt Miami entertains serious title aspirations. A second-round exit feels like their ceiling. So now might be the time to ship Kyle Lowry out to the one city with the environment required to amplify his fantasy numbers...and supply the wherewithal to play through the smaller injuries.

Because in the end?

10. Los Angeles needs point guards.

The Lakers and the Clippers are in dire need of star-level floor generalship. Both teams are in middle of their own windows of deadline panic.

We know the Clippers are panicking because they were in on Irving. They're wise to panic. They need a point guard to make a reasonable title run. Case closed.

We know the Lakers are panicking because we own phones and television, and thanks to evolution, can perceive basic sounds, shapes and human speech.

So maybe Toronto and Brooklyn do something. But it's better than maybe that LeBron uses the crown he's about to inherit from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and uses it to break the emergency glass in El Segundo, demanding that something, anything is done.

(And I would hear it. I'm right down the street)

Is there a team in the West that says, "unbeatable juggernaut?" No. There is not. Not this year. If I'm LeBron, and I think A.D. is ambulatory for the Play-In? I demand that the Lakers' two remaining first-round picks this decade get converted into an actionable third star. And I don't care if I'm doing it at the worst time.

10b. Never, ever do the last deal in your league.

Beware of sharks. Do not operate from panic. Do not do something just to do something. You're likely better of scouring the waiver wire. Because we are entering the endgame stage of the deadline. That little window I mentioned earlier.

The Deadline Panic Room. Which reminds me...

BONUS ITEM: Never, ever, do the last deal in your league... unless taking advantage of someone trapped in the Panic Room.

I saved this for last because I'm not proud of any of this.

Right now? This is historically when I secretly prefer to extend feelers of circumstance. But only to teams I assess to be in desperate need of doing something. Anything. (If you require a real-life example, set your social media to track the words "Rob" and "Pelinka" for the next 48 hours.)

I am no shark. I do not prey on the defenseless managers of the ocean.

But... if someone's going to willingly convert their roster into chum? And signal to any sharks in the area: "circle over here!"?

I can pretend to be a shark.

For, like, a day.

Maybe two.