Fantasy Lab: Trade winners, losers
Injuries, playoff hopes should bring big minutes for Tyrus Thomas in Charlotte
Rockets' uptempo pace and unselfishness will help Kevin Martin thrive
Cavs' options, focus on postseason will keep Antawn Jamison's minutes down
The NBA's trade deadline came yesterday not with just a flurry of activity, but with an East Coast-style blizzard of moves. The trade winds that had been floating around for months finally turned into a whirlwind of actual deals, creating new fantasy-relevant players in the process and rendering other useful contributors now useless. Like the North Star in a pitch-black evening, the Lab is here to guide your fantasy compass and point you in the right direction with analysis of the deadline winners and losers.
It's probably too late for you to make a move in competitive leagues for pre-trade deadline moves, meaning players like Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan have already been snatched up and hard-luck losers like Drew Gooden, Jason Terry and to some extent, Marcus Camby have already been dealt with by an unhappy owner. Hopefully you still have time to make some moves on these others:
The winners (in no particular order)
SF/PF Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte
Thomas owners have waited for this day all year long; however, the trade out of purgatory that is Vinny Del Negro's bench wasn't the obvious home run many thought it would be. The rumors were strong that Thomas would end up in New York, aka Fantasy Heaven, but instead he moves to Charlotte under the stern guidance of Larry Brown. How these two notorious curmudgeons will get along has yet to be established, but Brown wouldn't have pushed for the deal if he didn't intend to unshackle Thomas somewhat. If everyone in Charlotte were healthy, there would be a minutes crunch between Thomas and incumbent starters Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, and Nazr Mohammed, but instead both Nazr and Tyson Chandler are dealing with injuries (prompting the Theo Ratliff acquisition as well) and it wouldn't be surprising to see the majority of fourth quarter minutes to feature Diaw, Wallace and Thomas on the floor together. Regardless of if he starts, Thomas' minutes should go up from just 23 per game and the stats will come with it. He should also look to Wallace as a player to emulate since he has a similar skill set, but through hard work was able to become an All-Star.
G/F John Salmons, Milwaukee
Thomas' tag-team partner in VDN's bench purgatory, Salmons was plucked from the depths and should be inserted immediately into Scott Skiles' starting five. Whether he ends up starting alongside Charlie Bell or Carlos Delfino doesn't really matter for his owners, he'll get good run regardless as the no-nonsense player that Skiles yearned for. After an outstanding season last year, Salmons, like all the Bulls, struggled out of the gate and then was eventually replaced in the starting five. Infinitely better off the bench, Salmons appears back in the groove and his ball-handling skills will help ease pressure on Brandon Jennings, who has seen his FG% suffer since the 55-point game anomaly way back at the season's outset. Expect Salmons' minutes to bump back into the 35 per game realm with stronger shooting numbers than he displayed in Chicago and some more dimes as a bonus.
SG Kevin Martin, Houston
While I feel that Martin and Tyreke Evans would have eventually figured out how to coexist in the Kings backcourt, it was hard for Geoff Petrie to turn down the deal he got in light of their struggles. It is without question that Evans surpassed Martin as the cornerstone of the franchise, so Martin became a very valuable bargaining chip with his reasonable contract and 24-ppg scoring ability, netting the Kings a huge haul. As for Martin, he now plays alongside another shoot-first PG in Aaron Brooks, but one that is a more willing passer than Evans. Factor in the Rockets' up-tempo pace and the fact that all the other players are much more willing passers than any Kings starter and you have a recipe for success for Martin in Houston. He should immediately step into the starting SG, relegating either Trevor Ariza or Shane Battier to a bench role (probably Ariza, unless the team goes big with all three starting and Luis Scola shifting to center over Chuck Hayes).
A fresh start will do wonders for Martin's confidence and it's expected that he'll quickly return to last season's form as a top 30 fantasy player. The Lab wants to call Ariza the loser here, but he's already been branded as such by his own doing; check out his percentages and turnovers on the year and try to argue with me that he's actually hurting and not helping your team. You're not going to win this one. He hurts the most in smarter leagues where they count 3PT% instead of 3PM. (Shooting 3-10 on threes in a game shouldn't be worth more than someone going 2-4 from downtown.)
G/F Tracy McGrady, New York
The Lab hasn't been a fantasy fan of T-Mac's in about a decade, but it is easy to deem him a winner in this trade simply because he'll actually get to play. And when that happens and Mike D'Antoni is your coach, it's cause for celebration. T-Mac should be riding high on cloud nine right now, meaning a honeymoon period will likely follow with McGrady playing his best ball right away as D'Antoni plays with his new toy. However, the luster should wear off shortly as T-Mac is a million times more valuable to the Knicks as "T-Mac, the $23 million expiring contract" versus "T-Mac, the basketball player." The team's lone goal now is to develop both Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari so that potential free agents will want to play alongside the youngsters still on their rookie contracts. Even so, T-Mac will post some points, threes, rebounds and dimes, while struggling mightily in FG%, 3PT%, turnovers and probably FT% (though he's had two years of time to do nothing but improve on this category, which is usually a negative one for him).
