The trade deadline is just over a month away and there are only a few rumors to pass along, but forward-thinking fantasy owners should be keeping an eye on those players most likely to erupt in case of a fortuitous trade. Some tidbits from Friday’s games are scattered throughout this section, but if you’re looking for straight-forward news and analysis, head to the next page.
Rudy Gay is suddenly the first name uttered whenever NBA trade rumors are discussed. It seems half the league has inquired about trading for him despite a contract which pays him roughly $37.1 million over the next two seasons. The Grizzlies don't have a starting-caliber SF on their bench, so they would likely require one as part of any deal (along with salary cap relief, young players and/or draft picks). The Raptors, rich with young talent and in need of a go-to guy, were linked to Gay but are now "unlikely" to acquire him. The Wizards supposedly put together a package involving Bradley Beal, but that rumor has been denied by multiple sources. The Bobcats are interested but may not have enough assets, and a handful of other teams (Cavaliers, Celtics, Wolves, Kings, Warriors and Suns) have made inquiries that fall somewhere between 'due diligence' and 'just saying hi.'
After receiving these offers from teams around the league, solicited or otherwise, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports that the Grizzlies will "likely" keep Gay the rest of the season. Trading the centerpiece of a legitimate playoff contender would be very unpopular with the team's long-suffering fans, and it would go directly against the wishes of Lionel Hollins and the players themselves, so it's no surprise that they're leaning toward keeping the team together. Barring a major injury, Gay will still be a highly desirable and tradable asset in 2013-14.
In slightly more substantial rumor-mongering, the Jazz are reportedly more willing to trade Al Jefferson than Paul Millsap, which makes sense considering either trade would be largely intended to free up minutes for Derrick Favors, who operates best when he's camped out in the paint. Favors has low-end value even in his current role playing 20+ minutes off the bench, mostly due to excellent per-minute steals and blocks, and he makes a very nice stash until the trade deadline passes. Enes Kanter should also be watched closely in deep leagues, as his 14 minutes per game would spike if Big Al were traded.
The Wolves are "heavily" shopping Derrick Williams around the league, which is no surprise. Unfortunately, his play this season, even with Kevin Love absent, has been uninspiring. The concerns about his being a 'tweener' in the NBA (too small to play PF, too slow to play SF) seem more prescient every day. The fact that Minnesota was starting Dante Cunningham ahead of him is telling, though D-Will is now being transparently 'showcased' as the starting PF. I doubt he'll have value this season regardless of where he lands, and his departure would do little more than shift some minutes back to Cunningham.
Miami reportedly wants to keep their core intact this season, which scuttles any rumors that they're willing to trade Chris Bosh in order to beef up their frontcourt. The Heat rank 29th in the NBA in rebounds per game (38.8) this season, and they're 25th in rebound differential (-3.2). In the past 10 games, despite an obvious focus on the battle of the boards, Miami's differential has plunged even further to -7.5 rebounds per game. It's a problem that will only be magnified in the playoffs, and it's hard to see how they'll address the issue without a trade.
Anderson Varejao was a premier trade candidate prior to suffering a split quad muscle that required surgery. It’s now very unlikely that he’ll be moved, however, since he's out until late February or early March and Cleveland would have to trade him at a steep discount. Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson are doing everything they can for the Cavs in the meantime. Zeller is averaging over 34 minutes per game in the past month, but his fantasy value is spoiled by awful 35.7 percent shooting -- he has a long way to go before knocking down mid-range jumpers like Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Thompson, on the other hand, has been a reliable 7th-round value for the past month, scoring 13.9 points on 52.3 percent shooting, with 12.1 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.7 blocks per game. He jumps even higher if you're willing to punt his 66 percent FT shooting.
Wilson Chandler had just four points and five rebounds in 20 minutes on Friday, returning from a precautionary one-game absence. He chipped in a steal and a block, which along with his 3-point range give him nice upside, but he faces too much competition to be owned in standard leagues. Keep an eye on him in the coming weeks, however, as he could become a valuable trade chip for Denver -- he's healthy, he's versatile enough to play multiple positions, and his contract isn't too bad, paying him $13.1 million over the next two seasons, with just $2 million guaranteed in 2015-16.
A recent rumor suggested that Leandro Barbosa had demanded a trade from the Celtics, but that has since been denied by numerous sources, including Barbosa himself and Celts GM Danny Ainge. Rajon Rondo's name hasn't surfaced in any trade talks, mercifully, and Paul Pierce's name has only drifted through the rumor mill. The Celtics improved play with Avery Bradley in the starting lineup seems to be cooling any thought of Ainge blowing up the team.