• Kevin Garnett once had a commercial where he angrily said “You know my rap sheet. You know how I get down. 20, 10, and 5!” Actually, in his prime, he was more like 22, 13, and 5. But the reason I mention it is that we fantasy addicts have a rough stat set in our head for almost every relevant player in the league. And because of that, it can be hard for us to associate a player with better or worse numbers until they’ve been producing them for a long time. And while it’s unwise to fall for every hot or cold streak, many of us could benefit by more quickly changing our opinion of players when they’re improving or declining.

    This week I’m once again looking at numbers from just the calendar year 2020, which now represents about a quarter of a season. Many players that are significantly up or down over this time will regress and end up closer to where they’ve been in the past. But I think it’s worth taking this recent sample of about six weeks pretty seriously when determining some trade targets, as there’s a decent chance these stats are the new normal (or close to it).

    As I mentioned last week, there are always plenty of people in your leagues looking to buy low on players that are traditionally much better than they’ve been lately and to sell high on the guys that have been outkicking their coverage, so to say. But since people tend to go too far with that strategy, thinking that they absolutely have to trade a guy that’s suddenly putting up better numbers for a bigger name that’s been cool or banged up, there’s plenty of room for us to take advantage and get something extra.

    Today’s name brand players are three big name, top-15 guys and then three of the most-hyped players right now. These last three are skyrocketing but the stats aren’t quite matching the excitement. Overall, they’re six players with great trade value. The off-branders are players I think should be trade targets based on what they’ve been doing and their ability to keep it up for the rest of the season. I left off a few spiking players that have mainly peaked due to injuries to teammates.

    These stats are from 1/1 to 2/11 and the 8-cat rankings are from Basketball Monster.

    Normally, I choose a name brand player that’s ranking below the off-brand player, but I couldn’t resist throwing Damian Lillard, the third-ranked player of 2020 based on some insane scoring performances, next to the surging Trae Young. If Trae can almost keep pace with Dame while Dame is as hot as he is right now, there’s a great chance that Trae can match him or best him down the stretch. And to make the strategy clear, I’d trade Lillard for Young plus an upgrade at a second position.

    This one is a gamble. The first player had a top-5 finish last season and traditionally ranks in the teens. However, Paul George has a few strikes against him right now. He’s been injured for much of the season and he’s playing with a new team that also just added another forward to the roster. I’d guess that he probably gets back up around number 20 in the games in which he actually plays since his steals should improve after some regression to the mean. However, Khris Middleton is also right in that range and putting up very similar numbers. I think you can get Middleton and more from a George fan.

    Here we have a trade-off. Need improvement in assists and field goal percentage? Can you afford a hit in threes and blocks? Then ship off your Nikola Vucevic to the team with Domantas Sabonis. They’re likely looking for blocks and threes (and steals), since Sabonis is notorious for his lack of production there. And if that person’s brain jumps to “Vucevic equals top-25 and Sabonis equals somewhere in the 40s” like mine does, you should be able to acquire more in the swap.

    Here we go with our first hot young prospect. He’s even in the top-50 over the last month. Unfortunately he’s hurt right now. But if you have a contending team that’s willing to stash Michael Porter Jr. until he’s healthy, I bet you could acquire Nemanja Bjelica and another, possibly even more valuable piece. Bjelica has benefited from injuries in the Kings frontcourt for sure. However, the injuries have been going on all season and look to have an excellent chance of continuing at least through the fantasy playoffs. So this just is who Bjelica is this year and Porter could easily find himself with reduced minutes while the Nuggets ride their veterans.

    The second hyped-up youth is a rookie making plenty of highlights and getting fantasy players all excited. Ja Morant looks like the real deal, but he’s still lacking in some important categories when compared to typical NBA point guards (threes and steals). So, let’s look at another point guard that has those same limitations: Derrick Rose. Now, someone that rosters Rose may still think of him as an MVP candidate, in which case this is a no-go. But more likely, Rose is seen as a player that sits at the end of the top-100 (especially after adding a 1-for-13 performance in his return from injury as I write this). Sending off Morant for Rose shouldn’t hurt you, and you should be able to net a lot more than Rose in the deal right now. As long as Rose can stay on the floor, he should be able to run wild for the new-look Pistons.

    I discussed this hot second-year player a few weeks ago when I was looking at amazing per-36 production of players that could be earning extra minutes soon (Michael Porter Jr. was in there, too). De’Anthony Melton has become a fantasy darling over the last few months, and he looks to be getting just a couple of those extra minutes now that the Grizzlies shook up their roster. However, the actual production isn’t quite there yet, due to his still-limited minutes. You’re better off with a player that may still even be available in your league if it’s shallow: Mikal Bridges. So, if you have Melton and aren’t totally smitten, see if you can scoop up Bridges for him and enjoy the better-across-the-board stats.

    Enjoy the All-Star break, everyone. Personally, I can’t wait to see some more Derrick Jones Jr. in the Slam Dunk Contest.

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