The NBA trade deadline usually creates some “buy” opportunities for fantasy basketball players. Problem is, this year’s later-than-usual deadline and compressed schedule might make a lot of teams hesitant to deal.
From this week’s Working the Wire on Rotowire.com:
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith created a bit of a stir by suggesting that the Orlando Magic had made inquiries about sending Dwight Howard to the Knicks in exchange for Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Sounds great – especially to Knicks fans – right? Problem is, Stoudemire has an enormous contract that can’t be insured due to his injury history and Chandler – as a free agent signed this year – can’t be dealt until March 1 at the earliest.
The continuity factor could become a big issue as the trade deadline approaches. With compressed schedules and extremely limited practice time, getting new players integrated into teams will be even more difficult than usual. Last year’s Knicks are a pretty good example of how a mid-season roster makeover can hurt a team’s performance in the short term. And bear in mind, with the deadline pushed back to mid-March, teams will have even less time to integrate new pieces before the end of the regular season.
As of this morning, the top teams in the Eastern Conference are Miami (8-1), Chicago (8-2) and… Philadelphia? The Sixers lead the Atlantic Division with a 6-2 overall record. And they might be even better than their win and losses indicate; they started the season with five straight games on the road.
The biggest driver of that record is defense; Philly is holding opponents to .391 shooting from the floor. Continuity is obviously a factor there. Other teams may struggle to integrate new faces and plays due to the short preseason and compressed schedule, but the Sixers’ coaching staff and core returned from last season almost completely intact. Philly is also getting improved play from youngsters like point guard Jrue Holiday, shooting guard Evan Turner and center Spencer Hawes.
Can fantasy owners profit from Philly’s improved play? The Sixers you’d most want to own – Holiday and Andre Iguodala – are 100 percent owned in both Yahoo! and ESPN/NBA .com leagues. Hawes is at 100 in ESPN but just 80 percent in Yahoo. Elton Brand is close to that (92% Yahoo!/88.5% ESPN) but is getting dropped in lots of leagues as owners realize Hawes is the better frontcourt option these days.
Lou Williams is worth a look in Yahoo! leagues, where he’s 71 percent owned; he’s been the Sixers’ leading scorer to this point and is doing an excellent job of getting to the free-throw line (5.6 attempts/game) as Philly’s third guard. ESPN/NBA.com fantasy players are bigger Williams fans; he’s 100 percent owned over there. Evan Turner hasn’t scored a ton – his 21-point outburst at New Orleans on January 4th notwithstanding – but he is rebounding very well for a guard (5.4 rpg in 25.5 minutes) and could be in line for more playing time if starter Jodie Meeks (.370 FG, .300 3PT) continues to struggle with his shot.
Personally, I don’t think Turner will reach his full potential as long as Iguodala is on the Sixers. And Iguodala is playing so well right now, many of the rumored trades that would have sent him elsewhere (Iguodala for Chris Kaman?) seem horribly lopsided. But that doesn’t mean the Sixers won’t make a trade before the March deadline. And even if they don’t, Turner’s improved play and breakout potential make his “percent owned” (27% Yahoo/18.5 ESPN) very low.
With their lead over the Sixers in the Eastern Conference down to two games after Friday’s loss in Philly, the Knicks needed this game. And they played like it. Amar’e Stoudemire tied his season high with 41 points, Landry Fields set a new career best with 25, and Raymond Felton chipped in 13 points and 13 assists as the Knicks beat Philly, 117-103 on Sunday afternoon.
As a team, the Knicks shot a blistering 59.7 percent from the field – their best shooting performance of the season. STAT led the way, hitting 17 of his 21 attempts – that’s a staggering .809 field goal percentage, for those keeping score. Fields was almost as good, hitting 10 of his 13 attempts .769, including 5-of-7 from three-point range and grabbing ten rebounds.
With seconds remaining, Shawne Williams passed up his bread-and-butter corner three and drove into the teeth of the Philadelphia defense. His attempt came up short — and so did the Knicks, losing to the Sixers by a score of 100-98.
Williams called his shot selection a mistake, but he shouldn’t take all the blame; his teammates made quite a few as well … including the back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter that ended with offensive foul calls on Amar’e Stoudemire and Wilson Chandler. The Knicks took an 82-73 lead into the final quarter, only to have Elton Brand and the Sixers go on a 15-0 run.