The past two weeks have felt like we’ve been in the eye of the storm, with the All Star game representing an off-center halfway point in fantasy leagues, only to be followed up by Trade Deadline Week – which is normally a whirlwind of activity and fantasy value swaps. To date, though, the run up to the deadline has been relatively quiet. We’ve seen things play out like this and turn into an all-out frenzy, so owners shouldn’t let their guard down. We’re going to take you through the deadline, with Ryan Knaus giving you a list of top stashes in the next 24 hours, and then we’ll pick up with deadline-specific updates on Wednesday, Thursday morning, and we’ll bust out the winners and losers moments after the final bell rings.
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TODAY IN JOSH SMITH
Josh Smith is far and away the biggest name on the trade block with the most action in the rumor mill. There are nine teams with reported interest and probably a few that I’m missing for whatever reason, and let’s get the lower likelihood teams out of the way first. Those would be the Bobcats, Wizards and Sixers, and the fact is we don’t know for sure how any of these teams stack up because it still feels like the league is in a feeling out period for Smith’s market. On the other hand, Marc Stein reported that he’s hearing that the Hawks may look to move him sooner rather than later, and though it’s less pronounced than dominos from years’ past, don’t be surprised if the trade market loosens up once Smith’s future is tabbed.
The big players here are (in no specific order) the Nets, Suns, Mavs, Spurs, Bucks, and Celtics. Each of these teams carries some advantage in the storyline, ranging from speculation to multiple reports outlining their interest.
For instance Bucks beat writer Gery Woelfel, a sneaky good source of info, has named the Celtics the primary landing spot for Smith, despite his Bucks having the best trade chips I’ve seen in the form of Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova and Samuel Dalembert. Dalembert and Ellis are the more likely plays if the Bucks can procure a deal, but their fear is that Smith won’t re-sign with them over the summer when he’s a free agent. Still, the Hawks are reportedly looking for a young center in the deal, and though Dalembert isn’t exactly that he would give Al Horford a long-awaited move to his preferred power forward slot.
As for the Celtics, Sherrod Blakley reported that they’re not interested in a 2-for-1 sending Jeff Green and Brandon Bass to Atlanta for Smith, because as he put it they don’t have enough bodies right now as is. My guess is that if the Celtics can convince Smith to sign that they’d have no problem offloading Green’s contract to see if Doc Rivers can get through to a frustrating and talented player.
Chris Broussard reported that the Hawks may believe that the Nets’ theoretic offer of MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries is the best that they can do, but his reports have smelled like Smoove’s agent picking the team with the largest coffers for a timely leak. Because the Nets’ tandem of mediocre players isn’t likely to cause Danny Ferry to trade Smith, the Nets are widely believed to be seeking a third team if they’re going to do this deal. That team has been rumored to be the Spurs, who may also be interested in Smith as a playoff run rental, though Yahoo! Sports reported that the Spurs may not want to disrupt chemistry with a mid-season blockbuster. On the other hand, Gregg Popovich profiles as a guy that could make it all work, and I’d call the Spurs a legit dark horse candidate to make a deal work.
Some combination of Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, DeJuan Blair, Stephen Jackson, and Manu Ginobili heading out for Smith and Al Jefferson coming in would be a dream scenario that I don’t want you guys putting a lot of stock in – that’s just my imagination running wild.
The Mavs have held internal talks about Smith according to reliable Ken Berger, who added that he had a hunch Dallas would get involved here. Indeed, Mark Cuban profiles as a guy dying to make a splash right about now. The real question there is whether or not he can put together the assets that Ferry will want to make a deal work.
The Suns have assets in Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley and Markieff Morris that would immediately best the Nets’ offer, but whether or not Smith will want to go play for a team that is so shallow is the question of the day there.
The Hawks appear more likely to trade Smith than not, and there is still some fading talk that they might use Smith as bait to lure Dwight Howard to Atlanta over the summer. There is also a theory floating out there that the team is using this trade deadline to show Smith what his true value is after he declared that he was a max player.
