March 23, 2021, 3:20 pm
With the trade deadline only days away and rumors flying in every direction, I thought it’d be fun to choose some of my favorites, and run through potential trade scenarios I’d like to see (or not see) for every team! My goal here is to cover some of the biggest rumors, provide some insight into how you should approach them from a fantasy perspective, and equip y’all with the knowledge necessary to make a quick move on your waiver wire if anything similar happens on the big day. Here are a couple of ground rules for this exercise:
- These scenarios will be grounded in reality. You won’t see me suggesting the The Nets clear out Kyrie Irving and KD so that James Harden can go back to his Houston days. I’ll be referencing reported rumors or logical positions of need for the teams I’m evaluating
- I’m purely analyzing these hypothetical moves from a fantasy perspective. We can debate these all day long from a real on-court perspective, but the point here is to highlight the potential fantasy basketball ramifications if we see similar deals go down at Thursday’s deadline
So let’s have some fun! Here are potential moves I’m hopeful for for each team ahead of Thursday’s deadline
My resolve to be objective in this piece is immediately going to be tested with my hometown team here. I know what all of y’all want to happen here. You’re likely begging the Hawks to deal John Collins so he can return to the first-round level player we know he’s capable of becoming. As a Hawks fan, there are few scenarios where I don’t end up resenting such a move, but it’s the clear cut obvious one to root for for fantasy basketball purposes.
In general, the Hawks have a ton of bodies competing for shots and minutes, and it’s only going to get more complicated when De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kris Dunn make their eventual returns. If a Collins trade happens, I’d probably also be rooting for some other names to go with him so the Hawks can consolidate their offense around a core set of guys rather than a committee.
And just for the record here, as a Hawks fan, a John Collins trade of any sort is more than likely to throw me off the deep-end in the untethered rage department. I’ll keep things tidy and professional for this column and leave it at that.
They’ve been rumored to be “interested in” every possible trade target under the sun, so it’s tough to make a call on any likely scenarios here. A prominent deal that I’ve seen the Celtics linked to across numerous outlets is a trade to acquire Harrison Barnes, whose contract they’d be able to mostly absorb through their massive trade exception. It’d make sense for the team on paper, though it’d likely put the kibosh on Barnes’ run as a top-80 player this season (as any trade out of Sacramento likely would). I’m not exactly rooting for Harrison Barnes to drop off or have him cut into Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s value, so can’t say I’d be rooting for that deal from a fantasy perspective.
If the Celtics make a trade of any sort, I’d hope it’d be one that sends Tristan Thompson out to clear the way for Robert Williams, so long as they aren’t bringing a new big man back. In many ways Time Lord has been the “Christian Wood-like” breakout candidate we’ve all been eyeing this year. Unlike Wood last season, however, Williams is actually productive and helping fantasy teams right now, and he’s barely cracking 20 minutes a night. If he becomes one of the two primary bigs in Boston’s rotation, and gets himself up to or above 25 minutes nightly, he could legitimately have league-winning upside.
As far as additions by subtractions could go this deadline, this scenario ranks at the top.
Brooklyn already made their big trade for the year, so not quite sure what else we could hope for here. When this team is healthy, we know that almost all of the fantasy value is going to be tied up to James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, with Joe Harris likely standing as the lone exception.
That being said, some interesting names have emerged as fringy fifth options on this team while Durant has been sidelined. Two names that people continue to keep tabs on in Brooklyn: Nicolas Claxton and Bruce Brown. Both have been very productive playing center on this team. In a limited sample size, Claxton has proven himself to be a versatile defender who can put the ball on the floor himself and make plays when given the opportunity, while Bruce Brown has emerged as a Draymond Green/P.J Tucker type who uses his strength and guard-like instincts to make himself quite the formidable small-ball five. Their issue going forward though is going to be fighting for center minutes with the likes of DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, and new arrival Blake Griffin. So while I’d consider it very very unlikely to happen, if you’re rooting for more fantasy value in Brooklyn you’re probably hoping one or two of those three names get traded to free up time for Claxton and Brown.
