Aaron Bruski

The Step-back 3

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NBA Trade Deadline Review

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The NBA Trade Deadline was saved by some last-second drama but for the second straight year it was more sizzle than steak.  Let’s get right to it.


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The griping had already begun about a seemingly more active deadline than last year, but with the lessons learned from the prior year folks were ready to turn on the ‘deadline’ and why not, for a while it was amazing and now it’s clearly not.  I think part of that was the fact that GMs weren’t moving second round picks, and though this draft is great and so are rookie scale players it feels like the all-or-nothing tank or be-tanked philosophy is too much.  Perhaps the heat of the 24/7 magnifying glass has shrunk these once mighty titans of swag, or maybe it’s purely circumstance – I don’t know. 


As the buzzer expired, though, there was one deal that still needed to go down and it was a big one – Danny Granger got dealt for Evan Turner


This is the type of deal that fires me up.  Aside from having big fantasy implications in the land of steroidal statistics that well-adjusted people call ‘Philadelphia,’ one has to think that Pat Riley was cursing like he slammed his finger in the car door.  Sure, he may have a trick up his sleeve for the buyout market, and plenty of names are already being kicked around like Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and even Granger (wouldn’t it be something to see him play against his old mates).  But Riley isn’t going to get a young, mid-level player with the type of athleticism that Turner brings to the table.  He’ll get the aging, veteran types that may play well to the narrative crowd, but he won’t get a difference maker for the second unit with that type of talent. 


I liked Indiana to win it all before this deal, with or without Granger, but the only negative thing that can be attributed here is the fact that the Pacers will be a team that’s not incredibly stocked with shooters.  Opponents will pack in the defense and force guys like Turner to beat them over the top. 


I for one can’t wait for the NBA Championship to take place in the good old Leastern Conference. 




The Spencer Hawes trade, the aforementioned Granger/Turner trade and trades with the Clippers and Wizards created quite a bit of movement for Philly (draft picks excluded here). 


TRADE 1:  Spencer Hawes to Cavs; Earl Clark and Henry Sims to Sixers


TRADE 2:  Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen to Pacers; Danny Granger to Sixers


TRADE 3:  Byron Mullens to Sixers


TRADE 4:  Andre Miller to Wizards; Jan Vesely to Nuggets; Eric Maynor to Sixers;


***Let’s take a look at what went in and what went out for the Sixers.***


Philly GETS: Danny Granger, Earl Clark, Byron Mullens, Henry Sims, Eric Maynor


Philly GIVES: Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Lavoy Allen


***This leaves a depth chart that looks something like this:


  • MPG listed in parenthesis, (+) indicates potential extra minutes after a Granger buyout on either low-end or high-end of the scale or both, (!) for Moultrie indicates that he is playing himself back into shape – workload could increase as he goes.  A zero means the player might not be in the rotation followed by an expected mpg.



These estimates could obviously shift based on who excels, injuries and big events like Granger’s potential buyout or Richardson’s eventual return.  But they give us a starting point for assessing value, and we’re going to take each guy one by one.


Michael Carter-Williams is a top 45-100 value on the year (8/9 cat) and unfortunately for him things aren’t going to get much easier.  As he continues to struggle with the rookie wall everything else will come harder, even if he’ll be utilized much more if he continues to be healthy.  Will the corresponding gains in counting stats offset increasing field goal shooting and durability issues?  Again, only if he’s healthy.  The only big opportunity here is for owners punting field goal percentage and/or turnovers, as folks might not see this as a big change in value for MCW thinking he’s already leveraged to the tilt. 


Quickly on Evan Turner – he did everything for the Sixers.  He constantly gobbled up the ball and went into his offense and his usage percentage was at a whopping 24.2 percent.  Other guys will be forced to handle the ball and both Carter-Williams (26.2%) and Thaddeus Young (22.9%) are already close to tapped out.   


Tony Wroten’s usage of 28.1 percent is downright impressive.  Unfortunately it means that what we see is what we get with him.  There is no real way to climb further up the ladder.  He has value outside of the top-200 in standard leagues despite playing 24 mpg on the season.  We’ve seen what it looks like when he plays a boatload of minutes and usually it’s good for late-round value on the strength of big popcorn numbers and weakness of poor shooting and peripherals.  That said, he is a pretty good bet to do that regardless of Granger’s status.


James Anderson, on the other hand, doesn’t handle the ball a whole lot and has played much better without Evan Turner on the court.  That’s because Turner was typically looking for his own shot and then the pass rather than getting Anderson involved.  Anderson is going to be on the shortlist of players that can score at the NBA level and a season-long top-150 value over 28.4 mpg is all but certain to improve into the top 100-120 range with some upside beyond that.  He’s a must-add player in 12-team formats and 10-team owners may want to consider getting their hands on a guy figuring in heavily to Philly’s offense. 


