It wouldn't be right if I wrote a column titled "Grand Theft Roto" and didn't make it a point to try to rip off some owners of my own, and indeed, in the past week alone I have made two more trades. Since I'm the one writing the column about trades, it seems only fair I should lay out my own blueprint for pulling off a GTR of my own.
Despite my first-place standing in this 12-team weekly roto league, I decided that I needed to shake up the structure of my team. It's an auction keeper league -- the same one I discussed last week -- in which we keep four players. My trades were made with this season in mind, so the keeper aspect doesn't have a huge impact on things, but is merely something to keep in mind.
I have reached first place by sacrificing field goal percentage and, to a lesser extent, free throw percentage, in order to dominate every other category, especially points, assists, steals and 3-pointers. Even though it's working so far, I wanted to balance out some of the risk. My team was riding on great years from somewhat risky players like Trevor Ariza, Chris Kaman and Baron Davis. But in my mind, I'm thinking, "What happens if Tracy McGrady comes back and steals some of Ariza's shots? What if November turns out to be the best month of Ariza's season? What if Kaman or Davis injure themselves, like they tend to do? Or if Blake Griffin comes back and dominates, stealing some of Kaman's minutes and production?
Their production had afforded me a lot of depth, but now it was time to turn that depth into studs that could be depended on. That was part of the reason for trading Bosh and Michael Beasley for Marcus Camby, Caron Butler and Eric Gordon: to acquire quality players I was comfortable with that would allow me to trade Ariza and Davis without worrying so much about what categories or positions I received back. I knew shipping out Ariza and Davis would be tough; players who kill field goal percentage are players few can afford to own. But with Stephen Curry sitting on my bench just waiting to replace Davis, I had little to lose. This is a league with various ESPN fantasy experts, so there's little point in trying to low-ball anyone; I knew there was a chance I would have to overpay someone to make sure I shipped Ariza and Davis off my team.
I like to make my trades as soon as possible, for the world of fantasy is a fluid and precarious one where anything can happen. To that end, I send out a ton of trade proposals at once, any one of which I would love to get accepted. I don't like to haggle -- I know who I want and I assign a certain value to them, and if I can't get them, I move on to the next owner. One player I have been making it a point to target was Michael Redd -- it seems like he could be supremely underrated, like a better version of Eric Gordon who can be acquired for half the price. Unfortunately, Pierre Becquey is no fool, and doesn'tt want to sell him off lightly. But I was also interested in trying to make a splash for a guy like Al Jefferson, offering to send off both Kaman and Davis for him. This underscores the need to move quickly. A few weeks ago, maybe that gets accepted, but now that Jefferson has turned it up, you're probably going to be rejected.
It's really hard to pull off 2-for-1s or 3-for-2s (or even 3-for-1s) against knowledgeable owners, so going into this I knew I would have to overpay to get Davis and Ariza off my team. After dozens of rejections, though, I was finally able to acquire Joakim Noah and Andrei Kirilenko for Davis and Ariza. Not the haul I was imagining, but that's a testament to how little anyone wants to do with field goal percentage killers. In pure talent I probably got ripped off, as you could argue I gave up the two best players, but it fit my needs – not only is Noah a cheap keeper at $6, teaming with Kevin Love ($6) and Curry ($4), he also gave me the categories I was searching for (rebounds and blocks), affording me the ability to now look at trading away Kaman. Noah is also someone whose health I can count on, since I am already rostering a lot of injury risks like Andrew Bogut, Camby and Kaman.
So in the next breath, I sent Kaman and Kirilenko away for Kevin Garnett, an innocuous-looking 2-for-1 that accomplishes all of my goals. I got the categories I coveted (the percentages), traded Kaman for someone whose health I am more confident in and also avoiding the potential problem of Blake Griffin's return impinging his numbers. So in short, rather than resting on my laurels, I decided to ship out what I perceived as risk (Davis, Ariza, Kaman and Deng), capitalizing on buy-low guys (Manu Ginobili, Gordon, Butler) or players others may not be as confident in (Garnett, Noah) as I am.
Now, I don't necessarily think the players I traded away are truly risky -- in the right situation I would have no problem owning them. But for a first-place team to have so much value attached in so many fairly volatile players is something I felt I had to change. But the owner of a sixth-place team may need to jump at the opportunity to add that risk to his/her team, as it may be their only chance at a title.
You may disagree with a few of my assumptions. For example, I traded Kaman in part because I felt the return of Griffin would hurt his value more than Camby's; I also happen to think Kaman is more of an injury risk than Garnett. But there's no doubt that the perception of Garnett being an injury risk allowed me to acquire him at a discount. Furthermore, these differences in perception are what lead to trading in the first place. I get a lot of e-mails from readers complaining about the inconsistency of a guy like Channing Frye. But let's say you think Frye is not a fluke in the slightest, that he'll continue to rain 3-pointers all season. If so, why not send out a strong offer to the owner that has him, one where, if he's the kind of guy who is tiring of Frye's inconsistency, he may be forced to accept? But if he demands market value for Frye -- a top-60 player, as that's Frye's current position on the ESPN Player Rater when sorted by averages -- then you can just walk away and focus on another potentially undervalued player. All you need to do is find one person whose perception of a player differs from yours, as that's where you can net that tiny win. And over the course of the season, those tiny wins add up.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.