Originally for this section my wish for this team was pretty clear cut: find a trade for Devonte’ Graham and remove all hindrances LaMelo Ball could have to play 35 minutes a night every game. We were then hit with the incredibly unfortunate news that LaMelo is set (pending a second opinion) to miss the rest of his rookie season with a fractured wrist. Devonte’ Graham now steps back into his starting gig, and I have no idea what the Hornets are supposed to do this deadline. Once an obvious buyer, we have to question how the Hornets will approach this deadline without their best player. They’re obviously still future-focused, but do they make any moves now to aid their playoff hopes for this season?
Aside from moving Graham, the other obvious move this team had to make was to upgrade their center spot, and it’s quite possible they still do that regardless. For this fantasy basketball junky though, I think I’d prefer the Hornets just stick with what they have now, see how this season goes, and just play P.J Washington an absolute ton of small-ball center minutes. He’s been a fantasy rockstar when he plays that position, offering teams terrific shot blocking numbers to pair with his already solid steals, triples and rebounding numbers. He’ll likely still find backup center minutes even if the Hornets upgrade their center spot, but as this roster is currently constructed, I like his chances of playing big minutes in that role a heck of a lot more.
The Lonzo Ball for Lauri Markkanen trade rumor I’ve seen floated around forever now is still my favorite scenario for this team. The Bulls desperately need a true playmaking guard, and could stand to lose a forward or two to allow the rest of them to flourish.
Similarly to John Collins, Lauri Markkanen also declined a contract extension this offseason, and is now saddled with a front office who did not draft him and thus is not beholden to retaining him. It’s not impossible to imagine him being shipped out of town to create a more favorable roster construction. Without Lauri, you have enough playing time for Thad Young to continue being the fantasy force he’s been this year, and enough minutes for Wendell Carter Jr. to get in there and finish strong after what has been an underwhelming fantasy season to this point.
This is an easy one. Trade Kevin Love to open up unhindered playing time for Larry Nance Jr. Love has been in trade rumors ever since the Cavs won their last title, and for the last couple of years we’ve all known that when he’s not in the lineup, Nance Jr. becomes a 9-category darling.
The likelihood this actually happens though appears to decrease with every passing day, as Love has been unable to play more than four4 games this season with this calf issue he continues to aggravate and then rehab. Interested teams who are already wary of his contract are likely out on any trade scenario given his struggles to stay healthy over the last few years. Still keeping my fingers crossed that a deal can materialize here, but I doubt it.
The Mavs have long been rumored as a team that’s interested in making an upgrade to their roster after performing slightly under expectations to this point of the season. As far as fantasy is concerned though, this team has too many bodies chipping away at one another with similar skill sets. In particular, the trio of Josh Richardson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson have been taking turns going on runs throughout the season, and if one of those three were out of the way, there could be a feasible path to top-100 value for the other two.
From what I’ve read, however, many of the trades Dallas has been exploring have been to add another contributor to the rotation using the expiring deals of players who aren’t doing much on the current roster. Such a trade would likely continue to keep this a mostly two-player team for fantasy purposes.
After a sluggish start to the season, the Nuggets have worked hard to pull themselves back up to the upper echelon of the conference, and while some would argue that they are still in need of a big trade to really separate them from playoff contender to title contender, I’d bet that they feel that they can get by with just making some minor roster tweaks.
Assuming a big time play is off the table for this team, a minor one that could create some interesting fantasy value would be if the Nuggets moved off of Monte Morris and freed up backup PG time for Facundo Campazzo. I like both of these guards, but Campazzo has shown himself to be a very appealing source of assists, steals and triples whenever he gets enough playing time. His presence makes Morris expendable, and on a relatively cheap contract he could be a very appealing backup to a swath of teams around the league. I haven’t seen much reporting around the Nuggets wanting to move off of Monte, but as far as tradable assets go, Morris makes a lot of sense to help the Nuggets upgrade elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to snag Campazzo if such a deal goes down.
