Underachievers poised to shine
We're nearing another critical part of the season, the trade deadline. In the NBA, trades must be consummated by Feb. 18, and in most fantasy leagues, it's about a week later. That means the time for lollygagging is over. The feeling-out process is a thing of the past, and if you want to feel out the trade value of a player now, the best way to do it is to hit the owner over the head with a strong offer that is hard to refuse.
At this point in the season, it's hard to pull off a blatantly one-sided deal; instead, you should be happy with a small win. Here, the magic word is "perception." Remember, your rivals have been living with their players all season, dealing with the ups and downs. Maybe now they've decided they just can't deal with the headaches any longer and the next fair offer that comes their way is the one they'll take. You have to be that guy who makes that fair offer. But what's fair today isn't always fair a month from now, so let's take a gander at a quintet of players who could see their values change drastically after the All-Star break.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics: Sometimes pulling off a Grand Theft Roto means acquiring someone no one else wants -- heck, maybe someone you don't want -- just because the price is right. At the moment, the perception surrounding Garnett is nothing but negative, that he's a former star hobbled by his chronic knee injury. His owner is undoubtedly frustrated, and you can consider me an expert on that because I do happen to own him. Because his owners are feeling uneasy about him, swooping in with a solid offer has a great chance of netting him.
Since acquiring him won't be too expensive, the real question is whether you actually want him. Despite all the mileage on his creaky knees, he still can be a valuable, well-rounded contributor. He's a particularly sneaky value in roto leagues, as his biggest contributions are quite subtle. He still shoots well better than 50 percent from the field and better than 80 percent from the line, and while he won't carry you in those categories because he isn't a volume shooter anymore, he chips in with a decent splattering of points, rebounds, steals and blocks, not to mention an above-average contribution in assists for a big man. In his past three games, he averaged 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks while shooting 62 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line; in other words, rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs: Parker is an interesting buy-low case because even when he was healthy, he wasn't performing well in fantasy leagues, as on a per-game basis, he doesn't even rank as a top-100 player according to our Player Rater. It's well known that Parker has been playing through plantar fasciitis, and while that is assumed to be the reason for his down season, I still feel he's worth the risk. Right now, his stock might be particularly low because he's day-to-day with a sprained ankle. While that alone probably won't let you acquire him too cheaply, if you send his owner a fair offer in line with his market value, the latest injury might make the owner more prone to accept than if Parker was still playing. Missing a week, along with the rest the upcoming All-Star break will provide, could be just enough for Parker to get enough treatment on his plantar fasciitis to finish the season with a kick. The Spurs are in dire need of Parker's scoring if they want to make any noise in their conference, so I expect Parker's role in the offense to grow, as evidenced by the 14.9 shot attempts per game he received in January (up from 12.0 in December).
Ray Allen, Celtics: Field goal percentage is probably the most fickle category in basketball in terms of variance. Just a small handful of shots can have an enormous effect on a player's percentage. When a couple of extra shots come up short, the player can look washed up, but when he gets a few lucky bounces, he can look like a sharpshooter. The latter is what Allen has been known for throughout his career, and it's far too early to let little more than half a season change that. His decline in 3-point percentage has led to an alarming drop in 3-pointers made and points per game, but the truth is, all that really presents is a buy-low opportunity, a chance to rip off someone who might not be paying attention. While there's no doubt Allen, 34, is in decline, his recent shooting slump overstates how drastic it is, and you shouldn't be shy about giving up a quality player for a guy who still can end up carrying you in a few major scarce categories.
Lou Williams, Philadelphia 76ers: Recently I've become quite frustrated with Williams to the point that I actually dropped him in a competitive league. It's a defensible position; he's been a near-zero for a couple of months now, and I'm in first place, so I decided to trade off some risk for certainty. But here's the problem: I gave my opponents access to a potentially elite player. Sure, a couple of things would have to break right -- an Allen Iverson (or Andre Iguodala) injury, or maybe Iguodala or Williams gets traded -- but if I had held out just three more weeks, I would have had all the necessary information to make that decision. So yes, while acquiring Williams is a risk, it's an investment you need to wait on for only a couple more weeks. And considering how many impatient owners there are out there, would you really have to invest all that much to see how his situation works out? And maybe there's a middle ground, and Williams digs himself out of the doghouse and earns just enough minutes for his combination of assists, steals, 3-pointers and free throw percentage to become valuable again. We know Williams is talented; we're just waiting for another opportunity for him to show us. Always take a chance on cheap talent if the price is reasonable.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Feel free to hit him up about any potential deals in your league at email@example.com.
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