WITH the 6th of February fast approaching, expect to see the NBA trade rumour mill ramp into overdrive as teams look to strengthen their championship calibre rosters or sell off pieces to build for the future. I am not a psychic, so I can’t tell you which deals/rumours are going to come to fruition, but it isn’t hard to get a strong idea of which players could find themselves dealt before the NBA trade deadline. With some players potentially leaving, their exit creates an opportunity for their former teammates to emerge as big-time fantasy players in the second half of the season. Here’s how the pending departure of five players can impact the NBA fantasy world.
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TEMPER tantrums aside, Kevin Love (Cavs, PF/C, 99.5% OWN) can still help out a contender looking for another weapon, with the 5x All-Star linked to the Blazers, Suns, Lakers and Heat in recent times. There doesn’t appear to be an imminent K-Love deal coming, but it’s clear he doesn’t want to be on this team and while the Cavs will want to maximise his worth, they’ve backed themselves into this corner, making a trade high priority for all parties involved.
LOVE’S output following a hypothetical move depends on the star power around him at his new destination. You can expect to see his same level of efficiency when he’s not asked to carry as much of the offensive workload, but his per-game numbers are bound to dip. Once he is gone though, there will be a gaping hole in Cleveland’s offense and you would expect young guards Collin Sexton (Cavs, PG/SG, 69.8% OWN) and Darius Garland (Cavs, PG, 40.0% OWN) to take on the added offensive responsibility. If you need some guard help, look no further, however, my eyes will be set on Larry Nance Jr (Cavs, PF/C, 34.9% OWN) as the must-add Cav.
AVERAGES of 8.0 points and 7.0 rebounds don’t sound great, but with Love gone – and potentially Tristian Thompson too – Nance will be awarded most of the frontcourt minutes. There’s every opportunity for Nance to post a near double-double over the rest of the season adding a steal, made three and handful of assists at the same time. In deeper leagues, don’t sleep on John Henson (Cavs, C, 0.6% OWN) getting more productive if both Cav starters depart, with Henson a solid streaming option for blocks and rebounds.
THE clunky fit between the Lakers and Kyle Kuzma (Lakers, PF/SF, 85.5% OWN) has a lot of the NBA community predicting a trade will soon come for Kuz. If you’re an owner of the current L.A. forward don’t go panicking and looking to deal him away just yet, as there’s every chance a change of scenery could see his averages trend upwards – see Saturday’s game against the Thunder. It’s a small sample size, but in the three games Kuzma has started, he has averaged 34.6 minutes and an unreal 28.0 points. Being behind LeBron and AD in the pecking order has hurt some of his stats, but there’s a chance he can flourish into a 20 PPG+ type of guy if moved.
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THE team who is reportedly most interested in Kuzma is the Sacramento Kings, with Bogdan Bogdanovic’s name coming up as potential returns. He has missed eight of the last 13 Kings games thanks to an ankle complaint and should he arrive in L.A. there won’t be much additional value for waiver wire staples Danny Green (Lakers, SG/SF, 30.6% OWN) and/or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Lakers, SG, 5.6% OWN). Regardless of who comes to the Lakers in a potential trade, the team will continue to double down on their premier stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, making the rest of the roster somewhat of a fantasy afterthought.
WHO wants Andre Drummond (Pistons, C, 100% OWN)? It’s a question we’ve found ourselves asking in the past fortnight ever since Dre’s name started circulating in trade rumours. With Blake Griffin seemingly done for the year, the Pistons might be ready to rip the bandaid off and fully embrace a franchise rebuild, starting by moving their rebounding maestro away from the Motor City. Atlanta and New York are emerging as early suitors, with the Hornets also expressing interest.
THE Drummond trade scenario is a difficult one to work out, with Detroit eager to get reasonable returns for the 3x rebounding champ and current league leader while squads on the other side of the negotiations are wary of trading for a player who could leave in free agency six months from now. Drummond’s value as a rebounding colossus won’t alter a lot if he’s moved, but it does change the fortune of a few frontcourt Pistons.
WITH Blake gone, Drummond’s departure could pave the way for Christian Wood (Pistons, PF, 14.6% OWN) to be a relevant fantasy name. In the eight games he’s played since Blake left the lineup, Wood has posted 11.1 points and 7.0 rebounds on average, with two straight impressive outings against Chicago and New Orleans. Sekou Doumbouya (Pistons, PF, 14.5% OWN) is another one to keep an eye on, with the rookie forward barely seeing the court until Griff went down. However, he has started seven games in a row and hasn’t looked out of place even if his fantasy numbers don’t show it. If I had to pick one I’d advise adding Doumbouya, who has the best chance of upping his numbers if Drummond does flee.
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THERE are some role players who fly under the radar as fantasy prospects. Robert Covington (T-Wolves, SF/PF, 80.7% OWN) is one such player, with his versatility to have an impact in almost every statistical way a huge plus for Ro-Co owners. However, his elite 3-and-D skill set has made him a coveted trade target and I’d be surprised if he finished the season on Minnesota’s roster. If Covington is acquired by a contending team, you’d expect his per-game averages to dip playing alongside other stars – I’m looking at your Houston, Dallas and Philly. However, his ability to impact multiple fantasy categories means it’s worth holding onto the veteran wing even if he’s traded.
COVINGTON’S exit would free up some minutes in the rotation and it’s hard to see a scenario where Jarrett Culver (T-Wolves, SG/PG, 40.5% OWN) doesn’t see a good chunk of them come his way. The 6th overall pick from a year ago is putting forth some abysmal shooting numbers (25.9 3P% and 43.8 FT%), but less than 40 games into his career, things are slowly coming together. Two of the highest-scoring games in his young career came within the last two weeks and the rook has managed to play 30+ minutes in seven of his last eight games, giving him more opportunity to contribute worthwhile fantasy numbers.
BARING anything crazy, it appears like Chris Paul (Thunder, PG, 98.8% OWN) will be staying in OKC for the remainder of this season. CP3’s play has been a large reason for the Thunder’s success and while he’d rather be competing for a title, playing a mentor role to some of OKC’s young guns is still a great way to contribute until he finds another suitor.
EVEN though we all expect him to stay, be prepared for the Bucks, Heat or Sixers to come knocking if tragedy strikes and they want to bring in the future HOFer and make a huge push for the title. Landing on a team with greater championship aspirations will probably hurt Paul’s fantasy production, maybe making him a worthwhile sell-high candidate. If a deal does go down, I still think it’s wise to hold onto Paul, who has been the best clutch scorer in the NBA this year and should keep up the late-game production even if he’s dealt.
OBVIOUSLY, should CP3 depart then OKC’s young guard combo in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder, PG/SG, 98.9% OWN) and Dennis Schroder (Thunder, PG/SG, 77.0% OWN) are in line to reap the benefits. I’d be stunned if either of them weren’t owned in your league and you’re going to need more than good luck to pry SGA away from an opposing coach. The asking price for Schroder, however, makes him an intriguing trade target and you’d be wise to act swiftly if you want to nab the former Hawk when Paul is gone.
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