The Pistons are honestly fun to watch, and perhaps the most fun of them is rookie Isaiah Stewart. He’s got a little Z-Bo to his game and plays with ferocious tenacity in the paint while displaying flashes of face-up/floor-spacing potential. He’s been a viable fantasy player in 9-cat leagues over his last several games in which he’s hit over 20 minutes, and I want that trend to continue. My wish for this team is that they find a deal for Mason Plumlee to just open the floodgates for Mr. Stewart. My guess is that he’ll continue to chip away at Plumlee’s minute shares as the year goes on if he isn’t dealt, but why not accelerate this process and just give him the keys now?
Golden State Warriors
As far as fantasy is concerned, I legitimately have no idea which direction I’d want the Warriors to lean this deadline. I can’t foresee any deal that opens up more value on this team with how heavily centralized the offense is around Steph and Dray. There also aren’t any guys on this bench I think could jump into standard-league value if consistent time opened up for them.
If I had to choose something, I suppose I’d hope the Warriors clear out one of Brad Wannamaker or Damion Lee to give Jordan Poole more opportunities to run offense off the bench. Steve Kerr has already indicated he’ll get a regular rotation role going forward even when Curry returns, but clearing the way for him to operate more as a playmaker could help him unlock the extra layer of statistical output he’d need to be a reliable 9-cat option.
This is an easy one, just finish blowing the whole thing up. Houston has already moved off of James Harden, P.J Tucker and DeMarcus Cousins, and honestly they could stand to do the same with Victor Oladipo, Eric Gordon, and if there’s somehow a market for him, John Wall as well. Through all of their injuries and moves this season, we know that guys like Kevin Porter Jr, Jae’Sean Tate, Sterling Brown, K.J Martin and Justin Patton can do some serious work in fantasy leagues if they’re just force fed minutes, and with the rebuild around Christian Wood officially on, why not just go all the way and start totally from scratch?
Most of those guys, notably KPJ and Tate, figure to have locked down roles the rest of the way, but why not really lean into it and let these guys go absolutely nuts for a month and a half?
The Pacers definitely stick out as a team with a trade to make, and they have numerous directions they could go in. They could go with a small deal to upgrade their roster and built around the expiring contract of Doug McDermott and the soon-to-be-expiring deal of Jeremy Lamb, or they could go big and shake things up with a Myles Turner trade. It’s no secret that the Pacers were interested in moving off of Turner in the offseason, and even after he’s had a stellar season to this point, it wouldn’t be impossible to conceive them moving him now, particularly with such a high demand for starting caliber centers on the market right now.
And honestly, I’d be interested in either scenario. If the Pacers consolidate McDermott and Lamb for one other player, that could potentially free up enough playing time for both Caris LeVert and T.J McConnell to play and be productive 9-cat contributors. If the Pacers really shake things up and deal Turner, provided they don’t get a center coming back, that’d hopefully open up a larger role for Goga Bitadze, who has immense shot blocking upside if he were able to climb his way into a 20-minute role.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have a very busy and sometimes annoying roster construction for fantasy at the moment. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are the only eligible contributors, both doing the majority of the scoring and playmaking for a team that has no other natural distributors. The roster features multiple value-killing timeshares at other positions: Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac at center and Nic Batum and Marcus Morris at one of the two forward spots. While all have had their flashes this year, I’m not sure a trade to break up either of those two situations would lend itself to sustained value down the stretch.
The trade I’d actually like to see this team make is to ship off Lou Williams. I have a lot of love for Lou Will and the traditional 6th-man scorer role that he plays, but he’s an absolute no-go in category leagues, and though his role this year is much smaller than it was in years past, his 10.4 inefficient shots per game really take away opportunities for other guys on this roster to step up. In particular, if they shipped Williams out, I’d really like to see if Luke Kennard could absorb a solid portion of his minutes and shot attempts off the bench. Kennard is not an overly impressive fantasy player, but I think his skill set could be particularly valuable on this Clippers team. We all know he’s a great 3-point shooter, but he’s a fairly underrated playmaker too, which would be helpful for a team who primarily relies on their two stars, and Lou Williams, for the majority of their facilitating. If he steps into a 25-minute role with close to 2.0 triples and 4.0 assists per game, there’s a little value there in deeper leagues.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers don’t really have any trades to make, and they’ll be content doing most of their work in the buyout market.
