January 9, 2020, 2:10 pm
Hey Hoop Ballers! Welcome back to another edition of Deep League Digging – my column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of diamonds in the rough for deep league owners. We are gearing up for one of the most exciting times of the year for NBA fans and fantasy managers – tttttttrade season! This year in particular it feels like anything could happen. The West is wide open with only two games separating the second seed Nuggets and the fifth seed Jazz, while outside of the nearly untouchable Bucks, the East seems totally up for grabs as well.
If you’ve been playing this game for awhile, you already know that it is wise to take just about every trade rumor that pops up around this time of year with a huge boulder of salt. Agents and front offices are selectively choosing what they leak to the media to advance their own interests, with little regard for factual accuracy. So while the rumors I discuss below are all pretty speculative, it is still wise to know who stands to benefit if certain players are traded (of course, that can change quickly depending on who comes back in return as well).
With that in mind, let’s dive head-first into the rumor mill and see which teams are reported to be looking for a change and identify which deep-league players are worth throwing on your watch list as we inch closer to the trade deadline.
The Pistons are simply dreadful this season. Much of that can be attributed to the MASH unit that is their roster, but even when healthy, it is hard to believe that even in the wide-open Eastern Conference they factor as much more than a longshot eight-seed contender. Simply put, this roster needs a complete overhaul, and that likely starts with extracting as much value as they can out of Andre Drummond’s potentially expiring contract (he does have a player option in 2020).
Christian Wood and Sekou Doumbouya stand to see the biggest benefit, but they are almost certainly not on the wire in many standard leagues, let alone deep leagues (make sure to change that if so). Though his play has been extremely sub-par this season (and he is currently sidelined with a foot injury), Markieff Morris does stand to see solid minutes with the news that Blake Griffin may miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury and Drummond potentially heading for the exits. Of course, we don’t know what the Pistons would get back for Drummond, so Morris is not a super high priority stash. Keep an eye on him though and consider a speculative add if trade talks around Drummond heat up as we get closer to the deadline.
Those in 20-team leagues and deeper should also keep an eye on Tim Frazier (bleh, I know) and Khyri Thomas as well in the event that Derrick Rose is also shipped off to a contender in need of some scoring pop off the bench. This may go without saying, but Bruce Brown is a must-roster player in all deep leagues as well given his current performance and potential upside down the stretch.
Speaking of dumpster fires, the 2019-2020 Cleveland Cavaliers, ladies and gentlemen. Kevin Love has publicly voiced his disapproval of the direction in which the team is heading, and appears to possibly be headed out of town (though his albatross of a contract really diminishes his appeal as a trade chip). The Cavaliers desperately need a roster overhaul, and trading just about anything that is not bolted down should be on the table. Love’s contract being what it is, we can’t assume any action will occur, but for the sake of speculation let’s consider who stands to benefit if he is moved.
Beyond the obvious answer in Larry Nance, John Henson (though he is reportedly on the trade block as well), Ante Zizic and Dylan Windler could all see a sizeable boost in value if Love or Tristan Thompson is traded at the deadline. Zizic and Henson are both known commodities, and it is hard to parse out who stands to benefit the most from a Love/Thompson trade.
Henson will give you a lot of blocks, limited rebounds and a decent boost in efficiency from the floor.
Zizic, on the other hand, is a walking double-double in 20 minutes per night, but doesn’t chip in much in the way of defensive stats. As a 23-year-old only two full seasons removed from being a first-round pick in 2017, Zizic holds considerably more upside than Henson if the Cavaliers see what they have in their young guys down the stretch, making him the higher upside pickup between the two.
Henson and Zizic could ultimately end up cannibalizing each other’s fantasy value, but both are worth watching in all deep leagues as the deadline approaches with Zizic holding slightly more appeal in terms of upside.
With the Cavaliers’ situation at center being so murky without Thompson/Love, I’m much more interested in Dylan Windler as a potential deep-league add following the trade deadline. He has missed the entire season with a left leg injury, but I still remain high on him as a prospect and consider him a must-add deep-league guy if he can stay healthy and the Cavaliers shake things up. Windler is a strong rebounder and facilitator, and doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a scorer. He is completely under the radar at the moment given his injury, but keep an eye on his progress returning to action and consider a speculative add if the Cavaliers blow it up.
New York Knicks
It is never wise to predict which direction the Knicks front office will go, but as they currently sit with a 10-27 record on the season, the option of flipping one or two of the 500 veteran forwards they signed this offseason has to be on the table. Bobby Portis and Marcus Morris seem to be garnering the most buzz in the trade rumor mill, but Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Taj Gibson, Dennis Smith Jr., Reggie Bullock, Allonzo Trier and James Dolan should all be probably be considered as well in potential trade talks.