Fantasy owners should rank his expected fantasy value by location as follows, and keep in mind that the situation is fluid (best to worst): Atlanta, Phoenix, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Boston, Washington, Dallas, San Antonio, Brooklyn.
I believe I mentioned this last week, but if not I’ll say it right now, owners can approach this situation from both sides of the equation. A sell-high offer for current owners is a strong play right now as Smith currently enjoys a freedom to play his brand of head-scratching basketball in Atlanta with little competition for touches. As he moves into scenarios with more depth, his value will swing accordingly even if his floor will remain relatively stable barring a complete meltdown over his final destination.
On the other end, as long as owners are aware of his year-to-date third and seventh round value in 8- and 9-cat leagues, which is dragged down by shooting issues and turnovers, and can convince an owner to disregard his name value and ADP – then there is room to buy low here with all of the panic out there about his future. A buy low bet here can be justified by the likelihood that his floor remains in a workable range, and there’s always a chance that he irons out the efficiency issues playing in a system like San Antonio that demands accountability.
FOUR’S A CROWD
If fantasy owners want to concentrate on one team’s trade rumblings, the Jazz and their frontcourt would be a great place to start. With two top-3 draft picks waiting in the wings in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, and two veterans in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson that have been in the rumor mill all season long – there is an extremely good chance that this Jazz quartet turns into a trio. From the Jazz’s perspective, they would be thrilled if they could unload Jefferson as it would leave sizes small, medium, and large to round out a solid three-man rotation. Unfortunately, the marketplace for Jefferson is softer than it is for Millsap, because the former can’t play defense and costs twice as much as the latter as both are in the last year of their contracts. Jefferson is also heading into the twilight of his career as his body breaks down while Millsap, similarly aged, has no such problems and is in his prime.
The Suns have replaced the Spurs as the flavor of the day for Jefferson, as Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley have been dangled. The Suns have also expressed interest in Gordon Hayward, which is a bit of wishful thinking since the Jazz have Hayward all-but locked into their future plans. The Spurs would be a bit of a downgrade for Jefferson, and while I laid out a purely speculative scenario earlier the San Antonio News-Express moved quickly to denounce the idea that this was a possibility. A move to Phoenix would be likely be a neutral move for Jefferson, so owners can more or less play him straight down the middle until the next crop of rumors pops up.
As for Millsap, he has been linked to both the Nets and the Clippers, and both teams can be considered legitimate landing spots even if the deals have problems as of right now. The Nets have only floated an offer of Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks, which isn’t going to get the job done. That said, they are reportedly more interested in Millsap than Josh Smith, because they feel it will be easier to get done.
The Clippers reportedly have mutual interest in Millsap in a deal including Eric Bledsoe, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the Clippers are going to keep pursuing an unlikely Kevin Garnett and/or Paul Pierce deal first. They also have designs on holding Bledsoe until they can get an indication from Chris Paul about his willingness to re-sign, though this writer believes they won’t be able to have their cake and eat it, too.
Millsap might have the same problems in Brooklyn he has in Utah where touches often get gobbled up by Jefferson, as Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace are already eating into each others’ production. Should Millsap land in L.A., he would face a similar rotation squeeze but benefit from playing with Chris Paul. Millsap has picked it up as of late, and I’ll be viewing him as a hold with only slight risks of a downgrade in the current trade scenarios. Millsap also has an outside chance of landing in a new scenario that is less clogged, or staying in Utah with Jefferson on the way out. In fact, owners may be able to snag Millsap in a buy low deal if his current owner is fearful that a trade sends him the wrong direction.
Favors should be owned in all leagues right now for the chance he explodes after the deadline, and I’ve been adding Kanter everywhere I can for the chance he benefits from a trade of either Millsap or Jefferson. I’m also moving on Bledsoe for the chance he can land in a place like Boston or Utah and take over as the signal caller.
DeAndre Jordan is also reportedly clashing with Vinny Del Negro, and both he and Caron Butler would be a part of any deal with Boston. Both would stand to benefit from a move, but with that deal in the unlikely stage, owners will only want to give them added consideration if a deal gets closer to consummation.