Honestly the only thing I’m hoping for is for them to not add any more wing depth and just let Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso play as many minutes as they can handle as long as LeBron James and Anthony Davis are out indefinitely. Those two are legitimately good, and THT in particular could be looking at a monster few weeks ahead for fantasy purposes.
It remains to be seen if they go this route, but I think the Grizzlies are in a terrific position to be sellers at the deadline and have incentive to do so for both the present and their immediate future as well. They’ve done a terrific job accumulating young talent through the draft and trades, but they’re at the point where I think they have too many cooks in the kitchen. They’d stand to benefit both short term and long by clearing way for some of their young guys to develop in more well-defined roles while picking up future assets in the process.
I wouldn’t hate to see the Grizzlies trade off one of Dillon Brooks or Justise Winslow, one of Brandon Clarke or Xavier Tillman or even one of De’Anthony Melton or Desmond Bane. Just anything to break up the log jam upon log jam and get these guys reliable, extended minutes to develop in real life, and crush it in fantasy.
Hell, they could hold onto all of these guys and instead look to trade off of some of their vets to free up more playing time. Trading one of Jonas Valanciunas or Kyle Anderson could potentially open things up for those young guns, I’d even be fine moving Gorgui Dieng elsewhere so that he can finally play enough minutes to actualize his appealing fantasy upside.
I’m not content with the team standing pat with all of the talent they have at the moment. They have to start consolidating around their youth and pick a group to build around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.. The Grizz are by far my most interesting trade deadline team this year.
Over the last two seasons, the Heat have been rumored to be exploring scenarios to acquire an all-star caliber point guard. Last season it was for Chris Paul, this year it is for Kyle Lowry. If I have Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo on my fantasy teams, I’m unequivocally rooting against this kind of deal. So much of what makes both Butler and Adebayo elite fantasy options is their playmaking prowess, and bringing in a traditional point guard to run the offense only stands to hurt both of their values in the long run. Sure, they’ll still continue to churn out assists at an above average level for their positions, but if you think they can continue to maintain their current rates with Kyle Lowry playing over 30 minutes a night alongside them, you’re likely mistaken.
Another team who got most of their trades done ahead of the deadline, netting Jrue Holiday in the offseason and netting P.J Tucker last week. Frankly the Tucker trade would have been my wish for this team if they waited until the deadline, because I think he can recoup some of the valuable things he does from a fantasy perspective when he’s locked in and engaged with this team. Even then though, it’s unlikely he’ll be a standard league contributor, and it’s unlikely there are any more trades for Milwaukee to make that would have any sort of impact on the main guys or create a new waiver add.
The Timberwolves have been rumored to be major players in the buyers market despite being one of the worst teams in the league. They’ve been tagged as being among the more active teams in pursuit of a John Collins or Aaron Gordon trade. While that’s all good fun, I’m not sure if they actually get something done on that front.
Honestly though? I’m going to zag a bit from my rules in basing these scenarios in reality… I think there is little to no chance this happens. My wish for the T-Wolves is to trade D’Angelo Russell. Sure, he scores a lot, but his 9-cat fantasy game leaves a lot to be desired and he takes a lot of potential value away from Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley and Ricky Rubio. This team is more interesting to me when he’s not out there chucking it, and I’d rather see how they’d build around an Edwards-Towns pairing than a Russell-Towns pairing.
I won’t be holding my breath on this one though. Let’s see if they can find a way to get a hold of either of the two power forwards I mentioned at the top.
New Orleans Pelicans
The only name we should focus on here is Lonzo Ball, who feels like the most realistic “difference maker” who could be dealt at this deadline. Historically we’ve viewed Ball as an assists, boards and steals specialist, and while he’s still a plus contributor in all of those areas, the majority of his value this season has come in the form of his high-volume 3-pointers.
The big question we should be asking is what situation could Lonzo land in that would lend itself to him producing above the top-60 clip he’s been at all season?
