The NBA trade deadline is always one of the most exciting time of the year, with teams making moves to either put themselves over the top or set themselves up for the future. This year promises to be a particularly active deadline, with the Cleveland Cavaliers looking suddenly weaker than expected thanks in part to Kevin Love’s knee injury (we’ve already seen the Toronto Raptors go all-in by adding Serge Ibaka).
For fantasy basketball, the trade deadline presents an opportunity. Owners may see the players already on their roster lose or gain value, but in general, owners want to quickly analyze the impact of a particular move, determine the beneficiary, and then beat their opponents to the waiver wire. Doing so may be the difference between winning your league and finishing the year with regrets.
The trade deadline almost always features a few surprise trades, but let’s take a look at a few of the players most-likely to be traded and how it might impact your fantasy basketball team.
Lou Williams- The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves once again in a race to the bottom in the Western Conference, with their top-three protected 2017 first round pick at stake as well as their 2019 first round pick. Meanwhile, Lou Williams is having a career year and leads the team in scoring with 18.6 points in just 24.2 minutes per game. Williams’ production would be better utilized on a contender, and the Lakers are reportedly listening to offers for their super sixth-man. Depending on where he ends up, owners will have to hope that he sees minutes increase because playoff teams won’t run their entire offense through him the way Los Angeles does.
Brook Lopez- The Brooklyn Nets find themselves with the worst record in the league by far, and without much of a draft pick to show for it thanks to a trade with the Boston Celtics that has come back to haunt them. The Nets will swap places with the Celtics on draft night, which means that a pick that should be in the top four will instead be near the end of the first round. With that being the case, the Nets are focused on finding young talent that they can groom for the future, and Lopez is a talented center that could be cashed out for other assets, like a first round pick or two (Brooklyn reportedly wants two firsts, but that may be a bit optimistic). However, a trade would be bad news for fantasy basketball owners. The Nets’ offense runs through BroLo, and he has even extended his range to the three-point line this season (1.8 per game), and a trade to a contender would almost certainly mean a dip in production.
Paul Millsap- The Atlanta Hawks are in an interesting situation, as they are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference but don’t appear to be serious contenders. They have Dwight Howard under contract for two more seasons after this one, and Millsap will be a free agent this summer. The Hawks may not want to be the team to give the 32-year-old Millsap his last big contract and explored moving him earlier this year. Fortunately, Millsap is a fantasy basketball jack-of-all-trades that can be productive in a lot of ways. Even if he ends up going to a contender where fewer shots are available, he has the ability to make up for a dip in scoring by rebounding, getting steals, and blocking shots, and an uptick in his career-low 44 percent from the field this season would also be very much welcome.
Goran Dragic- The Miami Heat appeared to be ready to put their tank into high gear and free fall for a top draft pick, but then they went and won 13 games in a row. This historic burst has put them in the playoff conversation in the East and made it more likely that they will keep guard Goran Dragic, at least until the offseason. If the Heat do get an enticing offer, Dragic’s fantasy basketball value would likely go down in a manner similar to Lopez. Dragic has been clicking with the Heat and is shooting an insane 55 percent from the field over the last 30 days. He’s also scoring 23.2 points and dishing 5.8 assists, but in a new system that doesn’t allow him to dominate the ball, those numbers would all take a dip.
DeMarcus Cousins- It just wouldn’t be the NBA trade deadline without drama from the Sacramento Kings and DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings reportedly told Cousins that he will not be traded, but then changed their minds and shipped him to the New Orleans Pelicans. Like several other players on this list, this trade could cause Boogie’s counting stats to drop quite a bit (especially rebounds), but the boost in field goal percentage that he should see thanks to playing with Anthony Davis will likely allow Cousins to keep his value intact.