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Category Strategy: Trade Deadline Targets

Alex Rikleen

Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.

At 12:05 Thursday, the quiet deadline turned into one of the craziest NBA afternoons since DeAndre Jordan was kidnapped. The Cavaliers went through an offseason’s worth of overhaul, the Magic gave up on Elfrid Payton, Dwyane Wade went home, and the Raptors decided Bruno Caboclo was more than two years away from being two years away.

For context on how wild those final three hours before the deadline were: before noon, the biggest deals were headlined by Willy Hernangomez and James Ennis, who have a combined 31 DNP-CDs this season.

So what’s the fantasy fallout? Today we are diving into players impacted by the deadline moves – or, in some cases, non-moves. In a few cases, we’ll talk about players impacted by buyouts. But we’re limiting this article to players impacted by NBA roster movement over an eventful last 10 days.

In general, we’ll try to focus on players available in at least 50% of leagues in ESPN, Yahoo!, and CBS. Sometimes we fudge that a little.

Note: Some of the “other suggestions” are very speculative. In a normal article, I only list players I’d actually recommend adding. But since this is the special Trade Deadline Edition, the standards are a bit different. For the purposes of this article, I assume that you are looking to add help in the specific category, and want to know which player impacted by the deadline you should target. So while I don’t expect a ton from Emmanuel Mudiay, if I need assist help, he might be your best available option, and is therefore included below.

Points

Michael Beasley, Knicks
(Ownership: ESPN – 50%; Yahoo! – 57%; CBS – 82%)

Including Beasley here is a minor stretch. His value is more so tied to Kristaps Porzingis’ season-ending ACL injury than either of the Knicks’ trades – but I’m counting it. Beasley is too important to ignore if he is available. When given minutes, Beasley has been dynamite this season. With Porzingis out Beasley should step into a giant role, and with Hernangomez and McDermott gone, the Knicks don’t even have young options off the bench who could threaten Beasley’s workload down the line. When Beasley has played at least 25 minutes, he averages 23.8 points and 8.0 rebounds – there are only 13 players averaging more than 23.8 points per game this season.

Other suggestions: Bobby Portis, Bulls; George Hill, Cavaliers; Rodney Hood, Cavaliers

Three-Pointers

George Hill, Cavaliers
(Ownership: ESPN – 29%; Yahoo! – 59%; CBS – 55%)

The Cavaliers’ LeBron James-centric offense is at its best when he’s surrounded by guys making it rain from behind the arc (and maybe one guy tall or athletic enough to catch some lobs). The Cavaliers have attempted the second- or third-most threes per game in each of James’ four seasons in Cleveland. Last season, when the Cavs traded for Kyle Korver – a man whose primary offensive responsibility already consisted of basically camping out on the perimeter – Korver’s attempts per game increased, and his three-point percentage shot up from the already-impressive 40.9 percent to an other-worldly 48.5 percent. Three seasons ago, when the Cavs acquired J.R. Smith in a midseason trade, his long-range attempts more than doubled, while his efficiency improved. And when the Cavaliers acquired Channing Frye and Deron Williams in mid-season trades – well, I’ll let you guess what happened.

Hill, now freed from the dungeon that was the Kings’ rotation, was already attempting 3.0 threes per game and making 45.3 percent of them. Some fantasy analysts are anticipating more than 28 minutes per game for Hill the rest of the way – if they’re right on that, he will be the biggest winner of the trade deadline by a mile. I’m not quite so bullish on his total minutes, but I am very confident that he will play every night that he is healthy (except maybe back-to-backs) and that he will make more than 1.3 threes per game – both of which would be giant improvements over his time in Sacramento.

Other suggestions: D.J. Augustin, Magic; Rodney Hood, Cavaliers; Bobby Portis, Bulls; Jae Crowder, Jazz; Channing Frye, Lakers

Rebounds

Bobby Portis, Bulls
(Ownership: ESPN – 34%; Yahoo! – 51%; CBS – 78%)

Nikola Mirotic got shipped to the Pelicans a few days before the deadline, so we’ve already seen three games of Portis sans-Mirotic. They’ve been good --12.0 points and 12.3 rebounds in 28.2 minutes good. In games when Portis plays at least 25 minutes per game, he’s averaging 16.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. He might lose some value when Lauri Markkanen (personal) returns, but Mirotic was always the much bigger drain on Portis’ viability. Mirotic averaged 24.9 minutes per game, and a lot of those should transfer to Portis.

Other suggestions: Michael Beasley, Knicks; Larry Nance, Cavaliers; Greg Monroe, Celtics; Josh Hart, Lakers

Assists

D.J. Augustin, 76ers
(Ownership: ESPN – 11%; Yahoo! – 30%; CBS – 33%)

The Magic were apparently so sick of having a starting point guard who blocked his own shots with his hair that they decided to give him away for free (technically they received a second-round pick likely to fall around 40th to 45th overall). Regardless of whether the Magic got enough for Elfrid Payton (they didn’t), his absence opens a big hole in the rotation. Payton was playing 28.6 minutes per game, and he led the team with 6.3 assists.

Augustin and Shelvin Mack are the only point guards left on the roster, and Augustin is far and away the better option of those two. When Augustin has played more than 25 minutes, he has averaged 12.4 points and 4.8 assists per game, and some of those minutes were playing alongside Payton as a shooting guard. As the starter and primary playmaker, Augustin is one of the trade deadline’s biggest winners.

Other suggestions: George Hill, Cavaliers; Emmanuel Mudiay, Knicks

Steals

Greg Monroe, Celtics
(Ownership: ESPN – 35%; Yahoo! – 45%; CBS – 65%)

There’s no getting around the fact that Monroe’s value could have been higher had he landed somewhere other than Boston. But we’re talking about a player who: A) was inside Fantasy’s top 100 last year, despite averaging only 22.5 minutes per game; and: B) had two-dozen DNP-CDs and nine games of fewer than 20 minutes with the Suns. Yes, he might have had more value on some hypothetical third team, but his value on the Celtics is still loads higher than it was on the Suns.

In his first night as a Celtic, playing less than five hours after officially signing with the team, he saw 20 minutes of action. That’s a really positive indicator that he should see regular minutes at least in the low 20s moving forward. As the 27-year-old showed last season, that’s plenty for him to contribute to fantasy squads in all leagues. He’s a good source of rebounds and big-man assists, and he’s solid in points and steals. He’s averaged at least 1.1 steals in six of his seven complete seasons, including 2016-17.

Other suggestions: Larry Nance, Cavaliers; D.J. Augustin; Josh Hart, Lakers

Blocks

Marquese Chriss, Suns
(Ownership: ESPN – 16%; Yahoo! – 41%; CBS – 49%)

I’m sort of cheating here, but the blocks part of the waiver wire continues to be a ghost town. It would have been better if the Suns had traded away Tyson Chandler, as their frontcourt is still too crowded with Chriss, Dragan Bender, Alex Len and Chandler. Nonetheless, the fact that they waived Greg Monroe helps – and hopefully Chandler will get shut down soon, as he was after the All-Star break last season. Chriss and Len – in that order – are the two best options for blocks, even though Chriss only averages 1.0 per game and Len rarely plays more than 20 minutes. Like I said, it’s a bad time to need blocks.

Other suggestions: Boban Marjonovic, Clippers? No one really, sorry.
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