As mentioned earlier in this piece, The Hawks and Bulls have emerged as two prominent teams that are vying for his services, and of those two you’d definitely be rooting for the Bulls. Sure, Lonzo would still likely get his shots in those two spots, but going to Chicago would allow him to transition more to being a pass-first point guard, whereas in Atlanta he’d be playing the same role he is in New Orleans but with far less opportunities to make plays and likely get shots as well.
Ultimately, I’d be fine with the Pels sticking with Zo the rest of the way, but if he has to go, I hope it’s to a situation where he becomes the primary facilitator. His triples are great, but assists are such a scarce category to make up for, giving any added value there some extra weight.
New York Knicks
With so many options to choose from at point guard, it’d be great if the Knicks moved off of Elfrid Payton to secure Immanuel Quickley a consistent role in the mid-to-high 20’s off the bench. That’s all I really have for this team though. Tom Thibodeau squads really tend to just be 6-7 deep, and if Quickley can get himself into that crowd via a trade of somebody else I’m all here for it.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The trade everyone wants this team to make is to send off Al Horford so that Moses Brown and Isaiah Roby can hold down the center job full-time.
However, I’ve maintained throughout the season that I think a Horford trade is unlikely this deadline for two reasons: he still has two full seasons left on his contract and there is a glut of centers who could be available who are just better or come at a cheaper price. Nikola Vucevic, Richaun Holmes, Myles Turner and Jonas Valanciunas all stand out as either better players, more cost effective options or both if they’re on the market, and some teams may even prefer less talented but far cheaper alternatives in the buyout market like Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge or Hassan Whiteside. With so many different options to turn to, I’m not sure what team looks at Horford’s roughly $70 million dollar contract over the next 2.5 seasons and decides to trade for him now. Makes more sense in the offseason in my opinion.
Whether he stays in OKC or not though, he figures to rest plenty down the stretch, giving Moses and Roby plenty of time to make an impact.
Let’s just blow this sucker up. The future of this franchise is tied to Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, and as soon as they were both out for the season it was only a matter of time for this team to flip the switch and deal away Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross. I’d be satisfied if Orlando dealt any number of these guys and reshaped their roster in the same way the Rockets and Thunder have to this point. Gordon and Fournier feel like the most likely candidates, but a Vucevic trade would be the key one to unlocking value across the board on this team.
As far as guys already on the roster, Chuma Okeke and Mo Bamba would be the only real interesting names to step into large-minute roles from a fantasy standpoint. I’d be more curious to see what names would be coming back in any of these deals to potentially step into large rest-of-season roles
Whatever happens though, let’s make sure Dwayne Bacon doesn’t end up taking 18 shots per game.
This is a team where I can’t really come up with a trade I’d be hoping for. They’re a rock solid contender, and though they have some tradable assets, I don’t know what scenario I’d like to improve the fantasy outlooks of anyone on the roster.
If I were to reach though, I’d be interested if the Sixers dealt rookie Tyrese Maxey for depth for the playoff push. He showed us what he’s capable of when he’s given the keys to an offense, and if he found himself in a situation where he could handle the ball for 25-30 minutes a night that could be pretty cool.
I’d probably consider this hypothetical the biggest violation of my “stay grounded in reality” rule. I don’t envision the Sixers shipping off a talented asset like Maxey for wing depth or something like that. It’s more likely they hold onto him to offer as part of a package for some big play down the road that has yet to reveal itself to us.
Another team where there really isn’t a logical trade that makes sense in terms of producing new/more fantasy value. Ive opined in the past that there are too many PFs chipping away at one another for minutes, but since then Jae Crowder has locked down a solid enough starting gig, and Cam Johnson has solidified himself as the team’s best bench four.
I think they’re solid, and would be surprised if they make any moves that’d have a meaningful impact on their current rotation.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are interesting as a trade deadline team because more than anything, they just need to get healthy rather than add anyone new to this mix. If I were to get selfish though and look for them to mix things up again, I’d hope they sell high on Enes Kanter to free up room for Robert Covington to absorb backup center minutes.
