I've come to think of the All-Star break – at least in terms of fantasy – as the NBA's version of baseball's Winter Meetings. Which is to say, it’s a time for managers to come together with nothing to do but hang out in a hotel lobby (figuratively speaking) and try to hammer out some trades. With that in mind, this week's Stew makes it Priority No. 1 to explore some fantasy hoops trade outlooks around the league.
Hot Potato, Level 1 (not mandatory to unload, but definitely worth considering)
Tim Duncan: Things were going beautifully for the first 2.5 months of Duncan's 16th NBA season, but there's just no way to really feel good about what we've seen recently. In the last three-plus weeks, Duncan has already missed more games (nine) than he did all of last year (eight). Furthermore, San Antonio has just three four-game weeks remaining. And with the Spurs carrying the NBA's best record, there is zero incentive for Pop to push his veterans the rest of the way.
With that said, I list Duncan at the least urgent level on the Hot Potato Trade Scale because he has been truly elite when on the court this year (No. 5 overall in Basketball Monster’s 9-category rankings). And I can understand keeping him if you can’t get good value back in a trade. But if you are trying to trade him, I’d advise waiting until he strings together a handful of strong games before you start floating offers. Because if you deal him now, you’re selling too low.
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Blake Griffin: He’s posting strong all-around numbers lately (18.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.1 spg and 0.6 bpg in February), and actually not hurting teams too horrendously in FT percentage (70.1 percent in January, 67.4 in February). But the reason to consider (again: consider) shopping him is the fact that the Clippers’ schedule is pretty smelly from here. They have just two four-game weeks left the rest of the way.
Dwight Howard: Like the other players in this category, I don’t see him as a must-trade, but I would certainly consider it. With the Lakers currently 10th in the West, Howard is a prime candidate for an eventual early shutdown.
Josh Smith: He’s been putting up some monstrous numbers lately (21.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.7 bpg, 2.0 treys in February), but between his continued bad free throw shooting (a career-low 50.0 percent this year), and the possibility that his role diminishes slightly if dealt away at the deadline, there’s reason to think about dealing J-Smoove near peak value right now.
Hot Potato, Level 2 (strongly consider trading)
Nene Hilario: He’s been posting some very Nene-esque numbers lately (14.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.9 bpg in seven games this month), and the Wizards have a nice schedule going forward. But do you really have faith that he’ll be on the court during the final weeks of the season?
Danilo Gallinari: He’s playing great (18.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.2 bpg, 2.2 treys in five games this month), but as I mentioned last week, the Nuggets’ schedule mostly stinks (just two four-game weeks left). With that said, as easily as I can see trading Gallinari given the schedule and the fact that he’s injury-prone, I can understand having some hesitation in trading away Ty Lawson, who has been putting up dominant numbers of late (22.0 ppg, 9.1 apg, 2.0 spg and 1.7 3s in February).
Goran Dragic: I don't see him as a must-trade at the moment – and in fact, right now when he's cold (6.5 ppg, 5.0 apg in his last two games) – seems like an especially bad time to shop him. But the Suns' schedule does eventually get ugly (after next week, they have just two four-game weeks left). With that in mind, I'd look for/hope for a Dragic hot streak in the coming weeks. If/when it happens, I'd put him out there in some offers.
Hot Potato, Level 3 (seriously, trade him)
(Note: The players in this category are here mostly because I can't stand the idea of having them on my fantasy rosters. It's not that they're completely useless – it's just that they're boring, and in my opinion their name now outweighs their production.)
Carlos Boozer: Quite simply, he is just not a remotely exciting fantasy player these days. He does help in points, rebounds and field goal percentage, but he’s a sub par FT shooter who does very little in any other categories, and ranks No. 120 on Basketball Monster’s 9-category leaderboard. You’re probably not going to get a lot for Boozer, but I’d gladly shop his name recognition for someone who scores less and helps more elsewhere.
Joe Johnson: He’s still got plenty left as a real-life player, but in fantasy he’s a tired, boring option who really only helps in points and 3s. Coming off a 26-point, nine-assist game that not coincidentally happened with Deron Williams out of the lineup, I’d be looking to shop him aggressively.
The Potato is Room Temperature (stay patient, or try to buy low)
Nicolas Batum: He’s been struggling to score with his wrist injury lately (10.1 ppg in eight games this month), but he’s still posting good numbers elsewhere (5.1 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.8 bpg and 1.8 3s this month), and chances are he’ll come out of the All-Star Break looking a whole lot better. Now is the time to try to get a player with first-round ceiling at a slight discount.
Anthony Davis: This stay-patient recommendation seems a lot more obvious after Davis' performance on Wednesday (21 points, 11 boards, three assists, a steal and two blocks), but I was planning on recommending patience on Davis before that game happened. Quite simply, he has way too fantasy-friendly a game to keep struggling, and even with the slump he's still averaging 12.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.2 spg and 1.9 bpg for the year.
Gerald Wallace: It's been a downright smelly year for Wallace, and I'm not expecting anything dramatic, but there have been some interesting signs of life lately – most notably, an 11-point, 11-board, two-steal, two-block game on Monday, and an 8-9-5 line with a steal and three blocks on Wednesday. The Nets’ schedule isn’t great (three four-game weeks remaining), but Wallace – still averaging just 8.9 ppg on the season – is an interesting low-risk buy-low.
Thaddeus Young: He has quietly been a strong contributor all year (No. 34 in Basketball Monster’s 9-category rankings), and now, while he's hurt, is an ideal time to try to trade for him. Hamstring injuries are always a little bit tricky, but Young can and should be back to playing heavy minutes while posting solid numbers a few weeks from now. And the Sixers have a strong schedule down the stretch.
Evan Turner: He hasn't been shooting well in February (10.0 ppg on 33.3 percent shooting), but he's still plenty involved during this slump (6.7 rpg, 3.8 apg), and did score 20 against the Heat in his last game before the break. The aforementioned Sixers schedule also plays in his favor.
That brings us to the end of this week’s Stew. Now open up a new tab and go fire off some trade offers.