PG Sergio Rodriguez, New York
It turns out that Spanish Chocolate is actually the big winner in the Big Apple, not Me-Mac. The worst kept secret in the league is how terrible Chris Duhon is, and the fact that he's been masquerading as a starting PG for nearly two years as a Knick is shameful at best and downright unconstitutional if we were to analyze it politically. Rookie Toney Douglas certainly deserves a shot at extended minutes so the team can see what he's capable of (like can he run the point?), but Rodriguez is also going to see plenty of run, too, since he's under contract for at least one more year and there are rumors that he might start the first game he's in uniform. He can be a huge boon in assists, steals and threes, though he's not a particularly good FG% or FT% guy. The big loser here is obviously Duhon, whose deal with the Devil is coming to a close as he figures to lose his starting gig.
SF/PF Carl Landry, Sacramento
While Landry excelled as a sixth man off of Houston's bench, it's abundantly clear that he's worth of a starting role, something he should land in Sacramento. The Kings were desperate for rebounders and de facto PF Jason Thompson has struggled mightily in his second year. (Side note: a leaguemate and I were discussing Sacramento's utter lack of player development for the past two years, especially the bigs. The only player who showed marked gains is Kevin Martin and that's mostly via his offseason work with David Thorpe. Thompson, Spencer Hawes and Sean May have all regressed instead of stepping forward this year.) It wouldn't be surprising if Landry immediately replaced Thompson as the permanent starter, allowing Thompson to come off the bench, where he's less likely to get in foul trouble (he leads the league in fouls) and have his shot blocked by lesser players (he gets it blocked way too often for a PF). Landry should see improved scoring and rebounding numbers consistent with his increased playing time.
SF/PF Taj Gibson, Chicago
Gibson is only a marginal winner, and it's more about the current circumstances of the Bulls than the direct result of the trade of Tyrus Thomas. With Thomas gone, there is less of a timeshare for minutes in Chicago at the PF spot, however, newly acquired Hakim Warrick does figure to get some minutes as well, though not nearly as many as he probably deserves. Though Gibson is a rookie, he's a very old rookie at 24 years of age. In fact, he's only a couple of months younger than veterans Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. So the team will want to see what he's capable of, especially without the Thomas situation constantly looming over him. The thing that makes him a real winner though is Noah's plantar fasciitis that continues to sideline him and allow Gibson to haul in rebounds at a high rate. Since he's strong enough, he sees minutes in the middle even alongside backup center Brad Miller since Miller prefers to operate out of the high post. With Noah's injury certain to linger all year long, Gibson should be a double-double guy in his absence and effective enough when Noah is on the court.
G/F C.J. Miles, Utah
Adding Miles wouldn't be smart for standard 12-team leagues, but deeper ones should definitely give the young swingman a look. With Ronnie Brewer shipped off to Memphis (not via FedEx), the starting SG role is open for business. Miles should have the first crack at it despite Wesley Matthews starting there earlier in the season. That's only because Miles was out with an injury, and now that he's fully healed, he should have the job again. He'll certainly compete with Matthews and sharpshooter Kyle Korver, but neither are defensive dynamos, so if he can fill that role adequately, 30-plus mpg are sure to be his and all the stats that can come with it. Brewer is the big loser here unfortunately. Though he was in the midst of a down year, he still had relevance thanks to the steals he got from playing so many minutes. He was brought into Memphis to provide depth as the backup to O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay and be a defensive stopper off the bench, but his real role won't be realized until this summer; the writing is on the wall that impending free agent Gay won't re-sign with the club and Brewer is insurance for that. For now though, his value takes a mighty hit and he's not worth owning in standard leagues anymore.
The losers (featuring two players not mentioned in the blurbs above)
SF/PF Antawn Jamison, Cleveland
Dealing Jamison to Cleveland was the other big move the Wizards made as they blew up their team in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas suspension and a season of severe disappointment. Jamison was a 20-10 guy two years ago for the Wizards and nearly was again last year and this year, but those numbers won't be nearly as lofty in Cleveland. It's a convenient truth to say the team didn't run many plays for him, but Jamison saw his fair share of post-ups and some isos. That won't be the case as often in Cleveland with Shaq cemented on the low block, Mo Williams jacking threes and LeBron being LeBron. He'll find a way to grab boards -- yet will have to compete with Anderson Varejao and possibly Big Z, if he's bought out as expected and returns to the club after an NBA-mandated 30-day break -- and hit some threes as the "stretch 4" the team coveted. But his scoring should decrease and the minutes surely will from the 38 per game he played in D.C. (meaning the stats will decrease, too) as they hold the 33-year-old out of action late in their many blowout wins to preserve him for the playoffs.
PG/SG Nate Robinson, Boston
It was fun while it lasted. At least the idea of Nate starting was given a try, and though D'Antoni found it to be unsuccessful, Nate did escape his doghouse and was producing enough to warrant a spot in standard leagues. That is no longer the case as the three-time dunk champ (though only one was warranted) is now a strict backup with no possibility of starting in Boston. Robinson's value was highest when he would have spurts of scoring and threes and some steals, forcing D'Antoni to ride the hot hand and see what came from Lil Him, who also happened to help sell a lot of tickets in NYC. Now in Boston, with serious championship aspirations, established stars and a stricter rotation, Robinson will struggle to see 20 mpg. Even if Ray Allen gets hurt, Robinson still isn't the primary backup as Tony Allen is still in the fold (but just re-aggravated an injury last night; how long he's out is TBD). A return to last year's relevance isn't in the card anymore, though a championship ring might be.
That's all for this week. Fantasy Ball Above All, my friends.