Hollis Thompson has the worst usage rate (11.7%) of anybody on the team and it’s no surprise that he has also rated outside the top-200 despite playing 21.1 mpg on the year.  He’s not blessed with tremendous offensive skills, but he can hit a few threes and steal the ball at an average rate.  The question becomes whether or not he can handle additional shot opportunities or if he’ll only see a proportional rise with whatever minute increase he gets.  He has late-round upside for standard leagues in reasonable best case scenarios, but that’s just flier territory and if you’re not ready to take that risk he’s really only worth a look in 14-16 team leagues. 


Though Elliot Williams has a bit more offensive skill than Thompson, they are very similar from a fantasy perspective in that they don’t bring a lot of versatility or peripheral stats to the table.  Williams is also an injury risk and will probably be brought along slowly in a backup role.  Still, he might have more upside than Thompson if he gets let loose since he could join in on some of the fastbreaking fun.  I’d consider him a cut below Thompson even when you factor in his upside, but upside hunters may want to simply ignore that in those deep leagues and take a stab. 


This is me burying the lede with Danny Granger.  This guy is a mess.  With a usage percentage just under 20 percent on a team well-stocked with talent he, like many of these Sixers, was ranked outside of the top-200 despite playing a healthy 22.5 mpg.  His 35.9 percent shooting from the field was the big killer and while all of his numbers were down he’s still hitting threes (1.1), steals (0.3) and blocking (0.4) at a somewhat respectable rate.  Getting those minutes up to full-time status would make him a threat for 1-1-1 status, especially in a system that has seen numbers inflate on the defensive end. 


In summary he was your everyday spot-up shooter with about half of his attempts (7.7) from deep (3.2), which explains the field goal percentage drop.  He’s not doing himself any favors by hitting five points worse from beyond the arc compared to his career 38.2 percent mark, but none of this is terribly concerning if we’re looking at him as a reclamation project.  The big question, other than whether or not he will be bought out, is whether or not he can handle a heavy workload. 


Despite how slow he is and the general lack of athleticism, he’ll still be a better offensive weapon than all but about 2-4 guys on that team.  If he’s healthy enough to maintain his workload first and then extend it, he should see a higher percentage of his touches in creator mode and therefore he’ll add some looks heading toward the hoop.  Factor in the system and he could look like a poor man’s version of what he once was.  That makes him worth an add over any low-upside guy providing somewhat consistent late-round value.  Somebody has to produce the stats and he’s as good of a candidate as any, and there is the added bonus that he will be playing for his next contract. Taking a risk on a potential late-mid round upside guy is just good business in 12-team leagues. 


Look for Thaddeus Young to make like Paul Millsap and take things over.  Owners sweating out the deadline can only hope that he doesn’t call it an early year. 


Arnett Moultrie profiles similarly to Granger in that he’s one of the upside plays of this group.  Brett Brown made him wait until he had lost enough weight to return to the floor and he’s going to play himself into shape.  He’s on the shortlist of guys that have some playmaking skills for the Sixers, but he’s going to struggle to post the peripheral stats needed to offset major deficiencies or simply low popcorn numbers.  Unless he magically can log a lot of minutes right off the bat, he could be a tough guy to hang onto as he splits time with Byron Mullens


We said that we like Moultrie to start over Mullens but I have a hard time getting behind that knowing that one has history doing that and the other doesn’t.  Mullens’ value will likely look a lot like it did in Charlotte.  Up and down but in the end with the boost due to the Sixers’ system he could have some late-mid round upside.  That’s good enough to call him a low-level add that could be upgraded real quick if Brown takes to him quickly or news is otherwise positive.  


The good news is that he might hang around the waiver wire for a little bit, or be added and dropped after a slow start.  But either way like Granger I have no problem trying to establish a core player in the Sixers’ jackpot system, so adding him as a stash/flier in 12-14 team leagues isn’t off the table.  Just realize we have no clue how this experiment is going to turn out team-wide.  They could get blown out by 30 every night and have garbage-time stats that are extremely prohibitive to their baseline values. Or it could just be your typical bad players on bad teams getting their numbers. 


Sims brings more of a traditional center look to mix when looking at defensive stats and he doesn’t have quite the offensive tools that Moultrie has, and that might be the way that Brown decides to split the duties.  I’d consider him to be a cut or two below Moultrie for the fact that Moultrie has home court advantage and Sims doesn’t have nearly as much upside. 


All in all, owners looking at the Philly situation need to remember they’re buying the system and not the player.  There is a ton of guesswork going on with which guys are going to excel in this tanking environment.  Unless you’re ditching a reliable value, buying a lottery ticket is quick, easy and fun and you can tear it up and throw it away if you lose. 


For the guys that left we knew it would be bad news and that is definitely the case.  Hawes and Turner can both be dropped in standard leagues, though if you want to wait the perfunctory one game be my guest. Anderson Varejao is a guy that I'd hold onto and see how things go when he gets back on the court, because he may just hold late-round value, but Tristan Thompson can't survive the Hawes addition.  He was barely surviving on his own in standard 12-team formats. 


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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. In 2015 he was named FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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