I have no idea what such a trade would mean in real life, why the Blazers would consider this and who’d they want back in return, but it’s undeniable that the fantasy games of RoCo, Derrick Jones Jr. and Nassir Little all go jump up peg when they’re getting minutes at the five. Covington blocked 2.3 shots per-game in the 13 Jusuf Nurkic and Harry Giles were both out of rotation. He ascended to a top-25 level during that time, and it’s all thanks to the additional time as a small-ball five.
The Kings have been rumored to have a trade to make before they even tipped off this NBA season. Everyone but them knew they likely weren’t going to be a factor in the playoff picture, and now that we have arrived at the point where it is clear they aren’t going to be competitive in the loaded Western Conference… it’s still unclear if they view themselves as a playoff contender or not.
The names most cited on the trade block continue to be Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley. It’s unclear if any of those three will be dealt, and what the Kings would be looking for as an asking price if they did.
Another name that many teams have emerged as being interested in is Richaun Holmes, and rightfully so. On an expiring $5 million deal, Holmes is far and away the most talented, cost effective center on the market.
For fantasy purposes though, I think he’s great right where he’s at. With Marvin Bagley basiclly out for the year, and the Kings still operating with the mindset that they can push for the play-in spot, I like Holmes’ outlook as a top-30 player the rest of the way if he sticks around in Sacramento. If the Kings ultimately do pull the trigger on any of their tradable assets, I hope Holmes isn’t among them.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have already gone halfway through with the deal I would have wanted them to do this deadline, which is to move off of LaMarcus Aldridge to allow Jakob Poeltl to retain the starting center position full time. My wish now is for them to not bring back anyone else in a potential deal who would cut into Poeltl’s newfound open runway to playing time. It feels more likely that the Spurs buy out Aldridge altogether than bring back a starting caliber center for him, so we’ll chalk this up to a win already and move along.
Norman Powell could lock down a permanent, and perhaps even greater role rest-of-season if he gets traded to a rebuilding team. I’m interested in the idea of Toronto making one final push at contention rather than blowing everything up, and if they do go that route, Powell becomes an obvious trade chip.
What if they dangled Powell to get involved in the Nikola Vucevic sweepstakes? I know the reported asking price for Vooch is high, but with the scoring talent Powell has flashed, I feel like a package centered around him could and should start a conversation in the Orlando FO. Powell would become a force running things in Orlando, and Vucevic would complete a quite formidable starting five with Lowry, FVV, Anunoby and Siakam.
The one hangup in this Powell deal, or any potential trade for him, is that he has a player option for his next year, and he is undoubtedly going to decline that to cash in this offseason with a real dearth of quality talent on the free agent market. Any team who’d trade for him would have to be willing to sign him long term, and have assurance that he’d be willing to sign with them too (he’d be an unrestricted free agent if he declines his PO). A lot of risk there, and could derail any trade scenarios that center around Norm.
There’s really no trade I can think I’d want to see Utah make to unlock any value on this team. They have a logical hierarchy, guys who fill their roles, and little room to make an impact in added minutes.
With their position in the standings, there’s few incentives for them to shake things up anyhow. They’ll play the buyout market, and remain one of the more predictable fantasy teams out there.
So many directions they could go, and it’s possible nothing happens at all. They feel like a team with a trade to make but at the same time have no trades to make. Bradley Beal trade scenarios seem dead (though perhaps the relative silence could mean more for a potential trade?) so not sure I’d put that here in this section.
One name I’d like to see get a change of scenery though is Troy Brown Jr. Habitually neglected and underutilized by Scott Brooks, I feel that TBJ would make for an appealing trade target for rebuilding teams to give him some minutes and see what he can do with them. His upside in 3s, steals, assists and boards could make him a potentially game-changing waiver wire add if he winds up in a situation where he’s featured and can play a ton.
And again, I really don’t think it’d take a ton to pry him off the Wiz. All you’d need to do is offer them a center who’s better than Robin Lopez, Alex Len or Moe Wagner. Pretty easy task to accomplish.
And that’ll do it! 30 teams, 30 wishes. If you liked what you read or have thoughts on what you’d like to see, hit me up on Twitter @AlanSrochi, or drop a comment here and get a discussion going! As my last wish, I wish your fantasy teams and real life teams the best of luck this deadline season! See y’all on the other side of the madness.