Commentary

Is it time to trade Ellis, Stoudemire?

Updated: January 5, 2010, 3:14 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

'Tis a shame that I was all set to write about how overvalued Gilbert Arenas has become … 'til he made the point null and void by getting himself (soon-to-be) suspended for who knows how long. Of course, it's an even bigger shame for his fantasy owners, so don't cry me a river -- your own bleary eyes tell the story all too well.

But the same ingredients that led me to determine Arenas' propensity to be overvalued have led me to a couple of other players, too. By far the biggest reason that made me think a guy like Arenas was overrated well before the gun problems is simple: name value.

As much as we try to be as unbiased as possible and just focus on the numbers, the fact is, we're all human. So there's a human tendency to also get wrapped up in the story, or in this case, the drama of past results. After all, isn't that the whole reason Arenas was commonly selected around the fourth round prior to the season? It's convenient to remember the points in the high-20s, the obscene plethora of 3-pointers and steals, all balanced with a gaudy field goal percentage that could single-handedly bury you in the category thanks to an extremely high number of attempts. And while you could create a lot of justification -- much of it even valid -- that he was worth such an investment, the fact of the matter is that we would be quicker to bury a player in an identical situation if we didn't attach such fondness to his name. (Indeed, it will be curious to see where Yao Ming is taken in drafts next season as an international player whose production has always been underrated in the States.) So when Arenas' play started to rise after some early season disappointment, it made it that much easier to say: "See guys? That's Agent Zero. He's back!"

Of course, with a suspension on the way it's less practical to analyze whether or not Arenas is for real; his situation is just a framework to guide the discussion. But allow me to make the case that there are a couple of other "proven stars" you would be better off mortgaging the value of, and their names are Monta Ellis and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Both of them pass the name test, although maybe Ellis less so. Ellis has been fantastic in a previous season, and did nothing to make any of us lose faith in him upon his return from injury last season, but this season has been the coup de grāce, so to speak: a career year for a 24-year-old. Who isn't going to want a piece of that?

That is precisely why it's the perfect time to shop him around, though. Ellis, already a top-15 contributor (check the Player Rater if you don't believe me!), essentially has a foolproof perception, one with zero downside. But if you look closer, you can see a few warts, like the massive amount of minutes he's playing, for instance. No matter how good Ellis is, it's hard for a guy listed as 6-foot-3, 180 pounds to play more than 41 minutes per game without any repercussions. Those repercussions may show up in the form of games missed, or simply just diminished production down the stretch, the time when you can least afford it. It's more conjecture than fact that such a situation will result, but it's something worth thinking about.

There's also some risk in rostering him considering how many shots he takes (nearly 22 per game). That's great now that he's shooting 47 percent from the field, but what if fatigue does catch up to him? Forty-seven percent is about where you want to be in your league, but it's a thin threshold -- 46 or 45 percent puts you in the middle of the pack -- and with much of your field goal percentage being weighted toward Ellis, you're depending on him a whole lot to keep your team afloat in such a precarious category. And the steals? If the minutes go down a little, so do the steals. Plus there's the simple matter of regression: It's rare for any player to keep averaging two-plus steals every month. But since Ellis has already kept this up for two months, it's a lot easier to buy this as his true level of play than to come to grips that he's still playing a bit over his head; chances are someone will fall for the trap.

Amar'e Stoudemire
Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty ImagesAmar'e Stoudemire averaged 21.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in December.
Meanwhile, many of the same pitfalls of perception that led me to believe Arenas was becoming overvalued strike true for Stoudemire, albeit to a lesser extent. Stoudemire's month of November was a little disappointing, but he redeemed himself in December, averaging 10-plus rebounds for what seems like the first time in forever (the most recent time was February of 2007, to be exact), and he's now averaging more than 23 points in his past 13 games. The problem, however, is that nowadays, Stoudemire's production isn't so special, because what used to separate him from the pack was, like Arenas, his impressive number of free throw attempts combined with his high rate of conversion. Nowadays, there are a lot of power forwards who can give you field goal percentage and points, without the messy name value attached to it.


You could work out some 2-for-2s where you include Amar'e for a guy like Kevin Love, who people may not quite believe in, while getting an upgrade elsewhere. Or capitalize on Troy Murphy's injury, or Kevin Garnett's, or maybe even Carl Landry, who has turned into a poor man's Stoudemire. I'm not saying trade Stoudemire straight up for one of those players, but to mortgage the perception that Stoudemire is anything more than a slight upgrade on those guys. Someone is probably willing to believe, doing backflips on the prospect of getting "STAT." But like Arenas, Amar'e is not deserving of a nickname -- he's just a regular player nowadays until he proves otherwise.

Mailbag

And since we're in the middle of prime trading season, let's feature a Grand Theft Roto from my boy Kory:

I recently traded Chris Kaman, Jamal Crawford, and Al Harrington for Tim Duncan and Michael Redd. I have Danilo Gallinari, as well as Kevin Martin coming back from injury. Verdict?

I like this trade both because I believe in Michael Redd bouncing back and because it shows some foresight in shipping Kaman right at his peak, when he's coming off a couple of amazing weeks, but right before news of Blake Griffin's return really starts to buzz. There's also another standard but important lesson to note: When you're giving up categories you have a surplus of, you don't necessarily need to receive equal value in return because dominating a category just gets you 12 points all the same. Now is about that time to start sending out proposals to cash in your categorical surpluses!

Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mr.adam.madison@gmail.com.

ALSO SEE