Fantasy Basketball Roundtable: Change is a good thing

This is a fun week for NBA fans as Thursday’s 3 p.m. EST trade deadline approaches. Not an hour goes by without four or five juicy trade rumors firing through cyberspace, and I can’t speak for my fellow fantasy scribes but I fear I might crash Twitter’s servers all by myself.

For fantasy owners, particularly those still in contention for a championship, the highs of following trade rumors are often juxtaposed with the fear that any deal made will adversely affect one of your own guys. If you have Corey Maggette, for instance, you can’t be thrilled about the prospects of a trade to Cleveland, where he’d be forced to defend and fit in with a deep group of guards, with no minutes available at the small forward spot (currently occupied by… let me check my depth charts… oh yeah, LeBron James).

LeBron is one of the busiest GMs in the league this time of year.

For those of you (notice I didn’t say “us”) who prefer their glasses half full, trades can sometimes help. For every guy who loses value, someone else gains, right? Not necessarily, but if you are carrying, say, DeAndre Jordan, he’s all-of-a-sudden a sneaky value play the rest of the way with the Clippers moving Marcus Camby to Portland.

We’ve heard numerous names bandied about in the past few weeks, and as we’re right up against the deadline, we polled some fantasy basketball writers as to their thoughts on the deadline and which players they think could benefit, fantasy-wise, from a change of scenery.

Participating this week are:

Ryan Lester, LestersLegends.com
Brian Spencer, Empty the Bench
Tommy Beer, Hoopsworld
Patrick Madden, Give Me the Rock
Tom Lorenzo, Damn Lies & Statistics blogger and RotoExperts.com Fantasy Basketball Editor

THE QUESTION: Out of the many names being bandied about in rumors, who do you think could/will benefit the most from a change of scenery from a fantasy perspective?

Josh Howard
Not all trades are made equal. For example, it’s hard to imagine Antawn Jamison‘s fantasy value not taking a hit if the rumors of a deal to the Celtics came to fruition. The move would be about bolstering the Celtics’ lineup, and I’m sure Jamison wouldn’t mind giving up some of his production to actually be on a team with a chance.

On the flip side, a player a player who was just dealt to the Wizards should see his value soar. Of course I’m talking about Dallas’ Josh Howard. His minutes are down with the Mavs this year and his overall production is worse than even his rookie season. Safe to say he’s worn out his welcome in Big D. Washington, however should welcome him with open arms. He gives them a versatile scorer, capable of scoring both inside and outside. Sometimes a change of scenery is what a player needs to clear his mind and start fresh. Under Flip Saunders I expect an increase in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and three-pointers. I would expect his shooting percentage to increase as well.
-Ryan Lester

J.J. Hickson
Since he seems to be the one Cleveland Cavaliers trade chip that’s being eyed in terms of actual on-court value, not just an expiring contract, J.J. Hickson is a guy to scoop up as a speculative add before the Cavs make their move. Whether he ultimately goes to Washington in a deal for Antawn Jamison, to Phoenix in the long-rumored Amare ‘Stoudemire blockbuster, or to another dark horse lurking in the background, he’s likely going to step right into the starting lineup and get big minutes from here on out.

Hickson has emerged this season as a borderline add in deep leagues for fantasy owners in need of a moderate boost in points, boards, and field-goal percentage. Over his last five games, the 19th-overall pick of the ’08 draft has averaged 13 points and 5 boards on 60% shooting: modest numbers, sure, but he’s doing it in just 20 minutes a night, and his game seems to be improving, along with his confidence, each step of the way.

While more minutes should naturally lead to more points and boards, most are waiting to see where else he can contribute given the chance. He’s only averaging 0.3 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.4 blocks per so far this season, but we’ve all seen what skilled players can do on bad teams offering ample opportunity for production. I expect at least a semi-significant uptick in all three categories if/once he’s moved, and when that happens he’ll be giving fantasy teams a nice boost down the stretch.
-Brian Spencer

Antawn Jamison
I think the player who would benefit in a big way from a trade would be Antawn Jamison. For weeks now, it has been rumored than Jamison may get dealt to the Cavs, as Cleveland looks to build a championship team around LeBron. From a reality standpoint, I think it is a great move for Cleveland. From a fantasy perspective, I think it hurts Jamison’s roto value.

In Cleveland, the Cavs play at a slower pace than Flip Saunders offense. Moreover, Jamison will defer to LeBron, and sometime to Shaq. I think Antawn’s shot attempts will decrease, which is never a good thing. In
addition, the Cavs are one of the league’s best rebounding teams. That means there will be fewer boards for Jamison to corral. However, one positive may be a bump up in three-pointers and FG%, as Jamison will benefit from teams collapsing on LeBron and James kicking it out to an open Antawn.
-Tommy Beer

Tyrus Thomas
If you’re looking for a man in need of a change of scenery, look no further than Tyrus Thomas. The Bulls forward has been jerked around by the team since he was drafted and has responded back in kind, with long stretches of uninspired play and well documented tirades aimed at Vinny Del Negro. But through his mostly disappointing run with the Bulls, we seen flashes of the player he could become. An example: over the Bulls’ last two games, with the team attempting to showcase him for a trade, Thomas has averaged 13.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2 blocks in 30+ minutes a game.

The Bulls are including Thomas in just about every Bulls trade rumor that crops up, including the latest move to acquire Tracy McGrady and his expiring contract. The Spurs are also said to be making a play for Thomas. Wherever he lands, simply stepping away from the baggage that surrounds him in Chicago and starting anew will likely mean more motivated play from Thomas on a night-to-night basis. And if he lands on a team like The Rockets or Spurs where he could potentially start, look for Thomas to have a monster finish to this season.
-Patrick Madden

Tyrus Thomas
Call it puppy love, or call it “nasty” love. Whatever you may want to call it, I still can’t seem to escape my infatuation with Tyrus Thomas. And for this exercise I can’t help but think that a change of scenery may do him some good. We’ve seen Thomas approach Josh Smith levels in the past, especially on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, Thomas has better per 36 numbers on defense with 1.6 steals and 2.4 blocks per game over his career as compared to 1.2 steals and 2.4 blocks for Smith. Right now, Thomas just isn’t getting the opportunity to put his best foot forward in Chicago. The rumor-mill has the Knicks, Rockets, Spurs, and Nuggets as some of the teams who are interested in Thomas. Go to all four teams! Thomas is such a great athlete he could probably be in four places at once. OK, now I just trended back into nasty love. Being available in 45 percent of Yahoo! leagues, the right move could give plenty of owners an opportunity to pick up, at the very least, a guy who can give you 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. That would be huge down the stretch.
-Tom Lorenzo

Some interesting choices here, particularly the infuriating Thomas. I own him in one league and have added about six religions to my repertoire to increase my praying power and cover all my bases in hopes of a fantasy-friendly destination for Thomas first, with eternal salvation second, time permitting.

Jamison probably spends his evenings drinking and playing with ESPN’s Trade Machine, he’s been mentioned so much. I’d be shocked if he was still in Washington by Thursday, and both Boston and Cleveland will probably make strong pushes for him in the coming hours.

Other names who could get moved or come close to it: Stoudemire, Nate Robinson, McGrady, Kirk Hinrich, Al Harrington, Kevin Martin, and numerous dark horse candidates such as anyone wearing a Pistons jersey (including fans).

The Fantasy Roundtable is a weekly meeting of the minds featuring many of the top fantasy hoops bloggers and writers on the web. Check back each week for new analysis at any of the sites listed above.

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