You may have noticed that I listed a majority of the players in the Knicks rotation that may be included in trade talks, making the task of parsing out fantasy value for any number of potential trades almost impossible. A Marcus Morris or Julius Randle trade would open up a ton of forward minutes that Kevin Knox may be able to capitalize on. However, even if a trade clears the way for Knox to step into a larger role, he just hasn’t been able to produce even when the minutes are there. He would be worth a speculative add in all deep leagues, but don’t expect him to suddenly fix his efficiency issues and fill out his stat set to become a top-150 player even with a larger role. Allonzo Trier would also be worth a flier depending on who is sent out, but as we saw last season he doesn’t offer much outside of scoring and threes.
Frank Ntilikina could see a bump if the point guard rotation is thinned out, but his deficiencies as a fantasy asset are pretty well documented at this point (though I’m still convinced that there is some untapped upside there in a consistent role). In 20-team leagues and deeper, Ignas Brazdeikis is a name to keep an eye on. The Knicks selected Brazdeikis in the second round of the 2019 Draft, and while he has seen next to no NBA action, his Summer League numbers (18 points on 55 percent shooting with 2.8 triples, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists) combined with his G-League stats (19.3 points on 47 percent shooting with 1.6 threes, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.9 steals) offer a glimpse into his potential fantasy contributions. He may not have an elite fantasy ceiling, but he is smart player with an active motor, which I believe will eventually earn him a consistent role on an NBA bench. Keep him on your watch list in all deep leagues. The Knicks would be wise to see what they have in Brazdeikis down the stretch, and he will likely produce when the minutes are there.
Other players to keep an eye on in super deep leagues that are currently playing well for the Knicks’ G-League affiliate include shot blocking specialist Tony Wooten (averaging 5.5 boards and 3.4 blocks per game) and Lamar Peters (currently scoring 17.1 points per game with 6.5 assists and 1.2 steals).
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have fallen off in a big way this season, thanks in part to injuries to key big-men contributors Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. At 16-22, the Blazers are not out of the playoff picture at all, but if they want to make a push for the playoffs, they desperately need frontcourt depth. Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside have been floated as potential players on the move at the deadline, but ditching Whiteside without getting another big back in return does little to address their depth issues down low.
For the Blazers, fantasy value opening up all depends on who they get back in return, and whether they opt to get pieces that help now or have their eye on the future. In a vacuum, Anfernee Simons and Mario Hezonja stand to see the biggest boost in value if Bazemore is moved. Simons could move into the starting lineup, though his contributions outside of scoring are sparse. Regardless, with any roster shakeup that doesn’t involve another wing coming back, Simons becomes a pickup in all deep leagues. Hezonja has dipped in-and-out of the rotation on numerous occasions this season, but in a more solidified role, Hezonja would be worth a speculative add in all deep leagues.
In super deep formats, Nassir Little becomes worth a look following a Bazemore trade. His production has been meager though even when the minutes are there, so consider Little more of a flier with a short leash in 16-team leagues even if additional minutes open up.
Despite playing without Thomas Bryant and Bradley Beal not being 100%, the Wizards have notched some impressive wins lately over the Celtics, Nuggets and Heat. Even with those resume boosters, they still sit at 12-25 on the season and could look to shake things up. It seems like their biggest asset, Bradley Beal, is likely not on the table, however rumors have been swirling around Davis Bertans. The Latvian sharpshooter is enjoying a breakout season, and has quickly emerged as one of the most reliable 3-point shooters in the league (shooting 43.4 percent from deep on 8.6 attempts per game). He heads into the offseason an unrestricted free agent in a very dry free agency year, so if the Wizards aren’t prepared to give out a large contract to Bertans they risk losing him for nothing.
As always, it depends what the Wizards get back in return, but at the moment the deep league name to watch is Bertans’ fellow countryman Anzejs Pasecniks. He has seen reliable minutes lately with the Wizards’ frontcourt in shambles, and put up some solid numbers. He is currently on a two-way deal, but the Wizards have indicated that they would like to convert his deal to a fully guaranteed NBA contract moving forward. They don’t currently have the roster space to do so, but a trade would certainly be one way to clear up space. Pasecniks should probably be rostered already in most deep leagues for the next few games until Thomas Bryant, Bertans and Rui Hachimura are healthy. After that, keep an eye on him as trade rumors begin to heat up.